There was a mixture of visitors to Red Clay State Historical Park Monday, most celebrating the first official day of the Tennessee State Park System’s 75th anniversary.
Many of Tennessee’s state parks were celebrating with a “First Hike” to kick off this commemorative year, but Red Clay did not schedule a supervised hike due to a lack of personnel.
“I only have one ranger (Erin Medley) and I had already approved her vacation prior to the scheduling of this special event,” said Red Clay Park manager Carol Crabtree. “I’m the only person here today, so we were not able to have a hike (with a guide).”
Despite this inconvenience, a number of Monday visitors took a hike around the Red Clay facilities, some taking the shorter, paved trail and others walking the mile-plus Council of Trees Trail.
In addition to the opportunity to walk around the facilities, and view the many exhibits in the park’s visitor center, there was an orientation video featuring a Cherokee elder. The day’s activities included refreshments (coffee, hot chocolate and cookies).
Crabtree said this first-of-the-year event was an opportunity for her to talk with visitors and discuss special programs that are scheduled during the year. “Our schedule will be pretty much the same as it’s been in recent years,” she said.
The park manager said the three biggest events of 2012 will be the annual Cherokee Days, craft fairs and the annual Pow-Wow.
This season’s special events will kick off in March with the fourth annual Red Clay Homecoming. This program will include native American music and speakers discussing “Red Clay: 100 Years After Removal,” and “Red Clay’s Archival Materials.”
In May the park will host a craft fair with regional artists presenting their handiwork on the grounds.
Cherokees Days of Recognition is scheduled for August again this year. This event honors the Cherokee people, their history, culture and craftsmanship. Featured programs will include Cherokee traditional and fancy dances, storytellers, music, living history demonstrations, native foods and other events.
The Flint Springs Ruritan Craft Fair is scheduled during September’s Labor Day weekend. Regional artists will be featured.
An Intertribal Cultural Gathering will take place in October, which will be a weekend of family fun. There will be native dance demonstrations, and food and crafts from Cherokee vendors.
A special holiday program is scheduled in December, with the fourth annual Trail of Lights. Visitors can enjoy the quiet winter beauty of the park with a walk along the lighted trail. There will also be refreshments and entertainment.
Monday’s visitors for the anniversary kickoff ranged from young to old, and near to far. Marie Tyman of Chattanooga, who is employed at Orange Grove Center, brought her friend, Jiri Kauta, for a visit. Kauta is visiting the U.S. from the Czech Republic.
“I wanted him to see how the Indians really lived,” said Tyman. “He thought they all lived in tents.”
Tyman said she is a big fan of Red Clay State Park. “It is one of my favorite places to visit,” she said. “I’ve come here perhaps 15 times, and it is so neat and clean. They do a great job here.”
Another group Monday was Mickey Smith of Chattanooga and his two granddaughters, Riley, 5, and Hayden, 7, Schrader. The visit and a short hike were a post-Christmas gift for the two girls, and an early birthday present for Hayden, who will turn 8 on Friday.
Jana Bowen of Cleveland and her mother, Doris Bowen of Chattanooga, also visited. The elder Bowen she had been hoping for a guided hike, but was disappointed.
Crabtree, the longtime manager of the Bradley County facility, said there are a number of individuals and organizations that support the state park.
“We are extremely grateful for these people,” she said, mentioning the Cleveland Amateur Radio Club, the Tennessee Guard and Boy Scouts of America. “They help us with traffic control at special events, which is a huge benefit because of our lack of personnel.”
In addition to the regular events this year, Crabtree said there will be one special day, which has yet to be scheduled.
“We have been directed to select one special day for a 75th anniversary celebration,” she said. The park manager said it will probably be in the spring, and she plans to invite government and community leaders. “We’ll also have some of our Cherokee friends provide a part of the program,” she added.
Other parks across the state had special programs on Monday and there were a few “First Hikes” on Sunday, the first day of this 75th anniversary year for the Tennessee Park System.