Monthly Archives: July 2013

Liberty! prepares for final performances of its 35th season

Two hundred and forty one years ago, strong and brilliant leaders, living in and around the Watauga settlement, came together under an old sycamore tree with the intent of providing a path for the future of the families living in the “Old Fields.” 

The Watauga SettlementTheir purpose – to create a government that would provide for law and order – and the right of every free man to vote.   Their fledgling democracy was a first for this continent, which came to fruition in 1772; four years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 

Tennessee’s Official Outdoor drama is presented each July by a cast that beams with pride as they portray some of our greatest early leaders and the people who made our country strong.  The story evolves through the 1770’s as the people of the Watauga become a part of the largest private real estate transaction in our country’s history, the Transylvania Purchase; a negotiation which took place between the Cherokee and the settlers.  

A year after the 1775 land purchases, under the leadership of Dragging Canoe, Cherokee warriors, angered by the loss of their lands, attack the frontier settlements. At Sycamore Shoals, Fort Watauga was constructed at the farm of miller, Matthew Talbott, to provide protection to the families.

Several years later, the settlements suddenly foundRio themselves in the thick of the American Revolution, when British Major Patrick Ferguson sent a warning over the mountains to those “rebels” who were living outside of the thirteen English colonies. If they did not cease their opposition to the Crown, he threatened to “march his army over the mountains and hang the leaders and lay waste their country with fire and sword.”

As the Saga of Sycamore Shoals comes to a close, the story of the historic muster of the Overmountain men, on September 25, 1780, highlights the evening’s production.  You will experience those thrilling moments as Overmountain men take the fight to Ferguson and catch up with him at Kings Mountain, South Carolina.  In just over an hour, with the death of Ferguson, they defeat the British forces.  

Years later, Thomas Jefferson called the event “that memorable victory, the joyful annunciation of that turn of the tide of success, which terminated the Revolutionary War with the seal of independence.”

A disagreementLiberty! – an intriguing, fast moving, theatrical production, is laced with special effects, music, horses, battle, and so much more.  We invite you to spend an evening with us by the Watauga River and become a part of the lives of these remarkable individuals.

While you are with us, plan to eat at Carter’s Store, which offers a menu of pulled pork BBQ, turkey legs, cornbread and soup beans, and more.  Friday and Saturday evening, by reservation only, you might consider coming early and enjoying our dinner theater.  An adult ticket of $22.00 will provide you with a great meal, entertainment, and admission to the drama.

The 2013 season of Liberty! comes to a close this weekend.  Our final three performances will be presented on Thursday through Saturday, July 25, 26 & 27.  The ticket booth opens at 6 pm with the show starting at 7:30 pm.  Adult tickets are $12.00 for ages 18 and up; Seniors, ages 55 and up are $10.00; Students, ages 6 – 17 are $9.00; 5 and under are free.

For additional information or to reserve seats for Saturday night’s dinner theater, please call Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area at 423-543-5808.

LIBERTY! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals Celebrates Our Veterans

The Official Outdoor Drama of the State of Tennessee continues its 35th season July 18th at Sycamore Shoals State His­toric Area in Elizabethton, and continues for two more weekends – July 18 – 20 and July 25 – 27,  Thursdays through Saturdays – beginning each evening at 7:30 in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater.

On Thursday, July 18th FREE admission to Liberty! will be granted to Veterans of all wars along with one escort.  We hope you will mark your calendars and plan to join us this Thursday as we honor and celebrate our Veterans!    

The 2013 season also marks the 4th exciting year for Carter’s Trading Post, a venue named in reminiscence of a trading post operated by pioneers Carter and partner William Parker shortly after they arrived on the frontier in 1771.  A fine menu of mouth watering treats will be offered each evening for Liberty! guests.  On Saturday, July 13, 20, 27 and Friday, July 19, 26, our Dinner Theater will begin at 6 pm.  For one price, you can enjoy a full meal, entertainment, and your admission to Liberty!  Dinner theater tickets are by reservation only by calling 423-543-5808.

During your visit to Sycamore Shoals, please plan the time to visit our new interpretive exhibit which opened in June of 2013.

Tennessee’s official outdoor drama is presented by a cast of local performers against the backdrop of Fort Watauga. Liberty! portrays the significant history of Sycamore Shoals during the late 18th century.

