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Events planned throughout the summer to mark state's 150th

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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's 150th birthday has come and gone, but the celebration - and history lesson - lasts all summer.

That is the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission's message as it touts hundreds of events scheduled around the state in the coming weeks and months to commemorate 150 years of statehood.

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More than 90 events are scheduled yet this month and another 500 are planned for July, said Jane Leonard, the commission's executive director. At least one event is planned in each of Minnesota's 87 counties.

"This is such a great opportunity and really a historic milestone that a lot of people are taking advantage of," Leonard said Wednesday.

Some events are a part of city and town festivals, while others take place at state parks. The Minnesota Historical Society also has scheduled sesquicentennial events at each of its 26 sites and museums around the state, said Angela Casselton of the historical society.

A 400-mile ox cart journey from St. Vincent in far northwest Minnesota to St. Paul begins July 1. The trip -- similar to one made 50 years ago to mark the state's centennial -- will pass through Bemidji and follow the Mississippi River.

All of the events are leading up to a 12-day celebration at Minnesota State Fair in August.

Not everyone views the sesquicentennial as a reason to celebrate. American Indians protested last month at the Capitol, claiming stories of their past have been ignored in favor of more pleasant aspects of Minnesota's history.

Leonard said the commission reached out to American Indian tribes and has tried to use the sesquicentennial as a platform for a well-rounded history lesson.

"People are listening right now because it's the sesquicentennial," Leonard said. "And so let's use that time to learn not only the celebratory aspects of statehood but the things that happened as we became a state that weren't so great - grim, in fact, for some people."

Statehood day was celebrated May 11 and a series of events were held at the Capitol the following weekend - just as the Minnesota Legislature neared the end of its session. That gave citizens a chance to see lawmakers in action.

"It emphasized the importance of statehood," Leonard said.

Five cities representing different geographical regions of the state were named capital for a day last month. They included Bemidji, Thief River Falls and Detroit Lakes.

The commission struggled to secure $4 million - from the Legislature and other sources - it thought was needed for the sesquicentennial.

As of last month it had received $3 million in cash and donations to spend on the sesquicentennial activities, Leonard said, but no events were canceled.

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