Winter storm forces cancellation of Lincoln Bicentennial event

By Bruce Schreiner

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. – Abraham Lincoln’s birth in a small Kentucky cabin coincided with harsh wintry weather.

Now, 199 years later another winter storm forced the cancellation of a celebration at his birthplace near the central Kentucky town of Hodgenville that was to help kick off a two-year bicentennial commemoration of the nation’s 16th president.

First lady Laura Bush was scheduled to speak at the 90-minute ceremony Tuesday marking Lincoln’s 199th birthday, but a treacherous combination of snow and ice kept her from visiting Kentucky.

Organizers had expected about 5,000 people at the event, and the guest list was to include Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Gov. Steve Beshear, members of Congress and actor Sam Waterston.

“It’s a tremendous disappointment,” said Tommy Turner, judge-executive of LaRue County, where the birthplace is located, and a key organizer of the event.

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    Linda Friar with National Park Service said concerns about hazardous driving conditions around the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site just outside Hodgenville led to the cancellation.

    David Early, spokesman for the national Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, said it was too soon to discuss possible plans to reschedule the ceremony. Turner said two other events honoring Lincoln still would take place later Tuesday – a luncheon put on by members of the community and a dedication ceremony for the first marker for the Lincoln Heritage Trail.

    Hodgenville residents had spent years gearing up for the celebration that promised to shine the national spotlight on the town of about 3,000. “The community was ready to shine,” Turner said.

    Turner, who was to serve as master of ceremonies at the celebration, said he was hopeful that another event could be scheduled at the birthplace.

    The birthplace site draws about 200,000 people each year, and officials are expecting a bump in visitations this year amid Lincoln hoopla. The site features a neoclassical structure made of granite and marble that enshrines a tiny cabin symbolic of the homestead where Lincoln was born on Feb. 12, 1809. A Lincoln relative later recalled it was bitterly cold and sleeting the day Lincoln was born.

    Events commemorating Lincoln’s birth will be held all year across the country leading to the 200th anniversary in 2009, and then will continue on through the following year.

    Lincoln was born in a small cabin at Sinking Spring farm near what became Hodgenville. Two years later, a land dispute prompted the family to move a few miles away to Knob Creek farm, where young Abe formed his earliest memories. The Lincolns lived there until 1816 when they moved to Indiana. Lincoln later moved on to Illinois.

    Lincoln is revered as the commander in chief who held together the Union during the Civil War and issued the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery.