Veterans, First Responders will be honored June 20 at ‘Liberty!’ performance

Published 2:31 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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Veterans and First Responders will be admitted free to the Thursday, June 20, performance of “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals.” Free admission will be given to Veterans and First Responders and one companion or friend.

This is the 45th season of Liberty!, the official outdoor drama of the State of Tennessee.

Each year, the Fort Watauga amphitheater comes to life with the sights and sounds of the late 18th century on the colonial frontier.

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Nationally significant events that helped to shape the future of our nation before, during, and after the American Revolution are presented in an engaging, exciting, and entertaining fashion.The Watauga Association, formed in 1772, was widely recognized as the first continental government that was “free and independent” of the British Crown, designed to provide for law and order and the right of every free man to vote. In 1774, Virginia Governor Lord Dunmore called it a “dangerous example” to form a government “distinct from and independent of his majesty’s authority.” 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 at the time.

In 1775, The Treaty of Sycamore Shoals took place at 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.  

Liberty! is set in front of the full-scale replica of Fort Watauga, which was used to defend the settlement against attacks from a faction of the Cherokee, led by Chief 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 often noted as a major turning point for the American Revolution.

Liberty! tells the stories of these important days of American history as well as demonstrating the life of pioneers in a frontier settlement. Moreover, it gives faces to the names we see on many of our street signs and other local area designations. For example, 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. It’s preserved by Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park and Friends of Sycamore Shoals.

The amazing strength and skills of the local pioneer women are far from neglected in the drama. Mary Patton, who learned the art of manufacturing gunpowder from her father, provided the Overmountain Men with a minimum of 500 pounds of gunpowder for their foray into North Carolina in search of British Major Patrick Ferguson.

Guests 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.

This is only a partial list of fascinating local contributors to regional and national history, and putting the play on is quite an undertaking. It features professional lighting and sound, a well-maintained amphitheater, as well as a cast, crew, and production team of nearly 100 local actors in speaking and extra roles.

The drama will be shown this weekend and the weekend of 27, 28, and 29 in the newly renovated Fort Watauga Amphitheater at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.

General admission tickets range from free for children 5 and under; to $6 for students 6 to 17 years; $12 for seniors 55 and up; and $16 for adults. Members of Friends of Sycamore Shoals, Veterans, and First Responders may attend the drama any night for a reduced adult/senior admission price of $8.