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Each week, KCUR's Adventure! newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

Missouri Celebrates Its 200th Birthday This Year! Here's How You Can Explore The Bicentennial

Adam Campbell

Explore 200 years of Missouri history with in-person events, online programs and ice cream cones.

This story was first published in KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

On Aug. 10, 1821, the 24th star was added to the flag of the United States of America, when Missouri joined the union. This year, Missouri celebrates its bicentennial!

The State Historical Society of Missouri and Missouri Bicentennial Commission have been hard at work all year coordinating statewide events to honor Missouri’s past, present and future. Visit Missouri2021.org to see events organized in all 114 counties. You can explore the website on your own to see everything that’s offered, but we’ve selected a few entry points.

Though Kansas City, Missouri, already held its official bicentennial bash, there are hundreds of ways to celebrate statehood day in the Show-Me State. (Before heading out to participate, check local public health mandates and county/city recommendations, as these may change.)

There are some in-person events scheduled, mostly outside, but with COVID-19 still a major public health threat, many events have been held virtually. That means that an array of archived videos allow you to develop a #Missouri200celebration at your own pace, wherever you are. We’ll also share some statewide activities that you can join in from afar.

MO Celebrations

Missouri celebrates its bicentennial throughout the month of August with a series of events in-person and online.
Missouri 2021
Missouri celebrates its bicentennial throughout the month of August with a series of events in-person and online.

The official Missouri Statehood Day Commemorationcelebrations at the state capitol begin on Aug. 9 and run through Aug. 10. Get a preview of events and see a full schedule, including the formal recognition ceremony, the opening of the Bicentennial Bridge in Jefferson City, the reveal of the Missouri Bicentennial Stamp and a United States naturalization ceremony.

Together for '21 Fest, in Columbia, is Aug. 6-8, with music and theater performances, historic tours, a softball game, folk arts programs and more — all for free!

The Missouri State Fair is Aug. 12-22 in Sedalia, themed “Our Missouri Celebration.” Learn about Missouri agriculture and see Missouri-based musical groups. At “My Missouri Central,” view traveling exhibits like bicentennial quilts, entries for the My Missouri 2021 photography project and entries in the poster contest.

The fair is also a stop for KBIA’s touring project "Missouri on Mic," collecting oral stories. (If you are unable to participate at the scheduled events, contact news@kbia.org to record your story remotely.)

You might be asking yourself: But are there snacks? Well, the official state dessert of Missouri is the ice cream cone and there are over 80 registered ice cream socials across the state for the afternoon of the bicentennial. Businesses and non-profit organizations can register to host, but there’s nothing to stop you from just enjoying an ice cream scoop on your own. You know, for history’s sake.

MO History

An artist's depiction of what Missouri's first state capitol in Jefferson City may have looked like.
Missouri State Archives
The timeline on Missouri2021.org reaches as far back as 1250 BCE and features significant moments in Missouri history. This image, courtesy of Missouri State Archives, shows an artist's depiction of what the first state capitol in Jefferson City may have looked like.

Missouri2021.org includes a timeline, which starts around 1250 BCE up to the present day and highlights significant moments in Missouri history.

The State Historical Society of Missouri hosts exhibits, lectures and podcasts to learn more about the history of the state. You can also see historic materials from the 1921 Missouri Centennial in their Digital Collections.

Some of the options include Missouri 200 Presents, an on-demand weekly lecture series about the various commemorative events around the state, and the Our Missouri podcast series “Bicentennial Book Club." You can also check out Missouri Humanities’ traveling exhibit "Struggle for Statehood," on tour through December (or you can visit the digital exhibit).

Save the date for the last installment of the African American Experience in Missouri Lecture Series on Sept. 14 with Bob Kendrick: “Negro Leagues: The Shining Stars Hidden in Darkness.” Previous lectures include KCUR’s own Chuck Haddix’s talk on Charlie “Bird” Parker, whose 101st birthday is Aug. 29, 2021.

