Quilters thread old with new

Quilters Bette Mullersman (left) and Anita Smythe (right) look over the guild’s work on the quilt.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It took over 200 hours to quilt, more than 15 sets of hands to do everything from designing to ironing, and four people to hold up the colossal quilt that seemed to swamp the members of the Old Town Quilter’s Guild in guild member Anita Smythe’s living room for the Herald & Tribune photo-op.

The guild made the quilt as part of the group’s annual quilting challenge and the proceeds from the quilt, which will be on display and up for sale at the Visitor’s Center during the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, will benefit the Jonesborough Area Ministerial Association.

“We thought tying into that (storytelling) would really help to promote Jonesborough,to create awareness for quilting and that it isn’t just traditional,” Smythe said. “I think that’s another thing. You’re displaying something that has a traditional pattern but certainly is not traditional in the execution of it.”

Though the practice of quilting has been around since about 3400 B.C. and in the United States since the settlement of the New World, many associate quilting with the Appalachian region and the old-time quilters who pass down their hand-sewn patchwork from generation to generation. But now, the Old Town Quilters Guild is ready to take that traditional method and add a slightly modern twist.

“Many people think of quilts as very traditional in appearance,” guild member and project committee co-chair Bette Mullersman said. “They know about their grandmother’s flower garden quilt or their grandmother’s wedding ring quilt, but they don’t often see more contemporary fabrics used in traditional patterns.”

Bette Mullersman explains the pattern and fabrics used on the quilt.

In fact, the quilt dons a “hunter’s star” pattern which inspired the quilt’s name, “Stars Over Jonesborough”. It’s also a boutique quilt, which means it’s the same pattern on the front and the back so there is no “wrong” side.

Though the quilt offers a traditional pattern and technique, Smythe chose less traditional, fall-colored hues in honor of the town’s festival taking place in October. The style of quilt isn’t the only part of the project that rides the line between modern and traditional, however; Smythe said one of her favorite parts of the guild is the range in the group’s skill levels.

“It’s very inspirational to get together with people from various levels because we have everyone from beginners to advanced, prize-winning quilters,” Smythe explained. “I started when I was a kid making doll clothes. Then I was making people clothes for myself and then for my kids. But then I got to the point where I wasn’t happy with what I was making. Because I still wanted to sew, so quilting was the next step. Plus, just the history behind it really intrigues me and the colors basically. I love the colors.”

Meanwhile, Mullersman said it’s the freedom she finds in the skill-level and quilting style variance that keeps her coming back and wanting to share the word about the group.

“I think that’s the benefit of being in a guild is that you have people who are doing all kinds of things,” Mullersman said. “And if you want to try it, everybody’s helpful and willing to teach you and stand by you and share new techniques and even old techniques that still work. For me, it’s refreshing and inspirational like Anita said. I feel accepted even though I do different things. My quilts are really not like this. They scream colors.

“It really is a combination of a lot of people’s generosity.”

Guild member (and helpful neighbor who came right over to Smythe’s house after a phone call saying Smythe needed help holding the quilt up for a photo) Carolyn Walsh is another quilter who has witnessed the generosity of the group. Walsh said knowing how to thread a machine was  the extent of her quilting knowledge when she joined the group, but now, quilting lets her express her personality.

“I’m a rule follower. I always wanted to be a rebel but I never was,” Walsh said. “And with quilting, you have to follow those rules. If it says stay in that quarter-inch line, you stay in that quarter-inch line. And I can do that. But when it works out, it’s like, “Ah, okay! I can do this.”

Now that the quilt is complete, the project seems to have worked out for the guild, but for some guild members, the project isn’t complete until someone finally buys the star-laden quilt that will be up for sale in October.

“The goal isn’t just to finish it. The goal is to sell it,” Smythe said. ”It’s not finished yet until it’s actually sold. That’s part of the process.”

Though the quilt could go to someone in town or a visitor from anywhere in the world, the purchaser will always have a reminder of where the sewn blanket was made.

“It’s so perfect. If someone does come in for storytelling, or maybe it’s someone from Jonesborough, on the back of the quilt it has a picture of the courthouse and it says who made it and that it’s from Jonesborough,” Walsh said. “So they’ll always have a reference of a part of Jonesborough in their house. So it’s very cool.”

The guild—which is similar to their quilt in that all their pieces and personalities and modern-meets-traditional style all came together to form one group and quilt—are now ready for that final step of displaying the hand-crafted blanket. And as with most specially made items, the attachment and appreciation is something the members have certainly considered.

“My hope is for someone just to appreciate it. People are like, ‘Oh that’s a nice blanket. Okay, I’ll take it.’ But it’s different. If the person can’t appreciate it, I don’t want their money. If they can’t look at it and say, ‘Oh look how perfect that line is all the way across’—mine probably wouldn’t be yet” Walsh said, laughing, “but this one is. This one is perfect. As long as they appreciate it and realize that took a lot of time.”

“Well you know, it’s hard (selling it),” Mullersman said. “It’s interesting, I’m ready to sell it because I know it’s going for a really great cause. I did it for that reason. It’s interesting how you do get attached. But I think because it’s been a group effort to meet specific goals, it’s easier. It’s much easier because it’s a combination of all of our work.”

“The person who purchases the quilt, I think there’s going to be several motivations. Knowing that the money is going to be used for the food pantry, a local charity, I think stimulates people to let go of their money,” Mullersman said. “And to know that they’re contributing to a Jonesborough charity and then they’re taking home something that they’re going to use and enjoy. That’s a good feeling all around.”

The quilt will be on display and for sale throughout the festival on October 6-8 in Jonesborough.

Local car show offers easy-going charm

Marsha and Allen Torbett’s ’35 Plymouth is pretty easy to spot in the Hardee’s parking lot.

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

If you’ve driven past the Jonesborough Hardee’s lately, you may have noticed that the parking lot has taken on a retro vibe, and it will do so every Friday evening for the rest of the summer. The Hardee’s, located at 395 E Jackson Boulevard, is hosting a weekly cruise-in event on Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m., weather permitting, until September 29.

The cruise-in features a classic car show, meal deals, and door prizes.

The cruise-in is organized by Bill Rider, a trustee for the New Life Fellowship Community Church, and the funds raised through the summer event will go toward the construction of a new church.

The car show is free for participants and visitors, but donations to the church are appreciated. Rider also encourages the purchase of tickets for door prizes.

“This is the only cruise-in you’ll go to that you’ll get a door prize,” Rider said. “I sell 50/50 tickets. The winner gets half the money and the other half goes into the church building fund.”

There are usually between 20 and 30 classic cars at the cruise-in, which is open to motorcycles and other vehicles as well. Rider himself brings a ’52 Ford pickup occasionally.

Norm Dion’s ’67 Mustang sets watch at the Cruise-in.

People don’t realize it, he said, but there are a lot of classic cars in Jonesborough. And many classic cars come with interesting stories.

Bill Harvey brought his ‘homemade’ classic to last week’s event. The car is nicknamed “Old Woody.”

“It used to be a station wagon,” Harvey said, “and a tree fell on the back of it.”

The rear end of the unique vehicle is now constructed out of shiny, well-cared for wood.

“It was rebuilt by a cabinet maker,” Harvey said. “It took two years. It’s all oak.”

Harvey also owns a ’67 Fairlane Convertible and a ’71 Mercury, and according to Rider, he’s one of the regulars at the event.

