City to highlight 50th Anniversary with 50 Events
By JOHN DOWNS, SR.
Hold onto your hats, Chesapeake! This new year marks the beginning of a whirlwind, year long celebration of Chesapeake’s 50th anniversary as a city. No less than 50 of Chesapeake’s most popular signature events have been singled out to emphasize this important landmark in our city’s rich and diverse history. City fathers (and mothers), the business community, civic and charitable organizations, and everyday citizens have banded together to offer a slate of activities and events that will please, educate, and entertain from now until December.
On January 2, 2013, the official kick-off was staged at Chesapeake’s City Hall. Hundreds of community leaders jammed the City Council chambers to celebrate Chesapeake’s past and present and to witness the historic beginning of the city’s golden anniversary. An entertaining and informative program was offered by Master of Ceremonies Ray Conner, Chesapeake’s popular Commissioner of the Revenue. A talented and tiara-clad Miss Virginia’s Outstanding Teen, Andolyn Medina, opened the ceremonies with a stirring rendition of our National Anthem. She was then followed by the Western Branch High School Chamber Singers under the direction of Mr. Nick Nespoli, singing, appropriately, “In Song We Unite.”
Special presentations highlighted the affair. Former Chesapeake Circuit Court Judge E. Preston Grissom delivered an informative and insightful talk about the early years of Chesapeake complete with a number of amusing anecdotes that will probably not make it into the history books. Judge Grissom displayed an original copy of the consolidation agreement between Norfolk County and the City of South Norfolk which officially formed Chesapeake. On the formation of our city fifty years ago, Judge Grissom commented, “No one thought then that forming a city was impossible but when you reflect and see how many things had to be done, how many things had to come together, it’s amazing how such an almost impossible task was accomplished with such great success.”
Chesapeake’s delegation to Virginia’s General Assembly, led by Delegate John Cosgrove, presented Mayor Alan Krasnoff with a state joint resolution proclamation recognizing and honoring Chesapeake on its 50th anniversary. In presenting the honor to the mayor, Delegate Cosgrove said, “We are not presenting this resolution just to the City Council or the Mayor but to all the citizens of Chesapeake who it is our privilege to serve.”
Mayor Alan Krasnoff reflected on the city’s growth and purpose. “After serving as a City Councilman and Mayor for nearly half the time we have been a city, I reflect upon our city motto: One Increasing Purpose. That motto captures the essence of a Chesapeake that welcomed me over 30 thirty years ago. That’s the Chesapeake I know and that’s the Chesapeake I’m happy to call home.”
WCTV, Chesapeake’s own television station, treated the audience with a thoroughly delightful mini-documentary about our city’s history. Visual clips showed historical photos from the earliest era of Chesapeake. Well known community leaders such as former Sheriff John Newhart, Judge Russell Townsend, former Mayor William Ward, and Eleanor Cross added personal and memorable comments. If you weren’t able to attend, coverage of the event, including the entertaining documentary, can be accessed at WCTV’s on-demand internet site.
Whitehurst is a well known and respected name in the annals of Chesapeake history. Marian Whitehurst was Chesapeake’s first and only woman to serve as Mayor. Her son Colon, a former Chesapeake Judge, was on hand to present a long lost artifact to the city on behalf of his family. Judge Whitehurst unveiled the original metal casing of the Great Seal of Chesapeake and humorously shared that the casing was apparently packed away in a janitor’s closet in the original city hall building. He related its storied history: “My grandfather, Colon Hall, was Chesapeake’s first mayor and in 1963 he was presented with the seal by Navy Rear Admiral Davis Knowle. Years later, when the city government moved to a new building, my mother, who was mayor at the time, rescued it and asked me and my sister to take good care of it..” Mayor Krasnoff gratefully accepted this generous donation by the Whitehurst family and promised it would be displayed in a place of honor for residents to see.
A special guest at the festivities was N. Duval Flora, former City Treasurer. Mr. Flora’s extensive career of public involvement extends 40 years and includes service to both the old city of South Norfolk and the current city of Chesapeake.
A classy after-event reception included pleasant chamber music aptly provided by the Oscar Smith High School Strolling Strings under the direction of Deanna Kringel. Between the light buffet, custom decorated cupcakes, and refreshing beverages, the talk soon turned to the 50 signature events up and coming.
Roland Davis, President of the Chesapeake Rotary Club is serving as the Chairman of the 50th Anniversary Executive Committee. His group has worked tirelessly to emphasize a year-long calendar of exciting, informative, and diverse activities and events. “We’re not really here to create new events or compete with established ones,” Davis explains, “The 50th Anniversary Committee has three basic purposes: Invigorate, Illuminate, and Include. I call it the three i’s. We view our role as dotting those i’s. We have so many wonderful activities in our city, most of them raising money for worthy charities, and we want to help and promote them. Because this is our 50th year as a city, our goal is to make the signature events as successful as possible. We want 2013 to be a banner year.”
Davis continues, “I would definitely like to emphasize that the 50th Anniversary Committee is NOT a city agency and receives no public funds or tax dollars. The hundred or so members are all community spirited volunteers. We do have some amazing and generous sponsors who have given so much to help promote our 50th anniversary. The many colorful banners around the city proclaiming our 50th anniversary were all installed courtesy of Cox Communications and Dominion Virginia Power. There are nearly 300 of the panels, and it was quite a gesture on the part of those two companies to come forward and help us.”
As President of the Rotary Club, Davis is particularly proud of one special signature event this year. “The Rotary Club is honored to designate Chesapeake’s First Citizen each year,” he shares, “This year, in honor of the 50th anniversary, our First Citizen banquet in September will honor all 50 previous First Citizen honorees. It’s going to be quite an affair.” Davis and the Rotary Club are also sponsors of another popular signature event, the Chesapeake Wine Festival.
The Chesapeake Sports Club has joined in the spirit of the 50th anniversary and will have a genuine superstar and sports legend at its signature event, the Sports Club Jamboree. Former Notre Dame standout and Washington Redskin legend Joe Theismann will be the keynote speaker at the March 21st banquet.
Another special event will be the honoring of Chesapeake’s Woman of the Year. The 50th anniversary honor goes to our own Clerk of the Circuit Court Faye Mitchell. The award is presented by the Women’s Division of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Mitchell will be feted at the Chesapeake Marriott on February 2nd.
Other exciting events being promoted by the 50th Anniversary Committee include the NAACP Jubilee Service, the Martin Luther King, Jr. city-wide celebration, the Chesapeake Regional Health Foundation’s gala: A Night Among Superheroes, the Emancipation Proclamation exhibit at the Greenbrier Library through February 9th, Mayor’s Youth Day on February 28th, Chesapeake’s Teacher of the Year banquet on March 21st, Paint Your Heart Out on April 20th, the National Day of Prayer on May 2nd, and scores of others. A specific calendar of events and other detailed information can be found at the 50th Anniversary web site: www.chesapeake50.com.
Chesapeake has an historic past and exciting future. We have been visited by our nation’s first President, George Washington, when he surveyed the Great Dismal Swamp. The first battle of our American Revolution in Virginia took place in Great Bridge. Our local former Sheriff, John Newhart, was selected as the National Sheriff of the Year. We’ve been designated as one of the safest communities in the entire United States. Our population continues to grow and our business community continues to prosper. Our school system ranks among the best in Virginia. The previous 50 years in Chesapeake have produced a vibrant, caring city and a great place to raise a family or start a business. The 50th Anniversary will serve to “invigorate and illuminate” all that is good in Chesapeake. The clarion call now throughout our city is: “Let The Celebration Begin!”