Government Shutdown Leaves Tourists Holding Tickets to Nowhere
HARRY F. ROSENTHAL
Nov. 15, 1995
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Visitors to some of the city's premier attractions were turned out into a dreary fall rain as the federal furlough closed doors at the Smithsonian museums, the White House and the National Zoo.
``It's disappointing, isn't it?'' said Ian Johnson, 42, a visitor from London. ``I mean, it's pouring down with rain and there's nowhere to go.''
There were places to go, of course. But they didn't include the National Air and Space Museum, or the National Gallery of Art, or the home of Hsing-Hsing the panda, or the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
By noon Tuesday they all were battened down, their reopening in the hands of President Clinton and the Republican Congress.
``It just seems crazy because back home you don't get that,'' said Johnson. ``I shouldn't think all the tourists who are over in England at the moment would be too happy if someone said we were going to close down the Tower of London. It just won't do. It's just unheard of.''
Mary Jo Kampe of Williamston, Mich., wrote her congressman three months ago for White House tour tickets. Talk about bad timing.
``I have waited a very long time for this so I'm very upset, disappointed,'' she said. ``That's not very good behavior, to turn away tourists who anticipate coming to Washington, D.C., and to be welcomed.''
The Washington Convention and Visitors Association, putting on a brave face, issued a list of attractions, not run by the federal government, that would be open. They included a statue of A. Philip Randolph, a fountain, a Franciscan monastery and the Mount Zion & Female Union Band Cemeteries.
None was in the league of the Smithsonian's national museums _ Air and Space with 8.5 million visitors last year, Natural History with 5.8 million and American History with 4.8 million.
But there were still some A-list attractions open, according to Lisa Holland of the visitors association: George Washington's estate in Mount Vernon, Va., the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Lincoln, Jefferson and Vietnam memorials.
Bill Diamant and Vicky Pappas, both of Toronto, were met by closed doors at the National Gallery of Art, where a rare exhibit of the paintings of Johannes Vermeer exhibition had drawn thousands since opening Sunday.
Pappas said her second choice was the Laurel Race Track in Maryland. ``We were going there afterwards anyhow,'' she said.
The shutdown had similar effects at federal facilities elsewhere in the country.
DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge on the Nebraska-Iowa border turned away visitors who wanted to see migrating Canadian snow geese. ``This is the best time of the year for the refuge, and nobody can get in,'' said Gina Martinez, an employee. ``They're disgusted.''
In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley was asked about the shutdown.
He shrugged and spoke an undeniable truth: ``If it snows in Washington, they shut down the government anyway.''