A year-long celebration of the state's upcoming 200th birthday began in earnest at the Randolph County Museum on Sunday, as county officials raised the official bicentennial flag as part of a short ceremony.
The 200th anniversary of Illinois becoming the 21st state in the Union on December 3, 1818 occurs ext year, but state and local organizations have planned a year's worth of events to commemorate the occasion.
Randolph County's kickoff ceremony included reenactor Ed Fisher portraying Gov. Shadrach Bond, the first governor of Illinois who is buried in Chester's Evergreen Cemetery.
Fisher has portrayed Bond on several occasions, including during the Chester Beautification/Tourism Commission's Evergreen Cemetery Comes Alive tour.
"The Congress of the United States, those smart people, they knew to admit somebody to statehood, you're going to have to have local systems of government," Fisher said. "People are going to have to have access to courts, there's going to have to be a tax system, land registry system and so forth."
Bond first learned of the rich farmland in the Illinois country through his uncle, also named Shadrach Bond, who was a scout with George Rogers Clark's Illinois regiment during the Revolutionary War.
He emigrated from Maryland to Kaskaskia and remained an Illinois farmer for the rest of his life.
In his four years as governor from 1818 to 1822, Bond was instrumental in improving the new state's primitive transportation system - including the creation of much of what is now known as State Route 13.
The state's first Constitution had term limits, in that the governor could only serve one term.
"Politicians (at the time) were known to be orators," Fisher said. "They would talk and they would talk over six to eight hours."
Returning to Kaskaskia after his term, Bond was appointed "receiver of the public monies" at Kaskaskia by President James Madison. Bond later died of pneumonia on his farm in 1832 at the age of 58.
Randolph County Board Chairman Ronnie White read the official bicentennial proclamation, while fellow commissioner Marc Kiehna led all in attendance in singing the state song, "Illinois."
Further north, Gov. Bruce Rauner and members of the Illinois Bicentennial Commission observed the birthday celebration kickoff at Chicago's Navy Pier.
In attendance for that ceremony was SIU President Randy Dunn, who is co-chairman of the Bicentennial Commission and also a former Chester school district superintendent.
"This is an opportunity to celebrate all that has been great in our first 200 years and lay the foundation for 200 more years of growth and prosperity," Rauner said. "Illinois is home, and the Bicentennial gives us a chance to reflect on how we can continue to make it great for our children and grandchildren."
A state-wide simultaneous flag raising event was planned for Monday, as the Illinois Municipal League and United Airlines partnered to provide complimentary flags to counties and cities.
Chester Mayor Tom Page told the Herald Tribune the city would raise its flag at 11 a.m.