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State prepares for 150th birthday

ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans may not have to travel far to celebrate the state's 150th birthday next year.

More than 100 communities want to commemorate the sesquicentennial anniversary, and events marking 150 years of statehood are being planned in every corner of Minnesota, Sesquicentennial Commission Executive Director Jane Leonard said.

"This is really about the entire state," Leonard said Tuesday at a Capitol news conference.

Already, 107 communities and groups have expressed interest in using state grant dollars to support local sesquicentennial celebrations that range from art installations to historical interviews to music performances.

In the Cass County area of northern Minnesota, there is a proposal to interview American Indian elders and compile their oral histories, Leonard said. To the east, Ely residents and Vermillion Community College may participate in a community book reading, "so that they can have discussions together about their history," she said.

At least $325,000 of state funds will be dispersed in $1,000 "micro-grants" to communities for sesquicentennial events and in $5,000 to $7,500 grants for projects that will last beyond 2008. Both types of grants must be matched locally.

State Rep. Loren Solberg, one of eight legislators on the Sesquicentennial Commission, said cities and even townships are making plans, and some will mark Minnesota's anniversary during their own local festivals.

"I think this is a great opportunity for them to have great celebrations throughout the state," Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, said.

Minnesotans will have other options for celebrating the anniversary throughout 2008. A statehood weekend celebration is set for May 9-11 on the Capitol grounds. Minnesota became the 32nd state on May 11, 1858.

The Department of Natural Resources is preparing a list of 150 events in 2008 for visitors to its park system. Activities such as nature hikes and historical entertainment will be featured at each of the 72 state parks and recreation areas, said Bryce Anderson, who coordinates state park programs for the Natural Resources Department.

The system dates to 1891, and some families have visited parks for generations, Anderson said.

"I think Minnesotans will be surprised at the things being preserved in their state park system that they can relate to," he said.

Minnesotans also will have opportunities to learn about the state's judicial history.

"The whole effort is starting a little bit behind the curve, but we are moving to catch up and we hope to have a grand celebration for the 150th birthday of the state," Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson said in an interview.

The Supreme Court is in the early stages of compiling historical displays detailing its history, he said, and biographies of all justices through 2000 will be drafted.

Historical lectures and other events will take place in 2008 at University of Minnesotan and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system campuses across the state.

Motorists along some Minnesota highways may also learn of the 150th anniversary. The commission is working with the state Department of Transportation to install roadside sesquicentennial signs.

The Minnesota History Center in St. Paul will unveil a "MN150" exhibit this fall. A postage stamp commemorating the sesquicentennial also is in the works.

More sesquicentennial information is available at