Committee ramping up preparations for Salem's bicentennial

Salem — Residents are so excited about the town's upcoming bicentennial, they've brought in a couple who designs Super Bowl halftime shows to make it happen.

At the bicentennial committee's meeting Wednesday night, Bruce Rodgers gave a presentation that he and his wife Shelly created to give the committee some ideas for how they could celebrate Salem's 200th birthday in 2019.

A production designer for 30 years, he said they're preparing for their 13th halftime show, but they're happy they've found a project in town they can help with.

The committee, co-chaired by Salem Historical Society President Elby Burr and Selectman Ed Chmielewski, was appointed by the Board of Selectmen in March. The calendar of events to commemorate the bicentennial is still in the planning stage, but First Selectman Kevin Lyden said they've been talking about the project for at least a year.

If Rodgers' presentation is approved by the Board of Selectmen at its meeting Tuesday, members of the committee will show it to the various community groups in town, including scout troops, the historical society, the library and the school. Then, interested groups can work with the committee to come up with more concrete plans for how they want to be involved.

A final calendar will be available sometime in early 2019. However, the committee is hoping to kick off the year-long celebration at the annual tree-lighting ceremony in December. Chmielewski said the town already has a lot of annual events that have become tradition for residents, and the committee will try to incorporate the spirit of the bicentennial into them.

One example Rodgers presented as an option would be to work with the Salem Lions to rebrand the 5K road race in the spring as the Bicentennial 5K, or to make the Memorial Day parade a bicentennial parade with a 200th birthday cake float.

New events could include a garden club tour, a farm showcase, and presentations by the Salem Historical Society. Dave Wordell, former president of the historical society, offered projects that he helped coordinate for the town's sesquicentennial in 1969, highlighting the need to get the kids in town involved.

One popular contest was to have the kids find the largest tree in town to visualize the town's 150 years. He said they also performed skits for the rest of the town, and members of historical families visited the school to talk about the town's history.

Members of the committee also were interested in working with the Mohegan tribe and inviting the tribe to be involved with the bicentennial, since the town was originally within their hunting grounds.

The next meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at Town Hall. Residents and town organizations interested in giving feedback on events for the bicentennial or creating their own events should email the committee at


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