Lewis & Clark Bicentennial

Clarksville Signature Event

Southern Indiana officials fought hard
to include eastern route in bicentennial celebration

By Ruth Wright

(October 2003) – Historian, author and distinguished documentary filmmaker Stephen Ambrose proclaimed in his book, “Undaunted Courage,” that “When they shook hands, the Lewis and Clark Expedition began.”

Jim Keith

Ambrose’s statement regarding the historic journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark lends credence to a part of the story that has been left out of some history books, the part now known as the “Eastern Legacy.” It also summarizes a view long-held by many in the Louisville, Ky., and Clarksville, Ind., area where the co-commanders joined forces.
One group in particular, the Falls of the Ohio Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee, has been determined to make sure that the area’s significant role in one of the country’s greatest expeditions was not overlooked. Pulling resources from both the Indiana and Kentucky sides of the Ohio River, the committee formed in 1997 and launched a full-force effort to become officially included in the nation’s 200th anniversary commemoration of Lewis and Clark’s expedition, which began in January this year.
The result of the committee’s efforts has been the inclusion of the Falls of the Ohio in the 2003-2006 nationally-sanctioned bicentennial commemoration. Designated by the National Council of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial, it is one of 15 National Signature Events spread across the country along Lewis & Clark’s trail, and one of only two east of St. Louis. The other is Monticello, the historic home of President Thomas Jefferson near Charlottesville, Va. Both sites were chosen by the national council based on a number of criteria, including their historical relevance and place in the expedition’s chronological history and the sponsoring organizations’ capacity.

Re-enactors fire

Photo provided

Re-enactors fire their weapons.

A triumph for the area’s inclusion of the eastern leg of Lewis and Clark’s expedition is especially pleasing to Jim Keith, executive director of the Southern Indiana Lewis and Clark Commission. “When we first got involved in 1999 and 2000,” said Keith, “everything connected with the Lewis and Clark bicentennial was from 2004 to 2006.” Now, the bicentennial commemoration is officially recognized as 2003 to 2006. “That’s a significant change – the recognition of the Eastern Legacy,” Keith said.
The Eastern Legacy of which Keith spoke included the National Signature Event in Monticello on Jan. 18. The date was selected because it is the 200th anniversary of the date President Jefferson sent a confidential letter to Congress requesting $2,500 to fund the expedition. More than 3,500 spectators gathered on the historic site’s west lawn for the event, which began a week-long series of Lewis and Clark-related programs in and around Charlottesville.
Opening ceremonies for the second of the National Signature Events, the Falls of the Ohio Bicentennial Commemoration, will begin on Oct. 14 at Louisville’s Waterfront Park with a reenactment of Lewis’ arrival in Louisville and his meeting with Clark by the Discovery Expedition of St. Louis, Mo., official re-enactors of the bicentennial. The Signature Event will conclude on Oct. 27 with the expedition’s departure from the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville.

Two re-enactors eating

Photo by Don Ward

Two re-enactors eating.

In between those dates, both Indiana and Kentucky will have plenty to offer those interested in participating in the bicentennial commemoration and learning more about the area’s role in the expedition. Waterfront Park in Louisville and the Falls of the Ohio State Interpretive Center in Clarksville will play host to many activities associated with the National Signature Event. Other area groups, both in and around the cities, will also sponsor events.
“In the Falls region we have many organizations that are doing their own Lewis and Clark events,” said Dani Cummins, vice president of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee. The committee has been busy planning activities, most of which will be free, said Cummins. Some organizations will charge admission. That includes the Louisville Science Center, which will show “Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West” at its IMAX Theater.
“We’re all very excited,” Cummins said about the event, which has been six years in the planning. “There’s a lot happening,” she said. Other regional events include re-enactments by the St. Charles group in Carrollton, Ky., and Bethlehem, Ind. Each town has activities planned around the group’s encampment, which will take place Oct. 9-11 at Carrollton’s Point Park and Oct. 12-13 on the waterfront in Bethlehem.



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