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National Park Service to celebrate 100th birthday with free admission, cake

The National Park Service turns 100 Thursday, and park sites across the region are celebrating with free admission, special activities and even birthday cake.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area will mark the centennial with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. Thursday for the new Katherine Landing Access Road on the Arizona side of Lake Mohave at the southern end of the park.

The Lake Mead Visitor Center, down the hill from Boulder City, will host a Founders Day Celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday with activities for kids, live desert animal displays and free birthday cake served at 1 p.m.

At Nevada’s newest Park Service site, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, officials from the City of Las Vegas will present a centennial proclamation at 11 a.m. Thursday at the end of Durango Road.

The birthday party will move downtown from 7 to 11 p.m., when the Fremont Street Experience hosts a Find Your Park from Vegas event featuring a specially made film — complete with a showgirl, an Elvis impersonator and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman — on the canopy. The Park Service also will staff an information booth.

National Park sites across the country will waive their entrance fees from Thursday through Sunday in honor of the agency’s 100th birthday. Visitors will still have to pay for camping and other amenities at all the park sites within about 300 miles of Las Vegas. That includes Lake Mead National Recreation Area; Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks in Utah; Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks in California; and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.

Great Basin, the only National Park located entirely in Nevada, doesn’t charge entrance fees, so there’s nothing to waive. But the park 300 miles northeast of Las Vegas will celebrate the centennial on Thursday by burying a time capsule and dedicating a new research telescope.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and Rep. Cresent Hardy are expected to attend.

The park’s Lehman Caves will offer throw-back tours by lantern light all day, and there will be free birthday cake at the visitor center in Baker from 2:45 p.m. until it’s gone.

President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service on Aug. 25, 1916.

“We like to think that we look pretty good for 100, and with so many events and activities to commemorate this milestone, we hope all Americans will join us to celebrate the breathtaking landscapes and inspiring history in our nation’s parks and public lands,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a written statement.

But don’t worry if you can’t make it out to a park this weekend. The Park Service will continue celebrating its centennial year with two additional fee-free days on National Public Lands Day, Sept. 24, and on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

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