The Big 200: Illinois Bicentennial

Illinois turns 200 only once, so put these items on your Bicentennial bucket list. Party Like It’s 199+1.

A 200th birthday calls for an epic party, so Illinois is inviting you to a yearlong statewide bash. The fun started last December 3 (birthday 199) and builds to a December 3 blowout at the United Center in Chicago. “We’re celebrating all of the great things that have been born, built and grown in Illinois,” says Tonya Lamia, deputy director of the Illinois Bicentennial in the Office of the Governor.

Walk the new Bicentennial Plaza in Springfield. The tree-lined path links the Lincoln Home, Executive Mansion and State Capitol. Springfield and the Illinois Realtors partnered on the plaza, which features murals inspired by the civil rights movement, the Executive Mansion and the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. Officials will dedicate the plaza August 26, the 200th birthday of the Illinois Constitution.

Get ready for the big reveal. By August, the Governor's Mansion in Springfield will debut a new look for the Bicentennial. A $15 million makeover, led by First Lady Diana Rauner and funded privately, is the 1855 home’s first redo since the 1970s. See updates to the interior, exterior, visitors center and historical exhibits. Illinois has the nation's third-oldest continuously occupied governor’s mansion.

Toast the big birthday by raising a glass of official Bicentennial beer made by Hand of Fate Brewing Company in historic Petersburg (Abe Lincoln mapped the town as a young surveyor). The brewery won a craft beer competition at the Illinois State Fair last year, earning the right to create the commemorative brew, which will be distributed throughout the Bicentennial.

Don’t wait to get your official Bicentennial merch. Shop 24/7 in the online store at Illinois200.com for tote bags, apparel, drinkware, outdoor gear, office accessories and more, all sourced from Illinois companies.

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