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John Shoemaker, A Good Corporate Citizen

NPS Partner John Shoemaker
Six years ago, the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration at Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, Georgia was in danger of closing due to poor attendance. Working with the park, John Shoemaker, CEO of Riverside Ford Dealership, mobilized community members and found additional sponsors to revitalize and grow the Celebration, which now draws 20,000 visitors annually.

John Shoemaker and Ford Motor Company's involvement has increased each year allowing the park to do things that it had only been dreamed of. The Riverside Ford Dealership boosted the marketing of the event by underwriting the production of posters, TV and radio ads. They brought in Food Max as partner to provide the food for the volunteers and participants. John recognized the need to form a fundraising group for park needs and helped form the Ocmulgee National Monument Foundation in 2002. He has enlisted additional park support from other major players in the community.

Jim David, Superintendent of Ocmulgee National Monument, comments on John Shoemaker:

John Shoemaker brought unbridled optimism. That year we mentioned things we wanted to do but couldn't afford. John said, "OK, let's do that." His "can do" attitude caught on.

One night I was channel surfing and saw a Native American in regalia performing great music on PBS. I thought something like this would be great to bring to Macon. I taped the program and called John the next day. After watching a few minutes, he agreed it would be a great performance to bring to Macon, and started the ball rolling to bring noted performer, Robert Mirabal, to the celebration in 2002. That was the first fundraiser for the Foundation.

John is a big NPS fan. He had been doing short history programs as part of his dealership advertising program for several years and would do a spot about the park a few times each year. He has attended most of our events. He really got involved in 1999 when I mentioned the possibility of having to call off the Celebration.

One thing I was told by his point man is that John will only continue to support groups which he sees doing good hard work on their own. The fact that my staff puts out a fantastic effort for the Celebration impressed him. He does not just write a check. We sit down with him on planning the Celebration and he provides excellent input, brings in more participants and expands our promotion. Many times this has meant a greater expense on his part, and he has been there to give the go ahead. He has given the staff a "dare to dream" mentality with an infectious optimism.

John Shoemaker's comments on his participation in the partnership:

Macon/Middle Georgia is fortunate to have a national park within our city limits. The park plays a vital role in the overall tourist appeal of our city and region. We have the serenity of a peaceful historic area and the beauty of a wonderfully preserved sacred site.

I have always been a supporter of Ocmulgee National Monument and its cultural programs. When I heard the annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration was on the verge of folding, I told the Superintendent, "We cannot let that happen." A meeting was arranged the next week. I pulled a group of people together, found additional sponsors and we were able to hold the festival. As soon as it was over, we got everyone back together and began working on the next year. With time to plan, organize and promote, it was the best event ever and continues to build reputation as one of the top events in the Southeast. We continue to meet every month year round. My main emphasis is on marketing and support.

I take pride in our company being a good corporate citizen and felt the efforts of the Ocmulgee staff needed our support to make the festival a world class event. Over 20,000 people annually enjoy a weekend in history, art, and cultural displays and encampments. This provides true education to all age groups in a wonderful environment.

Encouraging people to study history is important, to show them history is invaluable and forever lasting. The national parks belong to all of us. We should take pride in their existence and do everything in our power as stakeholders to ensure that future generations enjoy them.

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