A Celebration 200 Years in the Making


Action Packed Year Planned for Portsmouth Bicentennial

With ambitious ideas, creative energy and optimistic expectations, dozens of Portsmouth volunteers are organizing the city’s Bicentennial Celebration set for 2015. Planning sessions actually began in the spring of 2010 and now that 2014 is here, the pace of developing events, programs and publications is picking up steam with a multitude of ideas.

Portsmouth area residents will have their first glimpse of the Bicentennial schedule in brochures to be distributed during this year’s Scioto County Fair and River Days Festival.  This fall, local churches will conduct opening festivities for a pre-history celebration at Alexandria Point, the area’s oldest settlement.

“Lots of exciting things will be happening,” said David Stone, president of the Portsmouth Area Bicentennial Committee. “We hope the celebration will leave the city with permanent benefits.”

According to Stone, two community improvements to be completed by 2015’s end include Portsmouth’s new bike path and a bicentennial picnic shelter to be built by the Portsmouth Rotary Club.

The committee’s plans call for the 200th year birthday festivities to kick off with a

Portsmouth Oktoberfest celebration September 19-21, 2014.  Focusing on the city’s early history and the submission for incorporation of Portsmouth in 1814, organizers anticipate enlarging St. Mary’s Catholic Church’s annual International Festival with special emphasis on early settlers and the Native American heritage of the area.  Events will include an art show, young adult and kids’ games and contests, musical performances, international foods, an evening biergarten sponsored by the Portsmouth Brew Pub, arts and crafts and other attractions. Tours of historic sites such as Alexandria Point, the old Stone House, the Ohio and Erie Canal remnants, the Native American Horseshoe Mound and the 1810 House will be offered during the weekend.

Portsmouth City School students are learning about Scioto County heritage as they delve into historical research and create graphic maps to correlate with their information.  In addition to the maps, the committee also expects to produce publications detailing the Portsmouth area’s history.

“We have lots of positive support,” said Gina Chabot, co-chairperson of the events committee along with Vicky Hatcher. “We are reaching out to the young people of the community who are getting involved.  Main Street Director Sarah Sarina and local businesswoman Francesca Hartop are leading efforts to plan fun activities and events for high school, college and young adult ages.”

During the celebration’s introductory period, The Portsmouth Public Library and the Southern Ohio Museum will present programs and exhibits depicting the city’s early history.

Meanwhile, a special Bicentennial tour of sites and stories is in the works by the Digital History Lab at Shawnee State University on behalf of the Scioto Historical society. A free mobile app along with an online tour will be available at sciotohistorical.org.

The gala opening of the Bicentennial Celebration is scheduled for January 31, 2015, and will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the city charter submission.  The gala will be a grand fundraiser featuring a French-themed dinner dance and evening of entertainment, along with a focus on governmental aspects and renowned leaders from Portsmouth’s past. Proceeds from the gala and the sale of Bicentennial memorabilia will help defray the cost of a planned pageant at historic Spartan Stadium in May 2015.

In March, special attention will mark the occasion of the city’s authentic birth at a city council meeting on March 15, 1815.  Activities will tie in with Portsmouth’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and showcase significant industries and related historical artifacts. A Bicentennial Queen contest, talent show and raffle of a handcrafted Bicentennial quilt are planned during the month. As a unique feature of the celebration, a wine competition is scheduled for April at the Southern Ohio Medical Center Friends Center.

In keeping with Portsmouth’s claim to be one of the first, if not the first city in the United States, to have celebrated Memorial Day, Bicentennial coordinators envision a lavish production to be staged at Spartan Stadium during the Memorial Day Weekend, along with an expanded Memorial Day Parade.

“We hope the production will showcase Portsmouth’s accomplishments and outstanding personalities as a way to remind ourselves of where we have come, as well as the talents we have,” Chabot said.

The weekend also will include other major events such as a running marathon or triathlon, various sports tournaments, possibly a Civil War re-enactment and a riverboat cruise, according to organizers.

Bicentennial events will culminate during a Fourth of July celebration centered at Tracy Park with a street fair conveying an old-fashioned Americana atmosphere. Attractions will include a farmers’ market along with a barbecue/ chili cook off as well as a craft fair showcasing wood and metal products, quilts and other hand-crafted items.

Formal Bicentennial programs will climax July 4 with a concert by the Portsmouth Wind Symphony, followed by the annual riverfront fireworks display. Bicentennial planners propose to wrap up the celebration at Alexandria Point by lighting a unity candle and burying a time capsule.

In summing up the milestone and it’s events, Portsmouth City Councilman Kevin W. Johnson, also a member of the Bicentennial Celebration Committee, sees the 200th year anniversary as way to “celebrate how this beautiful river city has succeeded for two centuries and to recognize all the people who have gotten us here.”

Yet Johnson and his fellow committee members acknowledge it will take many people to make these events a reality.  If you are interested in taking part, please email bicentennial2015@roadrunner.com.

Photos Compliments Gina Chabot, Linda Donaldson, and the Portsmouth Bicentennial Events Planning Committee

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Kay Bouyack

Kay Bouyack is staff writer for the Scioto Foundation and a long-time freelance journalist for area arts and community organizations. She and her husband Ernie reside in Portsmouth, Ohio.

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