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Happy 200th birthday to Maine, but virus zaps the party

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

In this Friday, March 13, 2020 photo, State historian Earle Shettleworth examines a First Maine Militia uniform, probably worn by a soldier from Buckfield, on display at the Maine State Museum in Augusta, Maine. The state marked the bicentennial of Maine's liberation from Massachusetts, on March 15, 1820, without a birthday party.The coronavirus forced the state's bicentennial committee to postpone the Sunday, March 15 celebration in Augusta. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

AUGUSTA, Maine – Mainers have a special bond with Massachusetts that’s friendly for the most part. What Mainer doesn't love the Boston Red Sox, after all?

But it wasn't always so. Maine became a state by splitting from Massachusetts, gaining independence 200 years ago at a time when residents were smarting over Massachusetts' decision not to defend the Maine territory in the War of 1812.

The state marked the bicentennial of Maine's liberation from Massachusetts on March 15, 1820 — but without a birthday party.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the state's bicentennial committee to postpone Sunday's celebration in Augusta that was supposed to kick off activities that will continue through the year, including plans for a big parade in May and the arrival of tall ships in late June.

But Gov. Janet Mills didn't let the milestone go unnoticed. “Maine has a proud and storied history. As we celebrate ‘statehood day’ during our bicentennial year, let us reflect on that history and recommit ourselves to the values that shape us as a state and as a people," the governor said.

The state was a territory of Massachusetts until 1820. Maine voters rejected statehood three times before the War of 1812, which left many Mainers incensed.

British troops remained in some locations of Maine until a year before the fourth, successful vote in 1819. But statehood wasn't ratified by Congress until the Missouri Compromise, which aimed to maintain the balance of power between free and slave states.

For the two states, it’s been a complicated relationship.