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Happy Birthday, Harry!

April 17, 2012

A Harry Truman reenactor greets a visitor outside the Jackson County courthouse that houses the restored Truman courtroom and office.

Forget that bunch of politicians wrangling about who will be our nation’s next president. If many folks had their druthers, we’d magically bring back our nation’s 33rd president. This man left office with dismal approval ratings in the low 30s and yet now polls among the top five presidents who ever served. Of course we are talking about Harry S. Truman, the famous Missourian who was born in Lamar, Missouri and raised, married, lived, retired and died in Independence.

Harry was a sociable guy who loved a good party, so it’s only fitting his adopted hometown celebrates his birthday in style. The historic Independence Square is the gathering place for those who wish to honor Truman, with the party set for Saturday, May 5 (his actual birthday is May 8). You need not wait for an invitation – everyone is invited!

So, what can you look forward to? Here’s a quick rundown on this All-American hometown birthday party, sponsored by the City of Independence, National Park Service, Independence Chamber of Commerce, Antiques on the Square, Harry S. Truman Library and Museum and Independence Square Association.

  • Wave your flag and hold your campaign poster high (both passed out to the crowd) with the big Shriner’s parade, kicking off at 10 a.m.
  • With a nod to Harry’s famous “Buck Stops Here” sign, the top tourism attractions of the city are rolling back their prices to the 1940s by charging just a buck a person all day. To get around, you can hop on the charming cherry red Truman trolley, also priced at just a buck for all-day rides. The trolley  will circle from the Square to and from fascinating sites such as the National Frontier Trails Museum, Chicago & Alton Depot,  Bingham-Waggoner Estate, 1859 Jail and Marshal’s Home, Trinity Episcopal Church (where Harry and Bess married, offering free tours from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) , Truman Home and Truman Library.  Also offering dollar admission, but not on the trolley route, are the charming Puppetry Arts Institute at 11025 E. Winner Road  and the not-to-be-missed Leila’s Hair Museum at 1333 S. Noland Road.
  • Walk back to the late 1940s by strolling past cars of the era parked around the Square and exploring shops and

    See classic cars, such as this one, parked outside Clinton's on the square.

    restaurants on the Square. You can pop into an antique store for an art deco jewelry necklace or pull your stool up to the old-fashioned ice cream counter at Clinton’s Soda Fountain as you watch the soda jerk make a root beer phosphate. Stores will be decorated in vintage style to transform you back to the Truman era and will sell Truman-themed merchandise.

  • From noon to 1 p.m., visit with historic reenactors on the Square, including “Harry,” “Bess” and other characters that will make you swear you’re walking down Main Street way back when. See a handmade Truman marionette demonstration and enjoy listening to the jump and jive of classic groups such as the Andrews Sisters.
  • While you’re at the Truman Library, make sure to go downstairs and catch their new long-running special exhibit, “Tracing the Trumans” on display till the end of the year. You’ll see such treasures as the 1883 wedding dress of Bess’s mother, Mamma Truman’s shotgun, poppies sent home by Captain Harry Truman from the battlefields of World War I and Margaret’s baby carriage.
  • Take your best shot around town with your camera, as May 5 is the kick-off of the Tourism and Examiner newspaper “Images of Independence” photo contest, which will run through Labor Day. For details, including rules, registration,  information on cash prizes and directions on downloading digital pictures, go to and look for the contest logo.

Although a visit to Independence is a great family friendly destination any time of the year, spending the day on May 5 wishing the great man a Happy Birthday guarantees a fun-filled, wallet-friendly experience everyone in your family is sure to remember.

Intrigued? For a complete list of attractions, events, suggestions for lodging or to view our interactive brochure, go to or call 800-748-7323.

By Janeen Aggen, media relations representative for Independence Tourism; photos courtesy Independence Tourism


Missouri Hidden Treasure: Although it’s free year-round and therefore doesn’t participate in the buck admission price offered by other attractions for Truman’s birthday, don’t miss a real hidden treasure for kids in Independence: the hands on interactive Children Peace Pavilion. Located in the Community of Christ Auditorium at 1001 W. Walnut, the Peace Pavilion offers a chance for kids to explore ways to achieve peace. Turn them loose and let them choose from art, music, puppets, mazes, computer games, fantasy play places and much more. You can easily spend an hour or two at this one of a kind children’s museum.

Enter to win a Missouri Hidden Treasures Giveaway:

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