Since entering the Union in 1818, the State of Illinois has grown in different ways.
To mark this milestone, the Village of Mokena, joined by other communities across the state, hosted flag-raising ceremonies Dec. 4.
“I think it was wonderful that we had the kids from our junior high school participating, Mokena Junior High School, that played a very large role in this ceremony, and also that we had the Cub Scouts involved,” Assistant Village Administrator Kirk Zoellner said. “I, myself, was in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and so forth. So, it’s great to see these young people that are embracing the history of our state, the culture and understanding why we are what we are today in Illinois.”
The midday program served as one of several events to be organized in recognition of the state’s bicentennial year of celebration.
Mayor Frank Fleischer kicked off the ceremony by welcoming everyone and thanking them for coming together to commemorate this milestone.
On Dec. 3, 1818, Illinois became the 21st state to enter the Union with a population of 34,620. Today, more than 12 million people call it home.
“The state has its challenges, and everyone knows that with the finances and those kind of things, but, of course, we try to work with each other as well as we can hand-in-hand with each other because we’re both involved in day-to-day running of things that affects people’s lives,” Zoellner said. “We obviously want to do the best job we can.”
Cub Scout Pack 39 members Ryker Sheleheda, Jacob Medema and Rhett Novotny led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mokena Junior High School students Grace Fitzpatrick and Justin Eckert sang the Illinois state song, written by Charles H. Chamberlain and composed by Archibald Johnston. The song was adopted by the General Assembly in 1925.
Zoellner said having young people in attendance for the ceremony was nice to see.
“A lot of things have to do with understanding where you came from,” Zoellner said. “The history is a pretty awesome one.”
In 1865, Illinois led the nation’s effort to ratify the 13th amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery.
“We have a great tradition of leadership here, a great tradition of commerce, natural resources,” Zoellner said.
Students of the National Junior Honor Society for Mokena Junior High School presented a reading of a proclamation.
Cub Scout Pack 39 member Samuel Herman assisted the mayor in raising the state’s bicentennial flag, and members of the crowd watched on.
As the ceremony concluded, people enjoyed popcorn, the state’s official snack food.
Zoellner did not negate the idea of the Village getting involved in future celebrations of the state’s bicentennial year of celebration.
“People understanding that good Midwest work ethic, I think means something, and that they should cherish that as something that’s part of their heritage,” Zoellner said. “Because you can travel to different parts of the country, and they’re different, not that that’s bad, but I think we have a very good thing, here, with our work ethic, emphasis on leadership, and ownership of our communities and taking part in them, and that’s what things like today are all about. Just coming together as a community and saying, ‘This is where we came from, this is where we are, and it helps us plan for our future hopefully in a proactive and positive way.’”