Jacksonville prepares to celebrate its 200th birthday

A bicentennial street festival capped by fireworks above the St. Johns River is scheduled June 11.

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Jacksonville will have a celebration June 11 the likes of which has not been seen in the past 200 years.

On that day, the bicentennial anniversary of what began as a small settlement along the St. Johns River will be marked from noon to 10 p.m. with proclamations in James Weldon Johnson Park, historic exhibits and a parade along Laura Street and food trucks, beverages, live music and fireworks at Riverfront Plaza.

“It is a reflection on where we have been and where we are going, with a sense of gratitude for who we are,” said Dave Chauncey, Jacksonville Historical Society board chair.

The celebration is a partnership between the city of Jacksonville, the historical society and Airstream Ventures LLC.

“We will honor all of Jacksonville, from an early settlement to a thriving city,” said Mayor Lenny Curry at a news conference April 7.

Historical Society CEO Alan Bliss said the first document referring to “Jacksonville” is a petition signed June 15, 1822, by 61 settlers asking then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to designate the settlement as a U.S. customs port of entry.

The bicentennial observance is an opportunity to celebrate what Bliss called Jacksonville’s “authentic identity” that sets it apart from other cities in the state.

“We don’t have fake pirates like they do in Tampa and we aren’t the Magic Kingdom. We are an industrious and business city,” Bliss said.

In addition to the street festival and concerts, there also is a VIP reception scheduled June 9 at JAX Chamber and a “Bicentennial Bash” gala June 10 at 841 Prudential Drive.

Visit https://jax200.org/events/ to view other planned events leading up to the celebration.