Wisconsin's 150th birthday in 1998 was a success story
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota need only look to its eastern neighbor for sesquicentennial ideas and contrasts. Wisconsin celebrated its 150th birthday in 1998. According to Rick March, a Wisconsin sesquicentennial event organizer, his state had better ci...
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota need only look to its eastern neighbor for sesquicentennial ideas and contrasts.
Wisconsin celebrated its 150th birthday in 1998.
According to Rick March, a Wisconsin sesquicentennial event organizer, his state had better circumstances surrounding its birthday celebration.
"The economy was strong," said March. "We started early and built up a lot of enthusiasm. The University of Wisconsin was also celebrating its sesquicentennial. And when we started in 1996, the Packers had won the Super Bowl."
The Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Commission raised $5 million by selling commemorative license plates to patriotic residents. The remaining $1.5 million in the sesquicentennial budget came from the Wisconsin state Legislature. By contrast, Minnesota is struggling to raise $1 million in private money and Minnesota lawmakers awarded the project $750,000.
And then there is the two governors. Wisconsin's then-Gov. Tommy Thompson was looking to raise his national political profile at the time of his state's sesquicentennial. Similarly, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been taking in the national limelight while he stumps for Republican presidential candidate John McCain and fends off rumors of being McCain's vice presidential pick.
But the governors' styles couldn't be more different when it comes to the sesquicentennial.
According to a Pawlenty spokesman, the governor is playing a "behind the scenes" role in sesquicentennial events and planning.
Thompson, on the other hand, went all out during his state's sesquicentennial year. According to March, Thompson picked the 150th commemorative logo and went to countless chicken dinners and barbecues promoting the state's birthday.
When the Smithsonian Institution chose Wisconsin to spend two weeks on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to promote the state during its 150th year, Thompson showed up to the nation's capital riding a Harley Davidson. He rode it from Madison to Washington, stopping at state capitols along the way, delivering cheese package gifts to each of the governors in those states.
March said not only was the Wisconsin sesquicentennial "a big success," it also had money left over which went to the state's history society fund.
Marisa Helms works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.