Happy birthday, Columbia!

The Baltimore Sun

Columbians just might wear out their party hats and dancing shoes by the time they finish celebrating the planned community's 40th birthday with 40 days of activities, but organizers are determined to incorporate a wide range of events between Wednesday and July 15.

"It is a total spectrum," said Barbara Nicklas, chairwoman of the 40-Day Event Committee and a vice president of General Growth Properties. "It seems like hardly a day goes by that someone doesn't get in touch with us and ask how they can be part of this event. ... From village picnics to small-group invitation events to book signings and tributes. This frankly is exactly what we were looking for, to be able to have a platform where all the people of Columbia could engage at whatever level makes sense to them to celebrate and honor the place, the people and the experience of Columbia."

Falling under the 40-day umbrella are some annual summer events, such as Shakespeare performances at Patapsco Female Institute, exhibits at Howard County Center for the Arts and free concerts and movies at the Columbia lakefront. There also will be talks and tours exploring Columbia's history and highlighting its amenities, a dinner reuniting the first Columbia residents, and a golf tournament.

Three larger celebrations with art, music, food and family entertainment will anchor the month-and-a-half celebration: Columbia Festival of the Arts, featuring free LakeFest activities, the Columbia Association's City Fair and Celebrate Merriweather, sponsored by General Growth Properties Inc.

Organizers are still welcoming businesses and organizations that want to hold or sponsor an event during the celebration, give birthday-related discounts or connect their activities to the larger celebration.

Along with fun and socializing, many events will take time to reflect on four decades of life in Columbia.

In 1967, the Columbia Exhibit Center opened to show off the amenities of the new community, which was being built on 14,000 acres of Howard County farmland acquired by developer James W. Rouse.

More than 100,000 visitors went through the center that summer as the first residents moved into the Bryant Gardens apartments in Wilde Lake.

Today, Columbia's population is nearing 100,000 people in 35,000 households. It is one of the most affluent communities in the nation, with an average household income of $96,900.

One of the first features of the 40-Day Birthday Event is Columbia Festival of the Arts, which is celebrating its 20th year with 18 days of exhibits, performances and workshops.

National acts, including violinist Mark O'Connor, MOMIX movement troupe, Minnesota Dance Theatre, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Second City comedy troupe, are scheduled to perform at venues throughout the county.

LakeFest, a free, family-friendly festival at Columbia's lakefront, will showcase local, regional and national performing and visual artists Friday through next Sunday.

During the weekend, there will be a boat float featuring homemade vessels, a kinetic sculpture parade and fireworks.

When the festival unveiled its lineup in March, program coordinator John Duncan said, "We really wanted to celebrate and embrace the arts groups in Howard County and Columbia ... and to bring back some of the acts that helped make the festival what it is today."

Columbia's 40th birthday inspired the Columbia Association to resurrect the City Fair, an outdoor community celebration that was once a summer staple.

June 29 through July 1, the City Fair will have artisans displaying work at the lakefront, booths for community organizations and businesses and entertainment.

A parade will begin the festivities, fireworks will be held on the first evening, and a birthday cake and "Happy Birthday" singalong will close out the event.

The final event of the Columbia Birthday Celebration will be held July 15 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, where more music and family entertainment will be the backdrop for people to picnic, socialize and enjoy a community health fair.

The evening will conclude with a free concert at 7 o'clock by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, preceded by a performance by the original members of the Young Columbians musical group. That group toured the country as teens 30 years ago, performing at events to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial.


Community members can see a calendar listing all of the 40-Day Celebration activities and link to information about the Columbia Festival of the Arts, City Fair and Celebrate Merriweather at www.columbia40.com or www.columbiabirthday.com.

Happy 40th

What: Columbia turns 40

When: Wednesday through July 15

Special events: Columbia Festival of the Arts, Wednesday through June 23, including LakeFest, Friday through June 10 at the lakefront; City Fair, June 29, 30 and July 1 at the lakefront; Celebrate Merriweather, July 15, including a performance at the Post Pavilion by the BSO.

Information: www.columbia40.com or www.columbiabirthday.com.

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