Eclipse and Confederate monument stories intersect in Kentucky

Eclipse, Confederate monument stories intersect

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- On a clear day, you can see the white obelisk for miles, it towers over this section of Christian County, Kentucky marking the birthplace of Jefferson Davis.

"It's 351 feet,” explains Ron Vanover, Director of Recreational Parks/Historic Sites. “It's one of the tallest formed concrete structures in the world."

Born a few hundred yards away, Davis would leave the Commonwealth eventually becoming the President of the Confederacy.

For Eclipse Day, camp sites are set, vendors arriving and park rangers are preparing for crowds. About 5,000 to 8,000 people are expected to come here, not just coming for the history, but to take in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“We just know that we're well prepared and ready for the folks to visit us,” Director Vanover insisted.

By Friday afternoon, a handful of campers had arrived.

In the vender area south of the monument, 24-year Army Veteran Garry Merritt prepared his booth.

Mr. Merrit, an African American who grew up in Hopkinsville, is anxious to sell his Dem Kentucky Boy's BBQ to those taking in Eclipse Day at the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site.

“I'm looking forward to greeting them regardless of what walk they're walking”, said Mr. Merrit. “I'm looking forward to greeting everybody with a smile and hopefully they'll take us in the same way".

As for the Confederate monument debate tearing at the fabric of our nation, he sides with those wanting to leave these types of markers in place.

“We're kind of spending too much time trying to figure out a way to hate and it just takes a little bit of time to just like and love,” he explained.

He recalled growing up visiting this site with his family, “When I'm coming down the street and I see that monument it takes me back to when I was in the 4th, 5th grade, field trips coming here. Actually, my mom used to bring our family here just, you know, summer vacation type thing. We couldn't afford a vacation so just sitting on the grounds here picnicking with my other siblings just enjoying the monument."

Director Vanover said the parks have taken no different precautions for this weekend following recent events. He added, “We have emergency action plans that we implement at all of our state park systems dealing with all of our special events.” 

Organizers don't expect trouble, but some expect the eclipse will overshadow the other big national story and for at least 2 minutes 40.1 seconds people will find at least one shared moment to bridge the divide. 

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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