Four former Champaign mayors jump on board Champaign’s 150th Anniversary Committee

The Champaign City Council on Tuesday night endorsed an updated report outlining plans for the city’s 150th anniversary celebration.

Four former Champaign County mayors convened Tuesday night to express their commitment to the planning and coordination and have accepted membership on the 150th anniversary Committee.

Each mayor had a chance to share his reaction about Champaign County planning a city-wide celebration in the midst of an economic crisis, an issue to which they extended their condolences.

“I know this is bad economic times,” said Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart. “But we can’t quit living because the economy is bad. We have to keep looking to the future. This (anniversary celebration) is something that doesn’t come around that often.”

Among the five mayors, including Schweighart, they have 38 years of experience under their belts.

Former Champaign Mayor Robert Dodd said that he never thought about the idea of celebrating the city’s identity during his years as mayor.

“When I was first asked to be on this committee, at first I thought we were really over doing this,” Dodd said. “Then I really started thinking about why we’re celebrating. I was a mayor 25 years ago, and (back then) I didn’t even think about it.”

So far, the total cost of the project is unknown. Champaign City Attorney Frederick Stavins said the actual cost depends on whether the city receives sponsorships or raises funds.

“The city support will be necessary,” Stavins said. “There’s a couple specifics we’re asking of the council. We ask the council to authorize continuing staff effort and authorize an intern position. We’re looking for someone to help coordinate the work. Another is to set some money aside for the annual celebration.”

Former Champaign Mayor William Bland said the city’s affiliation with the University will provide a launching pad for a monumental celebration. Dodd added that when people think about Champaign, the University’s dominant presence is inevitable.

“Can you imagine how important and how much of an impact that is going to have on the people?” Bland said. “This is their university. For years we’ve had the best music festivals…the best sports festivals. We’ve had so much exposure to a great university and a great community.”

Dist. 3 Council member Vic McIntosh said the preparation time for the 150th anniversary celebration is important for Champaign residents.

“It’s to bring city together in hard times,” McIntosh said. “It’s people coming together to enjoy the (event). I believe this is the perfect opportune time to plan this.”