Preparations are underway for Brainerd’s 150th birthday celebration, but the question of who should take the lead on planning was up for discussion Monday, March 8.
The plat for the city of Brainerd was signed Sept. 19, 1871, making 2021 the city’s sesquicentennial year.
Mayor Dave Badeaux designed a logo to encapsulate the city’s history, unofficially kicking off the celebration earlier this week with the anniversary of the completion of the railroad bridge over the Mississippi River March 8, 1871.
City staffers have discussed light pole banners, while other organizations have talked embedding the sesquicentennial into annual celebrations. While many groups expressed interest in being involved in the celebration, no one stepped up to the plate as lead organizer, which sparked the council’s conversation during a workshop Monday.
“How do we move through this summer, getting into September, and in what capacity — if any — is the city willing to participate in?” Badeaux asked the council. “I think, from my perspective, it gives a little bit more gravitas to the event if the city is more involved.”
Leading the charge doesn’t mean the city has to throw a lot of money at the event, though.
“I think that it needs to be a community celebration and that we should be looking for other partners who are willing to chip in and have their own portions of this, but there may be some need for a little bit of money here or there to figure out how we actually align things together,” Badeaux said.
The city budgeted $28,000 in its special projects fund for 2021. A $500 donation was made from the fund to the Crow Wing County Historical Society, and Finance Director Connie Hillman said the city usually spends about $8,000 of that money on fireworks for the Fourth of July celebration. That would leave roughly $19,500 for the sesquicentennial, if the council wants to go that route.
Council member Tad Erickson said he believes the city should take the lead on a project like this, as it would align with the newly revamped comprehensive plan.
“I’m looking at the comp plan under a chapter called ‘Community Character,’ and it specifically says, ‘Seek small-scale ways to integrate community identity fused with local history,’” Erickson said. “So I think that speaks to exactly this type of cultural, historical thing that we need to continue to foster.”
Badeaux and Mary Devine Johnson, of Visit Brainerd, have already been working on the sesquicentennial to an extent, but an outline for a formal celebration has not yet taken shape. That begged another question — what kind of celebration should there be? Should it be a weekend? A week? All summer? Should the sesquicentennial be its own event, or should it just be included in things like the Fourth of July and the Brainerd Jaycees Street Fest?
If it were up to him, Council President Kelly Bevans said he would plan a week of festivities separated from other events.
Erickson agreed, saying the city could take charge of the week, and other groups can do their own parts. Tyler Glynn, executive director of the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp., said it may be a good idea for the mayor to proclaim a certain week as “Sesquicentennial Week” with city-led initiatives during that time frame and other organizations feeding off that.
City Administrator Jennifer Bergman reminded the council there will be a communications intern at city hall this summer, and that person could help with planning efforts.
Council members ultimately came to the consensus that the city will take the lead, with Badeaux and council member Tiffany Stenglein acting as liaisons, reporting back to the council with information when needed.