Sponsored by Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area,11Connects – WJHL TV, the Tennessee National Guard, Big John’s Closeouts, LeBleu, A to Z Rentals, and Holston Gas

 (Liberty! runs Thursdays-Saturdays, July 11- 13, 18 – 20, and 25 -27, in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton. Performances begin nightly at 7:30. Tick­ets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $9 for students. Children 5 and under are admitted free. For more information, call SSSHA at (423) 543-5808).

Friends group President doubles as Liberty! Cast Member

Each spring, cast members of Tennessee’s Official Outdoor Drama, “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals,” begin to gather.  They hold open auditions, plan their roles, and subsequently take on the characters of settlers, 18th century leaders, and Cherokee Chiefs and warriors.

In the thick of all this activity, a familiar face holds true; that of a man who is proud to have the opportunity to honor the people who settled along the Watauga Old Fields during the late 18th century.

Chester, played by Michael Barnett, reflects on the upcoming Muster of the Overmountain Men 50Michael Barnett, currently President of Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area, held his first role in Liberty! in 2008 when he portrayed Preacher Matthew Talbott, the miller who gave up his home place for the construction of Fort Watauga in 1776.   At that time, Michael had been invited to join the Board of Directors of the parks Friends group and quickly became involved in a multitude of ways.

Mr. Barnett is the owner of Big John’s Closeouts in Elizabethton and Mountain City, a locally owned and operated building material supplier.  But as a true Tennessee volunteer, Michael shares an enormous amount of his personal time with several of our local organizations.  In addition to Sycamore Shoals, he serves as President of the Elizabethton Women’s Center, The Carter County Animal Shelter Building Committee, and the Advisory Board for the Animal Shelter.  Additionally, he is Vice President of East Tennessee Spay and Neuter.

His strong connection to Sycamore Shoals and the people who came before us is evident, “There have been times I have sat down by the fort and wondered what is must have been like in the 1770’s on the frontier, knowing that your survival could be threatened by so many factors.  Powerful and successful British officers such as Tarleton and Ferguson, or Cherokee warriors trying to preserve their way of life were all threats to the new settlers and their families”

“How they must have loved the pursuit they held so dear to their hearts; establishing a new nation with unlimited bounds and a host of freedoms.  It is really incredible when you reflect on it.”

So it is very fitting, that Michael has the opportunity to play the role of “Chester” for the 35th season of Liberty!   Chester is not a specific person, instead, he is a character who represents the patriots of all wars; those men and women who give all for the love of their country.

As our story opens, the American Revolution is going full bore andMichael Barnett, portraying Chester, a character representing the patriots of all wars 50 it is 1780 just prior to the Muster of the Overmountain Men to Kings Mountain.   Chester, now up in years, is reflecting on previous wars in his lifetime as his friends in the Watauga Settlement prepare to head out in search of British Major Patrick Ferguson.  Then, in a flash, we have dropped  back to the early 1770’s where our story begins.

When asked what kind of a man he thought Chester could have been, Mr. Barnett stated that, “He would have been a patriot in the true sense of the word.  Although he was a grandfather, he was still willing to sacrifice his life and possessions in the pursuit of Liberty and freedom. Chester exemplifies the mental fortitude of so many people during the late 18th century.”

“In addition, Chester reminds us to be everything we can possibly be, to do good things, and always pursue our dreams.  Here, at Sycamore Shoals, people of many cultures came together and worked together, setting the foundation for the subsequent independence of our country from Great Britain.”

As Liberty! reaches towards its 40th year of production, Michael hopes that through Friends of Sycamore Shoals, we will be able to present portions of the drama to regional schools and community organizations.  It is his dream to take our story everywhere possible, reaching out to young people who will one day be charged with the protection of our historic places.

“When we took Liberty! to Nashville several years ago, we performed for several thousand school children at the Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park. It was just wonderful; no, it was amazing!  I could never have imagined what a huge impact our visit may have made on the many folks who came to see our show.”

Sycamore Shoals is where Liberty began – a new settlement outside the 13 original British colonies where community leaders had great dreams that ultimately became reality.

“I believe that everything we hold true today has its roots in the soil of Sycamore Shoals.”

Sponsored by Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area,

11Connects – WJHL TV, the Tennessee National Guard, Big John’s Closeouts, LeBleu, A to Z Rentals, and Holston Gas


(Liberty! runs Thursdays-Saturdays, July 11- 13, 18 – 20, and 25 -27, in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in Elizabethton. Performances begin nightly at 7:30. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $9 for students. Children 5 and under are admitted free.

 Reservations for our Dinner Theater can be made by calling the park.

For more information, call SSSHA at (423) 543-5808).


Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area

1651 W. Elk Avenue

Elizabethton, TN 37643