Centennial Plaza to host bicentennial celebration of Mississippi's statehood

Centennial Plaza to host bicentennial celebration of Mississippi's statehood

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Big changes are coming to Gulfport in March, as Centennial Plaza becomes Bicentennial Plaza.

On Wednesday, organizers were eager to discuss plans to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mississippi's statehood with a World's Fair.

"It gives me chills to think about all we can do with this," said committee member Carole Lynn Meadows. "And we will be preserving history for our children. So many of our children have no clue where we came from, and how we got where we are. So, this is just a great opportunity to have education, entertainment and appreciation all at one time."

Led by former Gulfport mayor George Schloegel, organizers toured the grounds to see how the March 30 - April 2 event will be set up.

The hope is for about 150 exhibits representing all of South Mississippi.

"Mayor Schloegel has really taken the bull by the horns, trying to organize and letting folks know that this is a large tent," said Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes. "We're throwing a big ole net to try to capture and involve as much of South Mississippi."

The Gulfport celebration will be the first of three throughout the state; the others are in Oxford and Jackson later in the year. All three will split $1.6 million in state money to help put on the celebrations, but organizers in South Mississippi said they need sponsorships to help bring this to the level they want.

The event will also include a military celebration in honor of the 100th anniversary of World War I.

"It's just really so historical to have our second birthday at the place where the first birthday should have taken place," added Meadows.

Centennial Plaza was supposed to host the 100th anniversary of statehood, but was canceled because of the start of World War I.

It's a celebration that fits in with the total, long-term concept of Centennial Plaza developer Stewart Juneaux.

"We're going to have, sort of a Mississippi World's Fair concept," Juneaux said. "We'll have media all of the communities and the counties and all of the non-profit organizations to come in and do booths and share their food and their history with all the citizens of Mississippi."

Organizers say construction for the Holiday Inn on the west side of the property should be underway by the time of the celebration.

For more information on being a sponsor, call Meadows at 228-547-5635.

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