Preparing for Lincoln-Douglas Sesquicentennial Celebration

Preparing for Lincoln-Douglas Sesquicentennial Celebration
By: Carly O'Keefe

JONESBORO, Ill. - The sounds of splitting wood and pounding hammers filled Lincoln memorial park in Jonesboro Saturday.  While the end result was a split-rail fence, AmeriCorps volunteers built toward something else.
"We're looking forward to the celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday and the commemoration of the debate he had with Stephen A. Douglas here," said Shawnee National Forest forestry technician Kelly Pearson. "We're trying to find ways to get the community excited about this and what better way than to construct a rail fence like he would have when he was younger."
Members of the Lincoln-Douglas Sesquicentennial Committee have even bigger plans.  Next September re-enactors will commemorate the debate, and festivities will fill the park for three days.  But organizers hope to turn the historic spot into more of an attraction than it is today.
"We want to leave a lasting legacy here at the park so when it's all over, people can come here and learn about the debates not just look at a rock and where it took place," said Sesquicentennial Committee Co-chair Duane Hileman.
Lincoln and Douglas statues have been commissioned, and committee members envision building a brick-paved courtyard where folks can sit and learn about one of America's most iconic figures.  The committee hopes to unveil the Lincoln and Douglas statues on Lincoln's birthday February 12.
"Mr. Lincoln was one of our best presidents ever, he took us through our toughest times, through the Civil War," said Hileman. "There's a lot of history here, neat history."
The committee is currently selling engraved commemorative bricks to pave the courtyard.  For a $50 donation, you can have your name engraved on the historical site.
T-shirts and commemorative coins are also available for purchase to help fund the site improvements including signage throughout the area and on Interstate-57 to direct travelers to the national historic site.
For information about volunteering or donating to the Lincoln-Douglas Sesquicentennial Celebration Fund, contact Linda or Duane Hileman at (618) 833-8745.
The Lincoln-Douglas Debate Sesquicentennial Celebration will take place in September 2008.