DIAMOND, Mo. —
Mary Evans collected an armful of new materials Saturday at the George Washington Carver National Monument.
By midmorning, she had already gathered several posters about the Civil War and prehistoric time periods in Missouri to distribute among teachers in her school. She had also won a small potted milkweed plant by correctly answering the question of why residents should cultivate plants that are native to Missouri.
“I’m here to kind of glean what I can and take that to my school,” said Evans, who is a middle-school librarian in the Kirkwood district outside of St. Louis. “I’m thinking about ways to bring something fresh to our students.”
Up to 1,000 people were expected to visit the national park on Saturday for Carver Day, which is held each year in honor of the scientist who was born on a farm near Diamond and spent 47 years teaching agriculture classes at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
“It’s a celebration of the establishment of the park as well as a commemoration of the achievements of George Washington Carver,” said Curtis Gregory, event coordinator. “It’s just a fun day that we have here to celebrate.”
Activities scheduled during the day included guest speakers, musical performances, a junior ranger station for children, and a host of local nature and conservation exhibitors.
Evans, who made the trip to Diamond specifically for Carver Day, said she was initially drawn to the park because of a brochure that presented Carver as a “great integrator.”
“People of all walks, colors and creeds — he conversed with them, and I liked that,” she said.
Temperatures, which rose into the upper 90s, didn’t seem to faze the crowds. Nine-year-old Katrina Bell, of Duenweg, said she enjoyed being in the sun in her first visit to Carver Day with her grandmother, Angela Jacobus, of rural Newton County. Bell wore her “junior ranger” status proudly, with a badge from the park pinned to the front of her shirt.
“You can end up becoming a real park ranger or go to all the national parks with your passport and get stamps,” she said, adding that she hoped to do both someday.
Jacobus said she had visited the park as a child and was happy to return with her granddaughter.
“It’s really nice,” she said. “There are a lot of things to learn and see. (The best part is) watching her learn and see new things.”
Diane Hendrickson, of Joplin, and her 7-year-old daughter, Gwyneth, said they visit the park frequently but were experiencing Carver Day for the first time. Gwyneth, hoping to become a junior ranger herself, was going around the park with her mother, answering questions in a booklet printed specifically for the program.
Gwyneth said one thing she had learned from Carver Day was that some wildflowers actually benefit and bloom easier after wildfires. Hendrickson said that was one benefit of visiting the park with her daughter.
“There are a lot of things for her to do, and she actually gets to learn about stuff, too, and not just play,” she said.
This year’s Carver Day was the 69th annual celebration since the park was established in July 1943.