Harbingers of spring are rapidly appearing. A honey bee alights with her legs loaded down with pollen, her booty pirated from rich bright red maple blossoms now flowering profusely. The evening and early morning symphony of tree, pickerel and leopard frogs and spring peepers is heard. Their concert is composed of unique notes sounding like two balloons being rubbed together, a low-pitched steady snore, a finger rubbing along the teeth of a comb and high pitched chirps. Gentle breezes emulate an emerald necklace and caress one’s neck.
The highly anticipated Cumberland Gap National Historical Park’s schedule of ranger-guided activities is released announcing the April 9-11, An American Memoir: From the Hearts of Our Ancestors…Into the Hands of Our Children. It is this momentous event which will be the focus of the park’s March 11 Meet and Greet being held at the park visitor center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Park Superintendent Sula Jacobs describes this April celebration as the diamond tiara garnishing a glamorous robe of spring programs ranging from full moon hikes and virtual wildflower walks to concerts.
Jacobs further shares “This event weekend in April is sure to have something for everyone. This event will lead visitors from times in the past when Cumberland Gap was the ‘Doorway to the West’ to present day as we celebrate the National Park Service’s Centennial. On April 11, the U.S. Mint will be on site for the event’s grand finale: the Official Launch Ceremony for the America the Beautiful Quarters® Program coin honoring Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.” Twenty-two hundred third- through sixth-graders from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia will participate the day of the quarter launch while upwards of 10,000 visitors are anticipated to participate over the three days. Hattie Landen and Makaya Patterson, two fourth-grade students from Middlesboro Elementary School, have been selected to emcee the Coin Launch Ceremony to include introducing elected officials and dignitaries. This meshes perfectly with President Obama’s “Every Kid in a Park” initiative.
During the event, visitors and students will interact with the diverse peoples – slaves, indentured servants, bankers, farmers, merchants, and craftspeople such as blacksmiths – who journeyed through the nation’s first doorway to the west seeking freedom, land, and game. Values – patriotism, hard work, loyalty, sacrifice and bravery – which are the foundation of America will be illuminated through these living historians.
As 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, school children and visitors will be able to connect with staff from other national parks – a mountain climbing ranger from Yosemite National Park, a river rafting ranger from Obed Wild and Scenic River, a musician ranger from New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, an architectural preservationist from the National Mall and Memorial Parks and archaeologists and scuba divers from the Submerged Resources Center – and learn how these trained professionals help protect these areas which Americans value.
Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Ranger Pam Eddy, who is helping to choreograph the event, trumpets this “As a milestone the like of which has not been seen before at the Gap. While we have indeed hosted huge living history venues, this will seamlessly link together living history, the National Park Service’s 100th birthday and the ‘Cumberland Gap National Historical Park’ quarter launch.” Eddy further details “Almost 100 crème de la crème of living historians will be on site. We’re especially excited about living biographer Carl Closs of southeastern Pennsylvania who visitors will truly believe is General George Washington.” Eddy acknowledges that Washington never traveled through the Gap but “having Closs portray Washington is pivotal for the event as he sets the stage providing deep insights into our Founding Fathers who built this nation and continue to inspire us all. This is our moment to witness why our ancestors made decisions that would alter the course of American history and further spurs us to reflect upon our roles in the future of America, and the legacies which we will leave to our grandchildren.”
The event runs on the national park visitor center grounds April 9-10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and April 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The quarter ceremony is Monday at 11 a.m. Home Federal Bank in Middlesboro, Kentucky will be on-site and will handle the coin exchange following the launch ceremony, where cash can be exchanged for $10 face value rolls of circulation-quality quarter dollars that have never seen circulation. A coin forum is scheduled for April 10 from 3-4 p.m. at the C.V. Whitney Convention Center at Pine Mountain State Resort Park in Pineville.
Additional information on the March 11 Meet and Greet, the April extravaganza and other programs can be obtained by calling the park visitor center at 606-246-1075 or by visiting the park’s website at www.nps.gov/cuga. Information on the quarter launch ceremony can also be found at www.usmint.gov/events, www.facebook.com/unitedstatesmint and www.twitter.com/usmint.