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Panel considering various ideas for War of 1812 bicentennial

Will President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a member of the British royal family shake hands in the middle of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge 18 months from now?

That's just one of the ideas being floated for the opening of the War of 1812 bicentennial observance in June 2012.

"There's been all sorts of ideas about what we could do for an opening ceremony," said Brian E. Merrett, chief executive officer of the Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council.

Nothing is definite about the ceremony to mark two centuries of peace along the Niagara Frontier that have followed the U.S. attempts to invade Canada through the Niagara Peninsula and the resultant burning of settlements on both sides of the border, including Buffalo, Lewiston and Toronto, to name a few.

Merrett made his comments after the Niagara County Legislature appropriated $5,000 earlier this month to assist the Council in its efforts to mark the 200th anniversary of the war.

Legislature Chairman William L. Ross said the money was left over from the county's annual business and community enhancement grants program, which is funded every year by a payment to the county from the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission.

"We couldn't take it out of any property tax. We wouldn't," Ross said.

Until the City of Niagara Falls came up with a $15,000 contribution last week, Niagara County was the only government on the American side of the border to make any donation to the War of 1812 bicentennial. This is the county's second $5,000 contribution.

"I think it shows the County Legislature is interested in what we're doing, and it was gratefully received," said Merrett, a Canadian who lives in Hartland and works in Thorold, Ont.

"It's to support one of the most historic things that ever happened in this county," said Ross, C-Wheatfield.

Canadian provincial and federal governments have appropriated $19.5 million so far for the war anniversary.

Merrett said his organization is seeking private funding on the American side.

"We're taking a broader approach. We understand the pressure governmental agencies are under," he said.

The Great Lakes Seaway Trail has $120,000 in federal funding for tourism promotions connected with the 1812 bicentennial, but Gov. David A. Paterson twice vetoed state funding for a bicentennial commission.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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