Lombard celebrating Little Orphan Annie in 2024 with a series of events

Harold Gray home in Lombard.

Whether you remember her for her indomitable spirit, moral compass or fiery red curls, Little Orphan Annie remains an important icon in American culture 100 years after the character’s debut in the namesake comic strip.

Affectionately dubbed the “Annie-Versary,” the Lombard Historical Society (LHS), village of Lombard and the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) announced a series of events that will run from April 26 through Dec. 23 commemorating Little Orphan Annie’s enduring legacy and paying tribute to Harold Gray, the creative genius who brought her to life.

“Harold Gray resided in Lombard when he first created this iconic character,” Lombard Historical Society Executive Director Alison Costanzo said in a news release. “On behalf of everyone who embraced Annie in print and on radio, and then later on the musical stage and big screen, it is our honor to welcome you to Lombard to celebrate Gray’s masterful storytelling and the inspirational, wily ways of Little Orphan Annie.”

The Little Orphan Annie comic strip first appeared in syndication in The New York Daily News on Aug. 5, 1924. Of the more than 40 comic strips running at the time, Little Orphan Annie became the fourth to feature a female in a prominent role. By the 1930s, Little Orphan Annie was one of the most popular strips in syndication.

“Purely as a character, there is a lot to admire and love,” Costanzo said. “That is the mere tipping point for Annie’s relevance and why we created ‘Annie’-Versary. There is much to recognize historically and throughout popular entertainment. We hope to showcase the broad reach of Annie throughout the decades.”

Gray was masterful at using Annie to embed his own conservative, political viewpoints, making Little Orphan Annie the first nationally syndicated comic with a political perspective. 1930 brought about another first when Little Orphan Annie became the first comic strip to be adapted for radio and first to be aired coast to coast. Written for children and drawing in six million young listeners, Little Orphan Annie became the biggest and most profitable children’s program of its time.

Gray illustrated the comic strip until he died in 1968, after which it was continued by other cartoonists until its final installment on Sunday, June 13, 2010.

The success of the comic strip spawned two film adaptations in the 1930s, a 1977 Broadway musical, a 1982 film adaptation of the Broadway musical, a 1999 made-for-television adaptation, and the 2014 film Annie produced by Jay-Z and Will Smith.

Annie-Versary activities will include:

Leapin Lizards! A Hundred Years of Little Orphan Annie: Exhibition presented by the LHS, April 24 to Dec. 23. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday at The Carriage House in Lombard. A captivating exhibition that will showcase the life of Harold Gray and the rich history of Little Orphan Annie through a collection of original artworks, artifacts and more. The museum and exhibition are free; suggested $5 donation at the time of admission.

Meet & Greet with Aileen Quinn: presented by LHS. 6:30 p.m. April 24, The Carriage House in Lombard. By invitation only, including LHS members. LHS welcomes Aileen Quinn, the beloved actress who charmed audiences worldwide as the plucky and spirited Little Orphan Annie in the 1982 film adaptation. If interested in LHS membership, visit lombardhistory.org.

Little Orphan Annie House Walk: presented by LHS and Kiwanis Club of Lombard. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 22. Discover the origins of the beloved character and explore Harold Gray’s creative spaces. Additional details coming soon. Visit lombardhistory.org for further details.

Week-long “Annie”-Versary Birthday Party Celebration: presented by LHS. July 30-Aug. 3. Visit lombardhistory.org for complete details including time and tickets.

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network

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