Great Smoky Mountains National Park, dignitaries, and special guests gathered at Park Headquarters on Thursday to celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service.
The celebration held August 25, 2016, known as Founders Day, honors the historic moment in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service. US Senator Lamar Alexander (TN), US Congressman Phil Roe (TN), US Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ), Superintendent Cassius Cash, and Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Chairman, Leon Downey provided remarks to the crowd of over 400 park employees, partners, and local tourism officials.
“We are so excited to reach our 100th birthday!” said Superintendent, Cash. “We have been celebrating all year so it feels good to finally reach the date that has been circled on so many of our calendars. This historic milestone for the park service has been an amazing opportunity to recognize and acknowledge our accomplishments, look to the future of our next century of service, and honor the over 340 employees who dedicate themselves daily to preserving and protecting Great Smoky Mountains National park.”
Live musical entertainment at the event was provided by Jimbo Whaley and the Greenbrier band who played traditional Smoky Mountain bluegrass music before and after the ceremony. The event, hosted by the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council, Friends of the Smokies, and Great Smoky Mountains Association, also included a luncheon for park employees and partners.
Find your Park to Celebrate the National Park Service Centennial
The National Park Service began the 100th Anniversary celebration in early 2015 when it launched the Find Your Park movement. Inspiring people from all backgrounds to celebrate and support America’s national parks and community-based programs, #FindYourPark continues to invite people to discover and share their own unique connections to our nation’s natural landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history.
Great Smoky Mountains carried the Find Your Park theme throughout the year by initiating special park centennial programs such as the popular Hike 100 program which challenges everyone to hike 100 miles of trails in the park during 2016. Park staff also attended over 70 community events including the “Soultown Downtown” music festival hosted by LEAF in Asheville, NC.
While Great Smoky Mountains National Park has no entrance fees, park officials invite visitors to enjoy not only the Smokies during the 100th Anniversary, but also National Park units across the country that will waive entrance fees through August 28. Usually, 127 of the 412 national parks charge entrance fees that range from $3 to $30. The entrance fee waiver does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.