Pritzker to join Rauner for bicentennial gala

Venue shifts to Navy Pier for Dec. 3 celebration due to weak ticket sales at United Center

 Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker will join in the Dec. 3 celebration of the Illinois bicentennial. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker will join in the Dec. 3 celebration of the Illinois bicentennial. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Illinois is coming together to celebrate its bicentennial.

And there’s no better proof of that than Monday’s announcement that Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker will join incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner to preside over the formal 200th birthday celebration Dec. 3.

“There is no better place to start uniting than at an event that celebrates the greatness of Illinois,” Rauner said in a statement from a news release issued Monday.

“Just as Illinoisans of all backgrounds have united and pushed our state forward for 200 years, we will celebrate our bicentennial as one Illinois,” Pritzker added. “We are the land of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama, home to the world's leading companies and universities, an economic powerhouse of the Midwest and agriculture powerhouse of our country. Together, we will ring in our third century with hope and optimism and strive to build on the progress of the 200 years before us.”

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“We will celebrate our bicentennial as one Illinois.”

Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Otherwise, the program is expected to remain the same from what was announced in early October, although the Governor’s Office of the Bicentennial did add Monday that the venue would shift from Chicago’s United Center to Navy Pier, a change “necessitated in part by weaker than expected tickets sales during the month preceding the election.”

The headline act is a “Gettysburg Address Rap” performed by Miguel Cervantes, star of the Chicago production of the musical “Hamilton,” who will pay homage to Abraham Lincoln’s most renowned speech. Others stars committed to attend include newscaster Bill Kurtis, actor Joe Mantegna, and Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, as well as blues musician Buddy Guy.

REO Speedwagon will also perform, having recently been voted the best musicians in the history of the state in an online poll.

Even so, it couldn’t generate enough ticket sales at $50 and $75 to keep the event at the United Center.

“The bicentennial celebration has been staged without the benefit of any state funding,” said Stuart Layne, executive director of the event. “This move means that we can stay on budget and still put on a memorable party for this landmark occasion.”

Those who bought tickets can use them to attend the event in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, still scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3, or contact Ticketmaster for a refund.