Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Opening Weekend for Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Is Filled With Tradition, Presentations, Music, and Dance

November 12, 2009, 6:34 am

The 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway will officially get underway November 12, 2009, with students from Cherokee, NC, schools participating as part of the launch. The students have been studying the history and heritage of the Parkway and of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with much of the curriculum borrowing from the recent Ken Burns’s documentary on national parks in the United States.

With the Blue Ridge Parkway’s emphasis on future stewardship, Gerard Baker, superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial and featured in Ken Burns’s recent  national parks documentary series, will address the Cherokee student assemblies beginning at 1 p.m. that day. Also speaking will be former and present superintendents of the Parkway, Dan Brown and Phil Francis, respectively.

The evening of November 12, Baker will give a public keynote address entitled “Natural Resource Stewardship – An American Indian Legacy and Model for our Future,” beginning at 6 p.m. at the Cherokee High School auditorium. The evening’s event will also include Cherokee elementary
students performing traditional dance and a Parkway slide show.

One of the highlights of the evening will be a ceremonial torch lighting from Cherokee Elder to a member of the Cherokee Youth Council, symbolizing the transference of honor and responsibility of stewardship of the abundant beauty and natural resources represented by their homelands, and now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Friday, November 13, 2009 at Ravensford Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 467, just outside Cherokee, the torch will be passed from members of the Cherokee community to Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson, who will pass it on to Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis, marking the completion of the Great Smokies 75th year and the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th year.

The final passing of the torch, a symbol of generational stewardship, will be from Francis to three young leaders from the Cherokee Youth Council.

In addition to the passing of the torch, the event will feature warrior dancers, resolutions from the states of Virginia and North Carolina – by Virginia Tourism Corporation President Alisa Bailey and N.C. Representative Ray Rapp – as well as a representative from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian, encouraging individual and community participation in the Parkway’s 75th Anniversary year.

In the afternoon, guided tours in partnership with the Museum of the Cherokee Indian will be offered with each bus hosted by a Cherokee storyteller. Stops on the tour will include Ravensford with a recounting of the creation of the mountains legend; Thomas Divide, with the tale of Will Thomas and Yonaguska (the subject of Charles Frazier’s book Thirteen Moons ); and Water Rock Knob, where the story of the formation of the Qualla Boundary will be explained.

Additional stops will highlight stories about the Trail of Tears, The Removed Townhouse and spirit people in the mountains, a visit to the area by Tecumseh, the tale of Judaculla and his wife at Devil’s Courthouse, and the legend of the origin of strawberries.

Cost for the Museum of the Cherokee Indian tour will be $20 per person and will include a boxed lunch. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the Museum at 828.497.3481.

On Saturday, November 14, 2009, the celebration will continue with Parkway History Day at the Folk Art Center at milepost 382. Book signings and craft demonstrations will be ongoing and from 10 until 11:30 a.m., a symposium about the famous routing decision of the Parkway past Asheville will be
hosted by Gary Johnson, Blue Ridge Parkway Chief of Landscape Planning and Resource Management.

Presenters and their subjects will include the following:

  Creating the Parkway Idea – Carlton Abbott, son of Stanley Abbott, first
     chief architect of the Parkway
  The Great Route Debate and Saving Asheville Tourism – Dr. Harley Jolley,
     Professor of History Emeritus at Mars Hill College, a former Civilian
     Corps enrollee and retired Parkway interpreter
  The Story of the Parkway, Qualla Boundary and the Cherokee – Dr. Anne
     Mitchell Whisnant, author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge
     Parkway History
  The Parkway through Biltmore Estate and the Great Park Movement – George
     Cecil, grandson of George Vanderbilt, creator of Biltmore Estate

An afternoon interactive session will be held from 1 until 3 p.m. and will focus on protecting the Blue Ridge Parkway. The session is designed to solicit ideas from participants and will include exhibits, displays, and comments about upcoming projects and technologies enhancing the Parkway experience, as well as discussions about design guidelines for adjacent land and protection of viewsheds.

The weekend will culminate in an all-star, benefit concert beginning at 7 p.m. that evening at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville. Performing will be Grammy-award winning songwriter and musician Nanci Griffith and bluegrass from some of the genre’s finest – Doyle Lawson, Sammy Shelor,
Bryan Sutton, Tim Surrett, and Jim Van Cleve. The dramatic and colorful Warriors of AniKituhwa will also perform, and the entire evening will be hosted by Asheville’s own Grammy winner, David Holt.

Concert tickets are available at the Asheville Civic Center Box Office at 87 Haywood Street, Asheville or at Ticketmaster. Two reserved seating ticket options are available:

  General seats are $35
  Patron seats are $75 and offers premium reserved seating and access to the patron reception prior to the event at 5:30 p.m.

Ticketmaster and the Civic Center Box Office are the only source for legitimate tickets that will benefit the Parkway’s 75th Anniversary.

Blue Ridge Parkway 75, Inc. is the non-profit organization designated by the National Park Service to lead the Parkway’s 75th Anniversary celebration. With representation from all of the Parkway’s partner groups, the states of North Carolina and Virginia, and community leaders along the 469-mile scenic route, Blue Ridge Parkway 75, Inc.’s mission is to engage local communities and all visitors in an anniversary that focuses attention on a sustainable and healthy Parkway for future generations. For more information, visit