Sycamore Shoals, "Liberty!" benefitting from license plate sales

John Thompson • Jul 25, 2018 at 9:33 AM

ELIZABETHTON —This is the last weekend of annual performances at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park for Tennessee’s official outdoor drama, “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals.” The program changes from year to year, but one thing that many people have noticed this year is better lighting in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater.

Jennifer Bauer, manager of the park, said the money for the new lighting is coming from the proceeds of the sale of the new specialty license plate that the Friends of Sycamore Shoals worked to get approved by the Tennessee Department of Revenue a couple of years ago.

The license plate is based on the Revolutionary War flag often referred to as the Gadsden Flag. The historic flag was yellow and featured a coiled rattlesnake, ready to strike, at its center of the flag. Beneath the snake was the sentence: “Don’t Tread on Me.”

The license plate has become a popular seller for the state. The Department of Revenue reported that in fiscal year 2017 it issued 2,660 new plates and 17 renewals. The Friends of Sycamore Shoals received $41,814.74 from those sales.

The second year of the license plates existence was even richer. For fiscal year 2018, the state issued 3,526 new plates and had 1,867 renewals. The Friends received $88,443.85.

According to the Department of Revenue’s website, the proceeds of the sales benefit the park, “including but not limited to assisting in the development, maintenance, and presentation of the park’s grounds and structures.”

Bauer said that includes the park’s two satellite properties: Carter Mansion, the oldest wood frame home in the state, built in the 1770s by community leader John Carter and his son Landon; and Sabine Hill, a Federal-style house completed shortly after the end of the War of 1812 by Mary Patton Taylor, the widow of Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Taylor.

While some of the funds from the license plate sales have been used for such purposes as improving the lighting of the Fort Watauga Amphitheater, Bauer said the money is being held for a large project for the park.

Bauer said the Friends of Sycamore Shoals was created to support and promote the park and there has always been harmony between the Friends and the staff of the historic park. She did not anticipate that harmony to change just because of the recent infusion of new money from the license plate sales.

After all, the Friends are certainly used to raising money for the park. That is especially true with the annual outdoor drama, which is presented on the last three Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in July.

The play is about the events that happened at Sycamore Shoals during the 1770s and 1780s, including the climax of the Overmountain Men gathering at Sycamore Shoals before riding to meet a British force under command of Maj. Patrick Ferguson at Kings Mountain, S.C.

Tickets are $14 for adults, $11 for seniors 55 years old and older, and $5 for students aged 6-17. Children 5 and younger are admitted free.

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