Business and civic leaders officially have begun planning for Columbus' bicentennial celebration in 2012.

Business and civic leaders officially have begun planning for Columbus' bicentennial celebration in 2012.

A kickoff ceremony was held Sept. 21 at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center on the Whittier Peninsula, where officials roughly mapped out what's in store for the next 17 months. Columbus officially was founded Feb. 14, 1812.

Ty Marsh, chairman of the Bicentennial Organizing Committee, said the bicentennial celebration is more than a party it paves the way for economic opportunities and getting people inspired and engaged.

Marsh said the effort will focus on three essential areas: promotion, celebration and initiatives. And while the plans are hazy at this early stage, there's a lot of potential to involve businesses, residents and Sister Cities in the effort.

What also is unclear is how much the city intends to spend to mark the occasion or what kinds of legacy projects, or permanent installations, will be associated with the bicentennial.

"The budget will be cognizant of the economic times we are in," Marsh told ThisWeek.

He was joined on the dais by such local dignitaries as Abigail Wexner, wife of Limited Brands founder and CEO Leslie Wexner, and E. Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University.

Many elected officials, both past and present, were in attendance, including former mayors Greg Lashutka and Dana G. "Buck" Rinehart, both of whom were named honorary chairs of the bicentennial organization.

Speakers praised Columbus for how far it had come, its myriad amenities and attractions, and they welcomed the opportunity to showcase the city.

Current Mayor Michael B. Coleman said the bicentennial is a way to take pride in the past and demonstrate faith in the future.

"We've come a long way, but we're not done yet," Coleman said.

Councilman Hearcel Craig called it "the event of a lifetime."

"And what will make the Columbus bicentennial so special is the energy that will be released in the lead up and during the events of 2012," Craig said.

Residents can get involved by logging on to the new bicentennial website, www.columbus2012.org, or by e-mailing bicentennial2012@Columbus.gov.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

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