By Ron VandenBoom
Clint Blackwood, director of the State Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration, told Havre tourism officials he would like to see Havre and Hill County get ahead of the game in preparing for what he expects will be an onslaught of tourism over the next six years.
Blackwood said he would like to see a structure of regional planning organizations throughout the state that could work together to prepare for what he sees as a major financial and educational opportunity.
He told the crowd national attention will be focused on Montana during the bicentennial with particular attention being paid to the years 2005-2006, the 200th anniversary of the time Lewis and Clark were actually in Montana.
The bicentennial will officially begin in 2003 on the eastern U.S., Blackwood said, and follow the progress of the Corps of Discovery through Illinois in 2004 and into Montana in 2005.
Blackwood told the crowd that many of the most note-worthy events in the Corps of Discoverys journey took place here making Montana one of the most significant states of the expedition.
Four goals have been established by the commission, Blackwood explained. They are leadership and coordination, education, funding, and legacy.
The commission is currently in the leadership and coordination phase as Blackwood travels around the state gathering ideas and helping to organize community based organizations that can arrange local activities and coordinate these with activities in other counties or at the state level.
We want to make sure that the story of Lewis and Clark is told in a complete way and has a balance of heritage that is culturally inclusive, Blackwood said describing one of the goals of the educational component.
An education sub-committee has been formed within the commission that includes American Indian representatives, Blackwood said. It will be their goal to develop ideas on how to enhance educational programs in schools and out.
Funding will be provided through grants from various sources and through $200,000 that will be provided for two years from Travel Montana.
Revenue from licensing the official Bicentennial logo and federal funding of some projects is also a possibility, Blackwood said.
Some of that money could be sent to communities to fund specific activities or projects, he said.
Blackwood defined legacy as: how we would like the bicentennial to be remembered.
We want to have a product, in a very real sense of the word, that will live beyond 2006, he said. That can be educational curriculums, that can be signage, interpretive centers, visitor centers ... thats one of the challenges I will offer you.
Blackwood received suggestions on various local projects and events that might be developed for the celebration.
Some of the suggestions offered by the group were:
development of an information center east of Havre at the old rest area,
a Lewis and Clark Day in Havre,
to work with Amtrak to develop tours and promote events and provide transportation for Amtrak visitors,
Lewis and Clark color books, joke books, shopping bags, and restaurant place mats,
develop a river boat race that goes upstream,
a series of lectures,
the use of Havres buffalo kill site and fairgrounds for reenactments, demonstrations, and a weekend festival,
flying tours of Havre.
develop Internet web sites that can offer news, updates, current events, and other information to tourists.
Blackwood said he is preparing a master plan for the bicentennial that he expects to have completed by September. It will be composed of many of the ideas he has heard at meetings held around the state and lay the groundwork for a state-wide strategy.