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October 5, 2012

Bicentennial gala a history-making evening

Gala marks official launch of bicentennial celebration, new book

NEW ALBANY — On Oct. 8, 1963, the city of New Albany celebrated its sesquicentennial with performing arts, communitywide events and a special steam locomotive. The community came together to celebrate a river town that is rich in history.

Also, in 1913, a group of New Albany residents formed a Centennial Commission to celebrate a century of history.

This year, the city of New Albany is preparing for the bicentennial celebration that includes special events throughout this year and 2013. On Thursday evening, the official bicentennial celebration saw the first of many events with the New Albany’s Bicentennial Gala book launch that was held at The Grand.

Judge J. Terrence Cody served as master of ceremonies, and after the event shared his hopes for history to become of great interest to many in the coming months.

“It [the gala] was sold out, and obviously there are many people interested in the celebration of the bicentennial. I’m just thrilled that the participation of those who are here and those who worked on the commission, David Barksdale in particular,” said Cody’s whose family served as leaders for the centennial and sesquicentennial celebrations. “I would hope with bicentennial, it will foster a greater deal of interest in the history of our city, from the time of the founding to the present.”

Those who paid $100 a ticket to attend received a copy of the limited, signed and numbered edition book titled “Historic New Albany, Indiana: By the River’s Edge,” by authors James A. Crutchfield and David Barksdale.

Crutchfield, who has written many books on U.S. history, including “Tragedy at Taos: the Revolt of 1847” and “Legends of the Wild West” spoke about his adventure in writing the 150-page book. He also shared that he is impressed with New Albany and its history.

“I am spellbound by this venue [the Grand] and the crowd that’s celebrating the anniversary. I have worked on a lot of books, but this one was probably the most engaging and fun because of the people and the town,” said Crutchfield.  

He began working alongside New Albany and Floyd County historian Barksdale earlier in 2012 in order to complete the book. During the adventure, Crutchfield met New Albany residents, homeowners and those within museums and galleries.

“New Albany was really a gateway to the West because of the wilderness road that ran through Kentucky. It was a gateway prior to the larger cities,” Crutchfield said in regards to New Albany’s central location and historic activity that occurred here, which includes the stories of the Robert E. Lee and the Scribner Brothers.

Barksdale also shared a lot of history with the audience at The Grand. Of course, history is close to Barksdale’s heart.     

“We were truly nationally known as an industrial, commercial and education center. We were a very progressive city for the time,” he said. “It’s no coincidence that our founding fathers had the same vision for their new town. They knew the advantages of this location. It’s the city below Falls of the Ohio, and it’s by the rivers edge.”

He added that “The River’s Edge” is a book unlike any other that the city has ever seen, and it gives residents a sense of pride to be part of New Albany.

“This was one of the nicest events I believe I have ever been to,” Barksdale said. “All the re-enactment actors as they greeted us were great, and the turnout was wonderful. It really feels great that people are excited about history and the upcoming year. This is a wonderful kick-off.”

The book’s photographer, Robin Hood, also shared his adventure with the project.

“It’s been a fantastic journey. The Bicentennial Commission is to be commended for their vision and disregard to naysayers and to go ahead with the printing of this book,” said Hood, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and has contributed to numerous books and publications nationwide.

In past celebrations, New Albany has received recognition from notable people of the nation, including President John F. Kennedy, who wrote a special telegram to the city during the 1963 celebrations. The entire letter was published in The Tribune.

“I salute your past achievements and I know your future endeavors will reflect the same sense of purpose and further the prosperity of the people in New Albany,” the letter, in part, read.

For those who did not go to the gala, “Historic New Albany, Indiana: By the River’s Edge,” is available at the Gallery on Pearl, Carnegie Center for Art and History and during the Harvest Homecoming for $40.

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