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Salem Sesquicentennial:
1840/1841 to 1990/1991
Salem’s Sesquicentennial Celebration observed the 150th anniversary of the founding of Oregon’s capital city. A series of activities planned over a nine-month period, from October 1990 through June 1991, enabled the whole community to join in the festivities. The Celebration Committee and numerous local organizations scheduled events for all ages, and the Salem City Council’s proclamation officially recognized this special time in the history of our city.

Initial planning got underway in January 1990, when a small group decided at a breakfast meeting that a 150th birthday called for a party. The committee soon grew to include representatives of historical and cultural groups, downtown and local businesses, civic organizations, and the community at large. Co-chairs were Jane Cummins and Mike Wehr (until October 1990) and Jim Randall.

A gala kick-off was set for October 27, 1990, in the former Frederick and Nelson department store building in downtown Salem. Window displays depicting the history of the area drew attention through most of the month of October. On Saturday, the 27th, the building was opened to the public – historic displays and a living museum occupied the first floor. In the evening, a Victorian dinner was served on the second floor, and a Costume Ball followed on the lower floor. Salem Center, with a generous contribution, was joined by a number of Salem businesses to sponsor the kick-off. Untold hours were given by volunteers, as well, to enable the use of the Frederick and Nelson building.

Through the fall, winter, and spring months, special activities commemorated the Sesquicentennial. Major events included:

-Participation in the first KBZY Christmas parade
-Sesquicentennial exhibits at the Capitol in December
-Heritage Week activities at the Salem City Library
-"A Moment Ago" presentation in February
-Assistance with the Historic District tour in April
-Publication of a special Sesquicentennial section by the Statesman Journal
-Publication of Alfred Jones series on Salem history in the Statesman Journal

The grand finale on June 1, 1991, featured an old-fashioned community parade, "Steppin’ Back in Time," and family fun on the riverfront. Hundreds of community-spirited enthusiasts, young and old alike, marched, walked or rode in the parade, which wound its way through downtown streets. A community birthday cake, a "beards and bonnets" contest, and other attractions in the afternoon drew many folks to the riverfront for the very first time. Once again, donations and volunteer time from local businesses, organizations, and individuals made it all happen.

Compiled by Shirley Herrmann

A collection of artifacts and documents from the Salem History collection, Salem Public Library


Additional Links
More Sesquicentennial Photos
Sesquicentennial Celebration logo
Sesquicentennial Celebration logo, May 16, 1990
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Gala kick-off event
Gala kick-off, October 27, 1990.
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