By Wenjing Yang
Chicago, city of the big shoulders, turned 180 years old on Saturday.
The Chicago History Museum threw a special birthday bash with free admission for Illinois residents, a 60-pound Eli’s cheesecake and a jazz trio that led the crowd in a chorus of “Happy Birthday”.
Guest speaker Vincent Romero, interim executive director of the American Indian Center of Chicago, called the museum “a wonderful place” to celebrate Chicago’s birthday.
“It’s a place of living history, and everyone here helps make that history,” Romero said. “And it’s important for people getting together, celebrating each other, and being happy with the differences that we have.”
Chicago was incorporated as a city by the State of Illinois on March 4, 1837. Jean Baptist Pointe DuSable is regarded as the first permanent resident of Chicago. The museum held an essay contest that honors DuSable. Hundreds of K-12 students in Chicago submitted essays on what they thought DuSable would do to help stop the city’s epidemic of violence.
As Chicago is known as a city of neighborhoods, “diversity” became the theme of the celebration.
More than 200 people of all ages and races attended the birthday ceremony in the museum to celebrate the moment. (Wenjing Yang/MEDILL)
Jayla Johnson, the winner of the Friends of DuSable Essay Competition, read her essay at the ceremony. “People can’t solve problems by shooting each other and innocent people,” she wrote. “Mr. DuSable would want children to be safe and grow up to be good citizens.” (Wenjing Yang/MEDILL)
The ceremony ended in a chorus of “Happy Birthday” led by the Tony Do Rosairo Trio. (Wenjing Yang/MEDILL)
Local storyteller Gewen Hilary and musician Enoch Williamson told Chicago’s founding history with an interactive performance for kids. (Wenjing Yang/MEDILL)
Families sat together listening to stories about DuSable. (Wenjing Yang/MEDILL)
The event attracted attendees from several communities. Tess Tan, from Skokie, wrote a postcard at the museum for her niece who fell in love with Chicago when she first visited. (Wenjing Yang/MEDILL)
Kids with local artist Sue Romanelli were learning to craft a flag by drawing Chicago’s flag on one side and the flag of their original countries on the other side. (Wenjing Yang/MEDILL)
Annie, 5, who declined to give her last name, was showing her mother a two-sided flag she just made. The family moved to Chicago from China two years ago. (Wenjing Yang/MEDILL)
A woman worn a Blackhawks cap at the birthday ceremony. Chicago elements were everywhere. (Wenjing Yang/MEDILL)
Photo at top: A 60-pound cheesecake with Chicago’s four-star flag was served by Eli’s Cheesecake. The firm calls its product “Chicago’s most famous dessert”. Eli’s has made cheesecakes for four American presidential inaugurations including those of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. (Wenjing Yang/MEDILL)