Oregon became the 33rd state on Feb. 14, 1859. Every February, we celebrate Oregon’s birthday and anniversary of statehood at our Capitol in a big way. This year was no exception. People from all corners of Oregon joined us for our state’s 161st birthday celebration on Feb. 15.
It was a great day with history brought to life through hands-on experiences that allowed visitors to reflect and appreciate our state. This is the first event at the Capitol of each calendar year. It’s held rain or shine on the closest Saturday to the actual day of statehood. The free event is open to the public and the Oregon State Capitol Foundation is the presenting sponsor.
Hands-on activities, games and entertainment for the entire family
The celebration was a great way to step back into history and experience life as a pioneer. Visitors interacted with costumed historic interpreters and heard their stories. They tested their blacksmithing skills and helped build a log cabin on the Capitol’s steps.
Pioneer life was on full display with a covered wagon and stagecoach in front of the Capitol. We had stations for shelling corn, grinding wheat, dying textiles and quilting. Items from the 1800’s were showcased on tables, including medicines and herbs, artifacts, tools, crafts and photos from the past. The Oregon Oldtime Fiddlers gave a musical performance in the Senate lobby. Visitors had plenty of photo opportunities, birthday cupcakes and even a chance to win a prize basket.
Special guests and Oregon’s storytellers
The original Oregon State Constitution was on display. Staff from the State Archives Division were on hand to share its history. Visitors browsed an exhibit of essays on “Why I Love Oregon” from the Salem-Keizer School District essay contest. Children recited their winning essays at the Capitol.
Doug Neeley joined us as Dr. John McLoughlin, the Father of Oregon. With an uncanny resemblance to McLoughlin, he talked about the Oregon Trail and the Native peoples of Oregon. Neeley, also a doctor, served on the Oregon City Commission and as the mayor of Oregon City.
A Champoeg State Park Ranger, Dan Klug, delivered an interpretive talk in the House Chambers Gallery. Oregon’s first provisional government was formed in Champoeg State Heritage Area, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s where you can learn about the pioneer town of Champoeg.
Rep. Greg Walden spoke on the House floor reminding us of our state motto: “She flies with her own wings.” See a video of his short talk.
Highlights and ways to connect
To get a sense for what the festivities are like, view our video highlights and see the event Facebook page. You can also find photos and more on Twitter at #OregonsBirthday. We hope to see you all at next year’s celebration!
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Acknowledging our partners
The Capitol could not host this event without its amazing community partners in 2020 who helped to make the event extra special:
- American Imaginations Costumed Interpreters
- Coquille Tribe
- Fred Meyer cupcakes
- Secretary of State Archives Division – Oregon Constitution on display
- Yamhill County Historical Society
- Oregon Oldtime Fiddlers
- McLoughlin House and Fort Vancouver
- Salem Keizer Education Foundation
- Willamette Heritage Center
- Brooks Historical Society
- Oregon Parks and Rec. Department – Champoeg State Park
- Anvil Academy
- GeerCrest Farm
- World Beat
- Gilbert House Children’s Museum
- Willamette Valley Genealogical Society
- Friends of the Pioneer Cemetery
- Grand Ronde Tribe
- Doug Neeley as Dr. John McLoughlin
“Oregon is an inspiration. Whether you come to it, or are born to it, you become entranced by our state’s beauty, the opportunity she affords, and the independent spirit of her citizens.”