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John Doar History Trail celebration kicks off Thursday

The final pieces of the John Doar History Trail — most notably the interpretive panels along the route — will be put in place on Saturday, Aug. 26, just prior to the grand opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia

The John Doar History Trail will open with the reveal of the interpretive panels along the trail, on Saturday, Aug. 26 following the grand opening ceremony at 10 a.m.

"I want to say how grateful we are for all the people of New Richmond did for our family and for Dad. We are very lucky to be from New Richmond," said Robert Doar. "Dad was very loyal to New Richmond and much of what made him good came from New Richmond. The trail tells a story and people who walk it will come away with a better understanding of our history. That's a good thing."

The community celebration will span three days, from Thursday, Aug. 24 to Saturday, Aug. 26, with a community picnic at from 5:30-8 p.m. on Thursday at the New Richmond Heritage Center.

"Today, more than ever, to celebrate diversity and community is something that is needed," said New Richmond City Administrator Mike Darrow. "I think the thing we are most looking forward to is the Thursday night event with everyone coming together."

The free event will include a menu of hot dogs, chips, fruit, cookies, and bottled water. Attendees are invited to tour the historic buildings. At dusk, an outdoor showing of the Oscar-nominated motion picture "Selma" will take place. Shuttle services will be available from the parking lot at WITC — New Richmond's campus throughout the event. The evening's activities should conclude by 10 p.m. The event is sponsored by New Richmond Utilities and a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

"No formal speeches, no fancy clothes. Just a bunch of people coming together, having some hot dogs and watching a movie," Darrow said. "I think that is symbolic of what it takes and what the Civil Rights Movement was about: treating people with respect and dignity. That is the overall theme of this event for those three days."

A photo and memorabilia exhibit will also be on display at the Civic Center from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, and it will be open again on Friday until 7:30 p.m. The exhibit will include several photographs, newspaper articles, and videos generously loaned by the Doar family; Friday Memorial Library; Doar, Drill & Skow; RCU; New Richmond Heritage Center; and the Wisconsin Historical Society. The exhibit will focus on John Doar, but will also include several photographs of the New Richmond community and the Freedom Summer project. The Doar family will also bring John Doar's Medal of Freedom, which will be on display in the exhibit.

"The exhibit is coming together, but it was a challenge to get all of these historical pieces and make sure that they are safe and being cared for correctly," City of New Richmond Management Analyst Noah Wiedenfeld said. "We will be showing a video throughout the day, which will include video greetings from people who weren't able be there in person. There will also be videos with different interviews with John and different speeches of his."

The main event on Friday will be the pair of panel discussions 1-5 p.m. at the WITC — New Richmond campus, featuring several prominent figures who worked with John Doar during the Civil Rights Movement, in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in the 1960s and members of Doar's legal team from the impeachment inquiry of President Richard Nixon.

"It is a pretty amazing group. The work that those people did and then also think about their age, it is pretty rare to get that group together," Wiedenfeld said. "The fact that they are all coming here to Wisconsin out of respect for John Doar is pretty amazing."

Advance registration is requested by calling 715-246-4268, completing the online form found at newrichmondwi.gov, or emailing nwiedenfeld@newrichmondwi.gov. Full speaker biographies and the event poster are available on the City website, as well as on page A11 in this week's edition of the News.

"This is an excellent way to remind citizens and to expose new generations to the groundbreaking work John did," said family member MaryKay Rice. "He did what was right in difficult, if not seemingly impossible circumstances. His work is something for which we should be proud. We are hopeful it will provide an inspiration in some form."

There will also be a showing of the motion picture "Hidden Figures" at the Old Gem Theater at 10 a.m. The Friday Memorial Library will host a book discussion for families at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 29. Several copies are available in regular and young reader editions through a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

"It has been a four- to five-year journey. John was able to, while he was still alive, and Tom as well, were able to see some very preliminary concepts. So that was very meaningful for them to have that legacy," Darrow said. "What the Doars have said time and time again, is that they want this to be a celebration of community. They want the trail to be reflective of gathering spaces for this and future generations."

According to City Operations Manager Michael Mroz, the history trail is almost complete, with the only thing left to put up being the brackets on top of the stones that will hold the panels, as well as the panels themselves. Mroz said the City wishes to hold off installing the panels, which will take about 20 minutes to install, until the last moment to make the big reveal on Saturday morning even more special.

"To be able to work on something that is going to preserve his name in the City of New Richmond, and to be able to play a little part in that, is meaningful," Mroz said. "I think the guys appreciate the work and what he's done, and I think they see the value in why it is being done. It is kind of neat because it is something that will be here for awhile."

The ceremony, which will start at 10 a.m., will take place on West First Street, near the dam, where the first interpretive panel is located. The trail includes six interpretive panels framed on limestone, decorative benches, landscaping, and lighting. Speakers will include Mayor Fred Horne, Congressman Sean Duffy, Robert "Bob" Moses, and the Doar family. Light refreshments from Table 65 will be served following the event at 10:45 a.m. at The Space, sponsored by Doar, Drill & Skow. Shuttles will be available from the parking lot at the WITC-New Richmond campus. Additional parking is available on Minnesota Avenue or in the public parking lot behind the Civic Center. In case of bad weather, the ceremony will be moved inside at The Space

"The idea was presented about three years ago. John was able to provide input on the trail before his passing in November 2014. John was a humble man with great integrity," Rice said. "John requested a low-key approach to the trail. I recall him telling me 'let's make this about the outcome of the work, not about the man.'

"With this in mind, committee and family members and city staff went to work. Dozens of ideas and concepts were debated until ultimately ending on the finished project. Several hundred of mostly donated hours were put in by committee members, city staff, and the family to bring us to the finished product."

For more information on the celebration, as well as updates on the various events, visit newrichmondwi.gov or follow the City of New Richmond on Facebook and Twitter.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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