ELLSWORTH — Maine won’t be turning 200 until next year, but the state’s Bicentennial Commission is moving forward with plans to help celebrate the occasion statewide.
Last week the commission, chaired by Sen. Bill Diamond (D-Cumberland County), met with newly elected Governor Janet Mills.
“Coming out of the last meeting, the signal we received from the new governor was very positive,” said commission member and Maine State Archivist Dave Cheever. “She expressed her full enthusiasm and support for the project.”
Formed last year, the Maine Bicentennial Commission was established to provide a framework for celebrating the 200th anniversary of statehood. The commission will sponsor events across the state throughout the year, as well as working to incorporate the bicentennial into other community events.
Following the introduction of the bicentennial license plate earlier this year, the celebration will kick off later this summer on July 26, which marks 200 years since the vote approving Maine’s separation from Massachusetts and establishment as a state.
“We expect we’ll have a number of programs that will have broad appeal,” Cheever said. “And it’s important to note that while it’s nice to celebrate the past, it’s also just as important to celebrate the present and to think forward to what we want the future to look like and how we can get there.”
The state Legislature has not yet voted on funding the bicentennial, although it is expected that some amount will be included in the state’s budget. The remaining amount will come from fundraising and private donations.
“We are looking at the probability of something two to three million dollars to accomplish all the things we’ve identified, and that help may come from philanthropic efforts, from corporate donations, and yes, from the government,” Cheever said. “We should know very soon how much money the new governor is going to put into the budget, which in turn will fuel our fundraising efforts.”
Among the possible events recently discussed by the commission is the possibility of tall ships from Tall Ships America and around the world visiting Maine’s coast throughout the bicentennial summer.
“There’s the possibility that we could have tall ships not just in Portland, but in some other shipbuilding ports around Maine,” Cheever said. “We are hoping to have consideration for Bar Harbor, Castine, Bath, Bucksport, Rockland.”
Other events planned include a time capsule, as well as the planting of small groves of white pine trees — Maine’s state tree — in communities across the state. The bicentennial is expected to wrap up toward the end of October 2020. While celebrating the past, Cheever also noted that the bicentennial can be a way to promote the future of the state.
“Any company, large or small, can see this as an opportunity to promote Maine and Maine’s wonderful environment, wonderful culture,” Cheever said. “If you’re recruiting people, what better way to tell them what this place is about?”