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Volume 24, Number 9 — September 2017

Liberty!

Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals, an outdoor drama  with a cast of more than 100, traces the beginnings of America's first frontier during the decade of 1770-1780, highlighting the strong friendship between the settlers and the Cherokee nation.
Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals, an outdoor drama with a cast of more than 100, traces the beginnings of America's first frontier during the decade of 1770-1780, highlighting the strong friendship between the settlers and the Cherokee nation.

Outdoor Drama at Sycamore Shoals Has New Name

July 05, 2007

ELIZABETHTON — As the outdoor drama presented at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area (SSSHA) nears its third decade, organizers and sponsors believe the time is right for a fresh look and, to them, "liberty" says it all.

Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals opens July 12 and continues Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater at SSSHA.

With a cast of more than 100, the drama traces the beginnings of America's first frontier during the decade of 1770-1780, highlighting the strong friendship between the settlers and the Cherokee nation, the Transylvania Purchase that marked the beginning of westward expansion, and the formation of the first free and independent government on the American continent.

"We have been so fortunate to have such a tremendous centerpiece for our outreach, educational and entertainment package," said SSSHA Manager Jennifer Bauer. "We are very proud of being the home of the Watauga Association, our country*s first free government, but our story is bigger than even that, and we wanted to make sure we honor all
the people who sacrificed for American liberty.

"As we begin what amounts to a yearlong celebration leading up to our 30th outdoor drama anniversary next season, we have already reached a number of once-in-a-lifetime milestones. Sycamore Shoals is on the verge of some tremendous improvements and truly national attention, so it is the perfect time to improve and reshape our presentation."

One of the leading figures in historical preservation in Elizabethton and Carter County, Jim Bishop has served in almost every capacity, from drama extra to president of the SSSHA support organization.

"Our history is unique," said Bishop, who is portraying Cat Island Bob this year. "The people of this community have been telling these stories in several different forms and under several different titles for nearly a century.

"We've had almost every kind of show you can think of, from one-acts to battle scenes and re-enactments. One of the earliest we know about was a five-act presentation presented in 1922, which actually featured veterans from World War I.

"We have a combination of storytelling, drama and re-enactment, that shows you actual pictures of what happened and, if you had been living then, what could have happened to you. You see right up front what the people went through, and it just moves you, down in your heart."

Bishop became more fascinated by local history and involved at SSSHA after his retirement. "To know that I live in the place where it all started — it makes you feel good inside," he said. "Sadly, I fear that most people today don*t realize what a treasure we have, and how important all of this is to our community, and to our future."

"Liberty! recounts some of the greatest stories in the history of the republic," said Nat Hyder, president of the co-sponsoring Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area, organized in conjunction with the Tennessee State Parks System.

"We have worked hard to ensure that they are not lost, and we feel we have been successful," Hyder continued. "Now we hope to increase that impact, and to bring greater awareness, regionally and nationally, about how important Sycamore Shoals has been, and remains, to our country. Hyder and his wife, Sherri, have been active in historical re-enactment for many years and teach courses in Colonial-era cooking and lifestyle.

"One amazing aspect is how difficult it is for us to even touch on all the important elements within the time we have for an evening of drama," Hyder added. "Someone said we have enough history here for three of four plays, and that is probably true.

"And then, to know that we recreate these moments on the very ground where it really happened two centuries ago. It is not surprising to see our audiences emotionally touched by the stories and lives of the early settlers portrayed here."

Liberty! is the culmination of years of study, with input from many participants and supporters, said Director Jon Ruetz. "Several hundred people have been part of the outdoor drama just in the time I've worked with it," Ruetz said. "Many of them have ideas and suggestions, or come across with anecdotes or little pieces of family history.

"We try to incorporate as much of that as we can, in order that our presentation is as rich and real as we can make it. We are a team, from beginning to end. We have performers traveling from as far away as Florida just to be a part of that team, and I can't think of warmer praise for any effort than that type of loyalty."

Liberty! will be presented Thursdays-Saturdays, July 12-28, in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area. Gates open at 6:00 PM. Special pre-show entertainment, featuring performers from throughout the region, begins each evening at 6:45.

Tickets are $10 for adults; $9 for senior citizens; $8 for students; and children 6 and under are admitted free. For more information, call the park at 423-543-5808.