7 On Your Side helps travelers learn about their history at the Smithsonian

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) -- For a group of more than 160 people from the Vallejo area, a trip to Washington, DC was more than a vacation. It was a connection to their history and an affirmation of how far their community has come. When that trip was in jeopardy, they turned to 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney, to save it.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened 13 months ago, but may still be the hottest ticket in the nation's capitol right now. A Vallejo group booked their entire vacation around it, only to be told their expected tickets were no longer available.

They call themselves "family and friend travelers." But judging by the smiles on their faces, club members are family to each other.
167 of them booked their hotel and plane tickets a year-in-advance, for a chance to see the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

They say group reservations were available six months out.

So that's exactly when club leader Geri Spearman called the museum. She said, "They were not taking any group reservations. I said "excuse me?"

A notice on the museum website said the policy had changed because demand exceeded availability. Group reservations had been temporarily suspended.

"I was left holding the bag for 167 people who had paid the hotel for the museum. Of course I panicked," Geri said.

The Vallejo resident worried she let the group down, and thought every one of them would demanding refunds from her.

Geri continues, "My vision was I was going to be living under the freeway because I've obligated myself to $100,000 plus, and I can't get into the museum."

But an overwhelming majority of travelers held out hope and stuck it out.

Richmond resident, Saundra Richardson said, "I felt more frustration for her because I know how she likes to have everything just right."

Geri's husband, Clyde, said his wife turned to a higher authority for help. "She was up in the middle of the night praying inside the house, outside the house," he said.

Geri's pastor told her to put some feet under her prayers. Those feet led her to 7 On Your Side.

We contacted the museum, and the group confirmed their reservations.

Fannie Williams Toomer brought pictures of three family members who had all died. Her father, sister, and cousin on the trip.

"It wasn't sentimental. I just wanted them to be there," said Toomer.

The exhibition struck an emotional chord for Saundra Richardson.

"That was really touching for me and yeah, it really did bring tears. I think I'm crying now."

A limited amount of same day reservations are available for the museum, but most are booked in advance. For more information, we have a link right here.
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