Newbies show up often, too, Rider said. Most of them have heard about the cruise-in through word-of-mouth.

The atmosphere of the car show isn’t competitive. Instead, it’s relaxed and friendly. Most of them have heard about the cruise-in through word-of-mouth.

Most car shows charge fees and have restrictions on what cars can enter, Rider said. This show isn’t like that.

“This is an open car show. I don’t care what you bring in here as long as you behave yourself,” he said.

And while you enjoy the cars, you can eat too. A table at the back of the parking lot holds door prizes along with a stand advertising the car show food deals: Two chili dogs for $3.33, $5 for a big bag lunch with a free apple pie, $1.79 onion rings, and $4.99 for a classic double cheeseburger combo.

Later in the summer, ice cream and strawberry lemonade will be added to the list, Rider said.

As far as when the church will have the money to build, Rider is hoping to have the funds in place by next year. The cruise-in, which has been going on during the summer months for four years now, has already successfully helped the church secure land to build on.

“We paid for the land,” Rider said. “Now we’re paying for the church.”

According to Rider, the cost for building a church ranges between $300,000 and $600,000, depending on what features the church has.

“But this is just one fundraiser we’ve got going,” he said. “There are others.”

The New Life Fellowship Community Church will be having a separate cruise-in fundraiser on Saturday, June 17th from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. (rain date June 24).

“We are trying to get the word out about it,” Rider said.

The fundraiser will be free and open to the public, and guests can enjoy an afternoon of corn hole, softball, music, and classic cars. Food will be available for purchase and the event will take place on church property on Leesburg Road, across from Leesburg Estates. Signs will be up pointing the way.

Summer activities provide something for everyone

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

With ten parks consisting of approximately 150 acres and numerous walking trails, the Town of Jonesborough operates a Parks & Recreation Department with an operating budget of $842,000.

Rachel Conger, the Department’s Director, said the position has “a lot of diversity. It makes the job enjoyable.”

While Conger who has been with the Town for 10 years said she does not micro-manage, she does “love to be involved in everything. Every week I have a schedule. I need to get it down on paper in my own handwriting. It keeps me organized.”

In addition to the parks, trails and youth sport programs, the town offers a variety of indoor activities at the Jonesborough Historic Visitors Center, the McKinney Center, the Senior Center and the Jonesborough Repertory Theater. The Heritage Alliance assists the town with museums at the Chester Inn and Visitors Center while maintaining the Oak Hill School art, radio programs, music and theater along with educational programs for both the young and senior citizens are offered on a regular basis. The Recreation Department also helps with the staging and performance of a variety of special events including Jonesborough Days, Music on the Square, Easter, Halloween Haunts and Christmas.

Town Administrator Bob Browning said he knows the secret to the town’s present-day success in providing recreational opportunities that offer something for everyone. “We have been very fortunate to have good people,”

Browning, who arrived in town during the 1970s, said. “We have to work at it and figure out creative ways to have programs.”

A key component of the town’s success is a dependence upon volunteer groups who assist in community events and offer advice in assessing the community’s needs. “Community input is important,” Browning said. “You need outside advice to keep things going, for example, soccer and Little League programs,” he said. There is constant interaction between Town Officials and members of Jonesborough’s various advisory boards.

“The boards help with what can be done,” Browning added. “We make fewer mistakes with their help. If you are working daily, it’s hard to see how you are doing.”

The Recreation Department Advisory Board has the following members: Jack Van Zandt, Chairman; Jimmy Rhein, Marilyn Buchanan, Mark Merriman, Dr. Jason Davis, Casey Marler, Affiliate member, Little League; Hobart Powell, Affiliate Member; David Sell, Alderman; Katelyn Yarbrough, Mayor Designee; Conger, Parks and Recreation Director, and Matt Townsend, Wetlands Water Park Director.

Browning has an encyclopedic memory concerning the history of leisure activities in Jonesborough. In the 1970s Jane May started funding activities through the Jonesborough Community Chest. An early project, the restoration of the Christopher Taylor Cabin, was not a town project but it started an action movement that began to restore and revitalize what became the historic district.

“Little League baseball was going on,” he said. The local “Field of Dreams” was Duncan’s Meadow where there was no lighting on the fields. The Old Town Hall on Main Street was very small and had a little parking area.

When the decision to fund the building of a new town hall, now named for Browning, and a post office, the area of Duncan’s Meadow was selected. The construction of the two facilities would eliminate the ball fields.

Town officials began looking for land. Mayor Jimmy Neil Smith wanted to have a recreation staff. Browning was in charge of Community Development at the time. Kathy Frazer with money from the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) started the Recreation Program. Later, she became the Recreation Director in Kingsport.

With the help of Gerald Sparks and Steve Cradic, the town found 110 acres of land on which to build two ball fields. The rock in the area, now known as Persimmon Ridge Park, was blasted and resulted in room for a third field.

In 1979, Jonesborough submitted a grant application for a swimming pool on the property. It was turned down. However, in the 1990s, Mayor Kevin McKinney submitted the same general application and it was approved as the no. 1 project in the state.

“I had young children,” Browning said. “Our family went to a Disney theme park. They had water programs that were generating income. Nashville had a wave pool. When we did a recreation survey, the No. 1 request was for a pool. The only other pool in the area was in Johnson City.

“We felt our water park would have a good customer base,” the Town Administrator said. After some study, “An innovative design was draw up. We wanted enough income from our park to hopefully pay for itself.”

The result was a water park, at the time the only one in the state run by a municipality. “We did get a lot of respect for the project.” Browning said. “We felt the water park would promote tourism. This meant the town wanted to create better recreational facilities. We also knew that the project would benefit Washington County.”

Besides the ball fields at Persimmon Ridge Park, the Christopher Taylor Park was the only other park facility in town. The Town’s Board of Mayor & Aldermen wanted to create neighborhood parks. Mill Spring Park would become the first neighborhood facility.

Today, the Town has 10 parks: 1. Persimmon Ridge Park — 130 acres including baseball fields, the Lost State Scenic Walkway, a basketball court and an 18-hole disk golf course;

2. Wetlands Park – inside Persimmon Ridge – with the town’s swimming pool;

3. Golden Oak Park – the community’s newest park on north side of town between two neighborhoods with a playground for children ages 2 to 12 years;

4. Barkley Creek Park — The Lost State of Franklin Walkway runs from the park off the intersection of West Main Street and Persimmon Ridge Road around the fishing pond to the Washington County Courthouse on Main Street;

5. Depot Street Park – with bathrooms, volleyball and basketball facilities;

6. W. C. Rowe Park — the Chuckey Depot serves as a focal point for a linear park beside the creekway;

7. Mill Spring Park – near downtown that features a stream and a gazebo which is often used for weddings and other events throughout the year. The park also contains the Slemons House and restrooms;

8. Jimmy Neil Smith Park– located directly behind the International Storytelling Center it has a winding stone stairway from Main Street that leads up to the park with seasonal gardens and walking paths;

9. Stage Road Park – located about a mile from downtown, this park is over three acres of landscaped playgrounds, gardens and walking trails. The park features a playground for children ages 2 to 5 years. The site is popular for birthday parties and special events that can accommodate up to 50 people.

10. Veterans Park next to the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center with the names of those who have served their country.

