A Fee Free Easter Celebration in Prince William Forest National Park!
A couple of years ago, Ryan and I made an accidental discovery– The U.S. National Park Service does about a half dozen “Fee Free Weekends” a year. Score! The Fee Free Weekends are usually to celebrate national holidays like Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, etc. They do this every year and you can even check the schedule to see the Fee Free dates in the coming year.
This past November, I had forgotten a Fee Free Weekend was coming up for Veteran’s Day, so I was quite happy when Twitter reminded me.
The NPS honors America’s veterans with free entrance to all parks for all visitors this 3-day Veterans Day weekend http://t.co/1k6hXy9Y1B
— NationalParkService (@NatlParkService) November 4, 2013
Seems like an innocuous tweet, right? Who could complain about free access to National Parks? Free hiking! Free camping! Free picnicking! Free views! Free fresh air!
Well, a lot of people apparently! I was dumbfounded to read all the replies to the National Park Service’s tweet. It was full of vitriol and bitterness and snide remarks. People didn’t realize “Fee Free Weekends” was an established thing, planned well in advance. In the absence of that knowledge, they assumed it was a motivated event, a bribe. They thought the Fee Free Weekend was an attempt to make up for the government shutdown in October, the one that forced the National Parks (and the National Monuments, most famously the National World War II Memorial) to close.
All the negative-vibes didn’t stop the Sommas from having an awesome Fee Free Day at Prince William Forest National Park!
Fee Free Weekends Aren’t Sinister… They’re Fun!
So forward ahead to April. I was excited to recall another Fee Free Weekend was approaching. April 19th and April 20th were Fee Free to celebrate the beginning of National Park Week! This Fee Free Weekend was a lot less controversial on Twitter… but I realized it may pose a conflict in my family. Easter was April 20th. How could we do Easter AND take advantage of the Fee Free Weekend at the same time?
Well here’s a lesson for you. It never hurts to ask. I thought my mother would be vested in having Easter at the house. I thought she would have no interest in a picnic. But I asked anyway.
“What if… what if we did an Easter Picnic at Prince William Forest National Park instead?”
I found myself as surprised as I was about all those bitter tweets to the National Park Service. My mother LOVED the idea! Not only did she love the idea, she TACKLED the idea. She invited people, got all the paper plates and supplies organized, bought TONS of food for the event and handmade 40 hamburger patties the way my Dad used to make them– with delicious Lipton Onion Soup mix. I was just the idea person. My mother made the event happen.
And it was a great event! Everyone who joined us brought a potluck dish. In addition to our grilled meats, we had homemade taco dip, Watergate salad, broccoli salad (my contribution), homemade hummus, potato salad, stuffed olives. To celebrate Easter we had dyed Easter eggs. To celebrate National Park Weeks, we had s’mores! We had two visiting German high schoolers with us. They instagrammed their very first s’mores.
Best of all, when I was a child, Easter was a time to play with your cousins. Our kids are still young, but Sagan and Dyson are already getting to to visit with their cousin Lincoln– outside. In the beautiful, beautiful outside.
This is probably my most memorable Easter since I was a child and got baby ducks. It’s hard to top baby ducks. But Fee Free National Parks… that can come pretty darn close. : )
P.S. The next Fee-Free Day — August 25th for the National Park Service’s Birthday. : )