CH@T: Celebration’s ‘Passport Experience’ is an invitation to explore the county — and get some swag

‘Self-guided tour meets scavenger hunt’

Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Making high quality community journalism isn’t free — please consider supporting our journalism by subscribing to the News + Record today.

Unlimited Digital Access begins at $4.67/month

Print + Digital begins at $6.58/month


With “Founding Day,” the official kick-off of the celebration of Chatham County’s 250th anniversary now completed, organizers are inviting Chatham residents to explore the county’s past and present with the “Passport Experience.” This week, we speak with Hilary Pollan, a Community Partners Analyst for Chatham County, who’s coordinating the activities for Chatham’s sestercentennial. Pollan outlines how the Passport Experience works and why it was included as part of the plan for the 250th anniversary.

Before we talk about the Chatham 250 Passport, let’s look back to Founding Day – what’s your assessment? How did it go?

Maria Parker-Lewis from Main Street Pittsboro said it so well as we were cleaning up from Founding Day, “What a great day in Pittsboro and a great day for Chatham County!”

We had more than 400 people drive through the event with their party hats on and engaging fully with each of our nine stations — talking with our re-enactors, taking pictures with the Chatham Rabbit, placing their decorated rocks and birthday wishes with 250 Foundations, eating scrumptious cake pops, and kicking off six months of celebrating Chatham County’s 250th anniversary.

Founding Day officially kicked off the Passport Experience. What is it, and how was the idea for the Passport generated?

The Chatham 250 Passport Experience is an invitation to explore Chatham County. Each of the five Chatham 250 Passports — Creative Arts, Growth and Change, Community and Diversity, Agriculture and Natural Environment — offer nearly 20 accessible and fun activities that are also designed for a COVID-19 safe environment. We hope this activity will connect participants with new people, places, and experiences in Chatham County.

I like to describe the Chatham 250 Passport as a “self-guided tour meets scavenger hunt,” in the sense that it’s flexible and on your own time, but will get folks out in the county doing new and fun things.

The idea for the Chatham 250 Passport emerged early on in our planning when there was still a great deal of uncertainty about the pandemic. The passport idea presented a safe way for people to celebrate all the great parts of Chatham. Each activity is designed with flexibility in mind — they can be done individually or in small groups, virtually or outdoors, and/or with low to no contact. It also provides us with the flexibility to respond to the changes with the pandemic as we have more information, maybe offering some hybrid in-person/virtual events later this year.

How do the Chatham 250 Celebration Themes work?

All of the Chatham 250 celebrations focus on five key areas, or what we call our “Celebration Themes.” These themes are Creative Arts, Growth and Change, Community and Diversity, Agriculture and Natural Environment. Careful thought went into the creation of the themes by the Chatham 250 planning committee, which is made up of representatives from across the county who have diverse backgrounds and unique skills — but with one common thread — their passion for Chatham County. All of our event and activity planning, as well as historical research and sponsorships, celebrate these themes.

The Chatham 250 passport is also organized around these five themes, which each passport includes activities connected to one of the celebration themes. For example, the Natural Environment passport includes multiple activities that explore our public parks and natural areas, while the Creative Arts passport includes activities that engage participants with our vibrant art and artists community.

How do you get started with the passport?

We are encouraging participants to register for the Chatham 250 Passport Experience through the Chatham 250 website: The registration form can be found on the Chatham 250 Home or Passport pages. The registration form is mostly to make sure we have enough “Swag Bags” for participants who complete the passport, and it will help us share updates throughout the Passport Experience.

To begin participating, all folks need to do is get a passport. All five Chatham 250 Passports are available for download on the Chatham 250 website, on the Passport Overview page. Participants can choose to download one passport or all five passports. Printed passports will also be available at key locations across the county, including the Chatham County Welcome Center and Chatham County Public Library branches. Additionally, all Chatham County students will receive one printed passport through their schools.

Talk about the digital experience…QR codes, etc. – it makes taking part easy, right?

We’ve done our best to make participating in the Chatham 250 Passport Experience an easy and accessible opportunity. The digital aspects of the Chatham 250 Passport will absolutely enhance the overall experience.

Each passport has a QR Code that will take you to the specific passport’s page on the Chatham 250 website where participants can also discover event and location details for the passport activities. Each passport has a unique calendar full of events and a detailed list of ongoing events and locations to assist participants with completing their passport. Most activities are free and open to the public; any activity that requires an entrance fee, ticket or reservation is indicated on the calendar.

The extra easy part is that the Chatham 250 Passport Experience is all based on the honor system. Participants should check off completed activities on their passport as they go. At the same time, we are encouraging participants to post their Chatham 250 Passport Experience on social media using the hashtag #Chatham250. The Chatham 250 website has a social media feed that will feature these posts.

What kinds of Passport activities are there?

Each passport includes a diverse range of activities. The first activity on every passport is the Chatham 250 Celebration Theme event hosted by Chatham 250 — more details on those coming soon.

The rest of the activities feature highlights of favorite annual events and cherished locations and establishments in Chatham County. They are also designed to be flexible, accessible, safe and fun. Let me offer a few activity examples that hopefully will show how we built flexibility into the design of the passport activities.

• The Creative Arts passport includes visiting Clyde’s Critters in Bynum — which could be participating in Chatham Arts Council’s ClydeFEST in the Wild and visiting Bynum any weekend over the next six months.

• The Agriculture passport includes the activity “Cook a recipe using local and/or seasonal ingredients” which could mean people choose to participate in a virtual cooking class with Tara Gregory, Chatham County’s Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agency, or they can cook a meal on their own time.

• The Community and Diversity passport includes “Volunteer at or donate to a Chatham County nonprofit.” We’ve included information about how to find volunteer opportunities through Chatham Connecting, and we will also be updating the Community and Diversity passport calendar with upcoming volunteer events.

If you complete at least 10, you get a Chatham 250 Swag Bag — what’s in it?

Yes, participants who submit and complete 10 activities on a passport will earn an enviable Swag Bag, curated by the Pittsboro-Siler City Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Swag Bags will include fun and useful souvenir items, discount coupons to local businesses, and some exciting prizes. Swag Bag items have already been secured from Carolina Brewery, Starlight Mead and Huckleberry Trail Farm.

What else is on tap between now and the October deadline for the Passport program?

First things first: over the next few weeks we will be dropping off the 10,000 printed passports at locations across the county for people to begin the Chatham 250 Passport Experience. Keep a look out for those at the libraries, schools and post offices.

We are also working hard to fill the passport calendars with local events and additional details to give more options for passport participants to engage and choose their own adventure. If people have an event related to one of the passport activities that they would like us to include in the passport calendar, they can email

Over the next six months, Chatham 250 will also be organizing five Celebration Theme events. More details will be coming soon, but folks should mark their calendars for the next Chatham 250 event — the Great Chatham County Camp Out on Saturday, June 26th, and for our closing event — the Chatham 250 Parade/Carvana in Siler City on Saturday, October 23rd.

Mostly, we hope people will get started on their Chatham 250 Passport and find joy and fun in the experience!

For more information, go to or contact Hilary Pollan at


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here