Kevin Kaegy guessed that the crowd in the House of Representatives chambers at the Vandalia Statehouse on Thursday evening was the largest since Abraham Lincoln worked in that room.
Kaegy was the keynote speaker for the Lincoln’s Birthday program at the Statehouse, which attracted about 350 people.
Thursday was the first time since the end of November that the public was allowed to enter the Statehouse. That’s when all state historic sites and state parks were closed by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich as a way of cutting state expenses.
“It turned out just excellent,” Statehouse Site Superintendent Mary Cole said about Thursday’s birthday celebration.
“We expected to have maybe 150 people, 200 tops,” Cole said. In past years, the Lincoln’s Birthday program at the Statehouse has attracted 35-50 people.
Cole believes that there were several reasons for the huge increase.
“It was Lincoln’s 200th birthday, so that was something special, and it was a chance for people to get back into the Statehouse,” she said. “The weather also cooperated, so that was probably another factor.”
In his address, Kaegy covered much of Lincoln’s life from the time that he served in the Statehouse as a state representative from Sangamon County until he reached the White House as a 16th president.
Much of his speech pertained to the havoc that Lincoln’s sons caused in the White House.
The program was kicked off by several period songs sung by the SpiritSingers from First United Methodist Church, under the direction of Patti Craycroft and Judy Roberts.
The program also included a presentation by local historian Dale Timmermann on Vandalia’s 10 Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibits. Those exhibits tells stories about Lincoln’s time in Vandalia.
Three of the exhibits have been installed, and the other 10 will be erected as soon as the weather allows.
Welcoming the guests at the Statehouse were Vandalia’s Abraham Lincoln, Abe Clymer, and Mary Todd Lincoln, portrayed by Clymer’s sister-in-law, Marilyn Cole of Vandalia.
The Statehouse was the last of six performances by Clymer and Cole. They made three presentations at Vandalia Elementary School in the morning, then went down to Rend Lake for two performances before returning to town for the Statehouse event.