A fete for Lewis and Clark

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Next weekend, Cape Girardeau will be a beehive of activity as the Lewis and Clark bicentennial commemoration gets under way. Already the excitement is growing. Paducah got a taste of the celebration last week. There will be other events as re-enactors, historical displays and special events move up the Mississippi River. Starting Friday, there will more than 20 events and activities over three days as the visit 200 years ago by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in Cape Girardeau is celebrated.

All of this is a prelude to the major part of the bicentennial, which marks the exploration of what then was America's frontier. The two explorers were commissioned to find a route to the Pacific Ocean -- a route they hoped could be made by river. When they came through Cape Girardeau, they were headed for St. Louis to go west on the Missouri River.

Two hundred years ago, Cape Girardeau had more than 1,000 inhabitants, according to Lewis' journal. Louis Lorimier, who figures so prominently in the city's history, was the host for several members of the expedition at his Red House, which has been reconstructed near the floodwall in front of Old St. Vincent's Church.

Thanks to the bicentennial, the city has new murals on the floodwall as well, and dozens and dozens of volunteers have been involved in getting ready for the celebration here.

While the special events are going on, parts of Cape Girardeau will appear to be well-populated by individuals who have returned after an absence of 200 years. These will be the re-enactors wearing period clothing and engaged in activities that would have been routine when Lewis and Clark were making their journey.

Music and food from the period also will play a prominent role in the festivities, along with dancing, a parade (with Mayor Jay Knudtson portraying Lorimier), art displays and a Latin Mass at Old St. Vincent's.

This is an opportunity to have fun and learn more about the history of Cape Girardeau and its role in the westward expansion of our nation. Most of the events are scheduled for next Saturday and Sunday. Anyone visiting the downtown area is certain to run across something of interest.

It would be difficult to appropriately thank all the individuals who have had a hand in the preparations for new weekend's events. But here's a start: Thank you.

Let's make the bicentennial something to remember. And let's have a good time doing it.

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