LOUISIANA, Mo. -- Louisiana kicked off its five-day bicentennial celebration Saturday, making it one of the first cities in the state to celebrate its 200th anniversary.
Though the 90-degree temperatures might have kept some attendees home, Saturday morning's parade and kickoff festivities carried on and drew out many residents of and visitors to the community of 3,364. Several food and merchandise vendors set up along the edge of the Louisiana High School football stadium, while the Battle of the Bands was held on the field. There were balloon and pony rides and a weekend-long Civil War re-enactment.
The bicentennial celebration is a recognition of Louisiana's roots and a look at the future. The theme of the festivities is "The Past Looking Forward."
"A lot of people don't have any interest in history, but we all have a stake in our heritage," said Brent Engels, a Louisiana Bicentennial Committee volunteer. "This is all about celebrating that heritage. It's a party for Louisiana."
The bicentennial celebration will feature daily events through Wednesday, the Fourth of July. Most events will be held in the football stadium, 3321 Georgia St.
The celebration will conclude with a Fourth of July fireworks display on the riverfront sponsored by the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce, along with a lighted boat parade.
A full schedule is available at louisiana200.com.
"There is tremendous enthusiasm here," former Louisiana Mayor Bart Niedner said. "Other events are geared toward economic development. This is not about bringing in a bunch of money. It's about coming together to celebrate this community's rich history."
Niedner noted how, over the last two centuries, Louisiana, which had been a hub for shipping on the river in its early decades, was able to adapt when shipping methods shifted to roads and interstates.
"This event is a symbol of our optimism and perseverance," Niedner said. "I see so much of that in Louisiana."
Louisiana was incorporated two years before Missouri became a state in 1821. Stark Bro's Nurseries and Orchards, now one of the oldest continually operated businesses in the country, celebrated its bicentennial last year.
"This marks another saga of Louisiana and the Starks' story over the years," said Clay Stark, a sixth-generation member of the Stark family.
Stark is optimistic about the possibilities the new Champ Clark Bridge, set to open next year, will bring to the city as it carries traffic over the Mississippi River on U.S. 54 between Illinois and Missouri.
"The bridge was a big milestone after the steamboat days," he said. "There are a lot of opportunities going forward, and the new bridge will be an economic help. I think it will breathe some new life into the community."