The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:36 pm

First lady spreading word on bicentennial

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

In order to be official when celebrating the state’s bicentennial next year, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

That was the message from Indiana’s first lady, Karen Pence, who visited Fort Wayne on Tuesday as the state’s bicentennial ambassador. Allen County was the third location she has visited in the past couple of months and cited the county as one of those "who have their act together."

She has also visited Elkhart and Lawrence counties, she said.

The state’s bicentennial website,, already has 600 legacy projects that are part of the celebration, which will kick off Statehood Day on Dec. 11 and continue for a year.

All around the state, the first lady is encouraging people to apply to get their project accepted as a bicentennial project, which is as easy as filling out an application, said E. Rene Stanley, deputy director for the Indiana Bicentennial Commission. 

Projects can be festivals or involve art. For inspiration, the ­bison is on the state seal, for instance; the state bird is the cardinal, and the state tree is the tulip. 

"It could be anything to tweak it to make it relevant to the bicentennial," Stanley said. "The State Fair will be themed with the bicentennial theme."

On Sept. 9, 2016, a torch will be lit in Corydon, the state’s first capital. The torch will then be carried in all 92 Hoosier counties, said 

The torch will come to rest in Indianapolis on Oct. 15, 2016, at an event called the Hoosier Homecoming at the newly created Bicentennial Plaza with possibly the largest group of historic re-enactors ever gathered, Stanley said.

At Bicentennial Plaza, the torch relay will end, and there will be an unveiling of an art piece and a time capsule.

Pence’s Fort Wayne visit started at Blackhawk Christian High School, where she said she had been invited by student Claire Meuter.

After speaking with senior government students on her responsibilities and duties as first lady, Pence went to the History Center on Berry Street to be presented with several bicentennial projects.

Presenters included Lettie Haver, outreach manager for ACRES Land Trust, who showed photos of the Cedar Creek Corridor as part of the Bicentennial Nature Trust. The corridor covers 20 river miles from Auburn in DeKalb County to the St. Joseph River in Allen County and protects 1,300 acres of diverse habitat, she added.

Bob Dispenza, park and education manager for the Allen County Parks, said that if people hike the trails between September and November next year, their nature badge will feature the bicentennial logo.

Other presenters included Jack Hammer from the Three Rivers Festival; Trois K. Hart, associate vice president for marketing; Matt Smith, vice president of institutional advancement for the University of Saint Francis; and Curt Witcher, Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center manager. 

Pence also stopped by the Allen County Courthouse, a destination for the Bicentennial Torch Relay, and the Old Fort on Spy Run Avenue to talk to historic re-enactors.

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