Tomorrow will be the Great Smoky Mountains national parks actual 75th anniversary and what better way to celebrate than to have the public be able to join in with a celebration at the Oconaluftee visitor center and Farm Museum? From 10 am to 2 pm there will be demonstrations, music, storytelling, dancing and a ground breaking on the new state of the art visitor center.
Long overdue, the new energy efficient visitor center will be more than 6 times larger that the present visitor center built in the 1940s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which was originally used as a ranger center. The new visitor center will have a museum with displays of the history and traditions of the Cherokee people, Southern Appalachian culture, the and the Park's establishment and development.
Around 2,000,000 people a year pass by Oconaluftee to get into the Great Smoky Mountains national park with nearly 350,000 visitors presently entering the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Farm Museum area. The original building will be kept when the new visitor center is complete.
Besides the entertainment, the Park has extended a special invitation to all former CCC members who served at Great Smoky Mountains National Park to attend the groundbreaking and some are expecting some to attend.
Dale Ditmanson the parks superintendent commented "We are excited about the opportunity to hold the visitor center groundbreaking during our anniversary year and are especially honored to have several CCC men who assisted with the construction of the existing visitor center over 65 years ago. This project will represent a symbolic bridge between the past and the future of the national park".
The ground breaking ceremony hosted by Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson will also include Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Michell Hicks, and Cherokee Elder Jerry Wolfe giving the "Blessing of the Ground".
The schedule for the 75th anniversary celebration at Oconaluftee 2 miles north of the Cherokee North Carolina Parks Entrance is also follows:
- 10 am - Music performed by Boogertown Gap
- 11 am - Warriors of AniKituhwa: Official Cherokee cultural ambassadors performing traditional dances including the War Dance and Eagle Tail Dance
- 11:30 am - Storytelling by Charles Maynard
- 12 pm - Groundbreaking Ceremony
- 1 pm - Music played by Earl and the Boys
Both Friends and the GSMAs work and the funding make this and many projects possible within the Great Smoky Mountains national park and it is impossible for me to accurately state how much they mean to the park, the surrounding communities and me personally.
I am very grateful that Oconaluftee will finally be honoring in a significant way the Cherokee and Native Americans who have inhabited the area for more than 10,000 years.