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NYS Bill Forms Commission To Plan For America's 250th Birthday

A giant American flag at West Point
Ian Pickus
A giant American flag at West Point

Earlier this month, in the final days of the New York State legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill to establish a commission to prepare for America’s 250th birthday.

We’re five years away from 2026, but planning is starting now for the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

In order to receive funding from the federal Semiquincentennial Commission and the America250 Foundation, New York and other states are establishing their own anniversary commissions and funds to plan for future programs.

The New York State 250th Commemoration Act was sponsored by Senator Shelley Mayer, a Democrat from the 37th District, and Democratic Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner.

Woerner, whose 113th district includes portions of Saratoga and Washington Counties, remembers the last major milestone of American’s history.

“I’m old enough to remember the bicentennial when we celebrated 200 years and all of the interesting programming that various states did, which generated an incredible amount of heritage tourism as people sought to connect with American history,” said Woerner.

A planned focus of upcoming events will be the stories of women, indigenous people, and people of African descent.

Woerner’s upstate district is home to sites significant to American history.

“You know, Saratoga County is home to the Saratoga National Battlefield, and certainly at the country’s founding, our region played an important role. But throughout our history, Saratoga County, Washington County, Warren County, all of the Capital Region played an important role in the rise of the Industrial Revolution, early social justice movements, the Underground Railroad and abolition…”

The Commission will have 13 members and will be co-chaired by the state Commissioner of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and the Commissioner of the Department Education – or their designees – as well as the New York State Historian, and other stakeholders.

It will be the Commission’s job to support programming across the state.

Lauren Roberts is the Saratoga County Historian. She says the upcoming milestone anniversary should spur conversation at the local level.

“So I think there needs to be a lot of push for regional and county-wide groups to get together and set up their own local commemorations and smaller groups, kind of at the grass-roots level, to help proote their own history, the smaller stories, thing people haven’t already heard.”

Think organizations like local historical societies, historic sites, and municipal historians, says Roberts.

“And the state commission then will have the ability and help them fund and promote through things like I Love New York, and I think that’s how we really get the history and the message out.”

As was the case in 1976, lawmakers hope the efforts will lead to another boost in heritage tourism, supporting the economies of New York.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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