Next week will see the kickoff of a yearlong celebration of the 125th anniversary of the city of Merced, once a rural settlement and railroad town.
The festivities begin on Founders’ Day, next Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m. at the more than 80-year-old Merced Theatre. Organizers say they will have 800 cupcakes, a huge birthday card and a film to mark the opening of celebrations – all at no cost to revelers.
“We really want to celebrate our history in Merced, the things that we’ve accomplished and what we’re looking forward to in the future,” Councilman Mike Murphy said. “It’s a big deal. It’s 125 years.”
The roughly 10-minute film to be shown that night features photos from Merced’s Historical Society and Merced Camera Club. It will be followed by Mervyn Leroy’s “Local Boy Makes Good.” The 1931 film, about a timid college student who has a crush on the local track star’s girlfriend, was the first shown in Merced Theatre.
Continuing the theme, cars from about the same era will be parked outside of the theater. The intersection near the Merced Theatre, at Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, will be blocked off beginning at 3 p.m..
Murphy said a commemorative photo will be taken featuring the cars and possibly actors wearing clothes from the same decade. “It’s kind of a re-creation of what the theater could have looked like,” he said.
But Merced’s history stretches back even further.
On April 1, 1889, voted to incorporate Merced as a city by a vote of 300 to 59, according to Sarah Lim, museum director for the Merced County Courthouse Museum. City trustees and other officials also were elected.
The construction of the Central Pacific Railroad in 1872 had led to the birth of the town. Railroad agent and town planner Charles Henry Huffman, who had vast land holdings in the area, choose the location for the town, Lim said.
Organizers have been meeting for about five months to plan the year of celebrations, which includes concerts.
“We want the community to come together to celebrate something positive,” said Mary-Michal Rawling, a chairwoman for celebrations, “and to really celebrate what an amazing place Merced is and how amazing the people are.”
Organizers ask all comers to bring “small trinkets” that are representative of Merced for a time capsule that will be buried for 50 years, Rawling said. She cautioned that not all items will fit in the capsule.
, People who attend next Tuesday’s event will be able to buy a copy of the short film on Merced’s history and a copy of the commemorative photo for $20. Proceeds will help pay for the events planned later this year.
Organizers have set up a Facebook page called “Celebrate Merced: Past, Present & Future,” where people can find updated information on more anniversary events later in the year, including a concert in May and a revival of Mercy Gulch Days in September.