By Lisa Fielding

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — If you were walking downtown on Monday, you might have done a double take as “Big Lincoln” walked down the Mag Mile and State Street.

“It’s Abraham Lincoln’s 209th birthday today, so we’re celebrating and making the rounds in Chicago,” said Cory Jobe, Director, Illinois Department of Tourism.

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“Big Lincoln” is the official mascot of the Illinois Department of Tourism. (WBBM/Lisa Fielding)

“Big Lincoln” is the official mascot of the Illinois Department of Tourism.

“Big Lincoln just came home from Japan. He was our mascot in Japan, they are called Yuru-Charas there, and he was our mascot there for four years where he educated the Japanese about all the great things to see and do in the Land of Lincoln,” Jobe said.

Now, the mascot is back home touring the state. Illinois is also celebrating a milestone birthday.

“Illinois turns 200 this year. It’s a year long celebration. We have more Lincoln history in the state of Illinois than any other place in the world. We’re home of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Museum in Springfield, and the only home that Lincoln owned which is a National Park Service site also in Springfield,” Jobe said.

As part of Illinois’ birthday celebration, the Governor just launched the new bicentennial beer called ‘1818’ brewed in Petersburg, Illinois.

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Enjoy Illinois and the Illinois Department of Tourism are celebrating Illinois’ bicentennial, with Abraham Lincoln as a center figure. (WBBM/Lisa Fielding)

“Its produced by a micro brewery right outside of New Salem. There’s also lots of other events coordinating with the birthday. The Executive Mansion in Springfield, which is the third oldest in the country, will reopen to the public this July and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is debuting a brand new exhibit called ‘Illinois to the White House’ which will honor our four presidents, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan and President Obama,” he said.

Next Monday is President’s Day. Jobe said it’s a perfect day to celebrate the state of Illinois.

“We’re telling Illinoisans to get out and learn about your state’s history and our presidents,” he said.

Jobe said the Lincoln legacy and the iconic Route 66 is what people ask about most often overseas.

“There are so many historical sites in the state, we sometimes forget about on a daily basis. The bicentennial gives us another way to talk about them and really encourage Illinoisans to travel the state this summer.”

For more information, log onto Illinois200.com and EnjoyIllinois.com and post pictures and include #EnjoyIllinois

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