BLACKSBURG, S.C. Even before Kings Mountain National Military Park came into being in 1931, people were drawn to the hallowed ground to honor a decisive Patriot victory Thomas Jefferson called the turning point of the revolution.
One of the earliest ceremonies was in 1815 when a monument was dedicated for Patriot hero William Chronicle. George Bancroft, the Father of American history, spoke there on Oct. 7, 1880. And on the same date in 1930 President Herbert Hoover addressed thousands at the battlfield.
Park officials hope this year wont mark the first time in history that a commemoration doesnt happen at the actual battlefield.
But unless the government shutdown ends all events will be canceled, they said. During the current shutdown 17 park employees have been furloughed.
Its unfortunate, said Chris Revels, chief ranger at the park. Real unfortunate.
Located near Blacksburg, S.C., adjacent to the Kings Mountain State Park, the military park draws about 500,000 visitors a year and is ranked among South Carolinas top 10 tourist attractions.
October is the parks biggest month. Special events focusing on the Revolutionary War battle fought there on Oct. 7, 1780 draw visitors from all over the country.
Between Friday and the battle anniversary on Monday, officials expected between 5,000 and 10,000 visitors for special events that included reenactors, a lantern tour of the battleground, lectures and Celtic music.
On Monday,theyve planned a wreath-laying ceremony at the 90-foot tall U.S. monument and at 3 p.m., the approximate time the battle began, the arrival of the Overmountain Victory Trail marchers at the park.
The Victory Trail association formed in 1975 to protect and preserve the route the patriots took across the mountains to the Kings Mountain battlefield. Today, that route is the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, a 330-mile trail through four states, Virginia, Tennessee and North and South Carolina.
The nonprofit OVTA has evolved into a teaching organization that has presented the Kings Mountain story to nearly 9,000 fourth-graders in public, private and home schools.
Association President Marc Bowen is hopeful government leaders will get things worked out before the weekend.
But if they dont we still plan to celebrate the sweat and blood of these men who fought on the mountain in 1780, Bowen said. We just dont know the exact location where it will take place yet.
He said details will be announced on the associations website www.ovta.org.
Meanwhile, officials said many people are calling the national park to ask about the status of events.
Revels advises people to keep up with news about the government shutdown.
Some are finding it difficult to make plans.
A woman from Ohio whose ancestor fought here called and asked if I recommended for her to come, Revels said. I told her I couldnt advise her to start the trip. I dont know whats going to happen.
He recalled that when the park closed for several weeks during the 1995 government shut down it didnt fall during the battle anniversary.
On Wednesday morning, things were quiet around the park. A few bicyclists cruised by on the public road. An elderly Florida couple stopped to tell Revels they were lost and looking for Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Outside the Visitors Center, Deana Thorpe consulted with her mother, Cynthia Lauritzen 66, and sister, Darcy Lauritzen, 29, both of Jesup, Iowa.
They looked forward that morning to hiking and fresh autumn, but found the Visitors Center parking lot blocked.
A sign on the front gate announced the park had closed because of the government shutdown.
I didnt ever think about this, Thorpe, 37, said. Why didnt I think about this? Im so disappointed theyre not open.
The parks paved trails, woods and signs interpreting an important event in American history were so close yet beyond their reach.
Well have to find something else to do today, Thorpe said as she drove away.
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