Sesquicentennial

jbeaudoin@lsjournal.comApril 2, 2014 

Phyllis Balagna twirled a baton during the 100th anniversary of the city of Lee’s Summit back in 1965.

Today, she and many other community leaders are heading a monumental effort to plan the 150th birthday, or sesquicentennial, in 2015.

A birthday of that magnitude will require lots of planning, witnessed by the Truly 150 committee’s organization back in May of 2013. In November of last year, the Lee’s Summit City Council passed a resolution in support of the efforts.

Now, four months in 2014, planning the year-long celebration is in full force.

Former Lee’s Summit City Manager Art Davis is leading the volunteer group.

“We have a window of opportunity – a once in a multiple generation opportunity – to take advantage of some unique happenings and create something very meaningful,” Davis said.

Davis said the committee is still actively engaging new volunteers to work with the planning committees, which include marketing, budget/finances, special events and logistics.

Balagna is heading up an effort to bring back Grammy-winning jazz musician and Lee’s Summit native Pat Metheny for a special event during 2015. Balagna met with Metheny in New York last fall and is in talks with his agent about the 150th festivities, adding that Methany has been “enthusiastic” about coming home for the event.

“Pat Metheny is a household name when it comes to jazz, both nationally and internationally,” Balagna said. “There will be more information available as this unfolds, but he will do something very special for this event.”

Balagna is also heading up a team to plan a community-wide celebration on Aug. 1, 2015.

“This celebration will involve every aspect of our community: schools, churches, boy scouts, girl scouts, senior citizens, old-time car clubs, square dancers, dance studios,” Balagna said, adding that other homegrown talent like Matt Lewis and Drew Fenton may return to perform at the event.

The Truly 150 has established themes for the 150-year history of Lee’s Summit.

The “Settlement” era runs from 1865-1914; “Establishment” from 1915-1964; and “Development” from 1965-2014. From 2015, the era has been deemed “Empowerment.”

The committee is also planning a new time capsule project and for the opening of the time capsule that currently sits in front of City Hall.

For Balagna and others that remember the 100th, planning and executing this anniversary is a personal endeavor.

“In 1965, I was in the Bicentennial Celebration and can still remember it like it was yesterday,” she said. “I was a baton twirler and participated in many aspects of the event: the parade, event at Lee’s Summit High School Football Stadium, activities in downtown Lee’s Summit. There was a men’s beard contest and my dad grew a beard and dressed up in old-fashioned attire. We had street dances on Douglas, ice cream socials on Main Street, and it was a great time.”

Kelli Welch, with the city of Lee’s Summit, is working with the marketing committee as it launches www.truly150.com. In the future, the website will act as the landing point for donations, volunteer sign-ups, calendar of events and other 150th anniversary-related activities.

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