Friday, February 01, 2008

Lookin' for Lincoln in Downtown Elgin

February is the month of heart-shaped candies, red roses, funny valentines and… Honest Abe?

Yes, February 12 marks Abraham Lincoln’s 199th Birthday – a day that I normally wouldn’t pay much attention to. But State Representative Ruth Munson has changed all that. She’s got the whole city in a Lincoln state of mind.

Munson, along with Karen Fox at U-46 and Cherie Murphy at the City of Elgin, have gathered a small army of people together to plan a year-long Lincoln celebration that will culminate in a community-wide 200th Birthday Party for Abe on February 12, 2009.

The festivities aptly begin with and are centered around the Gail Borden Library’s Tapestry of Freedom exhibit, a four-month endeavor that promotes harmony, respect and unity through the celebration of black history, women’s history, cultural diversity and preservation. The exhibit spotlights the faces, expression and histories of freedom and it starts today. Check out the library’s website for more information.

Following the tried and true template of the year-long 150th Anniversary celebration in Elgin, the Lincoln committee is not looking to plan a bunch of new events but rather to have existing events take on the Lincoln theme. That may be as literal as dancing Abes in the July 4th Parade or as general as celebrating freedom at the Cinco de Mayo Festival.

I’m big on themes – my Barbie birthday party of 1989 is like legendary. But themes do more than make fun memories. They build bridges. They bring ideas and people together. Which is something that Lincoln fought to do. And its something that our community really needs right now.

The Downtown Neighborhood Association is kicking off its Lincoln activities with a special promotion. It’s kinda quirky, but so was Lincoln.

Though Honest Abe never came to Elgin during his Presidency, he’ll be hanging around Downtown throughout the year, spending one week of each month at a downtown shop or restaurant. I don’t want to freak you out. It’s not really Abe – it’s a lifesize cardboard cut out of him.

I will give you a clue in my column prior to his arrival so that you can find him and get 10 percent off your purchase. Be sure to sign his back side each time you spot him and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win him at the city’s tree lighting ceremony on December 6. You know you’ve always wanted a lifesize Abe Lincoln in your living room – so here’s your chance.

Abe is scheduled to arrive downtown just in time for his birthday on February 12 and will stay for a week. Here is the clue to help you find him:

When this downtown business was established, Grover Cleveland was president. The business started as a drug store but when the current owner’s great-great-grandfather took over in 1946 it became a sporting goods store. If Lincoln were alive today he could get his U-46 gym suit and varsity letterman’s jacket at this store.

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