Future plans call for a Community Park behind the Senior Center. The park has not yet been built or named. The site is located where the Town of Jonesborough’s current garage and maintenance facility is located. Grading work on parking for the park has already begun. The town has a $500,000 local park and recreation grant from the State of Tennessee to develop the three and a half acres. It requires a 50/50 match.

“We can match the grant with labor and equipment and also use the value of the land,” Director Conger said.

Jonesborough has been given two years to use the grant beginning in August, 2017. A concept plan designed with the assistance of a planning group from Virginia Tech has already been developed.

“We are definitely way ahead of the curve on park development,” Conger emphasized. She looks forward to the remodeling of the Jackson Theater and the opening of the Chuckey Deport. The depot opening is scheduled for June 28, immediately prior to the town’s Jonesborough Days celebration.

More trails, including one that could reach as far as Johnson City, sidewalks, walkways, a parks brochure  and camping are included in a list of future projects.

“I’m really excited to see our arts program expand,” Conger said. “The McKinney Center is working on storytelling programs. We also need room for separate facilities for soccer in order to have the sport played in the spring summer and fall.” Functions at The Arboretum, currently staffed by volunteers, are being shifted to the Parks and Recreation Department.

In summary, Browning stated, “The Recreation Department has an unbelievable list of projects and programs still on the list.”

Conger said, “Jonesborough is great. It is incredible. Jonesborough is such a good steward of tax dollars.”

Those recreational dollars have given the community a quality of life that draws residents and tourists alike to the state’s oldest and many would say Tennessee’s Most Livable Small Town.

Town gets ready to reveal its secrets

Marilyn Buchanan (left) and Nansee Williams (right) set out the event’s signs in Jonesborough.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Some of Jonesborough’s most beautiful secrets will be revealed this Saturday as the Tuesday Garden Club and Schubert Club kick off their 21st Annual Garden Gala Tour.

“This is something for yourself,” explained Tuesday Garden Club President Marilyn Buchanan as she worked to finish the final touches on the “Through the Garden Gate”  event. “You can go and see the gardens and have lunch and do some shopping. It’s just a day for you.”

Set to be held Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in downtown Jonesborough, this year’s gala – as in years past – will feature old town gardens, a collection of garden vendors and a lovely garden tea.

But there are also going to be a few changes, according to Tuesday Garden Club Vice President Nansee Williams.

“We’ve changed the time to begin earlier,” Williams said.

This year, the tour will  begin at 10 a.m. That, she explained, is to take advantage of the cooler hours of the day. “One year it reached 100 degrees,” she recalled.

Last year’s ticketed seminar is also a thing of the past.

“We are having demonstrations in the garden this year,” Williams explained. And these demonstrations will be informally hosted by the home gardeners themselves, ready and eager to share their expertise as asked.

Topics will include “Raising Chickens in the Garden,” “French Double Digging,” “Farmers’ Market Ready,” “Composting 101” and more.

This year’s event, agreed both Buchanan and Williams, may be one of their best galas yet, as they’ve taken two decades of experience to plan the day.

“I would go to get ideas,” Williams said. “Because of the creativity of the homeowners. I am just blown away by them.”

For early birds, registration will begin at 8 a.m., according to Buchanan. And should those birds be hungry, there are a number of breakfast opportunities before the gala begins.

“It starts at 8 at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center,” Buchanan said. Tickets can be purchased at that time —$16 each — and participants can receive their swatch at that time that will allow guest to visit any of the featured gardens listed on their programs.

If you already have purchased a ticket, Williams added, your name will be on a list and you can also receive your swatch.

“People can come and then go get breakfast at the Jonesborough Presbyterian Garden Gala Breakfast or go to the Corner Cup and get crepes,” Buchanan said. “Or garden lovers can visit Boone Street Market or even the Pancake House for their morning fare.”

The tour itself – a self-guided one that can proceed in the order and at the pace of the ticketholder – begins at 10. Bus stops and water stations are shown on the map for both ease of travels and to ensure guests don’t get dehydrated.

And then there are the gardens, from vegetable to water to floral, as well as raised bed, gazebos, mosaics and more.

A special noon to 2:30 p.m. Garden Tea will give guests the chance to sample some sweet and savory treats and sip cool refreshments.

There will be lots of time, as well to shop for treasures at the Courthouse and Storytelling Plaza, where vendors will showcase everything to do with gardening, from sun visors to gnomes. Garden lovers can also extend their adventure to lunch and shopping downtown when restaurants and retailers will be featuring gala specials.

“This is to share our gardens,” said Buchanan, whose garden will be on the tour. “We have beautiful gardens.”

Better yet, she said, money raised will be used on goes to support a wide variety of Jonesborough projects and events, from the food bank, the library, At Home with Santa and more.

Tickets for the Garden Gala are $16.00 for a group of 10 or more tickets are $13.00 and may be purchased online at Jonesborough.com or by calling the Jonesborough Visitors Center at 423-753-1010.

DCHS students design video game

(From left to right) Sydney Hill, Austyn Shelton and Corbin Cowden stand proudly with their state trophies.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

“You can go to any school really in East Tennessee, and the first thing you notice as soon as you walk through that door is that the only trophies you see are sports trophies,”David Crockett High School student Austyn Shelton—who is a member of the three-person team that won first place at the state competition for video game design—said. “And that makes kids think that they have to live up to that legacy and to become good at sports. That’s why most anyone who goes here is pretty much an athlete or something else.”

As for Shelton and his fellow team members Sydney Hill and Corbin Cowden, taking home the the Technology Student Association award for their video game “The Abstraction” at the state competition in Chattanooga on April 8 took time away from things like sports and other after school activities for a typical high school student. But creating the arcade-style game that focuses on teaching kids a life lesson took extra dedication outside of their class with Crockett drafting teacher Guy McAmis.

“Some of (the skills TSA covers) I know how to do. Video game design is not one of them,” McAmis said. “They basically learned this on their own. So they did it from scratch themselves.”

“There’s not really a class (for video game design),” Shelton added. “The game that we made and the stuff that we had to do, we had to go learn how to do it on our own. There’s really no one here for that.”

However, there were guidelines the team had to follow in making the game that would end up topping the other 24 games entered in the state competition; The project had to be an arcade-style game that taught a skill or lesson. So for the team’s project, they made the focus a life lesson about right and wrong.

“So we were coming up with ideas and we were like, ‘Hey, what if ‘you get what you deserve?’,” Cowden said. “So we created this game about a thief, the best thief in the world, who wants to go and steal a diamond and—‘get what you deserve’—get captured by the cops by the end of it.”

The idea for the game came from Hill whose main focus is art and animation.

“If you read the backstory, Alec (the game’s main character) grew up feeling that he was never good enough,” Hill explained. “And his parents were telling him that the only way you can be a  part of the family is if he stole. They were finally caught in prison and never heard from again so he said, ‘I will make them proud by stealing the world’s most valuable diamond.’ So that’s how it starts out.”

With a lesson in “The Abstraction” that is a bit more complex than basic arcade games like Tetris and Pac-man, the team wanted to extend beyond teaching kids something like simple math. They wanted to instill a lesson that would be a bit more lasting.

“We went with something that would be more interesting for kids to actually play because for that competition, you could walk in there with a game that’s just simple like ‘What’s two plus two?’ kind of thing to teach math,” Shelton said. “But we wanted to go with more of a kind of vivid approach that’s actually more appealing to the eye. Like you’d actually want to play while learning a lesson at the same time.”

