CHICAGO – Two hundred years ago, Illinois became the Union’s 21st state, and this week Illinois celebrities, dignitaries, veterans and citizens came together to celebrate at the Bicentennial Birthday Party on Chicago’s Navy Pier.
Legendary journalist Bill Kurtis hosted the program, which opened with Wayne Messmer belting out the national anthem and Gov. Bruce Rauner welcoming a crowd of more than 2,300 party-goers.
“Tonight, we recognize some of the great contributions Illinois has made to society and the world.” said Gov. Rauner. “The milestones featured during our 2ooth birthday represent opportunities to reflect on our past and understand the great assets our state has to build on for the future. We have a lot to be proud of … and lot to build on.”
Rauner noted the contributions of Bicentennial sponsors who made it possible to conduct a year’s worth of Bicentennial activities without spending taxpayer money. The key sponsors included Wintrust, which served as the Official Bank of the Bicentennial, Walgreens, Abbott, Boeing, BMO Harris, Illinois Office of Tourism, Comcast and United Airlines.
Act 1 of the program started with features to establish the Bicentennial theme of things Born, Built and Grown in Illinois. While members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed Happy Birthday, Gov. Rauner joined Eli Cheesecake’s Mark Schulman to cut a 1,000-pound Honest Abe Apple Cheesecake that was shaped like the Illinois State Capitol. Chicago vocalist Simone Green added a stirring rendition of the Illinois state song.
Governor-elect JB Pritzker also addressed the crowd. “We are celebrating our bicentennial as one Illinois,” he said, “ringing in our third century with hope and optimism to build on the progress of our first 200 years.”