Looking Back: Missouri’s Bicentennial
by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
The Missouri Bicentennial is just around the corner and I’m concerned that COVID-19 has upstaged our excitement for this milestone in our history. Other than the small print on our license plates, “Missouri bicentennial” and “1821-2021” at the bottom, I have seen very little in the way of promotions for this very important occasion.
Last month in Jefferson City there was a ground breaking for the 765-foot Bicentennial Bridge that will span the Union Pacific railroad tracks to Adrian's Island — 30 acres of forest and wetlands that lie between the Missouri River and the tracks that stretch about one mile from the Capitol to the former Missouri State Penitentiary.
The internet tells me that small towns and cities around the state are making plans for celebrations. So what about Grain Valley? What are we doing for the bicentennial?
On September 17th at the Historical Society, a small “masked” group from Lone Jack, Oak Grove, Blue Springs and Grain Valley will meet to discuss how we might promote the event. Unfortunately, Grain Valley has nothing in our collection about the 1921 Centennial. Apparently, it was huge in Sedalia.
The twenty-first Missouri State Fair marked the centennial anniversary of Missouri's statehood, and the Fair's coming of age with a two-week extravaganza. Fair organizers surveyed the state for suggestions for old time songs and games.
Special editions of the monthly publication 'Fair Facts' were produced, offering suggestions for celebrating the centennial throughout the year and advertising the special features of the Fair.
Congress authorized 250,000 commemorative silver half-dollars, former governors and their descendants were honored, and President Warren G. Harding made an appearance. For the Fair's climax, a 5,000 member-cast pageant was produced to commemorate the event and “A Description and Historical Explanation” was written for the souvenir program.
As a part of my column, I will attempt to give you a bit of “Missouri trivia” each week from now until the 200th date of statehood, August 10, 2021.
Many Americans scream for ice cream, but Missouri loves it so much they declared ice cream the official state dessert. Missouri and ice cream cones go way back — they made their debut at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. It was so hot that summer that a vendor selling waffles rolled them up and filled them with ice cream and voila, that’s how the world came to know waffle cones. It was also at the fair that iced tea was first served as a beverage to cool off the hot, weary fair goers.
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