Liberty! opens for 42nd season at Sycamore Shoals Park
Published 2:16 pm Thursday, May 27, 2021
The 42nd season of Liberty! the Saga of Sycamore Shoals, Tennessee’s official outdoor drama, will open Friday, June 4 at Sycamore Shoals State Park. The drama will be presented each Friday and Saturday in June in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater.
The drama not only presents the sights and sounds of the late 18th century on the frontier, but tells the story of nationally significant events that helped shape the future of our nation before, during, and after the American Revolution in an engaging, exciting, and entertaining fashion.
The story is set along the Watauga River on land historically occupied by Cherokee and early indigenous people prior to the arrival of explorers and settlers from the British colonies.
The Watauga Association, formed in 1772, was widely recognized as the first first and free continental government west of the Alleghenies. It was designed by leaders to provide for law and order and the right of every free man to vote. Later, the area was annexed by North Carolina and became known as the Washington District, named in honor of General George Washington, who was leading the fight for American Independence.
In 1775, The Transylvania Purchase took place along the Watauga “Old Fields” where Judge Richard Henderson and other land speculators purchased 20 million acres of land from the Cherokee. This negotiation sparked a series of Cherokee attacks on the pioneers of the Watauga and surrounding settlements a year later, which included a three-week attack on Fort Watauga. Cherokee Chief’s Attakullakulla and Oconostota, along with Attakullakulla’s son, Dragging Canoe all play a large role in sharing this event as it relates to Cherokee history.
Liberty! is set in front of a full-scale replica of Fort Watauga, which was used to defend the settlement against attacks from a faction of the Cherokee, led by Dragging Canoe, who opposed the sale. Ultimately, the settlement was successful in staving off the attack and siege of the fort.
Sycamore Shoals also served as the gathering place for the Overmountain Men, who were an essential part of a broader militia that defeated Major Patrick Ferguson and his British force at the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780. That event is considered a major turning point in the American Revolution.
Liberty! tells the stories of these important days in American history as well as demonstrating the life of pioneers and Cherokee. Moreover, it gives faces to the names we see on many of our street signs and other local area designations. We meet John Sevier, who went on to become the first Governor of Tennessee. We are also introduced to John Carter, and his son Landon, both of whom are reflected in the full name of the Carter Mansion, the oldest frame house in the state, which is managed and preserved by the Park and Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.
The amazing strength and skills of the local pioneer women are far from neglected in the drama. Another character is Mary Patton, who learned the art of manufacturing gun powder from her father. Her assistance was crucial in the defense of the settlement during the siege. Moreover, she supplied the Overmountain Men with a minimum of 500 pounds of gunpowder for their foray into North Carolina.
Attendees will also encounter Catherine “Bonnie Kate” Sherrill, a lively lass who was caught outside the fort during the siege attack, and was rescued by Sevier, whom she later married. While Tiptonville was the original name of Elizabethton, as part of the State of Franklin, it was later renamed for Landon’s wife, Elizabeth MacLin Carter, who also appears in the drama.
The Liberty! outdoor drama is presented using professional lighting and sound, a well-maintained amphitheater, as well as a cast of nearly 100 local actors in speaking and non-speaking roles.
Liberty! is directed by Melanie Bodkins with Tony Devault as production manager and Kaitlynn Newcomb as stage manager.
Liberty! runs each weekend in June at the Fort Watauga Amphitheater at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton, Showtime for the 2021 season is 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, June is Veteran and First Responder Night, and veterans, first responders and a guest will be admitted free.
Remaining tickets can be purchased at the door the night of the performance until sold out. Adults are $18; seniors, 60 and over are $14; students six to 17 are $8; and children five and under will be admitted free. Veterans and first responders tickets are $9
Friends of Sycamore Shoals Member (Present Card at Check-In) will be admitted for $10.