Madison Bicentennial

Vetrhus has hands full
with 2009 party plans

Goal is to provide a variety
of events for everyone’s tastes


(December 2008)
Read previous Don Ward columns!
Don Ward

When Jan Vetrhus volunteered in summer 2007 to join the Madison Bicentennial planning committee, she never dreamed she would eventually wind up in charge. But the election of a new mayor that November ushered in a new administration, and thus, new leadership was needed to see the $330,000 project through.
Vetrhus, 57, an Albuquerque, N.M., native who retired in 2007 from a 27-year career as a quality engineer at Cummins Engine Co. Inc., has lived in Madison for the past 16 years. She serves on the board of Historic Madison Inc. and volunteers as a house museum docent. She also had the experience in 1994 of planning Cummins Engine’s 75th anniversary of the Holset Engineering division. So her selection as chairwoman seemed a natural.

Madison Bicentennial

But there has been nothing “natural” about Vetrhus’ experience so far in planning what will likely be the biggest celebration to ever hit the historic river town come June 2009. It has been a role without precedent, she says, as she forges new ground in planning a once-in-a-lifetime event.
She says she is pleased with the number of people who have volunteered their time and ideas to plan the Bicentennial. And contributions are still coming in the pay for the party, plus create a $250,000 fund to establish some type of “legacy” long after the party has ended.
“We have so much going on that it is likely not all the things we are planning will actually happen, but I would say that most of them will,” said Vetrhus. “The initial idea was not to make money off the event but to have enough left over for the legacy gift to the city.”

Jan Vetrhus

Jan Vetrhus

For a year now, Vetrhus has been directing the monthly planning meeting at the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library that is open to the public. She also appears regularly on local radio stations and is quoted in the news media on her committee’s progress. At the recent meeting held Nov. 24, a large group of committee members met to present updates on their efforts and to view the newly redesigned Madison Bicentennial website – www.MadisonBicentennial.com – created by local graphic designer Joe Lackner. The site is designed to keep the public informed on the long list of Bicentennial year events that will be taking place, beginning in January. The most significant events, however, are being planned for “Old Home Week,” a 200-hour party being planned June 6-14. That week will include concerts, lighted boat parade, community picnic at Clifty Falls State Park, film festival, historic trades fair and laser light show with fireworks, “Arts Day” on the riverfront, as well as many other events. Many of the arts and sports events will be hands-on and participatory.
“We want to make sure people talk with their family and friends during the holidays to invite them to join us for the celebration in 2009,” Vetrhus said.
Reunions of all kinds are encouraged. The Bicentennial Committee envisions that families, school classes, businesses and organizations will want to plan reunions or special happenings during the Bicentennial year.
Vetrhus said the planning committee has “a good mix of folks” from the community and all different ages. “My goal is that anybody will have an opportunity to participate and that we will have something for all interests at the Bicentennial.”
Among the unique plans are to have an operational passenger train running between Madison and Dupont. The train car has been purchased and is being renovated at the Jefferson Proving Ground by the Madison Railroad, which will operate it. “The idea is that this train would continue to operate seasonally well beyond the Bicentennial,” Vetrhus said.
Also, an original musical is being written for the occasion and will be presented in October 2009 at the Madison Consolidated High School auditorium. Vetrhus said she hopes other new events, such as the lighted boat parade and the film festival, can become annual permanent events.

Here’s a brief look at the latest news:
• Christmas gifts: A Madison Bicentennial limited-edition clear glass Christmas ornament went on sale Dec. 1 for $14.98. Also available for sale is a woven afghan, pewter-look lapel pin, collapsible fabric shopping bag that folds to pocket size and dry-erase board. All carry the Bicentennial logo designed by Madison’s Troy Seel. These items are available at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center gift shop and at many local merchants.
• Talent Show. The first in a series of talent shows will take place Jan. 6, with the winners competing for a chance to perform as the opening act at the Laser Light Show in June.
• “Madison on the Ohio:” Camille Fife and Ron Grimes have been collecting photographs and writing copy for the official Bicentennial history publication, “Madison on the Ohio: Remembering Two Hundred Years.” The book itself, underwritten by The Madison Courier, will be published in summer 2009. Those who want to order the book for Christmas giving this year will be able to do so – and take advantage of the pre-publication price of $24.95 plus tax. The book can be shipped directly for an additional $10. Sales will be handled through The Madison Courier, 310 Courier Square, or on the website: www.madisoncourier.com.
• Photography contest deadline nearing: RoundAbout Madison is sponsoring a Bicentennial photography contest for images that celebrate the beauty of Madison. There will be cash prizes of $200, $100 and $50 for the top three photos. Information and entry forms can be picked up at 314 Jefferson St. or downloaded from www.RoundAboutMadison.com. The deadline for entries is Dec. 31.
• Ring in the new year: On New Year’s Day, Madison residents are asked to ring in the Bicentennial year by sounding bells of all kinds at exactly noon. Madison’s historic church bells will peal and residents are invited to step outside their homes with their own bells to join in.
• Reunion planning: People planning reunions or other events are invited to send information to Laura Hodges, Madison Bicentennial publicity director, at: lhodges@madisonchamber.org for inclusion on the website.
• The Madison Bicentennial parade float made its debut last summer at the Madison Regatta parade. Vetrhus announced it will appear in four upcoming parades: the Madison Christmas parade on Dec. 6; Opening Day parade in April for the Reds’ baseball season in Cincinnati; the Kentucky Derby Pegasus Parade in May in Louisville; and the Indy 500 parade in May.
“We have a lot going on, but all in all, I’d say we are on track,” Vetrhus said. “We have many activities planned, but my biggest concern is that we have something for everybody.”

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.


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