It wasn’t just a lesson through gaming that motivated the designers to create their own virtual world; the three brought their specific interests and aspirations together to form a team that ended up taking home some hardware for their efforts.

“I watched ‘Rise of the Guardians’ as a kid and that kind of really inspired me,” Hill said. “I felt that childhood wonder and love for animation. And I want to be able to express that to other people. I know how stressful the world is nowadays, so to be able to give someone that childhood feeling or just that excitement and joy is just my dream.”

For Shelton, technology was also a driving force for wanting to team up with Cowden and Hill.

“I’ve always been fascinated with computers. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been taking them apart and putting them back together. I’ve always wanted to know how they work and whenever I started getting into programming, I learned there were these competitions you could do through TSA that actually focus on that skill set.”

As for Cowden, who is a member of the soccer team and made a perfect score on his ACT as a sophomore, his interests vary and was proven through the level design, character design and some of the programming work he did on the project.

“I like a bunch of different things,” Cowden said. “I made a couple (of games) on my own. But I really like world-building and story-building.”

This sort of interest in building and designing a game might not be a typical high school student’s leisurely activity. In fact, according to the National Math and Science Initiative, the U.S. has fallen behind other countries and is ranked 27th in math and 20th in science amongst 34 other countries. And only 36 percent of high school graduates are considered ready to take a college-level science course by the end of their high school career. This leaves a need for science, technology, engineering and math amongst young people.

On the other hand, classes like wood shop, driver’s education and other career and technical classes have fallen to the wayside throughout the years. Though the two could be considered on opposite sides of the educational spectrum, it takes both of these areas to create an end-product like these Crockett students did in building their video game.

When asked why both of these areas of education are falling behind, Cowden had one simple reply:

“Probably instant results,” Cowden answered. “Most people are now used to instant results. In English, you go and you do a 40-minute quiz and then you scantron it and you have that right then. In math, you go problem to problem and you have so many quick results. But in engineering, you’re taking weeks to do a project. We started this in the fall and just now got it done. We revised, revised, revised.”

For McAmis, he can see a lag in the amount of career and technical education classes offered throughout the country. But as time has gone on, he’s noticed a sort of revival towards valuing hands-on work.

“Things are changing. I can see us working more and more toward that way where we’ve got the STEM classes and the hands on stuff for kids to do. We’ve got carpentry, we’ve got all these different CTE classes and you can hear them—they’re building right now,” McAmis said above the sound of hammers and electric saws echoing throughout the back building at Crockett. “And there’s a lot of kids, that’s what they want to do and that’s the way they go. But I think we need a little more of the in-depth stuff to break it down a little more.”

In relation to STEM education, Shelton said he felt that extra, in-depth step is also a main component to bettering those slipping STEM numbers.

“If you learn English, guess what, you know English. If you learn history, you know history,” Shelton said. “If you learn math, hey guess what, you know how to do math. But if you learn programming, per se, that doesn’t mean you know how to make a video game. That doesn’t mean you know how to program a robot. There are several steps.”

One focus in McAmis’ class is his application of real-world aspects. Encouraging the process in which actual professionals outside of the doors of David Crockett High School is exactly what the drafting teacher hopes to instill in his classes.

“If they were to go to a video game designer, this is exactly how it would be laid out. You’d have somebody that would come up with a concept, then you’d have somebody that would do the grunt work like the programming and the other part of it. And they would all work together as a team,” McAmis explained. “They have worked together as a team just like real-world video game designers. To me, that’s more valuable than anything because they’re learning what it’s going to be like when they get into the real world.”

But before the sophomore and two juniors head off into the “real world”, they’re entertaining the idea of heading to the national competition—if they can find the money to go.

“Nationals this year is in Orlando, Florida. And right now, we’re not sure if we’re going to get to go because we don’t have the money to,” McAmis said. “The county has given us money and even with what that, it’s still almost $600 a student to be able to pay for motel rooms, registration, things like that.”

Even without attending nationals, the TSA trophies stored in McAmis’ room could fill a trophy case themselves. The drafting teacher told the Herald & Tribune that Crockett has scored state wins for a number of categories from machine shop to graphic design and cosmetology. A number of his students even created a robot and a solar-powered go-kart that was recently driven at Bristol Motor Speedway for the solar go-kart race.

“I want to show you these other things going on that the community doesn’t know about that’s happening here at David Crockett High School, good things that are happening.”

As for the video game designers, they’re already fixing glitches in their game. Cowden even paused the interview to say he had a few ideas already in the back of his mind.

“They’re always thinking of the next step,” McAmis said. “And that’s good. Without goals you can’t get anywhere. You gotta have a goal.”

Banquet honors county educators

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

“I want you to think for a moment of a teacher—because everyone has a teacher in your life that really made you feel as though you were the most important person in the class, the most important person in the world,” Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said to school board members, county commissioners, principals and finally, the teachers who were being honored at the first annual Teacher of the Year banquet on Tuesday May 2.

“And I’m going to tell you, for me, that teacher is Mr. Tom Ward back in Nashville. He was my sixth-grade social studies teacher and he made me feel as if I was the most important student in his class. The magical thing about Mr. Ward was he made every kid feel as though they were the most important person in the class.

“He did not know the level of impact he had on me back in the sixth grade. But you must know that every face in front of you every single day in that classroom, some of those boys and girls feel that exact way about you. You are their favorite teacher. You are dear to them.”

It was all about honoring these educators at the awards dinner at Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s Grace Meadow Farm in Jonesborough for the inaugural event. Though system level teachers of the year are traditionally recognized in the school district, the director of schools was looking to expand a “congratulations” to other teachers who were chosen by their peers throughout the system as well.

“In the past what we’ve done is just the district-level winners were recognized at a school board meeting and they are offered a monetary contribution,” Halliburton said.

“But I wanted a way to actually honor every teacher of the year from every school in Washington County and say that you’re all important to us. I wish we could do this for every teacher in Washington County.”

Ridgeview third grade teacher Alana Street, Lamar School eighth grade teacher Stephanie Gouge and Daniel Boone High School algebra teacher Cody Dishner were honored as the three system level teachers of the year while 19 other Washington County teachers were also recognized as the building-level teachers of the year.

The event also provided members of the community such as sponsors, school board members, county commissioners and both Mayor Eldridge and Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe the opportunity to recognize the role these teachers hold and the impact they have on the community.

“For your results, for what you’re accomplishing in the lives of our kids, I just want to say thank you.” Eldridge said.

“Because at the end of the day, this is what it’s about. You know, we see the fruit of your labor everyday in this community.

“There’s a lot of kids that come through the Washington County School System that today are parents in this community, they’re employees in this community, they’re employers in this community—some people who make a difference here everyday. What you all are doing is preparing these kids. And obviously you’re doing very, very well.”

Some, like Eldridge, who earlier described how business-minded he can be in regards to examining results in many aspects of his life, described the importance of those who make the school system work.

But for those such as school board member Clarence Mabe, who also spoke during the ceremony, the impact a teacher can have on a student is just another lasting significance of an educator.

“Henry Adams said, ‘A teacher affects eternity and can never tell when their influences stop.’ I can attest to this personally,” Mabe said. “When I was a student in high school, I was running for vice president of the student body. It was a tremendous honor for me.

