A View from Blue Grotto

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Anniversary fit for a Queen

I read today that Jamestown, Virginia is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of America’s first permanent English settlement. 400 years – now that’s an anniversary!

Not many of us will ever plan for or participate in an anniversary with quadruple centuries, but the Jamestown example offers some key lessons on celebrating a milestone.

Beyond the hoopla - the parties and souvenirs a quadricentennial naturally brings - anniversary organizers have created a calendar of events and activities to showcase the role Jamestown colonists played in the creation of American democracy.

Hoping to draw more than 2.4 million visitors during the 18-month celebration, organizers found ways to engage every level of the community through events like a symposium titled the State of the Union: African American Imprint on America, a series of conferences in Williamsburg to discuss the future of democracy, an American Indian Intertribal Cultural Festival, and a children’s essay and poetry contest.

There is even a trans-Atlantic angle to the festivities. The Queen of England is considering a state visit to Virginia some time in May to commemorate the anniversary, and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine attended Jamestown-related events in England this past December, to “celebrate the friendship between the United States and Great Britain.” This would be only the fourth visit of Her Majesty to the US, a real distinction for anniversary organizers.

The Jamestown anniversary team appears to have worked hard to frame the celebration in ways that connects us with our past - the seemingly insurmountable challenges and risks of founding a new nation, the unequivocal belief in freedom and democracy - and inspires us for our future.

Cities across the country will mark centennials, sesquicentennials, bi-centennials in the next few years. My own home city – St. Paul, will mark its 150th anniversary in 2008. It will be exciting and interesting to read about, and compare, how communities plan to mark the occasion. Email me with examples of how your city plans to celebrate and inspire, or email me with a suggestion for how a city might expand beyond the balloons and birthday cake.

For information on Jamestown’s anniversary events, visit www.Americas400thAnniversary.com.

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.