Men and women in business attire chatted in the lobby as they waited for the main event to start in the next room. This is a typical sight at the Michigan state capitol building. Less typical are the Girl Scouts gathered in the corner. Even less so – the man and woman in 19th century dress handing out fliers.
It was Feb. 16, and all had gathered at the state capitol building to celebrate. The Michigan legislature created the Meridian and Delhi townships on that same date 175 years earlier.
They came to reflect on the progress they had made in that time. It was a dodransbicentennial celebration for the ages – Enactment Day.
“We’re here to celebrate, look fondly on the past and look forward to hopefully a bright future,” Meridian Township clerk Brett Dreyfus said.
“The turnout was great,” said Deborah Guthrie, chair of the anniversary celebration. “We tried to be as inclusive as possible, invite as many people as possible.”
Officials from both townships attended, joined by members of various councils and business associations. The two dressed in historical garb were from the Meridian Historical Village. There were historians, journalists, and Girl Scouts to conduct the flag ceremony. They had planned for 100 to 150 attendees and the room looked packed, Guthrie said.
State representatives Curtis Hertel Jr. and Tom Cochran were on hand to congratulate Delhi and Meridian on reaching the milestone, as were Ingham County Commissioner Kara Hope and superintendent of Okemos Public Schools Catherine Ash.
Many of those who addressed the crowd spoke about the importance of local history, and its implications on understanding the present and future.
Fred Junger volunteers as a docent at the historical village and was looking a few centuries out of his comfort zone.
“I came in period dress because that’s what I do at the village,” Junger said.
No one remembers what it was like back in those days, Junger said. The celebration is a chance to remember. Guthrie agrees.
“Maybe I didn’t build the Methodist church in Okemos, or I wasn’t part of the founders or anything, but their story impacts our story and impacts the future story,” Guthrie said. “So I think that’s really the importance of history. Knowing where you came from, knowing where you are and knowing where you’re going.”
Controversial issues and politics can make government seem depressing, Dreyfus said. He said he enjoys events like these because it highlights the positive aspects of government. And without citizen involvement, he said, none of this would have happened.
“Voting is all a part of it,” Dreyfus said. “We wouldn’t have a Meridian Township if people didn’t elect legislators that eventually enacted a township. Everything has a cause and effect.”
Meridian Township will continue its celebration with events throughout the year. Next up – a pancake breakfast March 11 to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the local Boy Scouts. More information can be found on the anniversary website.