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Amid Government Shutdown, Monticello Sees Visitor Increase

October 15, 2013

Amid the government shutdown, at least one tourist attraction is seeing a boost in visitors as many tourists are forced to find detours.

A lot more tourists are taking in the views at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

"I'd say the visitation uptick is always a pleasant surprise," said Gary Sandling, Monticello's vice president of visitor programs and visitor services.

The uptick is thanks, in part, to the government shutdown.

"I was so relieved when I called and got the message because we really did want to see some historic sightseeing when we were up this way," said Marty Fleming, a visitor from Louisiana.

"A lot of folks have said to us anecdotally, 'Oh, we're so glad you're open. We're really happy, we weren't sure if you would be,' or 'We've come from Washington and we're glad we can see you if we couldn't see other places," Sandling said.

Monticello officials say the month of October is typically busy to begin with, but through the last couple of days and Columbus Day weekend, many people have been making detours in their plans.

"We've made the best of it," said Richard Clark, who is visiting the United States with his wife, Rachel, from England. "The weather's been hard work, but there's plenty to see in America. Just we've had to replan our intinerary."

The Clarks say this two-week trip has been planned for five months.

"We've planned the next five days in Washington. Hopefully, something will be open by then," Rachel Clark said. "So far, it's a little frustrating with what we've been able to access."

"A lot of parks and museums have been doing their best to get the word out, through Virginia in fact, 'Hey, we're open. Come see us,'" Sandling said.

As the shutdown continues, some privately operated museums are bringing in more visitors. But for some tourists, it's leaving a sour taste behind.

"America can try to portray its power across the world, but it can't keep its own house in order sometimes," Richard Clark said. "It's a little frustrating, and anybody that's outside America would look at it from that perspective."

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