Paducah's hosting of the 24th Annual National Trail of Tears conference and symposium next weekend will include a commemoration of the city's role in the historic event of the late 1830s.
The conference will be held Oct. 11-13 at the Holiday Inn Riverfront/Paducah Convention Center.
Speakers throughout the weekend will offer presentations related to the forced removal of the Cherokee people from their homelands in the southeastern United States to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in 1838-39.
This will be the first time Paducah has hosted the Trail of Tears conference, according to Linda Peters-Jones, director of convention sales for the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"For the past 2-3 years, a woman named Alice Murphy has been doing research on the Trail of Tears for this area," Peters-Jones said. "It's taken her that long to be able to verify and prove Paducah was actually a part of the Trail of Tears.
"It was not part of the walking trail, but of the waterways trail. They were actually at the foot of Broadway."
There will be a sign dedication open to the public at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Kentucky Avenue entryway to the riverfront, Peters-Jones said.
Chickasaw musician Jason Burwell and Cherokee musician Tommy Wildcat will be providing entertainment throughout the conference. Registration and a tentative schedule can be found at www.nationaltota.com.
According to Peters-Jones, Paducah has much to offer to attract conventions like the Trail of Tears.
"We have so much history and so many different venues within our area. We have a wealth of different things to share with the world," she said.
"Paducah has its own unique culture, and I think that sets us apart from everyone else and makes us a very special place to come."
The conference is run by the Trail of Tears Association, a nonprofit, membership organization formed in 1993 to support the creation, development and interpretation of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.
TOTA has state chapters in the nine states through which the Trail traverses, including Kentucky.
In addition to the historical marker that will be dedicated during the conference, the National Trail of Tears is working with the downtown River Discovery Center on an interpretive display of the trail.
"It will give a little bit of history of what actually happened," Peters-Jones said. "It will be in that time frame.
"When you look at that display … you will be back in the 1830s."