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St. Louis starts planning for 250th birthday

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Gateway City’s 250th birthday party is still three years away, but community leaders are already thinking about how St. Louis will celebrate two-and-a-half centuries of existence.

Missouri History Museum president Robert Archibald, who is leading the planning group, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Friday’s edition that the working name for the celebration is “STL250,” though that may change.

“Some say it sounds like a NASCAR race, but it would stick in people’s minds,” Archibald said.

There’s also some debate as to the actual date St. Louis was founded. Some say it was Feb. 14, 1764. Others say it was Feb. 15.

Archibald said the goal is to organize a commemoration that includes the entire region. So far, about 50 people have met twice since summer to begin discussions.

“We want a big tent for everybody,” he said. “Mile markers like this are important in the life of a community. We use them to reflect and to bring us together. What we all hope we can inspire is some lasting benefit.”

Pierre Laclede and his stepson, Auguste Chouteau, founded St. Louis at the limestone bluff along the spot that is now the site of the grounds of the Gateway Arch. The Post-Dispatch noted that the city has celebrated its nativity only a few times, partly because circumstances intervened to thwart other celebrations.

St. Louis turned 100 in 1864, when the city was divided by the Civil War.

For the sesquicentennial in 1914, a 13-inch snowfall buried the area the day before the celebration, though civic leaders had already decided to skip the actual birthday in favor of a May celebration in a kinder climate. That’s when some 7,500 residents staged a four-hour show portraying the community’s origins. More than 400,000 people attended over four nights.

The bicentennial was honored in 1964 with speeches, gatherings and other events. At a Feb. 14 banquet in the Chase-Park Plaza Hotel, President Lyndon B. Johnson praised the can-do spirit symbolized by the Arch that was then nearing completion.

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