“However, when it was brought to my attention that I had to give a speech, that was difficult. It was so difficult for me because you see, I stutter. But, because of the encouragement of a teacher, Mrs. Kirby, she gave me the courage, the strength to follow through.

“Likewise, another teacher, Mr. Coleman, had such an impact on my life that I often would write his name with my fingers—‘Mr. Coleman.’ During trying times, it helped me to overcome adversity. Occasionally, I still write his name till this day for the same reason. So does a teacher affect eternity? You bet. You can believe they do.”

Dulcimer Week to kick off this weekend

Joe-n-FL

From STAFF REPORTS

Jonesborough’s Dulcimer Week celebrates the role of the Appalachian mountain dulcimer in American life with nine days of concerts, workshops and “Hands on Jonesborough” opportunities in pottery, drawing and painting.

Ivy Rowe

Grab a chair and head down to the Courthouse steps for a unique Music on the Square performance. Joe Collins, well recognized mountain dulcimer player, will be playing on Friday the 19th with Thistle Dew, eclectic dulcimer group, being the opening act.

 

“Bring that dulcimer off the wall or out of the attic!” Said Don Burger, Dulcimer Week organizer. “Maybe Grandpa played it and he’s not here anymore. Bring his dulcimer to Jonesborough! There is a whole crew of experienced people who can teach you.” You are encouraged to bring your dulcimer with you, but there will be a few “loaner” instruments as well.

These events will be on various days and times throughout the week-long celebration, see the full calendar below for specific days and times. For more information call 423-753-1010 or visit jonesborough.com

Dulcimer Week Calendar

Storyteller weaves life into tales

DSC_0364

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Town of Jonesborough is accustomed to the founder of the National Storytelling Festival, Jimmy Neil Smith, gallivanting through Tennessee’s oldest town on a regular basis. But last week, Jonesborough was also graced with India’s international storytelling pioneer, Geeta Ramanujam, ready to share her stories and ideas on storytelling right here in Washington County.

One might ask what a woman such as Ramanajam who has told stories across the globe and even started her own storytelling centers in India is doing in Jonesborough, Tennessee. But for the international storyteller, the answer is simple—to see a friend.

Ramanujam got in connection with Smith after a woman at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. asked Ramanujam, who was in the U.S. for a wedding, if she knew Smith. After Smith sent a couple of storytellers to give Ramanujam a ride from Atlanta up to Tennessee, Ramanujam rescheduled her flight back to India and Smith found his new friend a place to stay, a friendship was officially born.

DSC_0386

“I think it had to happen. It’s so strange,” Ramanujam said. “For me my belief and my thought was in the U.S., everything had to be organized well ahead, whether you want to meet someone—but this just happened. And I began to believe in a lot of things after that. It all fell in place.”

After attending the National Storytelling Festival in 2003, Ramanujam returned to India and began what would become India’s first storytelling festival and would land the event in the Guinness Book of World Records. But her story doesn’t start there; Ramanujam began her journey as a teacher who simply wanted to spark interest in her students’.

“I felt that it was so monotonous the way people talked. They were bored of the subject,” Ramanujam said. “Teachers were bored of doing the same thing over and over again and I felt when I was a child that it was more of a ‘fact fight’ being told. It’s like seeing a documentary and seeing a film. So there was no interest. Children sat in the class from 9 to 4 feeling bored, not having any interest in the subject because the concepts were not made interesting. So I thought, ‘Why don’t we have stories related to the concept so once you tell them a story, they would be interested in that particular concept.’ ”

After she created a storytelling movement in the education system, she began her storytelling centers in order to educate teachers on how to use storytelling as an educational tool. Before long, the international storyteller had lawyers, advertisers and all sorts of professionals asking to learn the art of storytelling

“If I had had the chance, I might have probably would have wanted to rewrite the entire education system itself, change the way it’s been taught.” Ramanujam said. “It’s just been coming through for years and years and years and no one has been questioning it. Like an engineer would come out of learning and he wouldn’t know how to fix a bulb. So what’s the point in learning and doing all this if it’s only on paper and it’s not application?

“And if there is a system that is not open for learning, then I think that system is not going to exist. I think there should be learning happening. There should be room for change and for things to happen within. I think in a large way, life is like that. What is constant is change and to teach children to adapt and to be flexible and that we are not permanent.”

One of these changes has been due to today’s advancements in technology; Ramanujam said she has seen a shift in the ability to create beautiful stories like the ones her mother and grandmother would tell when she was a child to the inability of today’s generation to come up with stories as humankind has since the beginning of time.

DSC_0361new

“And you know they didn’t need a skill (older generations). It was natural. But now, you need to train them because they have lost that skill.” she said. “They don’t know how to put words together into a story. To think out of the box or creative and spontaneous thinking, it’s completely gone. With more technology, people are glued. You don’t have to look for answers because the answers are available. So it’s just cut and paste so I’m not thinking. What do I do in this situation? How do I learn common sense. There’s no need for that anymore. They’re not seeking. You click a button and you get it. So there is no need for a person to innovate, to think. So they’ve completely the art of thinking to thinking.”

“What was naturally grown and was not even thought of was just pick and eat and cook . But after the fertilizers and the insecticides, now we’re talking about growing them again naturally, how to grow them naturally. So the same things happen. Things come back. And when they’re coming back, they don’t know how to do it. So again, storytelling helps there—to come back.”

These stories not only connect parts of a person’s life, but Ramanujam also says she’s seen these stories reflect a person’s personality and experiences in a way that teaches them about much more than how to intrigue others through stories.

“I identify myself as the mountain or I identify myself as the bird or as the cloud or as the sun as a silent witness,” she said. “So it brings a lot of their inner-selves and they relate to it very beautifully. So there are some stories I feel opens up larger horizons. Maybe it’s a story that has touched many people. Many people find the story very transforming.”

Storytelling isn’t just an art form and a nearly lost way of entertainment and communication; for Ramanujam, it’s also a way to better life in all aspects instead of just education or just professionalism.

“What is good? What do you mean when you say good? To look at that holistically and practice it. We are teaching more now that people cannot wear masks. What kind of mask can I use? I will use this for my business, I will use that one for this. Most people die without knowing who they really are because from childhood, they are only using masks,” Ramanujam said. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of the people who come to the course, they are not coming only because they are learning about storytelling, but they love that I help them to ponder. They don’t want to leave at all. They ask for more time. They ask if they can come back. So it’s just a space. That space can be something different. A space that helps you to reflect.”

The woman that brought the storytelling revolution across the ocean and throughout her homeland of India and back again is still out there, telling stories as she did while she was performing in front of Jonesborough audiences like the Jonesborough Storyteller’s Guild, the Crumley House, The Yarn Exchange, University School and East Tennessee State University.

But it’s not just the actual stories of vibrant gold finches and crying mountains who, in their sadness from missing their bird friends, revitalize their earth with their waterfall tears—in fact, it’s the people hearing these stories that keep Ramanujam telling her stories and changing lives.

“I think for me it’s more the gratification of people when they come back to say that they feel good. And when they say, “ I think I’ve found my calling. I want to be a storyteller. And I want to do something, maybe an outreach program.” Because you need them to continue your storytelling.

“As long as they feel transformed and they feel inspired, I think that’s great. Many of them have started (a program). And that’s what keeps me going because I don’t have to keep knocking on the door which is closed.

