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VAHS and community members begin sesquicentennial planning

Posted on Thursday, November 9, 2023 at 11:26 pm

By Stan Schwartz

The Vandalia Area Historical Society, as well as members of the Vandalia community, has started planning the events to showcase Vandalia in its 150th anniversary celebration next year.

Paul Ray, with the VAHS, said the group has already met several times to come up with ideas for events during the celebration.

“The Historical Society has been leading the charge to gather community members and organizations to help celebrate the city’s 150th anniversary,” Ray said.

“The upcoming Nov. 18 meeting has been designated to solidify the actual events, so that we can plan accordingly,” Ray said. The meeting will take place on that Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. in the Charlene Teague Genealogy Center’s main room. The center is adjacent to the VAHS museum at the corner of S. Main and E. State streets, across the street from the Vandalia Housing Authority.

He encourages other organizations, businesses, groups and individuals to attend the meeting, because they are still open to ideas, but what they will need most in the coming months leading up to the actual event days, is volunteers who will take ownership of the various events and coordinate their operations.

“We’ve scheduled two dates for the events,” said VAHS President Vicki Wright. “Saturday, Aug. 10, 2024, and then the Chamber of Commerce is going to extend Prairie Days

“Aug. 10 is the official date of the founding of Vandalia,” Ray said. He also noted that the weekend of Sept. 27 – 29 is next year’s dates for Prairie Days.

“We’ve established that on Aug. 10, we’re going to do an ice cream social,” Wright added. They are pattering it on the ice cream social the town did for the state’s 200th anniversary.

A lot of the events, Ray said, are scheduled to take place in Tri-County Park.

Wright said they are also planning a pool party at the Acquatic Center during the celebration.

During Prairie Days, Ray said, things would operate about the same as previous celebrations, with a parade, etc. But they want the majority of the 150th celebration events to take place over Prairie Days weekend.

“It’s those events that we want to get the community behind,” Ray said. “Ultimately, our goal is to ask organizations and churches to take on responsibility for a single project or multiple projects. It’s a divide and conquer of activities, so it all doesn’t fall onto the shoulders of a few people,” he said.

So far, he noted, the VAHS has had good response. In addition to the Aug. 10 date and the Prairie Days dates, Ray said, they are also considering having events throughout the year, starting in January 2024.

“As an example,” Ray said, “they would do a lawn of the week to build toward the celebrations.”

“We would also have speakers throughout the year, prior to the event,” Ray added.

They are also organizing a Trunk Show. Mike Ray, Paul’s brother, would be traveling around to various organizations and schools speaking on local history.

“Mike would be using items pulled from a trunk,” Paul said, to help illustrate his history talks. “It could be a feather or arrowhead—to prime the pump of education about the history of this area.”

One of the main focuses of the celebration will be on the city’s founder, Aaron McPike, exploring his history and that of Vandalia, Paul said.

They also want to do walking tours during Prairie Days. The Historical Society has extensive history on many of the town’s buildings, and the tours would educate people about what types of businesses were once housed in those structures.

It’s just an idea, he added, but they would start at one end of town and walk to the other even covering open spaces that once held buildings. He pointed across the street, noting that there once was a grain elevator there, and that the genealogy center was once home to a doctor’s office.

“We also want to have home tours during Prairie Days,” Paul said. “You can see we have a lot of ideas. We need someone to grab each one of these—or more—and run with them.”

To help fund some of the coming events, the museum already has merchandise for sale that highlights the town’s 150th anniversary—T-shirts, key rings, challenge coins, garden flags. They are also seeking corporate donations for the events.

“It’s difficult,” he added, “to plan events unless you know how much you have to work with.”

Currently, they are also selling memorial plates to go on plaques that will be placed on the walls in the museum and genealogy center.

“It’s called $150 for the 150th,” Paul said. They are selling 150 of these 3- by 5-inch plates engraved with a memorandum of the donor’s choosing.

In their flier on this fundraising project, they state that Karen Wilson Greenwood, a native of Vandalia, sent a $150 check in memory of her uncle and aunt, Archie and Phyllis Eskew Hursman.

Wright said checks can be made payable to the Vandalia Area Historical Society and sent to Box 7, Vandalia, MO 63382. For more information on the memorial plates, call Wright at 573-721-8074.