At the heart of the Perry Sesquicentennial Celebration was the recognition of “150 years of peaceful borders” between the U.S. and Canada.
The big event was the presentation of the Erie historama “From These Shores,” featuring a cast of 600 actors performing on the area’s largest outdoor stage at Academy Stadium. The pageant was a series of sketches reflecting Erie’s history and culture. An on-stage recreation of the Battle of Lake Erie complete with fireworks closed each of the 24 performances.
For opening ceremonies, NBC’s The Tonight Show star Jack Parr presented Miss Sesquicentennial (Joan Bierley) to Governor William Scranton, who crowned her queen. That evening the governor lit the spotlights on the refurbished Perry Memorial Monument on Presque Isle.
Renovations to Perry’s Flagship Niagara, delayed by the post-depression economy, were finished just in time for the first day. Dignitaries, including Governor John Chafee, of Perry’s home state of Rhode Island, rode in a motorcade to Dobbins Landing and opened the Niagara exhibit.
Adding to the Sesquicentennial celebrations was once again a plan for Erie’s future. Internationally renowned planner Maurice Rotival, a native of France, was hired by a group of Erie businessmen to draft a vision for revitalizing the Erie region.
Rotival envisioned Erie as the centerpiece of a “modern, commercial, and cultural center serving Northwestern Pennsylvania… with a Bayfront Expressway, and a future built around the waterfront and a revitalized downtown.”
The Rotival plan was instrumental in creating the Water Authority, the Port Authority, the Airport Authority, and insuring Erie’s connection to Pittsburgh, Interstate 79.