Great Smokies rededicated for national park's 75th anniversary

Great Smokies rededicated for national park's 75th anniversary

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The celebration at Newfound Gap's Rockefeller Memorial drew a crowd of thousands. The celebration at Newfound Gap's Rockefeller Memorial drew a crowd of thousands.
Cherokee Elder Jerry Wolfe had the crowd participate as he offered a prayer for the park and blessed it. Cherokee Elder Jerry Wolfe had the crowd participate as he offered a prayer for the park and blessed it.
Dolly Parton said she is "very proud" to be at the ceremony and perform two songs written to honor the anniversary. Dolly Parton said she is "very proud" to be at the ceremony and perform two songs written to honor the anniversary.
Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar spoke of the park's creation during "the darkest days of the Great Depression." Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar spoke of the park's creation during "the darkest days of the Great Depression."
NEWFOUND GAP (WATE) -- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was rededicated Wednesday for its 75th anniversary.

The celebration was held at Newfound Gap's Rockefeller Memorial.

Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson was master of ceremonies.

MORE ON SMOKIES 75TH ANNIVERSARY
  • Click here for our Celebrate the Smokies section.

Congressman Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn.) said, "In the current edition of the Saturday Evening Post, there is a very positive article about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the beautiful land that we have here." Click here to read the article.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told the crowd that former Sen. Bill Frist brought him to the Smokies to talk about considering a run for the Senate.

Cherokee Elder Jerry Wolfe had the crowd participate as he offered a prayer for the park and blessed it.

The 75th Anniversary Ambassador Dolly Parton said she is "very proud" to be at the ceremony and perform two songs written to honor the anniversary.

Parton said the mountains where she grew up gave her and her family everything they had.

She also said she took the job of 75th anniversary ambassador very seriously. "But I had a lot of help. I didn't just sit on my Metcalf Bottoms. You'd have to be from the Smokies to know that one."

Parton and her Pigeon Forge attraction Dollywood produced a show this season called "Sha-Kon-O-Hey!" (Land of Blue Smoke) to capture the spirit of the Smokies and the people who call them home.

She said when she first heard the Cherokee word Sha-Kon-O-Hey, she thought it sounded "Pentecostal."

Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said, "We remember that it was here in Tennessee and North Carolina in the darkest days of the Great Depression with banks closing and bread lines growing that our nation determined once again to take bold action to protect America's land, water and wildlife."

"The visionaries who created the Great Smoky Mountains National Park understood the power of place," Sec. Salazar added.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said, "Seventy-five years ago there were 12 whitetail deer in Tennessee and six in North Carolina. They're everywhere today."

Alexander said thanks to the park there are also black bears, peregrine falcons and elk in the region now. 

The ceremony was attended by several people who grew up in the park, some who went to the original dedication in 1940 and survivors of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) who built many of the park's structures.

Music was provided by the bands from Gatlinburg-Pittman High School and Swain County High School.

The park was officially dedicated in a September 2, 1940 speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at Newfound Gap.

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