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Annapolis prepares to celebrate 300th birthday


As Annapolis nears its tricentennial in 2008, city leaders have begun to plan a celebration that will reflect the still-striking grande dame's entire history.

Not everything in the past 300 years has been as pretty as the Chesapeake Bay or the late-18th-century architecture for which Annapolis is noted.

Organizers say they reject the idea of a self-congratulatory stroll through the past, and promise that the historical chapters of slavery and segregation will not be overlooked.

Yet the yearlong celebration should be inspirational for the city's future, bring all components of the community together and tap into its cultural resources, as Mayor Ellen O. Moyer and others see it.

"This won't be a bunch of rich white guys patting each other on the back," said Charles W. Weikel, the mayor's newly appointed chairman of the Annapolis 300th Birthday Celebration steering committee.

"Creating meaningful events with broad appeal, that's the challenge," Weikel said. "What can we do for an outstanding outcome ... that's the question."

Annapolis traces its founding to 1708, after a Colonial city charter was granted by England's Queen Anne.

That led to the establishment of a rough-hewn municipal self-government.

Although it is a city known for its churches, Annapolis was spireless in 1708.

At the time, a cathedral was the usual hallmark of a city.

"Annapolis had no cathedral back in 1708, but the laying down the laws of a municipality is what we're celebrating," said Jan Hardesty, the public information officer of Annapolis.

"We're still celebrating a city with a living core and championing urban life," Hardesty said. "We're also evaluating where we're going."

Moyer announced the tricentennial celebration steering committee chairman last week.

Weikel, a downtown resident, businessman and former naval officer, has chaired the city's ad hoc parking policy pricing committee since the fall.

Weikel, who graduated from the Naval Academy in 1979, said he expects to work with eight other committee members, though none have been named.

Fund-raising through grants and private donations will be the first order of business, he said, estimating the cost of celebrating Annapolis' tricentennial could reach $1 million.

Plans are in the formative stages, but a draft document exploring a few key ideas for maximizing participation has been created, Weikel said.

For one, tricentennial art and other events should be located throughout the city or rotated throughout the city's eight wards.

"It's important that we not become fixated only on downtown or historic areas," Weikel said.

Among early proposals are a scholarly symposium at St. John's College that would include a discussion of slavery and the international bestseller Roots, by Alex Haley, whose ancestor Kunte Kinte was sold into slavery in Annapolis.

Also proposed are a short film, presentations on religious history and freedom, collecting oral histories, performances of period music and neighborhood festivals.

Another idea is for a public reading of the original city charter at the City Dock and other public places in early December, around the time of the original royal grant.

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