ETHS honors Ricker for ‘Lifetime Achievement’ in living history

Published 9:18 am Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Over the past several years one area man has dedicated himself to preserving the stories of the past, and this weekend he was honored for his work ensuring those stories are never forgotten.

This weekend, members of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, the Washington County Militia, the East Tennessee Historical Society, park staff, and visitors gathered at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park to honor Steve Ricker.

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Those who have attended militia musters, re-enactments, and a variety of other special events at Sycamore Shoals have likely found themselves listening as Ricker shares the story of the muster of the Overmountain Men and their victorious march to Kings Mountain during the American Revolution.

Ricker, a member of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, has been sharing the story of those frontier patriots and their march to defend their homes for many years at events stretching along the length of the trail from Abingdon, Virginia, to Kings Mountain, S.C., and all points in between. He serves as Director of Interpretation for the OVTA.

The East Tennessee Historical Society presented Ricker with the Award of Excellence for Lifetime Achievement in Living History Interpretation on Saturday during a special ceremony in the amphitheater outside of Fort Watauga.

“The East Tennessee Historical Society Awards of Excellence annually recognize projects and people for outstanding contributions to preserving our region’s history,” ETHS Executive Director Cherel Henderson said during the ceremony. “Every once in a while, a very special nomination, such as the one we are honoring tonight, comes across our desks.”

Henderson noted Ricker’s “outstanding” work as well as the number of recommendations he received from living history professionals as part of his nomination for an ETHS Award of Excellence. OVTA President LeighAnn Snuggs and other members of the organization led the nomination effort to see Ricker recognized for his work.

“After much consideration and discussion, we decided to create a new category of recognition for Steve,” Henderson said, adding he is the first-ever recipient of the Award of Excellence for Lifetime Achievement in Living History Interpretation.

Ricker thanked everyone involved for nominating him and selecting him for this award.

“It’s quite an honor that people have so much faith in me and what I do,” Ricker said. “I have spent years doing the story of the Overmountain Men and the Battle of Kings Mountain in front of thousands of people, and this is the first time I’m at a loss of words.”

He said he also couldn’t think of a more fitting place to receive the award than at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park, which he said has been his “home away from home” for many years.

This past weekend was also special to Ricker for another reason, as it was his first time attending a living history event at the park in some time. Late last year, Ricker received a very serious medical diagnosis, and for a time things looked very grim. Ricker recently received a clean bill of health from doctors, and earlier in the week his doctor said his system had recovered enough to participate in the re-enactment event at Sycamore Shoals.

As he spoke to the crowd, Ricker briefly acknowledged his health issues, but he did so with his usual sense of humor.

“The joking side of me, which everybody knows I’m quite a joker, last night I asked LeighAnn ‘What possessed you to get people to write letters to do this for me,’” Ricker recalled. “I believe it was Mel (McKay), my good buddy said ‘Well, we thought you was gonna die.’ So, my reply to that was ‘Neener, neener. I ain’t dead, and I got an award.”