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Happy birthday, Abe

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Hodgenville celebrates birth of its favorite son

By Amber Coulter

Hodgenville celebrated the area’s favorite son Tuesday with the annual Abraham Lincoln Birthday Luncheon at Ovesen Heights Baptist Church.

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Bill Justice, superintendent of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park, said it is an honor for him to be over the park.

“This is a great park, and the community really loves this park, and you can see that,” he said. “You can see that by the people who are sitting here at the tables.”

The park last year attracted about 170,000 visitors who spent an estimated $6 million in the area, Justice said

There have been serious challenges during the past year, such as mold on the walls of the memorial and heating and air conditioning issues, he said.

Last year also included planning, such as improvements to the boyhood home part of the park, which remains the park’s top priority and will likely be acted upon soon, Justice said.

Park employees also are renovating the picnic pavilion. There will be a community picnic there when the work is done, he said.

Such work and improvements require commitment from volunteers. It will be a priority for park representatives to draw more volunteers to perform various functions, Justice said.

“The thing about volunteerism is it’s limited by your own imagination,” he said.

Outgoing Director Phillip Setters said attendance was down from some other luncheons celebrating the president’s birthday because it fell during the traditional work week.

There were about 60 people and more than 100 place settings.

Lincoln’s birthday and other events that honor the president allow area residents to set differences aside and celebrate the man the community helped produce, Setters said.

“I think the most important thing about Abraham Lincoln here is that he unites our community,” he said.

Many of the values and the background Lincoln took with him to the White House originated in the Hodgenville area, Setters said.

“The man who wrote the Gettysburg Address learned to write and speak his first words here,” he said. “That’s something we did, and we can be proud of it.”

Lincoln Days Board member Ruth Ann Brown said she thinks it’s important for Hodgenville natives, such as herself, to remember Lincoln’s contributions.

The most notable was helping to free slaves and get the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed, she said.

Brown said Lincoln likely is the most important president the nation ever had.

The event also featured two models being considered as the “Legacy of Lincoln” art display.

The display likely will be designed as three, three-sided structures, with each side depicting a scene from Lincoln’s life and times.

Megan Kelly, an artist and media coordinator on the project, said the scenes might be submitted in a contest by local artists, and the model might be mobile.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.