Bicentennial Flag Raising

Effingham High School choir students sing the state song as the Illinois Bicentennial Flag is raised at the Effingham County Office Building.

News Report Staff

Some Effingham High School crooners had the chance Monday to participate in an event that happens only every other century.

On Monday, Effingham County and City officials conducted flag-raising ceremonies as part of a statewide effort to kick off the Bicentennial of Illinois.

Effingham High School choir members sang the state song as the Bicentennial flag was raised in front of the Effingham County Office Building just across from the old courthouse that has stood for most of the state’s history. A block away, a firefighter honor guard and others participated in a similar flag raising in front of Effingham City Hall.

The EHS choir members sang the state song as Effingham County Sheriff Dave Mahon and Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Kuhns worked against strong wind gusts to raise the Bicentennial flag on the flagpole below the state flag.

County Board Chairman Jim Niemann read a proclamation celebrating the history of Illinois and the importance of recognizing the 200th anniversary of Illinois becoming the 21st state on Dec. 3, 1818. At that time, there were many French-speaking residents across the state and Indian tribes still residing within the new state’s borders. The first state capitol was at Kaskaskia because that reflected on the population patterns of Illinois at the time.

After the brief ceremony, the young singers were glad they had a chance to take part in the county ceremony.

“It was definitely a really cool experience to be part of this,” said EHS senior Meredith Kull.

Effingham County board member Rob Arnold contacted choir director Michael Lambton about the idea of having students perform the state song. Lambton, who teaches chorus in the Effingham school district, had a short time to prepare his students, especially since many of them had never sang or even heard the state song for Illinois.

“This was a good performance opportunity for the kids. And there were different historical aspects to it as well,” Lambton said.

The choir members worked hard to perfect their performance before Monday. Fortunately, they could use printouts of the lyrics, but Lambton made sure they were on the same page with their vocal talents.

“It was a lot of hard work. It was last minute, but we were fully prepared and had fun doing it,” said Becca Webster, an EHS junior.

It was also the first time the choir members caught a glimpse of the blue and white Bicentennial flag that surrounds an image of the state map with a circle of stars and has a sunburst in the center of the state icon with the numeral 200. The words “Illinois” and “Bicentennial” are placed at different angles around the state.

Though getting the flag hoisted was a challenge with the wind gusts, when it was in place there were many times the flag stretched out to reveal all its details. It almost seemed Mother Nature was cooperating with the Bicentennial efforts.

“I caught a glimpse of it as we were singing,” EHS junior Isabella Munoz said. “It’s great that we’ve reached this point — the Bicentennial point — in our state. And we have accomplished so much as well.”

Collin Baker, also an EHS junior, was impressed that the choir was part of a statewide celebration going on all at once Monday.

“I feel like you don’t get this opportunity many times to be involved with something statewide,” Baker said.

The Bicentennial is not just about the past, but for looking to the future of Illinois. There will be many events here and in Illinois celebrating the Prairie State.

For more information on events and projects log on to https://illinois200.com/celebrate/signature-events/ or https://illinois200.com/celebrate/signature-projects/