WORLD-CLASS CITIES OF THE WORLD
The top cities in the world (and scores), from Travel + Leisure's 2006 readers' poll:
1. Florence, Italy (87.09)
2. Rome (86.15)
3. Bangkok (86.11)
4. Sydney (85.94)
5. Chiang Mai, Thailand (85.62)
6. Cape Town, South Africa (85.39)
7. Buenos Aires (85.03)
8. New York (84.75)
9. Beirut (84.38)
10. San Francisco (84.29)
Which Great Lake is the only one located entirely within the United States? (Answer later)
LEWIS AND CLARK BICENTENNIAL COMMEMORATION ENDS
The Lewis and Clark bicentennial that started with the first of 15 major events in 2003 has concluded, in St. Louis, where the explorers ended their journey exactly 200 years ago.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark arrived in St. Louis on Sept. 23, 1806, on the return trip from their historic two-year trek to the Pacific and back.
Their 8,000-mile journey has been commemorated with events in 13 states during the past 31/2 years.
The final event featured a scholars' symposium in St. Louis, followed by activities during the Sept. 23 and 24 weekend on the Mississippi Riverfront near the Gateway Arch. About 40 American Indian tribes, many of which took part in other commemorations, were represented.
The kickoff of the bicentennial took place at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia estate.
But not every event in the commemoration was successful. In Great Falls, Mont., organizers said a monthlong event in June 2005 lost the city a half-million dollars and had sluggish ticket sales, despite bringing in more than 40,000 people. A second event in Montana in July marking Lewis and Clark's return trek was said to have fared much better.
The bicentennial did attract millions of people to the Lewis and Clark Trail, however, and other so-called "Signature Events" were attended by tens of thousands of people.
"What we managed to do is make connections with people today and an important part of history. The numbers don't matter so much," said Robert Archibald, president of the Missouri Historical Society and co-chair of the Lewis & Clark bicentennial. "I'm guessing they will celebrate it again even 50 years from now. Lewis and Clark will continue to be icons because of the world they described and explored."
For more information, visit www. lewisandclark200.org.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
NATIONAL PARKS TO CHARGE FOR WEDDINGS
Citing a fivefold increase in weddings inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the past half decade, the National Park Service is set to begin charging for permits for them.
"We are not making money, we are just recouping our costs," park spokeswoman Nancy Gray said of the plan intended to give Smoky's managers greater control over the 600 or so weddings held annually in the country's most-visited national park.
Beginning today, couples must pay a $50 nonrefundable fee for weddings in the park straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina border.
That applies to standard ceremonies, Gray said. More elaborate ceremonies that call for rangers to be present for traffic control or other services require an additional $150 use permit.
Businesses that want to use the park as a location for weddings as part of packages they sell must buy a commercial use authorization. The same applies to commercial companies that transport people to wedding locations, wedding photographers and other such services. Those applications will cost $200 plus $10 dollars each month of the 24-month authorization.
One of the aims is to comply with National Park Service policy and congressional direction to recover costs associated with special park use activities, said park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. …