“It’s still opening. As long as it’s open I think I will continue.”

Home project starts for local veteran

DSC_0171levels

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Friends, supporters and veterans lined the uphill road leading to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9724 in Jonesborough on Saturday, April 22 waiting for a black Ford truck with Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Hall inside to make it’s way behind Hall’s motorcycle escorts.

There wasn’t a person there without a flag in his or her hand waiting for Hall, a retired veteran, to be honored at the ceremony that officially marked the beginning of the house that will soon be built for him and his family thanks to the non-profit organization, Homes For Our Troops.

“I’ve never done anything like that before. That was wild,” Hall said about his escorted entrance at the ceremony on Saturday. “The fact that there’s a packed house on race day around here is pretty big. It’s a lot of support. I grew up here, but I haven’t been back in Jonesborough in a long time so it’s pretty overwhelming and heartwarming to see this many people coming out.”

In 2012, Hall’s left heel triggered an improvised explosive device while conducting a damage assessment after a firefight in Afghanistan. The blast left him without his left leg and with severe damage to his right leg. He also suffered a broken pelvis, fractured neck and back and had to be resuscitated three times before he woke up from a coma two weeks after the explosion.

Now, HFOT is ready to provide Hall with a wheel-chair accessible home filled with more than 40 special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower and kitchen amenities. The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home, like navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds.

Saturday marked the beginning of the journey to a new home for Hall and his 2-year-old son—but it’s seeing the project from the community kickoff day to the moment Hall receives the keys to his house that keeps community members, volunteers and people like HFOT Community Outreach Coordinator Alicia Berta coming back.

“That’s one of the reasons why we have these events for the community, so that people can see start-to-finish what we’re doing,” Berta said. “This is like the kick-off. This is the start of our whole process for Josh. When the house is getting ready to be done, we do the landscaping for the home and they can come out and see the home—they can actually help contribute to something that he’s going to have forever. And then at the key ceremony, they have a chance to walk through the home and see it.

“I think that part—where people can see the adaptations and pull down the cabinets and walk into these spaces that have bigger doorways and have bigger space—you can really visualize how important it is for these guys to have it.”

As for Hall, he told those at the event on Saturday that he’s not quite sure what to expect—but he’s ready to find out.

“Someone asked me the other day what it’s going to feel like being in a house without obstacles. I tried to make something up, but the truth is I have no idea what it’s going to feel like because I’ve not had that since I’ve been hurt,” Hall said. “The thing is though, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to find out without the donors and Homes For Our Troops and the sponsors and you guys supporting everything. I want you to know how much I appreciate it.”

But it’s not just Hall’s home that will receive support from the non-profit that uses 90 cents of every dollar they receive through donations; HFOT also follows each veteran after their home is built in hopes of improving other aspects of their lives as well. Since Hall’s accident, he’s taken up Krav Maga which is a martial arts self-defense system and has become a part-time instructor of the sport.

“One of the things they kind of started was the mission. ‘It’s building homes and rebuilding lives’ because a lot of these guys, they might get into a home or adapt their home, but then what else are they gonna do?,” Berta said. “So we try to also encourage them to get out there, do sports, go back to school, whatever. Our veteran support team at our office follows them after they move into their home. I mean, this is kind of our responsibility to pay back these guys that did so much to serve us.”

Hall is ready to also set his sights on a new life in addition to his new home.

“For me it’ll be up to focusing on my son growing up and a career and starting from there versus trying to find somewhere to live and maintain and get through,” Hall said. “The VA and the non-profits have helped, but I’ve spent a lot of personal income modifying things just to get by. Now that I won’t have to do that, I’m going to have a lot more money and time to do what I really want to do.”

Hall and HFOT have done much of the preliminary work before even setting the foundation for his new home, but for him, the reality of owning his own home won’t really sink in until he sees it with his own eyes.

“It felt great (first hearing the news of getting a new home),” Hall said. “I’m kind of one of those delayed-reaction people so it will probably hit once I’m sitting in the living room—I’m looking forward to it.”

Home project starts for local veteran

DSC_0171levels

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Friends, supporters and veterans lined the uphill road leading to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9724 in Jonesborough on Saturday, April 22 waiting for a black Ford truck with Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Hall inside to make it’s way behind Hall’s motorcycle escorts.

There wasn’t a person there without a flag in his or her hand waiting for Hall, a retired veteran, to be honored at the ceremony that officially marked the beginning of the house that will soon be built for him and his family thanks to the non-profit organization, Homes For Our Troops.

“I’ve never done anything like that before. That was wild,” Hall said about his escorted entrance at the ceremony on Saturday. “The fact that there’s a packed house on race day around here is pretty big. It’s a lot of support. I grew up here, but I haven’t been back in Jonesborough in a long time so it’s pretty overwhelming and heartwarming to see this many people coming out.”

In 2012, Hall’s left heel triggered an improvised explosive device while conducting a damage assessment after a firefight in Afghanistan. The blast left him without his left leg and with severe damage to his right leg. He also suffered a broken pelvis, fractured neck and back and had to be resuscitated three times before he woke up from a coma two weeks after the explosion.

Now, HFOT is ready to provide Hall with a wheel-chair accessible home filled with more than 40 special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower and kitchen amenities. The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home, like navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds.

Saturday marked the beginning of the journey to a new home for Hall and his 2-year-old son—but it’s seeing the project from the community kickoff day to the moment Hall receives the keys to his house that keeps community members, volunteers and people like HFOT Community Outreach Coordinator Alicia Berta coming back.

“That’s one of the reasons why we have these events for the community, so that people can see start-to-finish what we’re doing,” Berta said. “This is like the kick-off. This is the start of our whole process for Josh. When the house is getting ready to be done, we do the landscaping for the home and they can come out and see the home—they can actually help contribute to something that he’s going to have forever. And then at the key ceremony, they have a chance to walk through the home and see it.

“I think that part—where people can see the adaptations and pull down the cabinets and walk into these spaces that have bigger doorways and have bigger space—you can really visualize how important it is for these guys to have it.”

As for Hall, he told those at the event on Saturday that he’s not quite sure what to expect—but he’s ready to find out.

But it’s not just Hall’s home that will receive support from the non-profit that uses 90 cents of every dollar they receive through donations; HFOT also follows each veteran after their home is built in hopes of improving other aspects of their lives as well. Since Hall’s accident, he’s taken up Krav Maga which is a martial arts self-defense system and has become a part-time instructor of the sport.

“One of the things they kind of started was the mission. ‘It’s building homes and rebuilding lives’ because a lot of these guys, they might get into a home or adapt their home, but then what else are they gonna do?,” Berta said. “So we try to also encourage them to get out there, do sports, go back to school, whatever. Our veteran support team at our office follows them after they move into their home. I mean, this is kind of our responsibility to pay back these guys that did so much to serve us.”

Hall is ready to also set his sights on a new life in addition to his new home.

“For me it’ll be up to focusing on my son growing up and a career and starting from there versus trying to find somewhere to live and maintain and get through,” Hall said. “The VA and the non-profits have helped, but I’ve spent a lot of personal income modifying things just to get by. Now that I won’t have to do that, I’m going to have a lot more money and time to do what I really want to do.”

Hall and HFOT have done much of the preliminary work before even setting the foundation for his new home, but for him, the reality of owning his own home won’t really sink in until he sees it with his own eyes.

