Party On: Big Centennial Celebrations For National and N.C. Parks
By Jason Tarr
In terms of milestones, few are bigger than reaching 100 years. And, big milestones bring big celebrations. With the National Park Service and the North Carolina State Park system both marking their 100th anniversary this year, Asheville is the perfect launching point to join the party.
Few places in Western North Carolina will celebrate the centennial in grander fashion than Mount Mitchell (6,684 ft.), the first North Carolina State Park. The two-day birthday bash (August 27th and August 28th) at the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River aims to leave you feeling on top of the world.
Where it began
In 1916, the State of North Carolina purchased 795 acres for $20,000. On March 3rd of that year, Mount Mitchell became North Carolina’s first state park. The peak was named after UNC Professor Elisha Mitchell, who is considered the first to accurately measure the height of the mountain.
The first observation tower was a covered wooden structure, replaced by a stone tower in 1926. The observation platform you see today opened in 2009.
The heart of Mount Mitchell’s centennial celebration is planned for Saturday, August 27th at the summit. There will be live demonstrations of traditional mountain skills such as blacksmithing and woodworking, and an opportunity to buy locally-made crafts. Performers will fill the air with traditional mountain music, folk, and modern bluegrass. Dancers will step to the beat. There will also be storytelling and games for both children and adults.
On Sunday, there are more recreational activities planned and a larger educational focus. Among the events on the second day are guided hikes and exhibitions on animals native to the area.
Both days of the celebration run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offer free admission.
Want to party? Plan your ride now
The Park will be closed to private vehicles that weekend, so you’ll need to find a seat on the free shuttle service provided. Shuttles will run from four nearby cities: Asheville, Burnsville, Marion, and Black Mountain. Commute times from all four locations are one hour or less. To reserve your spot on a shuttle, click HERE.
The park is offering special access to those coming with a large passenger van or activity bus with more than 14 passengers. However, you must register your vanpool online HERE.
More ways to celebrate
If you can’t make it to Mount Mitchell for the celebration, there are many other ways to join in the centennial excitement this year.
Discover 18 of the national and state park centennial adventures nearby Asheville, including zip lining between mountain tops on a Navitat Canopy Tour, taking a “Wild Food Safari” through the Smokies, and watching the elk lock antlers in Cataloochee Valley.
For a truly “Asheville” celebration, head to the local breweries where they’ll be celebrating the centennial with special beer releases and fundraising parties in August and September. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is teaming up with 17 Asheville area breweries for the series of unique events.
Mount Mitchell Photos by Hugo Gutierrez. Zipline photo courtesy of Navitat Caopy Adventure Tours.