Jacksonville is hosting a 200th anniversary party in June

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Jacksonville prepares for a big birthday party, even though no one knows if it’s the right day.

The city announced plans Thursday for its bicentenary celebration, with live music, a parade down Laura Street and fireworks. Everything is scheduled for Saturday, June 11.

The city’s 200th anniversary celebration is probably a little early, said Alan Bliss, chief executive of the Jacksonville Historical Society.

The true date of Jacksonville’s founding is lost in the mists of history. The bicentennial celebration marks the anniversary of a petition filed with the federal government on June 15, 1822, to have the town commonly known as Cowford designated as a customs port of entry named Jacksonville.

A look back: The Great Fire of 1901

Pictures: The Great Fire of 1901

Jacksonville has had good times and bad times over the past 200 years.  This photo shows the city center following a devastating fire in 1901.

The petition, sent to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, cited the city as “the most eligible city, twenty miles from the bar, on the north side of the river, where the public highway from Georgia to St. Augustine crosses , tegh only place on the river that is in a flourishing state.

The petition, signed by 61 residents, was rejected and the name did not become official for 10 years, when a government charter was issued. But 1822 was the first official use of the name.

“This is the first record we have of someone using that name,” Bliss said Thursday at a press conference at City Hall to announce bicentennial plans. “The name gained traction from there.”

The main event will take place on Saturday, June 11, along the Laura Street corridor between James Weldon Johnson Park and Square of the river. There will be a parade led by Southeast Marine Strip, food trucks, a children’s art wall and historical exhibits. the Jacksonville Children’s Choir will perform “Raise all your voices and sing”, and the Let’s Ride Brass Band, Honey Hounds, love and theft and To return to will play live music. The celebration will end with a fireworks display over the St. Johns River. All events will be free.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry displays a T-shirt with the Jacksonville Bicentennial Celebration logo during a press conference announcing upcoming plans for the event.

Bliss also said he would like to see the USS Orleck included in the party. The ship, now docked in front of the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, is transformed into a floating cold war museum and organizers said they hoped it was ready and in place at its permanent berth in the shipyards in time for the celebration. Bliss said it would be a great way to celebrate the U.S. Navy’s role in Jacksonville’s history.

“It’s Florida’s largest naval city,” he said. “You couldn’t tell the story of Jacksonville without it.”

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The historical society and the city work together to implement the program. The historical society is solicit sponsors and, by Thursday, they had raised around $37,000 to reach their goal of $500,000. City Council member Matt Carlucci said the city’s contribution would be about $75,000 to $100,000.

Bliss said the celebration will focus on key events in the city’s history, but also its future. “It’s a time to look back, but it’s also a time to look ahead to the next 200 years.”

The historical society has also launched a website at jax200.org/blog to collect the stories of the people who shaped Jacksonville. The site asks what drew people to Jacksonville and how they think people of the future will see the city. The results will be compiled in a book.

Alan Bliss, CEO of the Jacksonville Historical Society, details plans for Jacksonville's upcoming Bicentennial celebration during Thursday's event at Jacksonville City Hall.

Bicentenary celebrations

“Soul of Jacksonville” art exhibition, through June 30 at the Sky Gallery at Jacksonville International Airport. Photos, maps and artifacts from the early years of the city, 1822-1939.

“Bicentenary of the Audacious City” history exhibition, until January 23 at the Museum of Science and History. An evolving exhibit that shows how natural science, culture and technological innovation have shaped Jacksonville.

“Freiseke in Florida” art exhibition, through January 1 at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Paintings by impressionist Frederick Carl Frieseke, reflecting his childhood in the Arlington area.

“Jacksonville Native: Over 10,000 Years of History”, online presentation, April 13. Archaeologist Keith Ashley and historian Denise Bossy examine the history of Native Americans in northeast Florida.

“River City Rhythms: Blind Blake and Beyond by Eddy Cotton,” April 14 at Old St. Andrew’s Church, $15. Bluesman Cotton examines the history of the guitar in Jacksonville.

Great Jacksonville Bicentennial Fire Race, May 7 from Old St. Andrew’s Church, $24-$34. 5k run that follows the boundaries of the Great Fire that destroyed much of Jacksonville in 1901.

2022 National Thistle Championships, from May 14 to 20 at the Florida Yacht Club. National Sailing Championship.

“Henry John Klutho’s Hogans Creek Greenway – The Birth of the Emerald Trail,” June 7 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville. Slide show and discussion by historian Wayne Wood of the 1929 plan to turn Hogans Creek into a pedestrian greenway and later plans for a trail to connect neighborhoods in Jacksonville’s urban center.

Jacksonville Bicentennial CelebrationJune 10 at location 841. Bicentennial Launch Party hosted by Jacksonville Magazine.

Bicentenary Street Festival and Fireworks, June 11 in downtown Jacksonville. Parade, live music, historical exhibits, historical re-enactments and food trucks through the streets of downtown.

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