“It felt great (first hearing the news of getting a new home),” Hall said. “I’m kind of one of those delayed-reaction people so it will probably hit once I’m sitting in the living room—I’m looking forward to it.”

Josh Releford signs with Florida Southern

DSC_0131

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Donning a brand new Florida Southern t-shirt, David Crockett High School senior Josh Releford signed his name to a paper that will write his future on and off the basketball court. But for the star point guard, committing to Florida Southern College is a ticket to a lifelong dream as well as a weight off his shoulders.

dsc_9453-2“It was really a stress reliever because I didn’t know if I was going to play college ball,” Releford said to the Herald & Tribune at his signing on Thursday April 13 in the Crockett library. “From the beginning of the season to the middle of the season, I didn’t know if I was going to play at all. This is something I always wanted to do. No matter what level, as long as I got to play for free—and to do what I love.”

Along with landing a spot with the Lakeland, Florida squad, Releford finished his senior season shooting over 50 percent and shooting 78 percent from the free-throw line. He also tallied 146 assists and 826 points in his senior season alone. Overall, the 5-foot-9 senior scored 1,210 points at Crockett.

“He’s a competitor. He has drive. He wants to be good and he’s not afraid to be good. When you’re not afraid, you’re not afraid to fail,” Crockett boys basketball head coach John Good said. “He can hit shots because he’s not afraid to miss shots. That’s what people don’t understand. He’s in the gym everyday. He’s taking shots. He’s like, ‘If I make it, I make it. If I don’t, I’ll take it the next time I get it.’ That’s what you’ve got to love about a guy like him. That’s why he’s going to be successful down there.”

DSC_0137It might have been a given that Releford would play high school basketball, but his choice to play at Crockett all those years ago came as a surprise to some. But for the guard who left Johnson City, Crockett was the way to get to his dream of playing college basketball.

“It was something that people said he was crazy for doing it, but he had a goal and he felt like this was the best place for him,” Good said. “And that proved to come true.”

“You know, he kind of took a chance on us and made a tremendous sacrifice to come over here and we obviously appreciate it, but he gave up something to get here,” Crockett boys basketball assistant coach Tony Gordon said just before Releford signed his name. “And we’re just hoping that sacrifice continues to pay off.”

Fast forward three years, and the Pioneers had reached the state tournament Releford’s junior season and for the first time in program history. However, the Crockett senior had to find a way to lead the squad to success the following year—after losing seven of the leading eight players on the school’s roster.

“As a leader and as a senior, really I just soaked in what we did last year and I brought it with me this year to go and give it to the young kids,” Releford said. “We made it far. And the group I had my senior season, I felt like I did good leading them and it just felt like a good legacy. Some people will remember me, I hope.”

For Good, Releford served as a leading scorer and team motivator, but he also refused to let the Pioneers settle, which is something Good certainly won’t forget.

“He took over a lot of leadership. Obviously we lost a lot of pieces from the previous year, but he stepped in there and didn’t let us go into places like we were supposed to take the backseat to anybody,” Good said. “He always tried to motivate our kids and let them know that, ‘Hey, there’s a standard here and we’re not going to let it down regardless of who’s on our team or not.’”

As Releford posed for pictures with his family, now all wearing their own Florida Southern t-shirts, Good stood a few feet from the young man he had coached for the past four years. The head coach looked back on all Releford had accomplished—and was accomplishing there on a Thursday afternoon at David Crockett High School.

“Josh came in as a young man and he matured,” Good said. “He set an example for other people and for other players to follow and he had the goal to play college basketball.

“And that dream is coming true today.”

Gubernatorial candidate talks state goals in Jonesborough

DSC_0125

Randy Boyd

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd made his way through Jonesborough’s Historic Courthouse on Monday, April 10. But he wasn’t just there to tour the downtown landmark after visiting a Washington County Republican Women’s lunch—he was also there to visit community members and speak on his latest goals as he runs for Governor of Tennessee.

The gubernatorial candidate, who was also a Tennessee Department of Economic Community Development Commissioner, has worked on education initiatives such as the Tennessee Promise that offers free tuition for Tennessee high school graduates for two years at any community or technical college in the state. Boyd was also part of the Drive to 55, the state initiative of getting 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025. But for the Knoxville native, the work in bettering Tennessee education is just starting.

“We need to continue the Drive to 55. When I started it, we were at 32 percent, today we’re at 39 percent,” Boyd said. “We still have a long ways left to go, so as governor, that’s going to be my top priority to make sure that people get the skills they need to be able to meet the jobs of the future and the jobs of today.”

Those jobs are a part of Boyd’s three-pronged set of goals he is aiming to enact.

“If anybody really understands economic development, they realize educational attainment is workforce development which is economic development,” Boyd explained. “You can’t desegregate the three. So you’ve got to be able to invest in education. If you’re going to have the workforce you need, it’s going to attract the businesses you’ll want to have.”

Boyd is also wanting to get Tennessee in the top spot in the southeast for high-quality jobs. Tennessee is currently at No. 4. He is also focusing on reducing business taxes and rules and regulations for small businesses.

“I am a businessman and not a politician. I think one thing that will be different is I’m not going to define myself as being a great talker. I want to define myself as being a great listener. I’m going to work really hard to listen to the people across the state,” Boyd said. “In business you actually have very quantifiable, countable goals. I don’t believe in vague generalities. We’re gonna actually have very specific things we’re gonna get accomplished. We want to make Tennessee the state of opportunity.”

The state, which hit it’s all-time-high annual rate of deaths due to a drug overdose at 1,415 in 2015, is facing an opioid battle. Boyd sees this problem as a foundation which needs to be repaired before other goals can be met.

“Before we can be successful in any of those three objectives, we have to make sure we have a healthy population,” Boyd said. “One of the biggest threats today is the opioid epidemic. And in upper East Tennessee, it’s particularly acute. And we’ve got to find dramatic and urgent solutions to this crisis, Otherwise, we’re not going to be able to be successful in education or jobs or anything else we try to do.”

In gauging the needs of the state, the East Tennessee candidate said he’s looking at all areas of the Volunteer State.

“I think the things that are important for the entire state are also important for East Tennessee. When I look across East Tennessee, there are many places  that there’s not a good technical college closely. If you live in Johnson County, there’s not a technical college there. So we can tell them that it’s free, but we don’t give them a school to go to. So we’ve got to start making physical access as well as financial access possible.”

It’s these neighbors that Boyd is also wanting to aid; he was a part of TNECD’s initiative to provide grants to assist in improving economic indicators in Tennessee’s distressed counties. Now, he’s looking to continue that state-wide work.

“We’ve got to provide an opportunity for everyone. We’ve got too many of our counties that are struggling,” Boyd said. “Many of our counties are in what’s called the distressed category. Many of those are neighbors of Washington County. Johnson County, Hancock County, Cocke County are all distressed counties. Some of our others are on the bubble. So we’ve got to really double-down to make sure that our neighbors are doing well too.”

Eggstravaganza: Children gather for town-wide Easter fun

2017 Easter Eggstravaganza JBO - Photo by Whitney S. Williams (32)

Photo by Whitney S. Williams

By BONNIE BAILEY

H&T Correspondent

On April 8, a perfect spring Saturday, families wandered the sidewalks of downtown Jonesborough, loitered in the plaza of the International Storytelling Center, and congregated under purple blooms on the walkways and grassy areas of Jimmy Neil Smith Park during the Annual Easter Eggstravaganza.

