By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama’s 199th birthday as a state was this Friday and at a special kick off celebration in the State Capitol.
Gov. Kay Ivey announced the beginning of a yearlong celebration of the state’s bicentennial which, will include over 400 events all around the state for the next year.
The event began with a rendition of “happy birthday” to Alabama from the children of Pell City’s Eden Elementary fourth grade class. Senator Arthur Orr, who is chairman of the Alabama Bicentennial Committee, welcomed the governor and thanked all of the bicentennial sponsors there as well.
Ivey began her remarks about the state’s birthday by first mentioning how through the state’s many transitions during its existence and the citizens of the state have been resilient through it all.
“199 years ago today, December 14, 1819 our state became the 22nd state in the United States of America, and during those 199 years we’ve had a lot of experiences, some good, some bad, we’ve seen it all. But through it all, our people have been steadfast,” Ivey said.
As made evident through Ivey’s speech, the focal point behind the year long celebration will not only be about celebrating Alabama’s long and extensive history, but also the people who helped shape it, from the past to the present.
“We have an opportunity in front of us, and just as Alabamians have done for the past 199 years, we will make the most of that opportunity,” Ivey said.
“Alabama is defined by its people. It’s that simple. As we near our state’s bicentennial, we recognize that our story of success is told by our people. And that is who we are celebrating: the Alabamians who got us here, all the men and women across our state today and the future generations of Alabamians who will help take us to even greater heights.”
Over the next year, the Bicentennial committee has organized events meant to celebrate Alabama’s history and educate everyone around the state, but also to celebrate those who make up the state currently.
Lee Sentell, the Director of the Alabama Tourism Department, spoke with Alabama Daily News about the traveling history exhibit that will travel all over the state next year.
“There will be a traveling exhibit called ‘Making Alabama’ that the Alabama Humanities Foundation generated. It’s traveling to every county and stays for about two or three weeks. People will get to bring their own photography and showcase the people living there, because the bicenntenial isn’t just about the state, it’s about individuals throughout the state who have done great work. And the good thing is that all of these are tourism events, so we’re hoping to attract people outside of the state as well as inside the state,” Sentell said.
Representative Will Dismukes from House District 88 in Prattville attended the e vent and expressed his excitement of being a new state legislator while getting to celebrate the bicentennial.
“As much as I love the state of Alabama, I just find that it is a great opportunity and such an honor to be able to celebrate the 200th year of our great state and to be right in the middle of it my first year in the State House and what an accomplishment this birthday marks for our state,” Dismukes said.
Linda Sewell, the Corporate Director of Community Relations & Communications for Coca Cola United was also there to share the company’s excitement in celebrating the state’s 200th birthday and also to unveil the special packaging of the bicentennial Coca-Cola bottling that will be released next spring.
Sewell explained the long shared history of Coca Cola and Alabama saying that the company has called Alabama home for 117 years and acts more like a family owned business helping to serve the people of Alabama.
“Our company is about celebrating our people and our community where we operate… No matter how large we grow, we are a local business and we operate in local communities,” Sewell said.
In addition to the special Coca Cola packaging a special Bicentennial stamp will also be released next year. You can view all of the scheduled special events for next year over at the Bicentennial Committee’s official website.
Caroline Beck is a reporter living in Montgomery. You can follow her on Twitter @CarolineBeckADN or reach her at [email protected].