As the National Park Service marks the 100th anniversary of its founding on Thursday, Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon have organized several days of celebratory events.
Events for the centennial at Yosemite will include exhibits, ranger-led walks, and presentations to honor the history of the park, said Scott Gediman, a public affairs officer with Yosemite National Park.
“It’s not only being celebrated here in Yosemite,” Gediman said. “It’s being celebrated in national parks across the country.”
Gediman said ranger-led programs are a key function of the Park Service. “One of the cornerstones of the national parks is that you can go to a national park anywhere in the country and the ranger programs are kind of a core thing that we all do.
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“We basically tried to get this whole suite of programs and link all of them to the centennial,” he said.
Several of the presentations will delve into the origins of Yosemite and explore significant historical events, Gediman said.
One of the programs focuses on how the Park Service was created.
“We were a national park before the National Park Service was created, so we had everyone from the Buffalo Soldiers, the African American soldiers who came from the Presidio of San Francisco, to protect the park.”
The Buffalo Soldiers served in the late 19th and early part of the 20th century, protecting the Yosemite and Sequoia parks from poachers and timber thieves.
At Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks, ranger-led programs and candlelight cave tours will start on Aug. 25. A pageant about a classic Sequoia tale, “Ersa of the Red Trees,” will be presented from Aug. 26 to Aug. 28 at the General Sherman Tree, a giant sequoia.
The events at Sequoia and Kings Canyon will put a centennial spin on many of the parks’ regular activities, said Dana Dierkes, a public affairs officer for the parks.
At Yosemite, anniversary events begin on Tuesday with an hourlong evening program at the Half Dome Village Amphitheater and end on Aug. 27 with a junior ranger talk in front of the Wawona Visitor Center at Hill’s Studio. A full schedule of events is available in the summer 2016 Yosemite guide.
In addition to programs during this anniversary week, a key centennial program is “Every Kid in a Park,” Gediman said.
The program gives every fourth-grader a free pass to the all the national parks for a year, including the student’s family, Gediman said. The concept is to inspire younger people to take a bigger interest in the park system.
“I’m a park ranger here because my parents brought me here as a kid,” Gediman said.
Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks will waive the usual summertime $30 per-vehicle entrance fees from Thursday through Aug. 28.