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WL 175th anniversary comes to an end
by Jacob Lane · December 18, 2013

"Welcome to another free and festive gathering, our 43rd for the 175th Committee," said Ken Donnelly, moments after taking the mic at the community center Saturday, Dec. 7.

As he looked over the large audience there was an aura of sadness and joy that filled the air. This may have been the 43rd event, but it was also the grand finale to a year-long celebration that redefined life in West Liberty.

In January 2013 the 175th Committee, comprised of around 20 of West Liberty's most dedicated residents, began a journey that spanned the course of a year. The kickoff event heard words from Mayor Chad Thomas, while Mayor Elect Robert Hartman took the honor at the finale.

"I'm glad to have been able to serve West Liberty, and I'm proud to be up here," Hartman said, "West Liberty is such a unique community. It doesn't just involve the city, but rural residents, farmers and outside cities. That's what really makes the community."

"I really want to thank the 175th Committee for all the work they've done," he added.

The committee hosted special events, sometimes more than one in a week, that focused on West Liberty history and promoted local businesses, organizations and people. Bob Cline, another prominent member of the 175th, hosted a monthly video series at the community center.

He took the stage after the introduction by Donnelly, only to make the 175th leader come back up the stairs for a special certificate honoring Donnelly's hard work throughout the year.

"He has been an energetic basis," said Cline. "Ken, the community is very grateful for all you've done."

Memorable 175th events included a day dedicated to the train depot and its rich history in West Liberty, panels that included past WL fire chiefs and prominent WL war veterans. However, the 175th was also involved with the beautification of the community.

"The first time we came to the city council they probably thought, 'What are they doing?', said Donnelly, "The committee voted to continue working on a cleaner, greener West Liberty."

Donnelly also took a moment to thank 29 organizations, 10 businesses and over 70 different people involved with the successful year. Cline also thanked key members, including Tom Barr, Vince Ottaway and Al Wilson.

"Anytime you ask Al to do something he says no problem," said Cline, "He's probably the best authentic historian in West Liberty."

The winner of a special quilt that the Chamber of Commerce had been using to raise funds for the 175th committee through a raffle was chosen. With WL pictures woven into the fabric, the quilt went to Marion Nelson. Another smaller quilt went to Kelly Morrison.

The final event had several tables filled with memorabilia from the 175th year, including the Fathers' Day car show and clippings from the WL Index's coverage of the year. Finger food, varying from shrimp to vegetables, was served for free.

A three-piece classical band from Iowa City played several pieces by Bach and various Christmas tunes to help set the mood. Over 100 people attended the finale.

However, the final event was less about the present, and more about the past. After cake was served to everyone in attendance, Donnelly led the community in a grand chorus of Happy Birthday for West Liberty.

As the community filtered out of the community center, there was hope that maybe, just maybe, West Liberty's 200th anniversary will be just as special as this one.

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