And there’s still time for organizations to contribute to the official bicentennial time capsule. Submissions are due by Aug. 10, and should include three items: “One to represent your past, one to represent your present and a note to future Missourians.” The capsule will be opened in 2046.

MO Arts

This oil painting, "Watching the Cargo," was part of artist George Caleb Bingham's collection of genre paintings depicting frontier life. Bingham found national fame after selling many of his works to the American Art Union in New York in 1845.
Artist George Caleb Bingham | State Historical Society of Missouri Art Collection
This oil painting, "Watching the Cargo," was part of Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham's collection of genre paintings depicting frontier life. Bingham found national fame after selling many of his works to the American Art Union in New York in 1845.

Missouri has a rich musical history of jazz, blues, ragtime, old-time fiddle and more. Celebrating these genres is the concert “Show Me the Music, A Celebration of the Missouri Bicentennial,” which airs Thursday, Aug.12 at 7 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

That program is followed by “Missouri! A Bicentennial Celebration,” a collaboration between all four Missouri PBS stations, at 8 p.m. You can find repeat airings for both programs on the Kansas City PBS Schedule.

Music in the American Wild, based in Springfield, is a chamber ensemble for contemporary classical music. The ensemble commissioned works by Missouri composers for a Missouri Music at 200 program, and is touring around the state Aug. 2-12. Catch them Friday, Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. for an outdoor concert at Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center.

If you haven’t already submitted artwork to the various exhibitions, you have until the end of the year to participate in the Post Mail Art Projekt 2021: Show Me Mail Art, through the Post Art Library in Joplin. The library hopes to receive 200 pieces of art from Missourians and people around the world. Submitted art will be added to the collection and may become part of the exhibit in the Joplin Public Library on view until Jan. 31, 2022.

You could also enjoy a bicentennial revue from Independence’s Puppetry Arts Institute, which hosts free shows at the Three Trails Museum for a “Missouri Birthday Bash,” on Aug. 7, 13 and 14.

Perhaps you like your adventures more...paperbound? Now is a great time to explore works by Missouri authors. Of course, you can always revisit adventure classics the likes of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but there have been quite a few new works in the last hundred years or so.

Try Kansas City Public Library’s Book Bingo to explore Missouri-themed Summer Reading Lists (read five books by Aug. 15 and win a prize). Mid-Continent Public Library hosts reading lists, virtual events and online resources for its Show Me: State of Stories program as well.

MO To Explore

A finger points to Columbia, Missouri, on a map of the state
Keturah Stickann
Creative Commons
The Missouri Explorers Program is a series of scavenger hunts to encourage residents to get out and explore different parks and historical locations in the state.

Whether or not you have the chance to participate during the Aug. 10 events, there are ways to learn more about the state and share your adventure.

The Missouri Explorers Program is a series of scavenger hunts organized to get folks out and about to the hidden corners of the state, with 1,000 participants registered so far. Challenges include, among others journeys, the African American Heritage Challenge, The Way of American Genius Challenge and the Make Your Day at Jackson County Parks + Rec Challenge.

Take the pledge, complete challenges, submit photos on social media using #MoExplorers and earn merit badge buttons.

As you plan your scavenger hunt strategy, check out the 200 Years, 200 Places interactive map. Submissions are still open for this project by the Missouri Spatial Data Information Service Informational Map at the University of Missouri, with the goal to highlight 200 unique places in Missouri. So far, the Kansas City region has nine sites, including the view from atop Liberty Memorial, the Thomas Hart Benton Home and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

Missouri State Parks hosts events across the state, through the fall. In a celebration full of puns (MO this, MO that), the prize — from this writer — goes to Prairie State Park in Mindenmines (located about two hours south of Kansas City) for a series of guided “Bison-Tennial” hikes, starting Aug. 7. Registration is required.

Unfortunately, some events won’t happen as planned, including the Katy Trail Bicentennial Bicycle Ride, which was canceled due to damage caused by flooding. With each event, double-check changes to dates, times and safety regulations.

Want more adventures like this? Sign up for KCUR's Creative Adventure Email.

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen is a freelance writer in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. Learn more at Proust Eats a Sandwich.
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