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AETN, Fort Smith National Historic Site invite public to ‘Meet Me in the Park’ Sept. 12 Daylong event free to all ages; AETN Parks Initiative presented in conjunction with latest Ken Burns documentary

Meet Me in the Park at Fort Smith is free and open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. Activities will highlight garrison life during the Union occupation of Fort Smith during the Civil War, including cannon and infantry demonstrations and interpretive programs on cavalry, infantry, commissary staff and laundresses. The new Battle of Devils Backbone diorama will be unveiled at 9:30 a.m. in the museum.

After the withdrawal of the Confederates, Union forces reoccupied Fort Smith on Sept. 1, 1863. A battle took place at Devils Backbone where the Confederates hoped to recapture the fort by defeating Union soldiers who pursued their retreat. The Southern soldiers lost the battle and the ability to recapture the fort.

The first Fort Smith was established by Major William Bradford and a company of the U.S. Rifle Regiment in 1817 in order to maintain peace between the local Osage Indians and the emigrating Cherokees several years before the Trail of Tears. The second Fort Smith served as training ground and supply depot for soldiers in the war with Mexico and played a pivotal role during the Civil War as a staging point for various campaigns.

Fort Smith National Historic Site is located in downtown Fort Smith along the Arkansas River. To access the parking lot from Garrison or Rogers Avenue, turn south on 4th Street and right on Garland Avenue. Those attending are encouraged to bring a picnic and sunscreen. This is also an opportunity for participants in AETNs Arkansas State & National Parks Passport program to receive a passport stamp from one of the 12 highlighted parks.

The Parks Passport is a colorful booklet designed by AETN intended to be a fun and educational way to learn about Arkansas parks and encourage people to visit them throughout the year. Six National Park Service sites in Arkansas and six Arkansas State Parks are featured in the passport. AETN encourages individuals to order a free passport and visit any of the 12 featured parks to receive a stamp at the visitor center. Participants can then receive prizes for visiting any four, eight or all 12 of the highlighted parks. Passports may be ordered by visiting www.aetn.org/parks or calling 800-662-2386.

AETN is planning Meet Me in the Park events as part of the Arkansas State & National Parks Initiative, which is being presented in conjunction with the latest Ken Burns documentary, The National Parks: Americas Best Idea to air September 27 only on AETN. Screenings of the film will be held throughout the day in the parks theater at the visitor center.

Other elements of the initiative are AETNs Arkansas State & National Parks Amateur Photo Contest, Story Share and online activities for kids.

The photo contest is open to all ages and requires photos taken in an Arkansas park between June 1, 2009, and Sept. 23, 2009. All submissions must be made online. Story Share invites visitors to parks to share their experiences and photos on AETNs Arkansas Parks Web site.

To order or print a passport, enter AETN's Arkansas Parks Amateur Photo Contest, and see a complete list of AETN's parks-related events, visit www.aetn.org/parks.

The National Parks: Americas Best Idea premieres on AETN Sunday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m.

The Arkansas Educational Television Network (www.aetn.org) provides lifelong learning opportunities, improves and enhances Arkansans lives and celebrates the unique culture of Arkansas through its programming and services. AETNs digital transmitters and numerous cable system connections give it statewide reach.

AETN.org > Engage > Pressroom > AETN, Fort Smith National Historic Site invite public to ‘Meet Me in the Park’ Sept. 12 Daylong event free to all ages; AETN Parks Initiative presented in conjunction with latest Ken Burns documentary