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Ohio's semiquincentennial commission issues first batch of celebration recommendations

State of Ohio flags waving in front of the Statehouse in Columbus, OH.
aceshot/Getty Images
State of Ohio flags waving in front of the Statehouse in Columbus, OH.

A statewide commission tasked with planning Ohio's part of the USA's 250th anniversary has issued itsfirst round of ideas and recommendations. The suggestions don't yet have many specifics but range from celebrating Ohio's aviation history to the importance of waterways like Lake Erie and the Ohio River.

"There are a handful of touch points to the era of 1776, but I think for Ohio, it's going to be more of the spirit of 1776, and how Ohio fits into a lot of the national narratives," explains Todd Kleismit, executive director of the Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial. "There's a lot of different ways that I think we can highlight Ohio history and how we have influenced American history over the many years."

The commission, appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine, earlier this month laid out 43 initial recommendations, though they aren't set in stone and more could come later.

Some focus areas include aviation, Great Lakes, the Ohio River, cars, sports, Ohio originals, the potential UNESCO World Heritage locations and more.

"We think there's a great opportunity for the under-told stories of Ohio and Ohio history," Kleismit says. "We're going to be sure that we find ways to engage people — and it doesn't always have to be at the state level; we think there's lots of ways that local communities will engage in this and create opportunities for people at the local level."

Other states may tend to focus on their historical role in the founding of the country — think the original colonies and events like the signing of the Declaration of Independence — Kleismit sees an opportunity for Ohio to focus on Ohio, including timely conversations that include looking at the past through a contemporary lensthat acknowledges everything hasn't been rosy for all people.

"Although we do have some touch points to that era, we think that this is a broader way to hopefully bring some people together around these efforts and have some adult conversations about what it means to have a shared heritage and Ohio history writ large. We think there's lots of opportunities to bring people together these next couple of years, and I think there's a real desire for that to happen."

The work and planning remain in the early stages and the commission says it welcomes feedback and ideas. The commission is comprised of history, tourism, government and business leaders from across the state, appointed by the governor. The next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 8 in Dennison, Ohio.

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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.