October 12, 2013 – The government shutdown that included Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a part of our nation’s shameful history I wish I had not been witness to, but at least we were still able to publicly protest this ridiculous act by our elected officials – who weren’t representing us for sure as they played political games at our expense.
Anywhere from 50 to 150 locals and tourists joined us at various times.
It felt like we were all in this together.
And we were encouraged by every honk of the cars passing by.
My friends, Bill and Helen, were visiting the area at the time and it meant a lot to me that they took the time to come join us.
Helen really cracked me up when I heard her say to one of the TV reporters who was covering the event, “Where’s your sign?”
It really was quite heartening to hear some of the comments from local people who really appreciated the effort and opportunity to be heard.
Even the animals were protesting! This local teenager made this costume and all us kids were happy to have her join us!
This group was my favorite “drop-in” – their wedding had long been planned for the Smokies, and they had to scramble at the last minute to find alternate arrangements. They passed us on the way to the wedding and came back to show their support on the way to the reception.
But I really got a big kick out of this photo they sent later, showing them and their “message” at the closed entrance to Cades Cove, where the wedding was supposed to be their venue.
Here is a 7 minute video I put together of the 7+ hour protest:
Some local restaurants also came by and dropped off food and refreshments for the whole crowd, and that was greatly appreciated and helped keep our bodies going and spirits up.
Local artist, Jeremiah Spelas, was the organizer of the event, and he used the opportunity to drum up more participants with this offer.
It was quite an exhausting but exhilarating day, and I definitely noticed a difference in stamina between my war protest days in the 60’s vs. this protest in my 60’s. And I was definitely not amused when it took me three times longer to get home from there because those national park roads were closed. But I was glad to have been able to exercise my freedom of speech and protest and I met some really neat people in the process. But the best feeling of all is when we got the news 4 days later that the shutdown was over and the park was open!
Press coverage links:
Large Protest Held to Reopen National Park (WATE) (I was interviewed by this station)