- Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Hundreds of schoolchildren joined Indiana’s congressional delegation, Gov. Mike Pence and others Friday at a Statehouse event marking the start of a year of celebrations leading up to the state’s bicentennial.

More than 500 fourth-grade students and some 200 guests, including Indiana’s nine congressional members, joined Pence to mark the state’s 199th birthday.

Pence said Indiana’s “remarkably rich history” will be celebrated over the coming year with a range of community-led projects focused on the state’s past, natural conservation, education and other areas.

“Indiana’s bicentennial offers something for every Hoosier,” Perry Hammock, executive director of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, said in a statement.

While Friday’s gathering was under way, officials in other cities and towns around the state raised official bicentennial flags at noon to help mark the countdown. Those flags were distributed to all cities, towns and counties.



Indiana became the nation’s 19th state on Dec. 11, 1816.

To mark its 200th birthday, the state is spending more than $50 million on bicentennial-related activities. Most of that is for several construction projects, including a bicentennial plaza at the Statehouse and an inn at northern Indiana’s Potato Creek State Park.

That funding will also pay for a new state archive building. Indiana’s archives are currently stored in an Indianapolis warehouse that is not climate-controlled or accessible to the public.

Indiana’s bicentennial commission has endorsed more than 850 “legacy projects” around the state - events that Hammock said will ensure that “our bicentennial year will leave a lasting impact on Indiana.”

An Olympic-style torch that will visit all 92 of Indiana’s counties and cover 2,300 miles next fall as part of those bicentennial events was unveiled Friday.

A team of Purdue University students developed the torch, which will produce a flame fueled by an ethanol blend and include a camera and sensors and mechanisms for controlling its flame.

Twenty-four of the torches are being manufactured for next fall’s relay that will involve about 1,800 people.

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