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City of Ann Arbor gears up for year-long bicentennial celebration


Cathy Shafran: This is 89.1 WEMU FM. I'm Cathy Shafran. Washtenaw County has some big birthday celebrations this year and next year. This year, as we've been reporting, it's the 200th birthday of the founding of Ypsilanti, and bicentennial celebrations and activities have been going on since New Year's Eve. Now, the planning is going on for the city of Ann Arbor when it celebrates 200 years since its founding in 1824. That, by the way, is the year that a couple of land developers registered the town plat as 'Annarbour', 'A-N-N-A-R-B-O-U-R, one word. And they named it after their wives who were both named Ann. So, how do you celebrate such an occasion and 200 years that have followed it? We pose those questions to Ann Arbor City Manager Milton Dohoney, who just happens to be co-chair of the Ann Arbor Bicentennial Coordinating Committee. Thank you so much for joining us, Mr. Dohoney.

Milton Dohoney
City of Ann Arbor
Milton Dohoney

Milton Dohoney: Thank you very much for having me. Glad to be here.

Cathy Shafran: So, what stage of planning are we in?

Milton Dohoney: We are in full-scale planning mode at the moment. We have a coordinating committee of about 30-plus people. We have designed a logo for next year. We have determined that we're going to celebrate over the course of 12 full months rather than on a single day. And we have started communicating with the community to encourage them to get ready for the celebration.

Cathy Shafran: And has the community responded? Or are you still looking for the community to respond?

Milton Dohoney: A combination of both. We have reached out to organizations that already do annual events to see if they have an interest in co-branding for next year. So, we are starting to get a little traction there. There are a number of organizations around the community, whether it's cultural related, educational related. The library is planning activities. We have historical organizations that are getting ready for it. We're still trying to encourage more groups to figure out in their own way how they want to celebrate their city's 200th birthday.

Cathy Shafran: So, in your vision, what does a celebration, a bicentennial celebration, for Ann Arbor look like? When you say you don't want just one or two events, then what does it look like?

Milton Dohoney: It looks like just a quilt of activities and events that unfold over a 12-month period. One of the things that the coordinating committee has done is created a bicentennial calendar. We will be capturing events and activities that groups tell us they're planning to do. We'll put it on the calendar. We have relationships of participation on our committee from the University of Michigan, from Ann Arbor Public Schools. We have ties to the business community. We've reached out through the downtown business districts and asked them to encourage their store owners or restaurant owners to, for example, come up with special menus celebrating the bicentennial, create a bicentennial drink, put signage up. We've already had one organization that does a run in the month of November that has expressed an interest in co-branding their activity to be part of it. So, we're giving them the logo to use in their marketing efforts. So, we really want the total community to be involved to the extent that they're comfortable. We are promoting the logo that has been designed, and the idea behind putting the logo out in the public realm is we want organizations to use the logo in their own marketing efforts, so that when people see it, they will immediately recognize this event or this activity as part of the bicentennial. We want to have a celebration that is as diverse and inclusive as possible because it's the only time in our lifetime we'll be doing the celebration.

Cathy Shafran: Do you anticipate the city organizing activities such as, I don't know, a parade or some community-wide activity?

Milton Dohoney: It's a combination of both. We do plan on doing some activities that are organized by local government. I've indicated publicly that, in the next two fiscal years, I'll be asking the City Council to support an appropriation for the bicentennial. So, there will be two or three activities that we're organizing, as well as encouraging the community to organize other activities and events. We have some ideas that we're kicking around, and as the planning firms up around those, then we hope to be able to announce those publicly as well. But we think we need to play a role in not only the planning of it, but the actual participation side as well.

Cathy Shafran: And you want people to reach out to say, "We have activities. We've been thinking about activities. And we'd like to do it in coordination with the bicentennial Committee?"

Milton Dohoney: Yes. And the best way to do that is to contact us through info@a2bicentennial.org. That will allow us to capture what you're saying. You know, obviously, people know where I work. Some people are contacting me directly here at the city. But the more the merrier.

Cathy Shafran: Ann Arbor city manager Milton Dohoney, who is also the co-chair of the Ann Arbor Bicentennial Coordinating Committee. Thank you so much for joining us.

Milton Dohoney: You're very welcome. I appreciate the opportunity.

Cathy Shafran: This is Cathy Shafran, and this is 89.1 WEMU-FM, Ypsilanti.

You can contact the Ann Arbor Bicentennial Committee at this link.

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Cathy Shafran was WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
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