Bicentennial celebrations around Maine
Click on each event for more info
Note: due to concerns around COVID-19, it’s best to call ahead to ensure the event is happening.
March 15: Statehood Day Ceremony
It was the break up heard ‘round the country.
On July 26, 1819, Maine formally told Massachusetts: “It’s just not working out...” and began the formal process to become the nation’s 23rd state. The Maine Bicentennial, officially being celebrated March 15, 2020, is just around the corner with dozens of events taking place all over Maine to celebrate the state’s 200th year of statehood.
Before the territories were even called “Maine,” indigenous tribes lived throughout the region prior to European settlers filtering in around the first half of the 17th century. Maine began as a separate colony in the 1620s, but by 1651, became absorbed by Massachusetts. In 1785, after the Revolutionary War, Mainers began petitioning to be an independent state.
Maine always had its share of separatists—people who wanted to be free of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Their argument for leaving mostly centered around less political representation and inequitable taxation. Many Mainers felt the state, on its own, could govern itself inexpensively. Between 1814 and 1819, after the War of 1812 when Massachusetts failed to protect Maine, pressure rose to gain independence from Massachusetts. In 1819, voters overwhelmingly supported separation.
The Massachusetts General Court passed legislation to separate the District of Maine from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but that action hinged on receiving approval from Congress. A struggle ensued regarding the balance of power in Congress, and Maine was given the choice — allow slavery in Missouri and become a state, or withhold extending slavery and remain with Massachusetts. The choice made, on March 15, 1820, and Maine became its own state as part of the Missouri Compromise.
Maine 200 leads the celebrations
Maine 200 is the official host of the celebration of Maine’s Bicentennial with signature events, programs, workshops, artistic and musical performances held all over the state.
“We’re looking at a full calendar the month of March, but we actually started Maine Bicentennial celebrations on July 30, 2019, which was as close as we could come to the actual date of the vote that propelled Maine to statehood, which was July 26, 1820,” said Dave Cheever, vice chairman, Maine Bicentennial Commission.
The state’s capital, Augusta, will be the site of major celebrations on March 15, 2020, on Statehood Day, including speeches, music, cake, and unveiling of the United States Postal Service Bicentennial Postage Stamp. Note: As of Feb. 12, this event has been postponed due to COVID-19 precautions.
Beyond the events in March, the commission wanted to extend the Bicentennial theme to every community in Maine that wishes to honor it in its own way.
“A big New England tradition is to host bean suppers, casserole dinners, and potluck suppers, so we’ve put the Bicentennial bunting on these local celebrations,” he said. “We’re asking people to not only come to feed themselves, but to also come and feed others by bringing a non-perishable food item. We can then re-stock the shelves of the local food pantries.”
A list of statewide suppers in March can be found here.
Maine’s Original Citizens
Cheever said beyond the month of March, Maine 200 is waiting until August of this year to launch the next phase of an important legacy project that began July, 2019.
“What we want to do is bring new citizens to Maine,” he said, “They are citizens familiar to Maine, but silent citizens.”
He was referring to the Eastern white pine tree. Maine is known as the “Pine Tree State” and the Eastern white pine is the official tree of the State of Maine. The commission pinpointed four communities that would be willing to plant juvenile Eastern white pines in a grove with a commemorative Maine Bicentennial marker.
“These communities vowed to take care of these pine groves for the next 100 years,” he said. “What made Maine such a valuable place to the English, French, and Dutch, were the 130-foot-tall eastern white pines. Those became masts for ships that could make transatlantic crossings. Because they were so valuable, they were widely harvested going from the coast inland and around 5,000 trees were taken down. In fact, in Maine, there are still old trees still standing that were marked for the King’s masts.” See that history here. “And because the Eastern white pine was seen as an adaptive resource, it has continued to serve Maine right on through—from ship-building to construction to paper-making.”
To learn more about Maine’s history and the myriad of events local to you, visit: https://www.maine200.org
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org