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Normal

Picture this: History boards part of Normal's 150th celebration

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NORMAL — Cheri Valentine made her debut on the trapeze at the age of 3 with her family, the Flying Valentinos.

Her feet were planted firmly on the ground Friday as a brief history of her family debuted on one of five “history presentation boards” unveiled in the Special Collections area of Illinois State University's Milner Library.

The history boards are part of a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the town of Normal. 

Valentine, who has worked as an administrative clerk at ISU for 20 years, said she is happy to see the project “keep their history alive and the circus history of Bloomington-Normal alive.” Another completed board relates the history of the Gamma Phi Circus, established in 1920 at ISU.

Circus posters on the walls, part of ISU's circus collection, and cookies decorated like circus tents added to the festivity of the occasion — a kickoff for the sesquicentennial celebration, that also will include a Normal History Fair Sept. 12-13 and the transformation of uptown Normal into a circus Sept. 11-14.

Friday's event was a celebration of the strong ties between Normal and ISU, too.

“The town has been shaped by the university and the university by the town,” said Mayor Chris Koos, citing their continuing ties.

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The town's name comes from Illinois State Normal University, founded three years before the town. The university dropped "Normal" from its name 51 years ago.

ISU President Larry Dietz, who also participated on Friday, said it's customary for university presidents and mayors of the towns in which they are located to say nice things about each other.

“The difference here is we mean it,” said Dietz, adding the success of the university and the town “has come in tandem.”

"Our campus community thrives because of the welcoming atmosphere of Normal," Dietz said.

Other history boards shown Friday detailed the histories of Fell Park, Broadview Mansion (later home to the Immanuel Bible Foundation) and the Normal History Club.

University archivist April Anderson is helping with the history board project.

Town planner Mercy Davidson said about 20 to 25 history boards are in progress, but there is no limit to how many will be made. All will be placed in a digital format and permanently archived at the McLean Count Museum of History.

Businesses or organizations who want a framed version, like the ones displayed Friday, would have to pay $90, Davidson said. More information on the the History Board Program is available at www.normal.org/150boards.

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota

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