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Voting is open: Help name our state's '200 greatest'

THE ISSUE: Illinois to pick state’s ‘200 greatest’ to mark bicentennial

OUR VIEW: Online poll a great way to spread, sustain the celebration

When life hands you lemons, per the old expression, make lemonade.

What to do if you bear the responsibility for the lemons? Well, squeeze hard and add the water and sugar anyway.

As you might know by now, Illinois is in the midst of its bicentennial year, a year-long celebration pointed toward honoring Dec. 3, 1818, the day this territory gained full statehood, the 21st admitted to the Union. Of course, you might not know this by now because the celebration isn’t that big of a deal so far, which can largely be chalked up to history taking a backseat to several years of dysfunctional state government.

When the window was open to plan a proper party, Illinois instead was in the midst of nearly two years without a formal operating budget. Essential services took major hits, unpaid bills piled up to the tune of billions of dollars and it was between difficult and impossible to argue any resources should be expended on a bicentennial celebration the likes of which genuinely seemed like a good time in nearby states of similar vintage.

That said, the anniversary arrived anyway, and so now certain corners are trying to make the best of the situation. Of local note is this summer’s Walldogs mass-mural painting celebration in Streator, which also coincides with the city’s sesquicentennial and the art movement’s 25th anniversary. But more broadly, today seemed a fine opportunity to salute the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, The Springfield State Journal-Register and the Illinois Bicentennial Commission for embarking on a low-cost plan to celebrate all things Illinois with a very modern solution — an internet poll.

As of Monday, voting opened in the first category of the “Best Of Illinois” contest. Every two weeks, a new category opens and the results of the prior poll are announced. The end result, according to promotional materials, is to crowdsource a list of the  “200 greatest people, place and things in state history.”

The first category is the best movies set or filmed in Illinois. Anyone who wants to can vote for up to five movies per day at illinoistop200.com — clicking in the first selection brings up a prompt to enter an email address, then a hometown. Other categories will include top museums, musicians, scenic spots and inventions. By early December voters will have selected 10 favorites in 20 categories.

Alan Lowe, ALPLM director, said “Illinois has made huge contributions to the world” and it’s time to celebrate them, and we fully agree. Running these polls all year long is a great way to generate buzz about the things that make our state special without expending major public resources in a fashion that would fairly draw criticism about wasting much-needed tax dollars.

The website was built to make it easy for people to share their voting choices on social media, which should help raise the profile somewhat. It’s an easy opportunity to celebrate the state, and that’s all anyone ever really needed to stem from this anniversary.

We encourage our readers to participate in the voting, and we’ll make sure to share results every two weeks as the Journal-Register and Associated Press make them available. It’s all supposed to be fun, and everyone has a few minutes to spare to get in on the party.

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