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story.lead_photo.caption In celebration of Missouri's Bicentennial, Gail Miller, state Supreme Court Law Librarian, led tours of the Missouri Supreme Court building Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

As one historian said, "You only get to be part of a bicentennial once."

Today is that day for Missourians, who will celebrate the 200th anniversary of statehood.

Statehood day activities actually kicked off Monday with several exhibits at the state Capitol that brought in people who lived only a few miles away and some who came from other parts of the country.

Although there are bicentennial displays in the first floor Missouri State Museum, such as a Bicentennial Timeline, those who came to the Capitol seemed to prefer taking their time to look at all off the displays in the museum.

It's often been said we tend to not think about the interesting places to see in our backyards. That could be said for Beth Fitzgerald, of Fulton.

She said she had grown up in Missouri and never had been inside the Capitol, so she decided she and her 9-year-old son, Lanham, would take Monday to do just that.

"I'm really impressed with all they have in here," Fitzgerald said. "I've always driven by and thought what a beautiful building this is. It's a bonus for us that the bicentennial is being celebrated."

The mother and son stopped at a display of artifacts from prehistoric times that included fossil pieces such as a tooth from a mastodon. Young Lanham was impressed with that display, but he was taken aback from the minute he walked into the Great Rotunda.

The 9-year-old came up to the Great Seal on the floor of the Rotunda, then looked up toward the top of the dome and gasped, "This is the biggest building I've ever seen."

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The Capitol also draws people from all parts of the country and the world.

Melinda Wojslaw and her three daughters from the state of California decided to come to Missouri and visit various historic sites. The family lives in an area not too far from Sacramento, the state capital of California.

"This is a beautiful building, and it's a chance for us to see some wonderful architecture," Wojslaw said. "We've been to 37 state capitols now, and each one has some fascinating things about it."

The family said it was particularly interested to learn more about Walt Disney, raised in Marceline and Kansas City and whose bust is in the Hall of Famous Missourians at the Capitol, since they grew up going to Disneyland in California.

Tours of the Missouri Supreme Court for the statehood celebration also started Monday.

Law librarian Gail Miller said staff members weren't sure how many would take part, but tours are offered any day during the week from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

"We didn't get to do any last year during the pandemic," Miller said. "Usually we're very busy with tours during the school year because state history is a focus for fourth-graders across the state, and the Supreme Court is part of that curriculum."

Miller said the court library is being renovated, and it has 110,000 books.

"It's a public library, but we can't offer any legal advice," Miller said. "We often tell the kids that the books here don't have any pictures in them, so don't expect anything like Harry Potter among the selections."

Keeping the building in a condition that stays true to its historical significance is important, Miller said.

Construction began in 1904, thanks to money left over from an appropriation by the Legislature to be used for the World's Fair in St. Louis. The cost for construction was $400,000, and the building opened in October 1907.

The building is mostly made from materials from across the state, such as the building's exterior red bricks, which came from Audrain County.

"They had intended to have the outside done in limestone like all the other state buildings. But they ran into problems with the cost, so they went with brick," Miller said.

Paintings of the various judges who have served on the Supreme Court can be found throughout the building, but one judge is not there.

"We're looking for a picture of the first judge appointed to the Supreme Court, Mathias McGirk," Miller said. "He was also the first chief justice of the court. That was back in 1820."

Tours of the Supreme Court will continue today, and the various displays at the State Museum at the Capitol will be available for visitors to view for several more days.

The main bicentennial ceremony takes place from 9-10:30 a.m. today on the South Lawn of the Capitol.

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MISSOURI BICENTENNIAL THINGS TO DO

Events

Ceremony to Recognize the Missouri Bicentennial, 9-10:30 a.m., state Capitol front steps, 201 W. Capitol Ave. Featuring presentation of the bicentennial stamp and remarks by historians and dignitaries.

Missouri Bicentennial Photograph Drive Launch Party, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Missouri State Archives, 600 W. Main St. Staff will scan up to seven photos per submitter, centered around Missouri cultural activities, events, people and places. Cake and ice cream will be served from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

U.S. Naturalization Ceremony, 10:45-11:45 a.m., state Capitol Rotunda on the first floor, 201 W. Capitol Ave. Streamed live online at missouri2021.org.

Missouri 2021 Ice Cream Social, 2-5 p.m., Central Dairy, 610 Madison St.

Exhibitions

Bicentennial Posters, Bicentennial Time Capsule, Bicentennial Mural, Bicentennial Timeline, Missouri Trailblazers, My Missouri 2021 Exhibition, Quilt Exhibition, Show Me Hooked Rugs, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Missouri State Museum in the state Capitol, 201 W. Capitol Ave.

Across Our Wide Missouri Photography Exhibit, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Missouri River Regional Library, 214 Adams St.

Mid-Missouri Amateur Radio Club Special Event Station, all day, on the air. Ham radio operators who make contact with the station WM — using voice, Morse code or digital radio — can receive a special QSL picture postcard commemorating the event.

Tours

Supreme Court of Missouri, every 30 minutes from 9-11 a.m. and 2-3:30 p.m., 207 W. High St. For group tours of up to 65 people, contact Becky Leathers at 573-751-7331 or [email protected] Masks required.

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