Rural Missouri - June 2019 - 12




Statewide programs
kick off celebration of
the Show-Me State's
by Zach Smith |


f Michael Sweeney comes across as Missouri's
biggest booster, it's only natural. The Missouri
Bicentennial coordinator for the State Historical
Society of Missouri is, after all, charged with planning the best birthday possible for the state.
To that end, Michael has spent the past two
years traveling Missouri speaking to anyone who
will listen - and converse - about what makes the
Show-Me State great. He says rather than dictate a
program, the historical society - with help from the
Missouri Bicentennial Commission created by Gov.
Mike Parson last fall - wanted input for building
a statewide event that will be a collaborative effort.
"We felt strongly there's value to going out there
to meet folks, shake hands and have a laugh around
the table," he adds.
After talking with community leaders in nearly
all of the state's 114 counties, Michael compares
the bicentennial program to a three-legged stool.
Plans involve touring exhibits as well as local and
regional commemorations of events from Missouri's
statehood. The final component, however, has the
most potential: These are community engagement
projects that citizens have a hand in creating. And
Michael's enthusiasm for them is infectious.
"My patron saint through this whole thing has
been Tom Sawyer, meaning, I'm looking for people
to come help paint my fence," Michael says with a
laugh. "People have been very receptive to this, I
think because we've put it in their ballpark."

My Missouri 2021

The most widely appealing
project involves something you're
probably already doing - taking
photos. From now through Nov. 1,
2019, anyone from amateurs taking
smartphone snaps to professional
photographers can submit to the
My Missouri 2021 photo project and
contest. All submissions are currently
available in an online photo gallery,
but 200 will be chosen by the historical society to become both a touring
exhibit and a permanent collection at
the state historical society. Some communities are planning their own photography shows to generate entries.



Missouri Bicentennial Quilt

If your artistic talents lie not behind the lens but
gripping needle and thread, there's another way to
contribute. The historical society, in partnership
with Missouri Star Quilt Co. in Hamilton, hopes to
gather a quilt block from each county showcasing
an aspect of its history, culture or landscape for a
bicentennial quilt. The assembled piece will tour the
state alongside local, historical and new quilt collections. Quilters have until Sept. 2, 2019 (Labor Day)
to submit blocks.
"I knew quilting was big in this state, but I had
no idea how big until I got out and about," Michael
says. "It's a fundamental piece of life in a lot of communities. Two years provides more than enough
opportunities to get it to more places than just Kansas City and St. Louis."

Community Legacies Project

If the first two projects ask participants to think
about the present day in artistic terms, the third
allows them to play local historian. The Community
Legacies Project is geared toward preserving "local
traditions, meaningful places and organizations and
institutions" in the form of a 3- to 5-page report,
according to Michael. Once gathered, one copy will
go to the state historical society for archiving and
another will stay with that area's local library, historical society or museum.
The breadth of local lore that
can be included in the legacies
project is intentionally painted
with a wide brush. In Bethany, Michael learned about the
origins of the city's annual
Fourth of July Parade from
the chamber of commerce. It
started when WWII veteran
Bill Hogan decorated his jeep
and drove his friends around
the courthouse square.
"Now there are more
people in the parade than
Michael says. "There are
two rules: 'Don't sign up,
line up.' Rule No. 2 is
horses in the back."

Missouri Online Encyclopedia

Local writers also can help create a crowdsourced guide to Missouri life and culture. Overseen by the staff that edits the "Missouri Historical
Review" - the historical society's scholarly quarterly journal - the Missouri Online Encyclopedia will
contain articles about persons and aspects of state
history. Alongside famous figures such as Harry
S. Truman and Mark Twain are lesser known but
equally important entries.
For example, outside Shelby County, Gladys Powers isn't a household name, but Michael says the
head of the Shelbina Carnegie Library from 1921 to
1988 merits mention as a fixture of her community.
Another perfect fit is Rosemary Davison, who convinced Florissant leaders of the 1960s and '70s to
preserve the city's historic buildings.
"There's a historic Florissant because of her, and
lots of communities have their own Rosemary Davison," Michael says, adding anyone can suggest article topics on the encyclopedia's webpage.
The intention behind the historical society's
projects is to create a better understanding of Missouri's communities. As the clock ticks toward Aug.
10, 2021, more endeavors are sure to appear. Partners of the Missouri Bicentennial Alliance are hard
at work developing other programs, such as lesson
plans about statehood and preserving documents
tracing Missouri's history. One exhibit, "The Struggle for Statehood," is currently on tour. Art shows
also are in the works and Michael sees the possibility of a concert series showcasing the state's great
musical traditions as well as a documentary film
Local and regional organizers also are taking
advantage of logos and advertising the historical
society has made available in order to promote local
events alongside the bicentennial.
"Hopefully, we're building a sense of shared
investment in the state's future," Michael says. "I'm
not thinking at the end of this you'll come to an idea
of 'One Missouri,' or even if that's desirable, but I do
hope you know your neighbors a lot better."
For more information on Missouri's bicentennial
and related programs, visit
or follow Missouri 2021 on Facebook and Instagram.

Above: Michael Sweeney has visited almost every county in Missouri to help plan the state's bicentennial. Left: Just as it was in
1921, 2021's state fair will be themed around the state's birthday.

Rural Missouri - June 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2019

Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Intro
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - June 2019 - Contents
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