SPRINGFIELD – Blagojevich administration officials Jan Grimes, Director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Deputy Director Jan Kostner today joined Lincoln-Douglas Debate Community Chairman Ed Finch to announce a series of events throughout Illinois in the coming months to mark the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Today’s announcement was made at the Old State Capitol State Historic Site in Springfield, during the site’s “House Divided” Speech 150th anniversary commemoration.
Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas re-enactors will take part in each debate community’s commemoration event, in what is being called “Reunion Tour 2008.” These events are scheduled for weekend dates that correspond as closely as possible to the dates in 1858 when Lincoln and Douglas debated the monumental issues of the day, in their race for Douglas’ U.S. Senate seat. Douglas won the election, but the notoriety Lincoln gained during the debates helped propel him to the Presidency in 1860.
“This commemoration of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, the nation’s most famous political discourse, is especially relevant as we prepare for the clash of ideologies surrounding another Presidential election,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I urge all Illinois citizens to experience at least one of these re-enactments to more fully appreciate the impact these two men had on our nation’s history.”
The “Reunion Tour 2008” will be the core of a weekend long celebration in each community. Plans vary in each location, but activities include parades, period balls, historic festivals, art shows, picnics, and even a tour of historic sites on a Segway. Event dates are July 26 in Bement; August 22 – 23 in Ottawa; August 29 – September 1 in Freeport; September 12 – 14 in Jonesboro; September 20 – 21 in Charleston; October 3 – 5 in Galesburg; October 11 – 13 in Quincy; and October 17 – 19 in Alton.
“With these Lincoln-Douglas Debate events we hope to focus the nation’s attention on this important anniversary, by providing entertaining and educational activities throughout the state,” said Grimes. “It’s also an enjoyable way to continue to build excitement for the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial.”
“The story of Abraham Lincoln brings millions of visitors to Illinois each year to share in his legacy. The Lincoln-Douglas commemorations, along with other events in preparation for the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial, will help propel Illinois tourism past the record of 92 million visitors,” said Kostner, who heads DCEO’s Illinois Bureau of Tourism. “We are excited to see visitors flock to Illinois to experience this significant piece of American history.”
The Lincoln and Douglas re-enactors will meet in each debate community to reminisce, share their recollections and discuss some of the important issues that were at the heart of the contest. An accompanying naval officer in period clothing will moderate the discussion and invite local news media and audience members to ask questions of the candidates. For more information, visit www.lincolndouglasreunion.com
On July 26, Lincoln and Douglas re-enactors will also make appearances in Bement, the official grand opening for the Debate Sesquicentennial. Bement is believed to be the place where Lincoln and Douglas met to arrange final details for the debates.
“The Debate Sesquicentennial offers Illinois and the nation an opportunity to celebrate democracy’s fundamental precept – freedom of speech,” said Finch. “The right to vote in a democracy hinges on free political dialogue and our nation’s best historical examples were Lincoln and Douglas in 1858.”
While Springfield was not a debate site, Lincoln gave his “House Divided Speech” in the Old State Capitol on June 16, 1858. It was this speech, given during the 1858 Illinois Republican Convention that marked the beginning of the dialogue and helped to define the issues that were central to the seven debates.
Lincoln and Douglas will be portrayed by two actors who have spent a significant amount of time preparing for these roles. George Buss will play Abraham Lincoln and Tim Connor will play Stephen A. Douglas. Silas Terry, the accompanying naval aide, will be played by Ed Finch. He will introduce Lincoln and Douglas and serve as moderator for each local press conference.
George Buss from Freeport has been portraying Abraham Lincoln for more than 15 years at places such as Ford’s Theater and Gettysburg. He also portrayed Lincoln in two of the seven C-SPAN broadcasts of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Buss is president of the Stephen Douglas Association and vice-president of the Lincoln Douglas Society.
Tim Connors is the director of theatre and head coach of the Speech Team at Freeport High School. He is active in theatrical and educational activities throughout his community, and has also portrayed Franklin Delano Roosevelt in several programs of great speeches from history.
