White House Millennium Council
Communities around the United States are celebrating the millennial year in a wide variety of ways. This edition of the White House Millennium Council Newsletter highlights just a few examples of exemplary Millennium Communities. Across the country, communities large and small are pursuing projects that "Honor the Past Imagine the Future" at a local level.
It is not too late for your community to take part in the national commemoration and to receive recognition for local programs that are strengthening your community. To apply on-line and view examples of hundreds of Millennium Community projects throughout the country, visit www.millenniumcommunities.org, the official Millennium Communities website hosted by BellSouth.
St. Joseph, Missouri
Under the categories of "Honor the Past," "Celebrate the Present," and "Imagine the Future," the St. Joseph Millennium Commission has organized eight different efforts to celebrate the millennium. On July 4th, the St. Joseph Symphony and Community Chorus performed an original composition honoring the city's history, culture and hopes for the future. This was one of 50 such pieces commissioned nationwide, many of which were performed on July 4th, as part of the Continental Harmony program. To honor the community's history as a stopping point for many pioneers heading West during the mid-1800's, a tribute wall and sculpture will be erected in the city's Riverfront Park. Other activities include "Club 2000" to encourage local volunteerism, an all-faith church service, a citywide beautification project, and a recognition of local community leaders. By involving such a wide variety of community members, these activities help St. Joseph celebrate both their history and future.
To help encourage interest in the historic sites in Erie County, student and adult pairs are invited to visit 20 local historic sites for free and receive a stamp on their "Passport to Erie County Heritage." With at least 12 stamps, students receive a membership to the Erie County Historical Society and can register for various prizes. This is just one of the many activities the area is engaging in as part of the "Together 2000" celebration. Erie Mayor Joyce Savacchio said, "Erie's inclusion by the White House Millennium Council [as a Millennium Community] is both exciting and challenging. This imposes the responsibility upon each of us to become active participants in creating the future that we, our children, and their children will experience." The year-long observance is built around the theme of civility, and engages community members of all ages in a wide range of celebrations and community revitalization efforts.
Henry County, Missouri
In celebration of the KATY Trail's designation as a Millennium Legacy Trail, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has issued a "Millennium Legacy Passport" for KATY Trail users. As travelers visit towns along the trail, they receive a stamp in their passport. A full passport entitles them to a special Millennium Legacy t-shirt and souvenir patch. The KATY Trail is 24 miles long and is the longest rails-to-trails conversion in the U.S.
Suffern, New York
Students from kindergarten through 12th grade were invited to submit musical compositions, artwork, photography and literature on the theme of "Honor the Past and Imagine the Future." Winning entries will receive an award from Suffern's mayor and will then be placed in Suffern's time capsule. The capsule will be reopened in the year 2046 in honor of the town's 150th anniversary.
Rock County, Minnesota
Historic sites from throughout Rock County are the focus of many of the area's millennial activities. The Rock County Historical Society is developing a pictorial book of the county, with proceeds going towards restoration work of sites throughout the community. Oral history nights invite community members to reminisce with guest panelists on topics such as Memories of the Depression and Remembering World War II. The Rock County Coloring Book, free to all children in the community, highlights community heritage through drawings by local artists. An essay contest invites residents to submit original prose or poetry focusing on the theme of "Rock County Honoring the Past Imagining the Future." Finally, in July, people who participated in an eight-mile self-guided bike tour highlighting 12 historic sites received a special Rock County Millennium Historical Bike Tour button as a keepsake. On July 16th hundreds of other community members, on foot, bike, and rollerblade, also converged on the site of a future community trail, to be finished in 2002.
Grand Rapids/Kent County, Michigan
Rather than allow hundreds of acres of old stripped mining land to sit unused and barren, the Secchia Millennium Commission has begun fundraising for a Millennium Park almost twice the size of New York's Central Park. This 1,500-acre park would include a nature center, walking and biking trails, two beaches around a lake, canoeing, picnic areas, and basketball and volleyball courts. The Hopewell Indian Mounds Park will be incorporated into the park to help reduce the illegal dumping that currently plagues the site. Community members will also be able to leave their mark on the new park through "Miles of Tiles," a colorful wall mosaic created from 2000 clay tiles painted by residents around the theme of "honor the past and imagine the future."
Gastonia, North Carolina
Throughout the city of Gastonia, private residents and city workers are helping to make the city green. Working with the Keep Gastonia Beautiful organization, the city has committed to plant 2000 trees by the end of the year 2000. Many of the trees will be on the city's main street, and will eventually form a tree-lined canopy for generations of future residents to enjoy.
The focus of Meridian's millennium celebration is the development of an arts education center in restored historic retail buildings and a rare Grand Opera House. The Opera House, built in 1889 by noted theater designer J.B. McElfatrick, is an excellent example of a second-floor opera house. The community was just awarded a $400,000 federal Save America's Treasures grant to help with the renovations, and the completed arts center will include classrooms, a rehearsal hall, artists' studios, and the restored opera house stage for performances.
Thirty-nine public and private schools across Laredo created time capsules with items significant to the school's history and items that represent the year 2000. The capsules were sealed and will not be opened until the first day of school in the year 2020. In addition, Laredo celebrated the New Year with a bi-national commemoration, highlighting its position on the Mexican-U.S. border. Thousands of residents came out to watch the border fireworks display and an international bridge ceremony across the Rio Grande. A Mexican-American delegation also pledged to work more closely in the years ahead.
Thurston County, Washington
Thurston County combined its annual birthday party with a celebration of the year 2000 by filling a time capsule with items representing the theme: "From This Point in Time: Remember the Past, Document the Present, Imagine the Future." Students and community groups from across the county were invited to submit items for inclusion in the capsule. The final list included student artwork and posters, a photo quilt, community publications, local maps, the Thurston County flag, letters from students to their future counterparts, and even a Millennium Beanie Baby and a pack of Pokemon trading cards. The community Historical Commission decided the capsule will be opened at the county's birthday party in the year 2050.
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