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FORT SMITH BICENTENNIAL CELEBRATION

City community leaders are finalizing events and preparing to ramp up social media advertising for the Fort Smith Bicentennial Celebration, commemorating the city’s 200th anniversary.

The yearlong celebration is separated into four quarters: Arts & Culture, Western Heritage, Homecoming and Future Fort Smith, Mayor Sandy Sanders said.

The celebration will begin Dec. 25 with a re-enactment of Maj. William Bradford and his troops landing at Belle Pointe on Dec. 25, 1817. Sanders said he is working to have a keel boat, similar to what Bradford would have used, at the celebration.

The bicentennial events largely will be driven by Fort Smith residents, and Sanders said he encourages people to initiate their own ideas.

“We’re going to do a lot of things,” Sanders said. “We’re planning a lot of things, but we’re really leaving it up to individual groups, citizens, whatever, to participate in the bicentennial and let us know how they’re going to do it. And we’ll get them on the calendar and try and help out whatever it might take.”

The four quarters are divided roughly into separate sections of the year. The first quarter, Arts & Culture, will last from January to March, and the second quarter, Western Heritage, will span from April to July. The third quarter, Homecoming, will be from July to September. It will cover Fort Smith tourism and former Fort Smith residents. The fourth quarter, Future Fort Smith, will be from October to December.

Jim Perry, from left, Kermit Walsh, Megan Raynor and Bradford Randall appear at the UAFS Blue Lion in April. Each serves as a chairman of a committee for the Fort Smith Bicentennial celebration.
[TIMES RECORD FILE PHOTO]

There also may be quarterly events that occur in different sections of the year from their own, Sanders said.

“I think that it is unique in the sense of we are 200 years old,” said Mason Kesner, founder of Baseline Collective, the agency that is creating the bicentennial marketing strategy. “That’s pretty cool. There’s not a lot of cities that can say that — especially one with the immense history that Fort Smith has.”

The first quarter, Arts & Culture, is chaired by Jim Perry.

“I wanted the cultural events to be inclusive of all Fort Smith people and cultures,” Perry said.

One of the events of the quarter will include a play produced by Fort Smith Public School District students. The play will focus on city mayors who served during key times in Fort Smith history. The play will be March 10. The Fort Smith Symphony will also perform April 21, Perry said.

Committee member Claude Legris and Sanders recently met with the Five Civilized Tribes that are made up of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole tribes. The tribes agreed to have an event promoting their cultures March 3.

“It’s fun to be in the room with leaders of five sovereign nations,” Legris said.

Kermit Walsh chairs the second quarter, Western Heritage, while Megan Raynor chairs the third quarter, Homecoming, and Bradford Randall chairs the fourth quarter, Future Fort Smith.

Kesner formed a committee within the 200th Anniversary Committee to focus on web and social media platforms for the celebration. The group has created Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to promote the bicentennial and is most active on Facebook.

He said he plans to increase the activity on social media this fall after all the bicentennial events officially are scheduled.

“Our job is really to get the word out and make sure all the proper information is getting out into the public,” Kesner said.

Baseline Collective also manages the online store for bicentennial commemorative merchandise. The commemorative book, “Bridging Borders and Time: A Bicentennial Portrait of Fort Smith,” will be available for purchase online until the end of July.

“Hopefully when those sell out, we’ll be able to buy more for next year,” Kesner said.