Camden celebrating 200th birthday

Submitted by Debbie Mason

CAMDEN — While Camden’s big Bicentennial celebration isn’t until Sept. 1, the Camden Bicentennial Planning Committee will host a 200th birthday celebration at noon on July 4 at the Bicentennial Park on Central Avenue to commemorate the official recording of the town’s legal description and plot on July 4, 1818.

Camden’s 200th Birthday Celebration and Pet Parade will include proclamations, viewing of the time capsule, cupcakes, new self-guided historical walking tours, bicentennial items and snacks for purchase and a pet parade (with prizes for best personality, cutest and best-dressed pets. Pets of all kinds (leashed or caged, of course) are welcome to participate with their owners. Parade line up begins at 11:30 a.m. behind Camden’s Town Hall.

This year’s pet parade honors Camden’s centennial celebration held in the early 1900s. That pet parade was a highlight of the event and included a variety of domesticated and farm animals and even two zebras Otto Fornshell had acquired from the Ringling Brothers Circus. First prize went to a pony and two colts, second to a dog in a small car being pulled by another dog and third to a goat hitched to a decorated cart.

The centennial pet parade was one of many events in the week-long celebration which drew what the Preble County News (PCN) described as “the largest crowds of people ever gathered in Camden” with an estimated 10,000 on the final night. In addition to the pet parade, there were contests, exhibits, games and various local and out-of-town attractions.

The celebration included the “human spider” who scaled the three-story Bohn Building, amusement rides and nightly entertainment by local Lou Sterzenbach’s Camden Band. And on one night, a Mardi Gras. Visitors in costume arrived from what the PCN reported after as “(n)early every town within a radius of fifty miles. Every available parking space was taken.” It was a large crowd, prizes were awarded in several costume categories and PCN proclaimed, “the Mardi Gras was far beyond expectations and New Orleans has nothing on Camden and its centennial visitors.”

Contests for children included a soapbox derby, pie-eating contest, sack race, bicycle race, greased pole and a three-legged race. For adults, there were chicken chasing, egg rolling, fattest man/women, tallest man/woman, shortest man, nail-driving for women, greased pig, oldest couple and biggest family. Other events included agriculture, produce, cooking and baking competitions and a rocking chair marathon.

At the conclusion of the centennial celebration, the PCN announced it was, “without a doubt, the grandest as well as the most largely attended week’s celebration ever held in Camden.”

Camden’s 200th Birthday Celebration and Pet Parade on July 4 may not be quite as grand, it will certainly be a great time for Camden residents and guests to celebrate this important milestone. So get your pets ready and join the parade and celebration. Details can be found at

Submitted by Debbie Mason