Patriotism is in the air: Westlake celebrates nation’s bicentennial
In anticipation of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, Westlake Mayor Alex Roman created a Bicentennial Committee and appointed Joe Rossin as chairman in 1975. Soon plans were underway for a full slate of events to commemorate America’s 200th birthday here in Westlake.
Westlake was designated as a Bicentennial Community. A designation given to communities who planned activities to meet the three themes: Heritage ‘76, studying the past; Festival ‘76, enjoying the present; and Horizon ‘76, looking to the future.
Westlake fulfilled its Heritage ‘76 duties with yearlong open houses at the Clague House Museum. The Horizon ‘76 obligation of planning for the future was met with an application for federal funds to build a Bicentennial Community Building (although that grant was later denied).
Festival ‘76, the third phase of the Bicentennial Community designation, came together as a two-day celebration that filled Clague Memorial Park on July 3 and 4, 1976. The party was kicked off with a parade and the community came out to enjoy the booths, crafts and exhibits in the park. Watermelon-eating competitions, bicentennial parade floats and an ecumenical church service and choir were all part of this wonderful celebration.
At 2:00 p.m. on July 4, bells rang out across the country to symbolize the ringing of the Liberty Bell 200 years prior. Churches, communities and individuals all across the U.S. rang bells. In Westlake, Cliff Geiger rang one of the old Dover fire department bells. That old bell will again ring out during Westlake's Bicentennial Founders Path dedication and celebration Oct. 22.
Westlake schools participated in a very special way, with each school staging a five-minute play depicting a particular event in history. The event was held at the high school’s Read Field, the only location big enough to accommodate all of the students. A total of 347 students and 38 school staff members participated in what was a very memorable experience. The event took place on May 26.
(Did you take part in this celebration as a student? The Westlake Historical society would love to hear your memories of this event. Contact Lysa Stanton at 440-721-1201.)