County preps for big celebration

Bo Carey kneels at the location of a time capsule placed beside the Loudon County Courthouse in 1970.

With Loudon County in its 150th year of existence, big things are being planned to ensure residents both young and old can celebrate the special occasion.

Plans for the county’s sesquicentennial year got underway last year and since then Loudon County Commission has tasked a committee of 10 to put together a celebration.

“It’s a big milestone,” Bo Carey, committee member, said. “The county has such rich history and unique history and its 150 years is great. Obviously the geographic area has a much longer history. We could be highlighting Civil War or Native American history or the pioneer settlers of the Loudon, Lenoir City area, but we chose not to do that. We chose to focus on the 150 years that we’ve been a county, and so those are for other times to celebrate and to educate people on that.”

The most notable scheduled event is 10 a.m. June 20 in the Loudon County Courthouse lawn when a time capsule that’s been underground since 1970 will be unearthed for viewing. A tentative alternative location will be Loudon High School auditorium if needed, Carey said.

A new 50-year capsule will be put in the ground in its place.

Plans are to have special envelopes for sale no later than April for $5. The envelopes will be 9 inch by 12 inch with archival paper in hopes it will resist the elements, Carey said.

“As a 9 by 12 it’s suitable for photos and things like this, family photos, whatever,” Carey said. “We’ll begin accepting the $5 at the libraries. Each library will have these. That’s not to say we won’t distribute some in other places, particularly to the schools. Students who might be around 50 years in 2070 when it comes out of the ground, it’d be great to have them put items in there.”

Although the committee has not actively advertised the envelopes yet, interest level is high, Ruth McQueen, committee member, said.

“People just in conversation people are very excited and looking forward to putting a piece of history in,” McQueen said. “Some of you are young enough you can be here in 50 years when they open it and see the excitement from next time, but the original time capsule I think many people think it’s a small box, that isn’t exactly true. It is actually a casket in a vault and we anticipate putting (one) back.”

McQueen said McGill-Click Funeral Home will provide a new casket and Loudon Funeral Home will provide tents and chairs for the day of celebration.

Plans are to invite high-schoolers from the class of 1970, as well as the class of 2020, local officials and Harvey Sproul and Paul Brakebill, the two remaining members of the committee who helped with the first time capsule, Carey said.

At that time, Sproul served as county judge, or county mayor, and Brakebill was general chairman of the centennial committee, Carey said.

“In 1970 we put on a big shindig and certainly think that when the 50th comes around that we should have a big celebration also,” Sproul said. “One of the things that I made a point of back then was when my committee was working on the time capsule to open the time capsule, instead of having one on the 100th birthday, I said, ‘I tell you what. Why don’t you all think about making this time capsule for 50 years and maybe I’ll be here and I can help celebrate it even then? I won’t make it until 100.’ They said, ‘OK’.”

He jokingly said he couldn’t remember what was placed in the time capsule.

The day will also include other activities that are not being led by the committee, Carey said.

“In the afternoon we’re encouraging other clubs and organizations to have everything from we know we’ll have music, we intend to have 1970s music playing,” Carey said. “We are inviting choral groups, choirs from the different communities.”

McQueen is “terribly proud” of the all-volunteer effort.

“Everybody’s energies have all been volunteer and not one penny of any taxpayer funds have been expended,” McQueen said. “We’ve had some very generous groups, like the Loudon County Historical Society and the Loudon (County) Chamber, some of the local businesses. People are very generous and gracious to be a part of this special year that we’re having in Loudon County.”

Yearlong effortAlthough June 20 will serve as a special occasion, committee members are working to ensure there are multiple activities planned throughout the year to engage the community.

“One of the things we want to do is school systems need time to plan and because the schools are not open during the summer when we have the big celebration we want to come back in the fall and include some things there,” Carey said. “We want to do some cold weather events that can be done inside like at theaters or possibly at the visitors bureau or schools.”

Carey said the LHS graphics department with teacher Kris Peterson has assisted with creating a coloring book showcasing 26 significant sites throughout the county.

“They are historic sites that not only will allow the students to color in a book, but also to read about the history of key locations and buildings in this county,” Carey said. “So that’s a commemorative coloring book edition. We know we’re going to distribute a lot of them through the libraries.”

Hopes are to have the books ready by National Library Week April 19-25, he said. The committee will also reach out to the Loudon County Education Foundation for essay contests for students.

“We are going to ask students to in some of the schools that have either theatrical or choral departments or art departments, we’re going to ask them to do some things in the fall, to be announced,” he said. “We’ve got a number of pretty good ideas, but we’re going to challenge them to see what they want to do. That’s exciting. Some of the history teachers have expressed interest in doing something different at that time.”

The hope is by getting the students involved now it will “set the stage” for the county’s 200th anniversary, Carey said.

“They are the ones who would expect to carry that out,” Carey said. “I myself was the class of 1970, the year of the centennial celebration, and I observed and thought it was pretty neat back then. Of course, I wasn’t as interested in history at that time and now I feel it’s almost an obligation and I think the other (committee) members feel that way that we need to highlight.”