Junior League of Longview seeks to educate, engage children in sesquicentennial

As Longview continues its sesquicentennial celebration, one particular program aims to involve the community’s children.

The Longview 150 Passport Program, designed by the Junior League of Longview, will allow children the opportunity to learn more about Longview’s local businesses and the influence each has had in shaping the city’s history.

“We (were) very honored that we get to host the sesquicentennial ball, but we also wanted to make sure that our children are learning what makes Longview special and unique,” said Ashley Perkins, co-chairwoman of the Longview 150 Passport Program. The Sesquicentennial Ball was on Feb. 22.

Beginning March 7 and running through March 21, preschool and elementary children will have the opportunity to participate in various hands-on, educational activities at participating organizations in downtown Longview. Each activity will include an educational concept, designed to teach the children about the business and how it has affected Longview’s history.

Participating children will receive a passport booklet at the beginning of the program, designed to replicate the vintage train passports of years ago. Program co-chairwoman Kelly Belt said the railroad has played an integral role in Longview’s history, so this is a way to honor its significance.

“Each location will have its own train stub,” Belt said. “There will be a perforated tab to tear off on each page, just like you would in the old days with your train ticket, and they will leave that stub at the location.” The stubs will be entered into various raffles, giving the children an opportunity to win prizes donated from local businesses. The prizes range from museum memberships and gift cards to theater tickets and birthday party packages.

“Our vision was to make it a walking tour, where you could hit multiple stops at once,” Belt said. The program has 11 participating businesses, all of which are based downtown.

The Junior League of Longview is hosting a block party from 4-8 p.m. March 6 at Longview World of Wonders to kick off the event.

“The adults have the sesquicentennial ball, but for the children, this will be their ball to celebrate Longview’s 150th birthday,” Perkins said.

In addition to the other events they have planned during the two week period, several participating businesses have collaborated to host a Family Fun Day from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. March 12.

LongviewWOW is offering a reduced $4 admission for the day; the Longview Public Library will have free storytelling, and the Longview Symphony is featuring a free instrument petting zoo. The Gregg County Historical Museum is offering free admission and the Longview Museum of Fine Arts will host a free scavenger hunt plus a special art project.

To finish out the program, Whataburger of East Texas is hosting a transportation expo May 23 at Maude Cobb.

“If you think about it, the kids attending this passport program will be the adults planning the bicentennial,” Belt says. “So we want to make this something that sticks out in their minds. We want to make this impactful for them, so that if they haven’t already, they’ll develop a love for Longview’s culture and history.”

Belt said she is honored to have helped develop this “once-in-a-lifetime” program.

“We’re always looking forward, thinking of ways we can have an even greater impact,” Belt said.

Belt moved to Longview in 2012. This is her fifth year with the Junior League of Longview and she currently serves as treasurer on the board. She’s also served on the board of Keep Longview Beautiful and last fall opened ActionCOACH of Longview with her husband.

Perkins said the passport program is a great way to pass on the history and traditions of Longview to the next generation.

“With everything Junior League does, we want to make it accessible to all,” Perkins said. “We want to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to celebrate and cherish Longview’s history.”

Perkins moved to Longview in 2013. This is her third year as a member of the Junior League of Longview. She serves on the Junior League admissions and communications committees and in the past has served on Junior League programs Kids in the Kitchen and Read as One. She is a contributing writer with East Texas Moms and is the programs and volunteer director at LongviewWOW.

“I’m a Longview transplant, but I’m grateful for my roots that taught me to embrace community and celebrate history when appropriate,” Perkins said. “Birthdays should be celebrated, and the passport program hopes Longview’s youngest citizens can experience this 150th birthday in a historical and meaningful way.”

For more information, visit jllongview.org.