The Chester County Commissioners took the first step today toward planning the county’s celebration of the nation’s 250th birthday in 2026. The first order of business: the establishment of the America250PA Chester County Commission.
“We have so much to be proud of in Chester County including the contributions we have made and continue to make to America’s history,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz. “We are opening the application process, looking for 10 to 30 ‘America and Pennsylvania Proud’ residents who want to help us commemorate this 250th birthday, Chester County style.
“Chester County already has a ‘seat at the table’ for Pennsylvania’s plans to celebrate America 250, as Commissioner Kichline serves on the Commonwealth’s County Advisory Committee. She has already met with state-wide partners and members of our county’s historical community, and will continue to represent Chester County and promote the many initiatives we will be planning over the next few years.”
The Commissioners want people to apply for the America 250PA Chester County Commission over the next four weeks. Further information, and the application can be found at chesco.org/America250.
“Our plan is to formally appoint members to the commission in March and we are looking for representatives of all ages and from all areas of the county,” said Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell. “Beyond those appointments, there will be other organizing opportunities for volunteers to get involved. This will be a special time for all of us, and we expect there to be a lot of interest in participating.”
Chester County Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary said planning begins now because it takes a long time to produce ideas and coordinate events this elaborate, particularly with a variety of partners involved. He added that the celebration will cover closer to 300 years because Chester County was active long before representatives from the 13 colonies gathered in Philadelphia to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
“There are lots of elements of our history that need to be emphasized, whether it’s the iron and steel heritage that we have here or the abolitionists and Underground Railroad movement,” O’Leary said.
Commission members will serve for up to three years. The County Commissioners will also designate a chair and a vice-chair.
Chester County is coordinating its activities with the state-wide group, America250PA. Two representatives from that organization, Marissa Gioffre and Jaclyn Victor, joined today’s Commissioners’ public meeting virtually to discuss similar celebration planning across the Commonwealth. In their comments, they thanked Chester County for its support.
Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline, who represents the county on the America250PA County Advisory Committee, and who is a board member of the Chester County History Center, said the local commission will work on a parallel track, balancing county events with participation in state-wide activities.
“In the short term, the commission will determine where Chester County wants to plant a liberty tree, part of Pennsylvania’s Liberty Tree program. That planting will happen this May. Similarly, they will chart our approach to the Bells Across PA program. Those are more symbolic activities,” Kichline said. “The commission will then have input into a historic heritage tourism plan. I am excited to see the kinds of ideas committee members come up with.”
Unlike Philadelphia, where the historic activities will be concentrated in the area around Independence Hall, Chester County’s activities will be spread over a larger area. The commission’s task will be to unite heritage tourism sites for people to visit and tell the story of Chester County.
The commission will meet quarterly and may branch out to form subcommittees and engage in special programs, events, educational projects or fundraising activities. The Commissioners said the public’s involvement in planning activities will be key to the success of Chester County’s commemoration. The commission will also collaborate directly with stakeholder institutions and municipalities.
America250PA is focusing on 14 areas around which to create celebratory activities, and Chester County plans to follow this. One of them is agriculture. Pennsylvania has 59,000 farms and the largest rural population in the nation. Chester County fits right into that narrative with its vibrant agricultural community.
Other categories include arts and culture; commerce and workforce; diversity; education and innovation; the environment; government; healthcare; history and preservation; legacy; nature; military; veteran’s and women; technology; and tourism.
For more information on how to get involved, please visit chesco.org/America250.