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Happy 200th

Statewide torch relay commemorates Indiana Bicentennial

By Anna Oelerich | Echo


Someone is celebrating a very special birthday this year.  Actually lots of someones, as 2016 marks the 200th birthday of the Hoosier State.

Indiana’s Bicentennial is in full swing, and to celebrate, the Indiana Bicentennial Commission (IBC) has organized a statewide torch relay two years in the making.

Over the next four weeks, approximately 1,800 torchbearers will run, walk, canoe and ride on trains, horses and combines through every county in Indiana. According to the IBC, the relay began in Harrison County, the site of Indiana’s first capital, on Sept. 9. After more than 2,300 miles of collective travel, the relay will end on the Indianapolis Statehouse campus on Oct. 15.

“This initiative is designed to inspire and unify the state by connecting its people, community and regions,” the IBC said in the torch relay handbook. “It is also designed to symbolically ‘pass the torch,’ connecting past and current generations to future ones.”

On Sept. 28, the Torch Relay Caravan will enter Grant County. From there, 20 torchbearers will pass Taylor, Ivanhoe’s, the James Dean Birthsite Memorial and other Grant County landmarks between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Each county’s torchbearers are nominated by their peers, and Grant County’s lineup is nothing short of unique. Marcus Winslow Jr., who was born and raised in Fairmount, will be running in honor of his first cousin and childhood friend, James Dean.

Another torchbearer, Wayne Seybold, not only served three terms as Marion’s mayor but also participated in the 1988 Olympics in pairs figure skating. Fittingly, he will be on roller skates during the relay.

There’s no age limit when it comes to participating in the relay. At 105 years old, civil rights activist Pearl Bassett is a lifelong Marion resident and the oldest relay participant in the state. At the other end of the age spectrum, Mississenewa High School sophomore and runner Brennan Butche holds several state athletic records and will carry the torch for one leg of its journey.

Each county is in charge of planning its own festivities. County Coordinator Layla Price is excited about Grant County’s role in the celebration; residents have contributed to everything from a countywide quilting project to the Bicentennial’s official postage stamp.

“(The) Grant County community is coming together with all other counties as one unified state, ‘passing the torch,’ igniting the future,” Price said. “We’re making history!”

Even after the relay picks up in the next county, events will continue at the Grant County Courthouse Square in Marion until 9:00 p.m. From speeches to local musicians to a special celebration courtesy of the Marion High School Color Guard, the event will energize the community.

According to Price, the festivities at the Courthouse require a small army of enthusiastic volunteers. Those interested should contact Ruthann Sumpter at 765-664-2444. If students are unavailable to volunteer their time, she hopes they will show their support by cheering for local  torchbearers.

“Stand anywhere along the route to cheer on Indiana!” Price said.

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