Ed Finch holds a doctorate in history, is a retired teacher, and currently serves as president of the Lincoln-Douglas Society.
Lincoln-Douglas Debates Sesquicentennial Events 2008
Bryant Cottage State Historic Site
Lincoln Douglas Debate Sesquicentennial Grand Opening Event
July 26, 2008
Saturday, July 26 – Lincoln and Douglas reportedly met in Bement, Illinois to finalize the details for the seven debates. Although no debate took place here, Bement has been chosen to host the grand opening event of the Sesquicentennial Celebration. A day-long celebration will mark the event and will include a traditional “Prairie Ovation,” providing separate ceremonial escorts for both Lincoln and Douglas as they approach a stage for Reunion Tour ‘08. Commemorations include a Lincoln Douglas Press Conference, a play called “The Bement Story,” a ladies’ tea, a band and chorus concert, Civil War infantry demonstrations and drills, period crafts and visits with Mr. Lincoln and Senator Douglas at their respective tents. Call (217) 678-8184 for more information.
August 22-23, 2008
Friday, August 22 – Events begin with the Yarns and Fables Story Telling Festival in Ottawa’s Old Town District. Storytellers will talk about Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas and Illinois during the 1850s, a world without cars, running water or radios and cell phones. Refreshments will be available.
Saturday, August 23
– Ottawa will host Reunion Tour ‘08 with performances at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Washington Square, the historic debate site. Entertainment will also include a stilt walker, caricatures, period music, carriage rides, a juggler and penny-farthing demonstrations, plus period artisans. The Old Town Farmers Market will offer freshly grown goods and a “Petticoats and Pantaloons Vintage Fashion Show” will be presented at the historic Ottawa Boat Club. The day will end with a costume ball honoring Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas aboard the Spirit of Peoria paddle wheel boat. Contact the Ottawa Visitors Center at (888) 688-2924 or visit www.experienceottawa.com
for more information.
August 29-September 1, 2008
Friday, August 29 – Lincoln and Douglas will arrive by steam train. Their arrival will be followed by a torchlight parade and a re-enactment of an abolitionist rally at Silvercreek & Stephenson Railroad Museum. The rally will include Frederick Douglass.
Saturday, August 30 – Festivities begin in the morning with a parade through downtown Freeport, followed in the afternoon by the dedication of Debate Square and a performance of Reunion Tour ‘08 with Lincoln and Douglas. In the evening an 1860 era Grand Ball will be held featuring lively 19th century music by the First Brigade Band. Many dancers will be authentically dressed, but historic dress is not required to join the dance. Dance instruction will be provided.
Sunday, August 31 – Join Lincoln and Douglas for Family Day and Art in the Park that will include juried artists and art-related and historically-based activities for families.
Monday, September 1
– Taylor Park will be the site of “The Flavors of Lincoln’s Freeport” featuring a variety of ethnic foods and musical entertainment, and an opportunity to visit with Lincoln and Douglas. For more information call the Freeport/Stephenson County Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 369-2955 or visit www.stephenson-county-il.org
September 12-14, 2008
Friday, September 12 – The day starts when Lincoln and Douglas meet with the local press and school children. The evening ends with a “Dinner with Debaters” at Great Boars of Fire in Anna, Illinois. Reservations at $25 are required.
Saturday, September 13 – Jonesboro will host an all-day community festival on Jonesboro Square featuring period crafts, demonstrations, food, music and games. At 1:30 p.m. the 19th Century Jonesboro Band will lead a procession to the debate site at Lincoln Memorial Park and the crowds can join Lincoln to “Walk Where Lincoln Walked.” The Reunion Tour ‘08 press conference with Lincoln and Douglas begins at 2 p.m.
