Sep. 20—On a late summer Saturday afternoon, a crowd of business owners, community members and elected officials gathered in the Center Court at The Mall in Columbia in celebration of its 50th anniversary.
Developed in 1971 by James Rouse, a pioneer in urban planning who planned Columbia and built some of the nation's first enclosed shopping malls, the mall has served as the focal point of the community for generations.
The celebration, which has been taking place over four Saturdays in September, features themed activities and events, including "Back-to-School"; "Healthy, Safe and Strong Community"; "Happy Birthday to The Mall in Columbia"; and "Fifty and Forward."
The third weekend featured a body blast and core workout by Under Armour and Pinnacle Fitness; selections from "Godspell" performed by Toby's Dinner Theatre; a Pandora bracelet raffle; and remarks from Del. Jessica Feldmark, mall general manager Barbara Nicklas and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.
"The Mall in Columbia has been a valuable community partner and opened the door to opportunity and happiness for many," Ball said. "The mall offers some of the county's best shopping, food and entertainment from major department stores to boutique kiosks to restaurants. I thank the wonderful leadership, staff and businesses for the excellent experience you provide and wish you continued success for decades to come."
The celebration featured representatives from local partnerships and organizations including Columbia Association, Downtown Columbia Partnership and Howard Community College.
Hal Kenny, of Columbia, adjunct instructor in the Center for Hospitality and Culinary Studies at Howard Community College, came to the celebration to promote the culinary arts program at the college.
He said he thinks the mall brings a sense of community to Columbia.
"[The mall] offers a haven for some, but it also offers a social aspect as well as a retail buying aspect," Kenny said. "All of those factors are very important in getting that community feel."
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At the mall's last celebration event this coming Saturday, "Fifty and Forward" will include a free outdoor film screening of "Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory."
Further, Saturday's celebration featured representatives from partnerships and organizations including the Columbia Festival of the Arts, Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, Howard County General Hospital, Howard County Office of Emergency Management, Howard County Police Department, Howard County Library System and Visit Howard County.
Dean Turner, of Columbia, owner of Turner Dean of Magic, has been playing Santa Claus at the mall for two decades.
He said the mall serves as a staple in the community and its anniversary should be celebrated.
"There was time when they had antique shows and this was the gathering place of Columbia," Turner said. "It deserves a celebration that it's [been] maintained for 50 years."