State offers details on celebrating Abe’s 200th

By The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois officials hope schoolchildren, churches and businesses will take part in next year’s celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday.

The Lincoln Bicentennial Commission offered a look Thursday at events it’s organizing to mark the anniversary.

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They include a simultaneous reading of the Gettysburg Address by Illinois schoolchildren, having churches toll their bells next Feb. 12 and asking businesses to say “Happy Birthday, Abe” on marquees and message boards.

“Abraham Lincoln touched the lives of all of us and changed the face of history forever. This will be the opportunity for us to renew our interest in the events of his time and better appreciate the history that he made,” said Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin.

Celebrating the birthday of the 16th president has been complicated by state budget problems.

The planning effort was originally supposed to get $3 million in last year’s budget, but that was cut to $1 million. Legislators approved $5.7 million for this year, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich trimmed that to $2 million to help close a massive budget deficit.

The additional money would have been used to provide grants for communities mounting their own Lincoln events, said Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for the bicentennial commission.

“There are still plenty of events planned. We’re going to have a good celebration,” Blanchette said.

Those events include performances of the play, “Our American Cousin,” that Lincoln and his wife Mary were attending when he was assassinated in 1865 and a period-costume ball at the Lincoln Presidential Museum.

Also, specially commissioned dance and musical pieces at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park and a gathering of Lincoln scholars in Springfield.