This Throwback Thursday is the first of two efforts to prove that history repeats itself. As Belleville gets ready to celebrate its 200th birthday, we are taking a look at two previous efforts to mark the city’s milestones.
This week we look at Sept. 15, 1989, when Belleville celebrated its 175th, or dodransbicentennial. How did we celebrate? Well, we led up to the big event with souvenirs, a parade, historical re-enactments, a historical pageant, costumes and then a big bash on the Public Square, Belleville-style: beer, brats and bands.
Belleville Mayor Richard Brauer wore his lederhosen that Friday and tapped the golden keg, which meant free beer until the “good luck” tradition was drained. “Why are we here? To drink some beer,” Brauer called out to the birthday crowd.
The city through the weekend heard singer Michael Martin Murphy, of “Wildfire” fame, Bill Haley’s Comets without Bill — he died a few years earlier — and the Bellamy Brothers.
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There were pigtail and dimple contests for the kids. They unveiled portraits of past mayors, including Mayor James W. Hughes who in 1856 died in office when he fell down the courthouse stairs with no personal injury lawyer to break his fall.
The 175th signature touch may have been the town criers. These brave souls in tunics, tri-cornered hats and breeches called out the upcoming events as they made their way through crowds of moussed bangs and tight-cuffed, acid washed jeans.
About 10,000 people came out the first day despite drizzle and cold. The crowd bloomed Saturday with better weather.
The plans were as big as the hair in 1989, and they initially thought the celebration would lose $100,000. Donations came in and the event ended up making $48,000, which went into civic projects including welcome signs.
Next week we go farther back in time for the city’s sesquicentennial.