Two hundred years after New London founder William Jameson discovered the spring that fueled the community's prosperity, residents gear up for a history-filled celebration with bicentennial festivities Thursday and the 34th New London Park Days from Friday to Sunday.
Thursday, May 30 marks the town's official bicentennial, starting a weekend reflecting 200 years of heritage, said New London Deputy Clerk Carla Burton. Throughout the year, members of the bicentennial committee and New London Park Days committee joined together to plan a weekend with historic performances and displays, live entertainment, contests and activities.
The New London Lions Club Fish Fry begins at 5 p.m. on the Ralls County Courthouse lawn. Paula Halliday will deliver the bicentennial welcome at 5:30 p.m., followed by an ice cream social and patriotic music performed by members of First Baptist Church 6 p.m. A period costume contest at 7 p.m. will evoke New London's past along with a slide show of historic photos and a quilt show in the courthouse hallway.
On Friday, New London Park Days begin with craft booths, food vendors and the carnival at 11 a.m. Cpt. Rapier Wits Pirate an Fire will take the stage at 4 p.m., followed by live music performances by NOWAKE at 5 p.m., Ryan Bramblett and Scott Donegan at 7:30 p.m. and Borderline at 9 p.m.
Saturdays events include a baby contest and 5K race at 8 a.m., a parade at 11 a.m., a classic car cruise at noon, lawn games at 1 p.m. and a Mr. Legs contest at 3 p.m. Live music will be performed by The Flood Brothers at 5 p.m., Seth Wade at 7:30 p.m. and That 80's Band at 9 p.m. A cornhole tournament will begin with registration at noon Sunday and competition at 1 p.m. at Ruth Roy Wright Park.
City Clerk Millie Powell enjoyed compiling the history of New London and sharing it with students who were curious about the town’s origins, she said. Mayor Mary Jane White also looked forward to celebrating a special bicentennial milestone with visitors of all generations, at a time of celebration for neighboring communities like Hannibal, Louisiana and Palmyra.
According to Powell’s research, Jameson came to the area now known as New London in 1800, in a flat-bottom boat staffed by four oarsmen. When he reached the Auhaha — which means laughing waters, known today as Salt River — he followed a small creek to its origin, a spring in the present-day northwest section of New London. Jameson offered gifts to the area’s Saukee and Fox Native American tribes. He incorporated the town of New London May 30, 1819, with its name derived from London being east of the states, and New London would be west of the states.
The spring fueled the town’s growth as an early hub town and stagecoach stop between Iowa and St. Louis. The town was named the Ralls County seat in 1820 due to its ability to sustain future growth.
Today, the spring is still visible as a small pond.
As the weekend-long celebration draw closer, Burton said she looks forward to seeing the culmination of months of planning to bring the bicentennial celebration and New London Park Days to fruition.
"I'm anxious to see how everything will turn out," she said. "It's exciting."
For more information, visitnewlondonparkdays.org or search for New London Park Days on Facebook.