Plains birthday plans for Jimmy Carter in flux as government shutdown looms

Plains, Georgia will celebrate former President Jimmy Carter's 99th birthday on Sunday.

Credit: David Aaro /

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Plains, Georgia will celebrate former President Jimmy Carter's 99th birthday on Sunday.

Credit: David Aaro /

Residents in the small rural town of Plains are celebrating their favorite son this weekend, but a possible government shutdown is complicating plans.

Sunday marks the 99th birthday of former president Jimmy Carter and the first since he entered home hospice care earlier this year. Sunday is also when the federal government could run out of funding if Congress doesn’t reach a deal.

Access to Georgia’s 11 national parks could become limited during a shutdown — including at Jimmy Carter National Historical Park sites in his hometown.

Doors might be locked at enclosed buildings like Plains High School, where a low-key bash was planned by park staff for the weekend. The status of open-air places such as the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm and the Plains Depot is also unclear if an agreement isn’t reached by midnight on Saturday.

On Monday, a National Parks Service spokesperson said the NPS “doesn’t have anything to offer at this time.” Follow-up questions were unanswered as of Tuesday afternoon.

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

Looming shutdown aside, Jill Stuckey, the superintendent of the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park, expects the festivities to be quiet this year because much of the birthday cheers rang out a week earlier when thousands of people were at the town’s annual peanut festival.

“It will be a huge celebration, but low-key huge celebration,” Stuckey told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter made a surprise appearance Saturday at the festival, where he was captured in public for the first time since at least February. “What a fabulous surprise to everybody that he was able to attend the parade,” Stuckey said.

Credit: Jill Stuckey

Credit: Jill Stuckey

A birthday banner also made an appearance during the parade filled with dozens of squares that people signed and colored over recent weeks to send well wishes to the former president. Over this weekend, the banner will be hung up in the auditorium at the high school that both he and his wife attended as students.

The former president will get a better view of the birthday banner on Sunday or Monday, when it will be placed inside the Carters’ nearby home or outside his window.

Beginning Saturday, either cake or cupcakes will be placed at the high school visitor center for people to enjoy and be a part of the celebration. What happens Sunday is less clear.

While some areas of Georgia’s national parks may remain open to the public, the availability of amenities, tours and rangers could be limited.

And in Atlanta, some events celebrating Carter’s 99th birthday at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum are moving to Saturday from Sunday to avoid the possible government shutdown, according to a library spokesman.

In Plains, a federal shutdown wouldn’t impact the town’s many churches, including Maranatha Baptist, where Carter taught Sunday school for several years.

On Sunday, Carter’s niece Kim Fuller will be instructing his morning class prior to the 11 a.m. service, according to Jan Williams, a longtime resident who plays piano at Maranatha. Williams added that pianist David Osborne, a regular performer for Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, is scheduled to play a special concert at the church next Tuesday.

Stuckey saw Carter on Sunday and said he had a huge smile on his face. She said it was still unclear whether he and his family will participate in any public birthday events,” but you never know, it’s Plains and it’s the Carters.”

Credit: David Aaro /

Credit: David Aaro /


The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum planned to celebrate the former president’s birthday on Sunday, when he turns 99.

Now it’s moving its public festivities to Saturday, just to be sure.

The reason? The Atlanta-based library and museum, like many other federally funded sites, will be shuttered starting Sunday if Congress doesn’t reach a deal this week to avert a federal government shutdown.

Instead of Sunday, the library and museum is inviting visitors to come Saturday to eat birthday cake, sign a birthday card and participate in other activities, including painting and trivia games. The film “All The President’s Men” also will be shown.

The price of admission? Ninety-nine cents, in a nod to the former president’s birthday.

If a federal government shutdown is averted, the library and museum will repeat festivities for visitors on Sunday, according to Clark.

-Mike Esteri, AJC

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