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We Celebrate! Here’s Why for Tompkins’ 200th

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> We Celebrate! Here’s Why for Tompkins’ 200th

Bicentennial List of Upcoming Events

We Celebrate! Here’s Why for Tompkins’ 200th

By Tompkins County Historian and County Bicentennial Commission Co-Chair Carol Kammen
Published in the Ithaca Journal  April 7, 2017

Today marks the bicentennial of Tompkins County. Created by the State of New York in 1817, the county has changed its shape over time, and has expanded and altered its form of government, moving to becoming a charter county in 1970 and in 2003 from a board of supervisors to a Legislature.

Just why should we celebrate this anniversary?

I believe we do so to understand our own history, thus linking us to this place, if were we born here or moved in only recently. This history explains how we came about, who made it possible, why and what changes occurred, and how together we have provided and maintained and expanded the services that any one individual would not have been able to manage alone.

We celebrate to learn, to understand. We are a county created by and governed by state laws. We also create county laws and agencies of our own. We are part of a great system of laws that guarantee each of us a place.

We celebrate to explain that freedoms come with responsibilities. That as part of a community we aid others less fortunate, we vote to show our preferences, we write letters to voice our opinion, we see our representatives and give th,em a piece of our mind or to thank them for actions of which we approve.

We celebrate because looking back we see where individuals have mattered and where acting together has been crucial.

We celebrate for the fun of holding a family party:  This bicentennial will be marked with a series of new road signs, one in each town, and also in the two towns that once were a part of the county. There will also be a sign set in the city to mark its central place in the county.

We celebrate with lively brochures created by the municipal historians of Tompkins County showing a timeline of growth of each of the nine towns and the city, architectural treasures, historical highpoints, and a few of the many individuals worth remembering.

We celebrate by marking maps of the county, available online or from local libraries and the History Center, showing in drawings or words, our own special places in the county. These will become part of an archive that we leave to the next generation. So these are a gift to the future.

We celebrate the bicentennial of the creation of Tompkins County by better understanding all that our county does for us.

We celebrate because we are citizens not only of Tompkins County and of New York State, but of the United States, and we are among the privileged of the world. We are not a perfect nation but we strive for the better, we care for those less fortunate, we herald those who lead when they do so thoughtfully and inclusively, and we cheer those who protest to make our county and country better.

We celebrate the bicentennial year of Tompkins County because we are neighbors, friends, colleagues – and we celebrate even though the sign in front our of County Courthouse on North Tioga Street has the date wrong—something that makes me laugh each time I pass by.

We celebrate April 7, 1817 and April 7, 2017 as 200 years of making progress, even as flawed as that has been, while recognizing that there is so much more to do.

Do look for the new blue highway signs, the town brochures, the maps on which to mark your presence. See the video interviews with county employees about their jobs. See the Tompkins County bicentennial float come down North Cayuga Street during the Ithaca Festival parade, and watch for that float in your town. It will make a visit. Have a taste of Sweet Melissa’s Tompkins Swirl, which will certainly be the ice cream flavor of the summer. Watch for bicentennial events and readings at a place near you of “Nine Towns & a City,” a very short dramatization of how all this has come about.

And enjoy the festivities but remember, our democracy depends on you.