Junior Rangers usher in summer|[04/27/08]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 27, 2008

With about a month to go before area students are out of school for the summer, rangers at the Vicksburg National Military Park used this weekend to give Civil War-interested youngsters a sneak peak of what’s to come this summer.

On Saturday, the park hosted its first Junior Ranger Day. Kids who made their way to the USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum took part in rifle drills and scavenger hunts and were given refreshments and guided tours of the iron-sided gunboat.

VNMP Ranger Melissa Perez said traditionally at other national military parks, Junior Ranger Day concludes National Park Week, which was last week.

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“But in addition to ending National Park Week, we’re also using the event as a way to kick off our summer programs for kids,” she said.

The summer, particularly June, will be filled with activities to tickle young Civil War fancies, she said.

Nine-year-old Bailey Muselwhite mimics park ranger Tim Kavanugh, playing the role of a Union solider. (Meredith Spencer * The Vicksburg Post)Kids will have the opportunity to experience the day-to-day life of Vicksburg soldiers and residents, learn about battle flags, fire rifles and hear the roar of cannons.

“I think these programs will fill a niche needed here at our park,” Perez said. “We already have family programs, but this will be a good way for just the kids to come out and explore a war that basically took place in their back yards.”

Perez said about 243 people, kids and adults alike, took part in Saturday’s Junior Ranger Day. Two of those were 10-year-old Megan and 6-year-old Lily Wilhelm. They were visiting the park with their parents, Ken and Kim Wilhelm, all from Salem, Mo.

Megan said she most enjoyed the scavenger hunt, for which she and her sister were given junior ranger badges, while Lily “really liked the punch and cookies,” the younger sister said with a mouth full of both.

If you goJunior Ranger summer programs are 10-11 a.m. each Saturday in June at Vicksburg National Military Park. The activities are for ages 6-12 and free.They are:Be a Vicksburg Soldier, June 7; meet at Old Superintendent’s Headquarters.Symbols of Battle, June 14; meet at Old Superintendent’s Headquarters.’Making Do’ During a Time of War, June 21; meet at Old Superintendent’s Headquarters.Ready, Aim, Fire!, June 28; meet outside the Visitors Center near the flagpole.For more information, call 601-638-1870.Beth Muselwhite brought her children from Grenada.

“They are just eating this up,” she said, smiling at Bailey, 9, and Elizabeth, 5. They came to Vicksburg to visit their father, David Muselwhite, who has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Flood of 2008.

“I’ve enjoyed it a lot so far,” Bailey said of his first tour of the battlefield. When asked about his favorite part of the tour, Bailey said, “probably that big ole’ dome thing,” more officially known as Illinois Memorial.

Bailey also said his first impression of the park was good enough for a second go-round.

“I think I might head back out here this afternoon with my dad.”

Perez labeled the park’s first Junior Ranger Day a success, “despite torrential downpours.”

“We’re very glad that the kids enjoyed themselves and that we had a good turnout,” she said. “And it’s definitely something we want to continue here.”