Sesquicentennial planning progresses, banners to go up soon

Sue Guinn Legg • Feb 9, 2019 at 9:38 PM

Planning for Johnson City’s 150th anniversary celebration moved forward on several fronts Saturday as the Sesquicentennial Commission met for a three-hour work session to firm up plans and rein in the budget.

Faced with nearly $102,000 in costs, or $2,000 more than the $100,000 the city has allocated for celebration events, the commission was tasked with streamlining expenditures.

Planners of a black tie gala set for the Nov. 30 eve of the Dec. 1 anniversary of the 1869 signing of the city charter opened the workshop with news that proceeds from gala’s ticket sales will be needed to cover the cost of food for event and will not recoup the $30,000 estimated cost of the event.

The news set off a discussion of alternate venues for the gala that could be secured at little to no cost and the creation of a special gala fundraising group to begin work immediately.

Alternate venue suggestions included the East Tennessee State University mini-dome or, with a special city resolution to allow alcohol consumption for the one-time event, Freedom Hall Civic Center or the Johnson City Seniors Center gymnasium.

Mayor Jenny Brock told the commission that in addition to the commission funding and ticket sales, other funding resources for the gala would be sponsorship donations and in-kind gifts.

After running through a list of numerous other celebration projects that put the total celebration cost at just over $100,000, the commission returned to the question of how to fund the gala at the close of Saturday’s work session.

With the black tie event consuming nearly 30 percent of the $100,000 allotted for the year-long celebration, Commission Chairwoman Rebecca Henderson said, short of raising those funds through event sponsorships, the commission could ask the city to allot more funding for the celebration.

A documentary video package highlighting the city’s history and sesquicentennial celebration was deferred back to the city because of costs far exceeding the commission’s budget.

Commission member Marcy Walker noted the commission was tasked with planning events and said that if the city wants the films for informational showings or for placement in the anniversary time capsule it will have to provide the funding.

The commission authorized an $3,750 expenditure, or $250 more than previously budgeted, for the production of anniversary light pole banners featuring the city’s sesquicentennial logo on one side and emblems representing the city’s railroading and musical heritage on the other. With the go-ahead for production, the commission hopes to have the banners up in March.

The commission agreed to request the city provide park and recreation staff to open the former JCPenney building for several hours each week for public viewing of the city’s time capsule contents revealed last month and the sesquicentennial kickoff.

They also agreed to debut a commemorative three-movement musical composition titled “Echoes of 1869” at the city’s July 4th celebration at Freedom Hall.

Composed by Joe Moore for performance by the Johnson City Community Band, the six- to seven-minute composition will encompass a variety of music that was popular at the time of the city’s founding. The cost of the composition is $1,500.

The commission deferred action on a $7,500 expenditure for the purchase of three 18- by 44-inch train car sculptures planned for display at locations around the city.

With time and cost both an issue, Commissioners Walker and Joy Fulkerson agreed three sculptures will not be enough to distinguish the trains as artistic representations of the city’s heritage.

The commission added several events to take place in conjunction with the city’s 150th birthday party on Sunday, Dec. 1, including an interfaith song service, dedication of time capsule to be opened on the city’s 200th anniversary, a giant cake cutting and tours of the work being done on the sesquicentennial legacy project at King Commons Park.

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