Celebrating state’s 50th: Alaskans working together to make anniversary special

Voices of the State

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2007

Since its creation in 2005, the Alaska Statehood Anniversary Commission has been working diligently to prepare for the celebration commemorating our 50 years of statehood.

As chairman of this commission, I have personally met and talked with hundreds of Alaskans and many organizations who want to be a part of this great event. There is excitement all across our state as we work to memorialize this historic milestone in a grand way. This is a worthy reason for a great statewide party.

The commission, which is comprised of Alaskans from all regions of the state, has accomplished many objectives that will assure a successful celebration. A statewide contest resulted in the selection of a meaningful logo as the symbol of the anniversary. Sitka artist Dean Potter submitted the winning design, and we have incorporated it into all aspects of the celebration plan.

We sought and received approval from the U.S. Postal Service to publish commemorative stamps to highlight this occasion. Alaska artists will now have the opportunity to submit competing designs for the stamps. An official license plate has been designed, and this will be issued as the standard plate for the years 2008 and 2009. The bill authorizing production of this plate currently is moving through the Legislature.

We met with groups who are interested in creating special commemorative items and publications for the anniversary. Wyndham Publications has already produced the third volume of Alaska North to the Future, which has been specifically dedicated to the anniversary celebration. Alaska’s balladeer, Hobo Jim, is working on an official song for the occasion. Fireart By Griz has been working closely with the commission to plan and build gigantic fireworks displays as part of the celebration. We’ve secured space in the new Anchorage Convention Center for the official program on Jan. 3, 2009, and we’ve invited President and Mrs. Bush to be our guests of honor for the events that day.

A committee is evaluating the possibility of getting a special satellite to fly over Alaska the night of Jan. 3 to photograph the bonfires we hope to have burning across the state. We have discussed the possibility of a lasting legacy project for Alaska with our Congressional Delegation.

The official Web site of the Celebration Commission contains information that has been developed and outlines statewide plans for the anniversary party. Included is a long list of potential ideas that have been compiled from suggestions by many different individuals. We’ve met with various groups, organizations and delegations from all over the state, plus the Alaska Municipal League, to make sure all communities are included.

One of our commissioners, Leo Rasmussen of Nome, is compiling a comprehensive list of all major events in Alaska’s history. We hope to highlight one of these events during each day in 2008. Plans have been developed to archive statehood and anniversary memorabilia for the enjoyment and edification of future generations. In addition to the members of the commission, volunteers have contributed many hours of their own time to develop specific aspects of the celebration.

For the past 2 1/2 years, I have enjoyed helping organize this party for our state, and I personally want to thank all of the folks I’ve worked with for their support, time and talents given to the celebration effort. It has been wonderful to see Alaskans coming together on this project.

This past week I was relieved of my position as the volunteer chairman and replaced with staff from the governor’s Anchorage office. With the solid foundation we already have developed, I know this will be a historic Alaska event for all.

If you are interested in being involved in planning for the 50th anniversary celebration, contact the governor’s Anchorage office.

I wish the state well.

Gail Phillips of Anchorage is a former Kenai Peninsula representative and Speaker of the House.

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