There was trivia, doll-making and a chocolate marble cake that was gone in minutes. Hundreds of admirers of Jimmy Carter celebrated his 99th birthday in Atlanta on Saturday at the presidential library and museum named for him, after organizers moved the festivities up one day earlier than his actual birthday because of the threat of the government shutdown.
Presidential libraries receive federal funding from the National Archives and Records Administration. During a government shutdown, portions of libraries that are operated by the agency close, while those that are not can stay open with private funding. At least four presidential libraries — for Mr. Carter, Lyndon B. Johnson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy — confirmed on Saturday that they would stop operations if lawmakers failed to reach a deal to avert a shutdown.
But at the Carter library in Atlanta, a naturalization ceremony for 99 new American citizens scheduled at the library on Sunday will proceed, said Emily Curl, a museum technician.
The attorney general during the Carter administration, Benjamin Civiletti, is credited with creating the concept of an official government shutdown. During Mr. Carter’s term, lawmakers failed to approve a spending bill that would have allocated more funds to the Federal Trade Commission. The president sought advice from Mr. Civiletti on whether government workers could continue working without funding, and the attorney general called for an official shutdown.
The rescheduled celebration of Mr. Carter’s birthday did not dampen the mood of the party nor the turnout. Outside the library was a Jumbotron display playing birthday wishes from figures including President Biden; Senator Jon Ossoff, Democrat of Georgia; and the Carter Center staff, as well as photos and videos submitted by the public.
Cynthia Rice, a volunteer at the library and former director of educational programs for the Carter Center, said the library had expected around 150 visitors, but by midday, 1,000 pins commemorating Mr. Carter’s birthday had been distributed to attendees.
Although partygoers were enjoying the celebration — they wrote birthday cards to Mr. Carter, ate chocolate marble cake and participated in some of Mr. Carter’s childhood activities like making corn husk dolls — some appeared wary of the prospect of a shutdown.
“The growing chasm between the two sides is disheartening,” Ms. Rice said, noting Mr. Carter’s legacy as a compromiser. “We’ve got to get back to being able to talk to one another, listen to different sides and then come up with what’s best for the people.”
Tony Callaway, 78, who was a minister at Mr. Carter’s church in Atlanta, said that “it’s shameful what’s going on.” Mr. Callaway met the former president the Sunday before Mr. Carter was sworn in as governor of Georgia in 1971.
After the House passed a funding measure Saturday afternoon that would keep the government open through mid-November if the Senate also passes it, Tony Clark, head of public affairs at the Carter library, said, “It will be interesting to see what the Senate will do.”
“But if we stay open, we’ll have another party tomorrow,” he said. But there won’t be another cake, according to Ms. Curl.