Sunday, September 14
– The day begins with an 8:30 a.m. church service in the 1850s Kornthal Church. At 1 p.m. there will be an Old Fashioned Picnic in the Park with music. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own baskets of food or to purchase food from area merchants. Lincoln and Douglas will be there to greet the guests. For more information call (800) 248-4373 or visit www.southernmostillinois.com
September 20-21, 2008
Saturday, September 20 – An all-day festival will take place at the original site of the Lincoln Douglas Debate. Activities include a pancake breakfast, 4K run/walk that follows part of the original parade route taken by the candidates, tours of the Lincoln Douglas Museum, an art fair with traditional 19th century artisans along with modern local artists, period musicians and performers. The senatorial candidates will be available in their respective campaign tents to discuss the important issues of the race until Reunion Tour ’08 begins with a grand entrance by the candidates and a presentation for the audience. Vendors will provide a variety of food.
Sunday, September 21
– Events include tours of historic homes and the Downtown Square where Lincoln and Douglas once visited regularly. Contact the Charleston Tourism Office at (217) 348-0430 or visit www.charlestontourism.org
for more information
October 3-5, 2008
Friday, October 3 – Dinner and dancing will be offered at the “Lincoln Dinner and Ball” at the Best Western Prairie Inn. Tickets are available for $50 per couple or $30 per single reservation.
Saturday, October 4 – Reunion Tour ‘08 comes to the east end of Knox College’s “Old Main” where Lincoln and Douglas will describe the important issues of the debates. Visitors can tour Old Main, the original site of the Galesburg Lincoln - Douglas Debate, and the Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Station, which showcases how escaping slaves found shelter in Knox County. Lincoln related events take place during the Knox County Scenic Drive and the Scarecrow festival with period crafts, demonstrations, food, music and games. A musical tribute to Lincoln will take place that evening in the Orpheum Theatre.
Sunday, October 5
– A morning worship service at Orange Chapel on the Knox County Scenic Drive will feature Abe and Mary Lincoln. Many other Lincoln related events will be taking place on the Scenic Drive. For more information call the Galesburg Area Convention & Visitors Center at (800) 916-3330 or visit www.visitgalesburg.com
October 11-13, 2008
Saturday, October 11 – People may greet Lincoln and Douglas as they arrive at the site of the former Quincy Railroad Depot on Quincy’s riverfront. Visitors can join the rally as the candidates are paraded to the town square, Washington Park. An all-day festival in and around Washington Park will include a special program to dedicate the newly enhanced Lincoln Douglas Debate site.
Sunday, October 12 – Festivities in and around Washington Park continue as Lincoln and Douglas take the stage for Reunion Tour ’08. The nearby restored home built by abolitionist Dr. Richard Eells, a documented stop on the Underground Railroad, may be toured.
Monday, October 13
- After spending a day with school children, Lincoln and Douglas will participate in a Farewell Celebration at the Quincy Riverfront. The three-day weekend will feature performances by the 1st
Brigade Band; a presentation of “Abraham Lincoln in Song;” period games, music, demonstrations, artisans, food booths, historical characters and other special programming and entertainment. For more information call the Quincy Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 978-4748 or visit www.lincolnDouglasQuincyDebate.com
October 17-19, 2008
Friday, October 17 – The kick-off for the Lincoln Douglas Festival begins with an evening “Dinner at Lincoln’s Table” with Lincoln and Douglas, featuring authentic recipes served at Lincoln’s table.
Saturday, October 18 – Reunion Tour ’08 will bring history to life with two presentations of the Alton debate. Festivities will also include a Living History Tour featuring docents telling the stories of Alton’s past at seven different Lincoln and Civil War sites, as well as the debut of the new Lincoln & Civil War Legacy Trail. Other activities include period vendors, an appearance by Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress, a presentation of the “Songs of Abraham Lincoln” and other music programs throughout the day. Special exhibits on Lincoln’s many visits to Alton will be featured at the Hayner Library and Alton Museum of History & Art.
Sunday, October 19 – The St. Louis Science Center will offer Segway Tours of Alton’s Lincoln sites. A special cruise on the Mississippi River with the Reunion Tour ’08 will also be offered. There will be a fee for both activities. For more information, call 1-800-ALTON-IL (258-6645) or see www.VisitAlton.com/Lincoln