Sesquicentennial celebration ends with concert, fireworks

Melinda Rogers

The University wrapped up its sesquicentennial celebration Friday after a year of sponsoring events throughout the state to honor the institution’s 150th birthday.

Friday’s grand finale, “A Night to Remember,” featured a concert by the Minnesota Orchestra followed by fireworks over the Mississippi River.

“The University has had a great year. I hope people remember this celebration for a lifetime,” said sesquicentennial coordinator Sue Eastman.

“Making the sesquicentennial a statewide celebration was an important goal – we had events in 87 counties in the state. I’m very proud of that,” Eastman said.

Sesquicentennial festivities started June 2000, with a town festival and performance of Aaron Copeland’s “The Tender Land” in Lanesboro, Minn.

Other events included a sesquicentennial exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair and Founder’s Week in February 2001, which celebrated the 1851 signing of the University’s charter.

The sesquicentennial name was also added to a number of annual events, including homecoming and convocation.

“The idea was to piggyback on events that already existed at the University. We made it very clear to everyone that we didn’t want any more human or financial resources to go into events,” Eastman said.

The University spent $525,000 over three years to fund the celebration. Money was earmarked for the celebration by former University President Nils Hasselmo.

Funding for events came from non-state money earned from the institution’s investments.

In addition, private corporations donated nearly $100,000 to cover event costs.

“We did a lot for a little,” Eastman said.

She added that the University’s goal was to spend somewhere between what the University of Iowa and the University of Wisconsin spent on their celebrations: $200,000 and $1.5 million, respectively.

University Alumni Association director Margaret Carlson said the celebration is a vital part of highlighting University history.

“There are few institutions in the state of Minnesota that have had the opportunity to celebrate 150 years,” Carlson said.

“The University is marking this point in time not only to look backward about the wonderful things that have happened at the University, but also as a way to look forward at what the University will be like in the future,” she said.

University President Mark Yudof echoed Carlson’s statement.

“We’ve had 150 years of discoveries, artistic achievements, outstanding graduates, faculty and students,” he said in a printed statement.

“The support from Minnesotans has helped to make this a great University. We’ve had a lot of fun this past year, and the citizens of Minnesota can expect continued great things from the University,” Yudof added.

The Minnesota Orchestra also played for Northrop Auditorium’s grand opening in 1929. Additionally, Friday’s concert featured a piano solo by University professor Lydia Artymiw.

The post-show display consisted of two tons of fireworks with 6,700 individual bursts. The 18-minute show was choreographed to music and was a tribute to people who have made the University possible.

“I hope students realize this is a moment in time that is very special,” Eastman said. “I hope they come back in the future for the bicentennial celebration.”

 

Melinda Rogers welcomes comments at [email protected]