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America's 250th birthday is an economic and educational opportunity, CT commission says

The Tapping Reeve House and Litchfield Law School.
Provided
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Litchfield Historical Society
The Tapping Reeve House and Litchfield Law School.

On July Fourth 2026, America will celebrate a major milestone - the 250th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress. Connecticut is hoping that with a little planning, the anniversary will be an opportunity for the state’s arts, culture and tourism sector.

In July of 2022, Gov. Ned Lamont established the Connecticut Semiquincentennial Commission to “plan and coordinate activities celebrating the 250th anniversary of the nation’s founding; and enhance tourism, economic development, historic education and preservation, and outdoor recreation within the state.”

Former Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is the commission’s chair. Speaking on Connecticut Public Radio’s “Where We Live,” Merrill said Connecticut played an oversized role in the founding of the nation.

“The roots of these ideas in the Declaration of Independence are right here in Connecticut, in the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut back in 1639,” Merrill said. “This idea of representative government, of freedom and liberty, and natural rights. We can see it up close here in Connecticut, and it’s not just the battlefields. We can see the way people lived, and how they lived.”

The commission is hoping Connecticut’s many historic sites, especially from the era of the Revolutionary War, will bring in droves of visitors in 2026. For Merrill, she sees America’s 250th birthday as an “opportunity to reengage the public in civic life.”

“Civic engagement and civic education has been declining for many years in our schools,” Merrill said. “We will engage the public in the history of this great moment. Maybe doing it in new and different ways. And also, looking at how it has shaped this country, and how it will shape our future.”

Inclusion is an important part of the commission’s educational mission as well.

“I think this is our opportunity really to uplift and celebrate the roles African Americans and Native people played in the story of America,” said commission member Jason Mancini, executive director of the non-profit Connecticut Humanities. “Without their presence and participation, none of this would have happened.”

More information, including how you can get involved in the 2026 planning on a local level, is available from the Connecticut Semiquincentennial Commission.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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