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Austin Kelsey wins ‘Mark Your Place in History’ contest

More than a thousand fourth-grade students from across the state joined Gov. Bob Riley at the Alabama Department of Archives and History on Dec. 12, as he announced the official start of the Alabama Tourism Department’s Year of Alabama History.

The governor also recognized six students who were the winners of the “Mark Your Place in History” bookmark contest, which was open to all fourth-grade students in the state. The students were challenged with designing a bookmark that depicted an era of the state’s proud history.

Among the six winners was Austin Kelsey, the son of Rick and Brandy Kelsey formerly of Troy.

Austin’s bookmark recognized the City of Birmingham, which was founded in 1871 and quickly became known as the Pittsburg of the South.

“I wanted to do something outside of Montgomery so I chose Birmingham,” said Austin, who is a student at Prattville Elementary School. My bookmark had a picture of Sloss Furnace and a train.”

Sloss Furnace produced iron for 90 years and give rise to Birmingham and is now a National Historic Landmark.

“I put a train on the bookmark because that’s the way people could move things from place to place back then,” Austin said.

The six winning bookmarks will be used to promote the state during the 2009 Year of Alabama History tourism campaign.

In recognition of his achievement, Austin received 50 of the bookmarks that he designed, a book about Alabama history and other items related to the state. He also got to meet Gov. Bob Riley during a recognition ceremony outside the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

“Gov. Riley shook my hand and said ‘Congratulations’ and he gave me a coin that had Gov. Bob Riley and the Alabama seal on it,” Austin said. “I was proud of it and will keep it safe.”

Austin is an honor student, a Webelos Cut Scout and plays basketball. He enjoys history and loves living in Alabama.

Dec. 14 was first celebrated as the state’s birthday in 1903 and formally adopted as “Alabama Day” by resolution of the Alabama Legislature in 1923. More than 1,000 students celebrated their state’s heritage on Dec. 12 by touring the State Capitol, the Civil Rights Memorial Center, the First White House of the Confederacy and the Department of Archives and History.

They also enjoyed living history encampments, learned to buckdance, played old-fashioned games and participated in history-based arts activities.