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O'Fallon's Sesquicentennial





     In 2006, O'Fallon celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding—its Sesquicentennial. During the 1956 O'Fallon centennial celebration, more than half our citizens turned out, and more than three times our population at that time attended and took part in a very big weekend. By the time we celebrated our Sesquicentennial in 2006, we were a community of over 70,000 people, and new and old residents alike had an opportunity to build O'Fallon's sense of community by sharing its history.


                                            

   As early as 2005, the Board of Aldermen gave the O'Fallon Historical Society the go-ahead to begin developing a plan for the celebration. The Sesquicentennial Steering Committee was formed to organize a year-long series of activities designed to engage as many of O'Fallon's citizens as possible. On January 1, 2006, the Sesquicentennial flag was raised at City Hall as Raleigh Jessup, one of the founders of the O'Fallon Historical Society and Jim Karll, then president of the Society, launched the celebration. 

                                        

Events of the 2006 Sesquicentennial celebration include:


History Tour Weekend, April 29th and 30th: Visitors were given a trolley ride and tour of Old Town O'Fallon with stops at Assumption Church and the Convent of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood. From there, they were taken to Fort Zumwalt Park where they could observe and interact with living history demonstrations from the War of 1812 and Civil War and tour the historic home of Darius Heald.  Unfortunately, the weekend was marred by rain and winds that put tents and campfires to the test.  Still, the cannons were fired on schedule and those who braved the weather enjoyed the weekend.



     The Gates of O'Fallon:  The O'Fallon Photo Club used photographs of O'Fallon's past and present to create 3' x 10 banners depicting life in O'Fallon through the last 150 years. The 150 white banners with sepia-toned images were hung from ten-foot tall poles, each banner bearing the name of the business, organization or individual sponsoring the banner.  The display debuted at Fort Zumwalt Park during the History Tour Weekend and then traveled to the Renaud Spirit Center and Civic Park.



     July 4th Weekend:  The Sesquicentennial was the theme of O'Fallon's 2006 Heritage and Freedom Festival and on July 2nd, a special day was set aside to celebrate the 150th anniversary at Civic Park. The highlight of the parade on July 4th was the Steering Committee's 48-foot float featuring chicken wire and tissue paper renditions of the chimney at Jacob Zumwalt's Homestead Fort, the Historical Society's log cabin museum and City Hall's clock tower, thus representing both past and present day O'Fallon. Smoke billowed from the Fort's chimney and balloons were released from a three-tiered birthday cake, landing us three First Place trophies for the float, including the Mayor's Choice Award.


     Café Theatre:  On August 5th and 6th, the actual anniversary of Nicholas Krekel's move to O'Fallon 150 years ago, the Steering Committee hosted a dinner theatre presentation of "Tales From a Small Town". Local residents depicted oral histories that included Jacob Zumwalt's settlement, Nathan and Rebekah Heald's travails in the Fort Dearborn Massacre during the War of 1812, the Methodist Church's move from Mount Zion to within the city limits, the Blackout Raid during World War II and Fred Jacoby, O'Fallon's first mayor, along with his colorful wife, Missouri Ann. The event, held in the City Hall Gymnasium, began with a delicious array of food and beverages donated by local restaurants. Music was provided by Pat McMenomy on the hammer dulcimer and by the O'Fallon Community Band. Local residents enjoyed hearing the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood singing songs in their original German, dressed in the habits of yesteryear. Both performances were sold out and to those who recalled the pageant from the 1956 Centennial, this weekend was truly the highlight of the 2006 Sesquicentennial.


     Sesquicentennial Billboards:  A giant-sized undertaking designed to be real attention-getters, two billboards were installed (one at Main Street and I-70 and the other at the I-64 exit to O'Fallon) bearing the Sesquicentennial Logo. In the days leading up to the City of O'Fallon's Heritage and Freedom Fest, puzzle-shaped portions of the billboard were removed to expose a pictorial collage of O'Fallon's history.  Local dignitaries, members of the Historical Society and city staff were invited to ride the cherry picker to the top of the billboard to remove the "puzzle pieces".


     In addition to these major events, the year was also marked in other ways.  As a result of "Money" magazine naming O'Fallon 39th on their list of "100 Best Places to Live", a concert honoring outstanding citizens was held at T. R. Hughes Stadium featuring Lee Greenwood. Among those honored were Raleigh Jessup and the members of the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee.


     At the city's annual Fall Festival in Civic Park, the Steering Committee debuted one of its major projects, a book entitled "O'Fallon:  A Good Place to Live." Underwritten by the Bank of Old Monroe, this was the first volume ever published on O'Fallon's history. With over 200 photos, including scenes from the Sesquicentennial celebration, it will remain a hallmark of O'Fallon's history for years to come. Click here for more information on the book.


   On December 31st, members of the Steering Committee gathered at City Hall to lower the Sesquicentennial flag, bidding their farewells to a year of hard work, dedication and celebration. A New Year's Eve party was held at the Elk's Club featuring Nickel Jones, a band organized by Jack Ginnever, son of O'Fallon's Tom Ginnever for whom the street is named.



     The Sesquicentennial Steering Committee is very grateful to all the people who contributed to the success of the year's events, including the many members of city staff who never failed to answer our call for assistance, as well as the companies that provided sponsorship for the projects and events. Most of all, we are grateful for the people who founded this city and those who, throughout the years, nurtured it and laid the foundation for the city it has become today. The year 2006 was dedicated to them.



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