Eleven year old Madison Hershiser, a sixth grader from Castle Rock, CO, and her grandmother, Kay Rosser of South Pasadena, CA, became 2007's one millionth visitor to walk through the doors of Mount Vernon Estate's new Orientation Center at 10:40 a.m. Tuesday morning, November 13.
Greeted by a phalanx of Mount Vernon employees and officials, a drum roll, trumpet bursts, and red and gold confetti, the two visitors exhibited a combined look of confusion and suspicion. "My grandmother wanted us to come to Washington to see the sites and learn about American history. We were not expecting this at all," Madison said when told they were instant Mount Vernon celebrities.
Originally they were planning to make the trip in October, then Madison entered the final stages of receiving her black belt in karate which required a series of activities. "I have been in black belt training for four years and it's very demanding. I finally got it this past Saturday," Hershiser said.
Castle Rock schools are also on a year-round schedule which makes for different vacation periods, according to Rosser. "We had to make special arrangements to take this trip now. We are doing homework every night and Madison will give a special report to her class when we get back. This will be quite an addition to that report," she said.
A very good student, according to her grandmother, Madison studied American History in fifth grade and wanted to see some of the sites first hand. From here they are planning to travel to Philadelphia on Thursday to visit the historic sites in that City and area.
"I really want to see the Liberty Bell," Hershiser said. "I just thought this would be the perfect time for this trip," Rosser said.
As they entered the Orientation Center they were personally greeted by George Washington's nephew and personal secretary, Lawrence Lewis, and Lady Fairfax, both dressed in colonial attire and portrayed by Ken Johnston and Peg Pokusa, respectively. Lewis read a personal greeting from Washington welcoming them to his home and Lady Fairfax presented the two with a bonnet and tricorner hat.
On Wednesday they planned to visit the Capitol and attend a session of the U.S.Senate arranged by California Senator Diane Feinstein, according to Rosser. They also hope to visit several Smithsonian museums, the National Cathedral, and other sites. Tuesday night they were scheduled to see a Shakespeare play at Folger Theater.
"This will be Madison's first Shakespeare stage production," Rosser said."We saw so many things yesterday. In fact, one of our taxi drivers said we could spend a week or more here and not see everything," Madison added.
After the initial shock of being greeted with such fanfare, the two were presented with a special gift basket of Mount Vernon souvenirs by Executive Director James Rees and given special tours of the new museum and Mansion. This is the first time since 2001 that Mount Vernon Estate tourism has hit one million visitors in a single year, according to Emily Coleman Dibella, assistant director, Marketing, Mount Vernon Estate.