Centennial Celebration Continues
The initial hoopla for the Reagan centennial may have quieted down, but it’s far from over. Tributes to the 40th president will continue throughout 2011 in cities and towns across America.
Perhaps no state is celebrating the centennial with as much emotional spirit as Illinois, the president’s birthplace and childhood home. The president was born above a storefront in the village of Tampico, grew up in the city of Dixon, and attended Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois. These and other Western Illinois towns that profoundly impacted Reagan’s personal and professional development are continuing to host dozens of events that will run until the end of the year.
“Everyone is reacting really well,” says Ann Lewis, the vice chairman of the Illinois Reagan Centennial Commission and a resident of Dixon. “You can’t be in Dixon and not know that Ronald Reagan lived here from 1921 to 1931. We’ve made sure that we have at least one event every month, involving music, sports and education–and all connected to Mr. Reagan.”
Some of the upcoming events have been geared for Illinois students, while others reach out for a national or international audience. Like an international painting competition that’s awarding a $5,000 first prize to the best portrait or landscape imagining the president at the Reagan ranch. Ranch Center Curator Marilyn Fisher, will judge the entries on May 6th, including numerous oils and water colors of the president on horseback and a more unusual work that portrays Reagan with a Picasso-style cubism.
On August 6th, the celebration moves to Chicago as the Cubs host a Reagan game day at Wrigley Field. First son Michael Reagan will throw out the first pitch, and Lewis says that 20 students from Eastern Europe will be attending their first baseball game along with busloads of fans from Dixon. Reagan was a Chicago Cubs announcer for an Iowa radio station in the 1930’s.
In October, a time capsule will be buried as part of the Dixon High School homecoming celebration. The capsule is scheduled to be excavated in fifty years by the class of 2061. Included among the buried artifacts will be an original score, a classical composition performed and written for the centennial by composer, David Holsinger.
In the nation’s capital, The National Archives continues its yearlong retrospective of Reagan artifacts, including the original copy of Reagan’s 1982 “evil empire speech” (Complete with his own handwritten edits.) Archive-goers can also read the president’s correspondence with Soviet General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, and see the fragment of the last Soviet SS-20 missile destroyed on May 12, 1991.
Beginning on July 1st and running until May 2012, the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition “One Life: Ronald Reagan” will commemorate the centennial by exploring photographs of the president through the years. One well-known portrait shows a seemingly relaxed and joyful president riding atop a favorite horse at the Reagan ranch. It’s a perfect image, capturing the president at rest—and at play.