Celebrating a city’s 200th birthday is not an everyday event. As the City of Ann Arbor approaches this milestone, leaders recognize there’s no consulting with those who helped plan the centennial; and, because of the times, few records to look back on for continuity and inspiration. The Ann Arbor Bicentennial Coordinating Committee, nonetheless, is making great strides in planning a thoughtful, meaningful year of festivities, which will be celebrated over the full 12 months of 2024.
The committee is providing a status update and is again emphasizing the importance of community involvement. Following is a summary of the subcommittees and their work, as well as opportunities for area individuals, organizations, businesses and etc. to get involved.
In preparation for Ann Arbor’s 200th anniversary in 2024, a group of teachers from the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) is curating historical photos to enhance local social studies lessons across every grade. The Local History Education Group is sorting through decades of digitized Ann Arbor News images of AAPS schools provided by the Ann Arbor District Library. The group will distribute relevant photos to elementary and middle school teachers across the district for use in their spring, fall and winter 2024 local history units. “These engaging photos will be used in the local history curriculum being developed by this instructional team,” explained Ann Arbor Public Schools Executive Director of Student and School Safety Liz Margolis, “providing a vivid, visual understanding of Ann Arbor’s heritage leading up to its 1824 founding.” By integrating these historical images into the curriculum, Margolis notes AAPS hopes to deepen the students’ community pride and connection to the district and city of Ann Arbor.
Norm Tyler, retired professor and former director of the city planning program at Eastern Michigan University, is leading a group of volunteers in an effort to develop 14 self-guided tours throughout the city. The A2 SmartTours project will use smartphones to present fun opportunities to visit and learn about special Ann Arbor sites spanning 200 years. Tours include a variety of themes — historical, downtown, campus, neighborhoods, even riverwalks and a scavenger tour. Tyler said, “We hope this encourages both residents and visitors to see Ann Arbor with a fresh perspective.”
Committee member Dr. Shannon Polk, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF), shared that the foundation is supporting the Ann Arbor Bicentennial in two ways. AAACF donated $10,000 toward a statue to honor Kathy Kozachenko, the first openly gay person elected to public office in the United States on April 2, 1974, when she won an Ann Arbor City Council seat. The statue is expected to be unveiled in the latter part of 2024. The foundation has also agreed to be the fiduciary for the Elks Lodge legacy project. That project will restore a facility that has been a mainstay for the African-American community in Ann Arbor. “For the past 60 years, AAACF has collaboratively worked to create a community of belonging for all residents of Washtenaw County,” said Polk. “We are excited to celebrate the bicentennial of Ann Arbor by honoring the trailblazing contributions of Kathy Kozachenko and the members of the historic James L. Crawford Elks Lodge.”
Amy Karbo of Destination Ann Arbor is a member of the Ann Arbor Bicentennial Marketing Committee. “At Destination Ann Arbor, I spend every day promoting all the wonderful things to experience in the Ann Arbor area,” said Karbo. “Being part of the bicentennial committee has been a natural extension of my job and a rewarding way to make meaningful connections within our community.” The marketing committee manages the bicentennial website, www.a2bicentennial.org, and online events calendar, coordinates bicentennial merchandizing and strategizes and executes social media efforts. Added Karbo, “Rallying behind a common cause and celebrating everything that’s beautiful and unique to Ann Arbor has been inspiring and highly rewarding.”
Bicentennial Co-Chair Milton Dohoney Jr., Ann Arbor city administrator, acknowledged that while celebrations like this tend to have a rush of excitement closer to the actual launch point (January 2024), enthusiasm in the form of partnerships and support are crucial during the planning phase. “We are encouraging more individuals and groups to become involved and plan or align their own activities during the 12-month celebration,” Dohoney explained. He urges all to share information about their upcoming events and initiatives with the committee sooner rather than later, noting, “There’s room for everyone to be a part of the bicentennial. Our celebration must be reflective of our community as a whole.” Specifically, groups should reach out to the committee via the website form at www.a2bicentennial.org:
- If a group or organization is planning a bicentennial-related event/activity that will be open to the public.
- If you operate a retail establishment and you’re willing to help promote the bicentennial by displaying signage, decorations, offering special bicentennial sale days, creating menu items, etc. at various points during 2024.
- If you already host annual events and are willing to “cobrand” your activity during 2024 to help support and raise awareness of the celebration.
For more information about what is being planned, and how to get involved, visit www.a2bicentennial.org.