Preparations underway for local celebration of nation’s 250th birthday

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2024

By Jay Compton



We’re just two years away from the 250th birthday for the United States of America and planning for six months of celebrating that milestone has already started. Bell County’s America 250 Committee recently revised a list of scheduled events for 2026.

“Our committee has now met three times and what we’ve done to this point is come up with a list of suggestions for events and things that can occur in our county starting in January of 2026 and culminating on July 4, 2026,” said Jes’Anne Givens, director of the Bell County Historical Society Museum. “Now we are weeding through that list and trying to revise it down to doable activities that we think will be fun and educational.”

Givens is the chair of the committee, which is made of representatives from local governments, the parks, the three school systems, both Main Street programs as well as Bell County Tourism, the Chamber of Commerce, and several other interested individuals and organizations.

“I’ve got all these agencies and organizations that are just being so wonderful. I think everybody is contributing greatly to this,” she said. “Once the list is finished, that’s when we will be reaching out to citizens for help and ideas on how to implement them.”

A big Fourth of July parade is being planned and both Middlesboro and Pineville already have fireworks displays every Independence Day. The Cumberland Gap National Historical Park is planning a series of reenactments and other events. Also being considered are quilt shows, photography contests, different displays on what the Declaration of Independence means to me.

Givens said it was also important to celebrate what was going on in this area during the time leading up to the American Revolution.

“We hope to have all kinds of fun activities going on. Starting roughly with Dr. Thomas Walker in 1750 and going through the American Revolution. There was an incredible amount going on and it was an important part of our history,” Givens said. “Once the revolution was over, we were the gateway to the west so everybody came through here. Being the start is an honor, but it’s also a very monumental event that we can never downplay — we were the start of Manifest Destiny.”

The group is also hoping to use some state or federal funding for the America 250 celebration to get some permanent upgrades to some historical sites in the county.

“We want to perk up some of our old historical sites and this is a golden opportunity to get some of them repaired,” Givens said. “We’ve talked about the Narrows and the Cumberland Ford and how instrumental they were besides just the Gap in our history. We’d like to get signage for those places and get them cleaned up and ready so they are easily accessible to visitors.”

There is also an education component to America 250 and the committee wants to work with the local school systems to develop learning trunks on the area’s history. Federal and state lesson plans were made during the Declaration of Independence and the settlement of Kentucky. The local lesson plans would incorporate Bell County’s role during that time.

The committee meets every two to three months. An America 250 Bell County Ky Facebook page is already developed where you can keep up with suggestions and ideas. That page will also be used to publicize events once plans are finalized and scheduled.I

“Once we have the list finalized we’ll assign the individual events to different groups who will work on implementing them,” Givens said. “Even though it sounds like July 4, 2026 is a long way away, it’s not.”