Johnson City Press: Sesquicentennial Commission readying for big fundraiser push

Sesquicentennial Commission readying for big fundraiser push

Zach Vance • Updated Oct 10, 2018 at 7:47 PM

The Johnson City Sesquicentennial Commission has already started knocking on doors and soliciting donors with a goal of raising at least $1.65 million to go toward the city’s 150th anniversary projects, a water fountain and natural playground at King Commons Park. 

At Wednesday’s commission meeting, Fundraising Committee Chairwoman Donna Noland showed her fellow members a promotional video, created by the city’s Marketing and Communications Department, that will be used to build support for the two projects.

With music from the historic Johnson City Sessions playing in the background, the video shot on location at King Commons has Fundraising Committee members describing the project and how it will encapsulate the city’s past, present and future. 

The fountain and playground are projected to cost between $3 million and $3.5 million in total, and the city has already pledged to spend $1.35 million on the project. 

By mid-November, Noland said she wants to have a clear idea of how many large donors plan to contribute, and then report the status to the City Commission. 

“We’re really pushing for the next few weeks to get this done as fast as we can,” Larry Calhoun, who also serves on the Fundraising Committee, said. 

Noland added, “Our goal is to at least have a general working knowledge of how much we’re going to have, in terms of large donations, by the second week of November, whether it’s actually in hand or a promissory note ... We need everyone on this commission to push. We’re on a short timeframe.” 

Detailed packets explaining the project’s scope and purpose will be mailed out to prospective donors, and those who give will be recognized based on six different tiers: Legacy Circle, Johnson’s Depot Society, Railway Expansionist, Educational Ally Industrialist and Early Pioneer. 

Noland said those recognition titles were chosen because each one is an adjective describing Henry Johnson, the founder and first mayor of Johnson City. Some of the donors will be commemorated with their name emblazoned on a railroad tie. 

The timeline for the project is to have the City Commission vote on the fountain and playground’s design during its first meeting of December, then construction documents will be finalized in January with bids submitted Feb. 13. A notice to proceed with construction on the project is planned to be issued to the selected bidder on April 4, and the fountain would then be completed well before the December 2019 celebration. 

While it’s not yet live, donors will soon be able to contribute toward the sesquicentennial projects by visiting The commission is also asking the public to complete a survey about the 150th anniversary celebration by visiting

The year-long celebration will officially kickoff Jan. 3 with the revealing of the 1969 time capsule.

Each month of 2019 will have a theme, beginning with History and Railroad in January; K-12 Education in February; Local Businesses and Industry in March; Faith and Service in April; Art and Culture in May; Musical Heritage in June; Health Care and Mountain Home VA in July; Outdoor Recreation and Area Athletics in August; Agriculture, Food and Beverage in September; ETSU in October; Veterans and Public Servants in November; and the community celebration and sealing of a new time capsule will occur Dec. 1, 2019. 



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