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North Hills Monthly

Pittsburgh Begins Yearlong Bicentennial Celebration

Feb 26, 2016 05:42PM ● By Erica Cebzanov
On March 18—Incorporation Day—Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto will kick off a yearlong celebration commemorating the city’s bicentennial.

“Incorporation Day is the actual birthday of the city. Incorporation allowed our citizens to have all of the benefits of self-governance, voting and services,” said Holly Bulvony, A to Z Communications’ senior vice president of communications, whose firm is assisting the 30-person Bicentennial Commission. “The big event on March 18 will be the unveiling of the actual city charter. It’s undergoing preservation in Harrisburg and will be brought to Pittsburgh.”

During a press conference in January, Senator John Heinz History Center President and CEO Andrew Masich, who is chairing the Bicentennial Committee, explained, “Pittsburgh had become a borough and township, but in 1816, the legislature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gave Pittsburgh the right to become a city.” In July of 1816, the governing council elected Revolutionary War hero Ebenezer Denny as the first mayor, though he only served six months in office before retiring.

On July 8, a ticketed Bicentennial Bash, featuring food and music, will be held at the Senator John Heinz History Center, and the following day, local school, community and entertainment groups will take part in a parade winding along Liberty Avenue from 11th Street to Point State Park. Descendants of all 56 previous mayors will travel from as far away as Europe to participate. “It’s a way to honor the service of the descendants and to show them how important they are and that they are still connected to our city,” said Bulvony. After the parade, a music-filled party at the Point and fireworks will cap off the weekend.

An expected 4,000 mayors and government leaders will gather Nov. 16-19 for the National League of Cities (NLC) conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, and Mayor Peduto will publicly welcome the officials during Light Up Night. “The NLC City Summit will provide an opportunity to show off our wonderful city to the entire country,” he said. First Night will conclude the bicentennial celebration on New Year’s Eve.

In addition to these signature events, more than 300 partnering community groups will host smaller events, such as block parties, dances and concerts. The Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival and Pittsburgh Great Race, among other annual events, will have a bicentennial spin, and Mayor Peduto said that he hopes that these occasions will introduce city and suburban residents to new Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate this wonderful city,” said Mayor Peduto. “It will be a year of celebrating the greatness that is this city through its people.”

Part of that greatness is reflected in the Bicentennial Commission, according to Mayor Peduto, who is also chair of the fundraising committee. “It’s interesting when you look at the committee; it’s made up of so many nonprofits and civic organizations that represent the broad base of this city. It’s really a testament of how far we’ve come these past 200 years,” he said.

The commission is looking for help with fundraising to pay for the event, as well as volunteers to help with Incorporation Day tours, the parade, publicity and partner recruitment. “We do need some money…it’s a celebration, an anniversary on a shoestring,” said Masich during the press conference kicking off the event. “We don’t really have a big budget for this. But we’re Pittsburghers–we just make things happen.”

“We can find a job for any volunteer, trust me,” added Bulvony. “There is a lot of work to do. My biggest goal for the event is to make everyone feel that they have an important and significant part in the past, present and future of Pittsburgh.”

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