Typically, a 50th anniversary is designated as the golden anniversary of a couple, an event, a business, etc. But Columbia doesn’t have anniversaries, at least not when it comes to celebrating the founding of our community; instead, we celebrate Columbia’s birthday.

This year, Columbia turns 50. But the gold metaphor is still appropriate.

After all, Columbia pulled in the gold when it was named the No. 1 small city to live in in America by Money Magazine last year. And for these 50 golden years, Columbia has been a bright and shining example of what a community can be.

This year brings quite an occasion to celebrate our community. And this year, our community will be celebrating for more than six months.

Columbia’s 50th Birthday Celebration begins Sunday, March 19. The packed schedule of events continues on well beyond the official birthday — June 21 — all the way until Sept. 23. Those 27 weeks will include ceremonies, concerts, festivals, performances, exhibits, presentations, competitions and other events.

Columbia Association (CA) also will be working on a few special projects, including reinstalling the carillon bells from the old bell tower in a new, temporary “Bell Tree” structure, and exhibiting the original Gail Holliday signs commemorating Columbia’s villages and neighborhoods in public art on the far side of Lake Kittamaqundi. Also, CA and members of the community planted more than 50,000 daffodils late last year, which will be coming into a golden bloom quite soon.

The schedule, which will continue to have more events added to it, can be found at ColumbiaMD50.com and will appear in Howard Magazine’s February issue.

The theme is, “Appreciate the Past. Imagine the Future.” And there is so much to appreciate.

Columbia’s founder, Jim Rouse, envisioned a “truly open community,” where residents of all races, religions and socioeconomic statuses are neighbors and friends — a vision that preceded the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which made it illegal to discriminate in housing based on race, color, national origin or religion.

And there are the 3,600 acres of open space in Columbia, as well as the artistic and cultural festivals, performances and exhibitions, many spotlighting highly talented locals. There is the family-friendly nature of our community. There are signature amenities, such as Merriweather Post Pavilion and Columbia’s 94-mile pathway system. There is the unparalleled combination of having a top-notch public school system, the highly regarded Howard Community College and an award-winning library system. And there is a strong economy aided both by the companies and industries in Columbia and nearby, drawing on our proximity to Baltimore, Fort Meade and Washington, D.C.

There is so much to imagine. When Columbia’s first village, Wilde Lake, was dedicated in June 1967, Rouse spoke of hoping that Columbia would never be finished, that this community would continue to develop and that its residents would be actively involved in the process.

His hopes, again, became reality. Columbia’s 10th and final village, River Hill, is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. Downtown redevelopment continues — bringing the kind of vibrant urban core that Rouse had originally planned for, until a recession in the early 1970s brought those plans to a halt. Members of the community were highly involved in the charrette process that began in 2005, the hearings that continued on until the passage of the General Plan Amendment in 2010, and in the years since.

Even though Columbia has been named the best place to live, we all — stakeholders and citizens alike — continue to work to make sure that those who live, work and play here will continue to recognize just how special Columbia has been and will continue to be.

Appreciate the past. Imagine the future.

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