We’re halfway through Chatham’s birthday observance. The best is still to come.

Posted 7/14/21

At about the halfway point through the planned activities for Chatham County’s 250th anniversary celebration, lead organizer Hilary Pollan says interest and participation are strong — and that …

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We’re halfway through Chatham’s birthday observance. The best is still to come.

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At about the halfway point through the planned activities for Chatham County’s 250th anniversary celebration, lead organizer Hilary Pollan says interest and participation are strong — and that the best is still to come.

Chatham’s semiquincentennial celebrations kicked off back in April with Founding Day, a birthday party-themed drive-thru event focusing on history and community in downtown Pittsboro. Founding Day recognized the formation of Chatham in 1771 from Orange County (itself formed in 1752) and featured multiple stations with presentations about 250 years of history and community, including opportunities for community members to share, learn and engage with one another.

The county’s birthday party will officially wrap with a parade in Siler City in October. Along the way, Pollan, the Chatham 250 leadership group and fellow organizers are optimistic the anniversary project’s objectives will be met.

“Chatham 250’s hope is that through the events and activities, specifically the Chatham 250 Passport Experience, that Chatham County residents engage in conversations and experiences that link us together in new and different ways, to build an understanding that our differences are what actually makes our character unique and strong,” Pollan said.

That notion was perfectly reflected in the winning design chosen for the Chatham 250 logo earlier this year — a postage stamp-like creation by Pittsboro artist Sally Gregoire reflecting the idea that “communication links a community.”

“The Chatham 250 core planning committee saw our aspirations for the anniversary celebrations deeply reflected in her description of this image,” said Pollan, the community partners analyst for Chatham County who’s coordinating the efforts to observe the event. “Also, put simply, we hope people have fun! This is a celebration, after all.”

Much of the celebration focus right now is on what organizers are calling the “Chatham 250 Passport Experience,” an ongoing program designed to lead participants into a deeper knowledge and experience of everything Chatham County has to offer, as well as a chance to experience first-hand new and different things.

Pollan said about 350 people have registered to take part, with more being added to the list every day. Participants register on the Chatham 250 website (or get a physical “passport” at the Pittsboro Welcome Center or at a county library branch) and check off passport “activities” — there’s a complete calendar of them online, plus a QR code for easy smartphone access — on an honor system as they complete them.

Those who complete at least 10 of the activities from one of the five themed passports earn a Chatham 250 “swag bag” of local products and gift certificates. The bag will include coupons for free or discounted items and lots of unique “giveaways” valued at $5 or $10 or more. (The News + Record, a participant in the passport program, is providing a bag of Chatham Brew coffee, for example, to the swag bag.)

Registered participants are invited to post about their involvement using the hashtag “#chatham250” on social. They also received a monthly passport experience newsletter, as well as instructions about how to submit their completed passports to earn the swag bags.

A few dozen posts from participants have been made on Instagram so far. The qualifying activities on the passport include such things as visiting the Chatham County Historical Museum, attending a county commissioner or town board meeting, reading a George Moses Horton poem, visiting a local pottery studio, trying a specialty beverage at any Chatham County establishment, cooking a recipe using local ingredients or visiting a local park.

Pollan said anniversary-themed events have provided numerous highlights for participants because of the variety and scope of the activities and opportunities planned along the way.

She cites two that have been particularly relevant for her.

“The first was listening to people’s generous wishes for Chatham County on its 250th birthday as they handed us their decorated rocks for the ‘250 Foundations’ Community Art Project during Founding Day,” she said. “Their wishes offered such a rich view of people’s current connection to and future dreams for Chatham County.”

Those decorated rocks are now on display in front of the Chatham Community Library at Central Carolina Community College’s campus.

The second highlight, she said, was watching the sunset over Jordan Lake at the Great Chatham County Camp Out, held last month, while local musician Eric Sommer played campfire music for all the campers. Pollan described the experience as a “truly magical moment, watching the natural beauty of Chatham County in all its glory.”

There’s still a lot planned for the official observance of Chatham’s semiquincentennial, including three of its main events — highlighted by a parade scheduled for Oct. 23 in Siler City (see sidebar story, page A3). Meanwhile, organizers are building the “LEARN” section of the Chatham 250 website and soliciting items for a time capsule to be opened in 2071, Chatham’s 300th year.

“So far, we’ve received some great items, including a Grand Trees of Chatham Calendar, a piece of artwork from the Chatham Arts Council’s Clydefest, a Chatham County Public Health Department COVID-19 Vaccine Flyer, and Mountaire Farms toy chicken,” Pollan said. “At Pittsboro Summer Fest, we had people write postcards to Chatham County residents in 2071, which will be included in the Time Capsule.”

Pollan encourages the curious to visit the Chatham 250 website — www.chatham250.com — to check out historical research and to get information about ways to engage with and learn about Chatham 250, including upcoming events and activities, historical research, other projects and to sign up for the newsletter.

“Another great way to stay in the loop about Chatham 250 is to register for our monthly newsletter,” she said. “Each month we send out a newsletter that includes two or three happenings in each of our five celebration areas and some general updates for the celebration.”

Pollan said Chatham County social media channels highlight upcoming passport events each week, and that the website will be updated with photos and videos from past events.

For additional information, contact Chatham 250 at chatham250thanniversary@gmail.com.

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