“We came for the egg hunt,” Carlene Long, a first-time attendee of the event, said from her seat on a park bench in front of the International Storytelling Center at about 2 p.m. “We didn’t realize it didn’t start until later.”

2017 Easter Eggstravaganza JBO - Photo by Whitney S. Williams (17)

Photo by Whitney S. Williams

The Easter Eggstravaganza, organized by Main Street Jonesborough and Jonesborough Parks & Recreation, kicked off at 11 a.m. with an Easter Market — local vendors set up shop on the plaza of the Storytelling Center, offering Easter and spring-themed wares and gifts — but the main events took place from 1 to 3 p.m. and were scattered throughout the downtown area.

Allison Long, Carlene’s granddaughter, sat on the bench beside her with an empty white basket hooked on the crook of her arm, waiting to be filled with eggs. She showed off a stick only half-colored with fluffy blue cotton candy. The other half had been eaten away.

“I got to touch the [fire] truck and get cotton candy,” 7-year-old Allison said, grinning widely. “I’m going to get my face painted soon.”

The young visitor to Jonesborough traveled all the way from Lenoir City (near Knoxville) to attend the event and to visit her grandmother. Asked if she would attend the Easter Extravaganza again, Allison answered with blue-dye-tinged lips, “Yeah!”

In addition to cotton candy, face painting, and access to a fire truck (which many parents took advantage of, taking memorable photos of their children behind the wheel), there were also games to play, a petting zoo, free popcorn, children’s crafts, and photo opportunities with princesses and the Easter bunny. Law enforcement was also on hand with a police dog, which kids and adults alike flocked to meet.

“We were very pleased with the turnout,” Melinda Copp, director of Main Street Jonesborough said. “There were a lot of people in town.”

Many sponsors were involved with the Eggstravaganza, she said, providing the popcorn and cotton candy and other assistance.

“I would like to say thank you to everyone who helped out,” Copp said. “We had a lot of people and organizations involved, and without them it wouldn’t have been possible.”

The event, which has been held downtown for the past four years, has had some small changes over time, Copp said, but the heart of it has stayed the same. It brings people downtown and gets them involved with organizations and people on Main Street and in the Jonesborough community.

“My friend’s mother told me about this event,” said Rebecca Barlow, another first-time attendee and a resident of Unicoi. In her arms, she held 7-month-old Grant Barlow. Faith Addison Barlow, almost 3-years-old, tagged along at her side.

“(Faith) wanted to see the Easter bunny,” Barlow laughed. She gestured at the family vehicle, parked nearby. “We got here late and we were able to just pull up and park right next to the Easter bunny, so that was nice. The Easter egg hunt is a surprise.”

The hunt, limited to children 12 and under, took place in Jimmy Neil Smith Park. Children dressed in bright colors sporting Easter baskets patrolled the park grounds throughout the afternoon, anticipating the hunt. The park had been split into four parts, each one dedicated to an age group, and in advance of the hunt, children raced up and down the paths, looking for the area meant for their age group, scoping out the best egg hiding spots.

But Faith had more urgent things on her mind. She tugged at Barlow’s shirt, her eyes alight.

“The Easter’s bunny’s over there!” she pointed to a line of people in front of the courthouse  a line that led to the Easter bunny — before running off to wait her turn.

Barlow followed with a smile, joining the crowd.

On the courthouse steps behind them, a little girl in a pink dress hugged a princess, posing for a photograph. A family walked past carrying fresh popcorn, their faces painted, meandering toward their car. A man and woman with a small dog in tow strolled down the row of open shops on Main Street, peering in the windows, and shouts and laughter from the direction of the park heralded the beginning of the egg hunt.

It was another idyllic day in Jonesborough, and another successful Main Street event.

For information on upcoming events in downtown Jonesborough or to see photographs of the Easter Eggstravaganza, visit the Main Street Jonesborough Facebook page. You can also call the Historic Jonesborough Visitor Center at 423-753-1010.

‘Sister Act’ shares message of friendship

DSC_2943

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Lead character Delores Van Cartier—as played by Eureka Inn innkeeper Katelyn Yarbrough in the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s presentation of “Sister Act”—stood in a black and white ensemble in front of her jiving squad of nuns. The club-singer-turned-nun said her newfound band of nuns were going to put the “‘sis’ back in Genesis.”

And that’s exactly what the JRT cast and crew accomplished with their comedic yet surprisingly sentimental rendition of the Whoopi Goldberg classic for family and friends night on Thursday evening.

Most know the premise of the story thanks to the 1994 hit movie about a singer who witnesses a murder by her lover and club-owner. The outspoken lead character then has to attempt to blend in amongst the group of nuns with which she is hiding in a sort of witness protection program. The story—full of booty-shaking nuns, odd-ball gangsters and one wildcard disco queen nun—stands on it’s own. But it was the cast that truly made the story come to life in Tennessee’s oldest town.

Yarbrough’s rendition of the lead character was stellar; from solid vocals on various musical numbers to first-class acting, it’s easy to forget she’s a community member and not the character she portrays. Meanwhile, the head nun, Mother Superior (played by Dawn Gentry), added a stark contrast to Yarbrough’s character and enough sass to last till the very end. And of course the wacky cast of nuns with some serious vocal abilities blended the perfect combination of comedy and talent.

“I’m just amazed that here in Jonesborough, a fairly small town, that we attract—and they don’t just come from Jonesborough—but we attract this quality of singers and dancers and actors,” Jonesborough resident and storyteller Pamela Miller said. “And it is a real asset to the community. And I just can’t say enough good about the leaders.”

It was also the cast’s use of the stage that further impressed folks like Miller who found themselves wrapped up in the story playing out in the small theatre.

“I’m amazed at how creative and how good they do with so little on the stage,” Miller said. “Because they really help the audience to use their imagination. And it’s like tonight, the audience just gets swept up in it.”

Ester Perisin, who used to be a Jonesborough resident and now resides in Chicago with her husband Gregory Perisin, enjoyed a stay at the nearby Eureka Inn. They were also dazzled by the small theatre’s ability to captivate the audience.

“I have see a community theatre before. I’ve been here at the repertory and I’ve seen the community theatre in Johnson City. So I know there is a lot of quality here,” Perisin said. “My husband is here for the first time and he was a little bit skeptical and I said there’s a lot talent in such a small town. And I think he now knows that.”

From roaring laughter at random disco-themed solos featuring characters like the club-owner’s henchmen and a love-struck policeman to the crowd’s inability to refrain from clapping on beat to a funky nun performance, the audience seemed to find themselves caught up in the show.

But it wasn’t all just laughs; Among the entertainment that stayed true to the classic story while also adding a few new dynamics, “Sister Act” also provided a lesson on friendship and sisterhood by the show’s end, bringing the story full-circle.

“I really liked the dimensions that they added and how they made the emphasis on the sisters and the relationships,” Miller said just a few feet from the cast who lined both sides of the sidewalk at the alley’s stage door. “That was the thing that carried it for me. It was their love and their willingness to stand with and for her.

“And to me, that’s part of the message of love.”

“Sister Act” will run from March 31 to April 23 at 125.5 West Main Street in Jonesborough. General admission tickets are $16, students and seniors are $14 and group rates are $12 for groups of 15 or more. Call 423-753-1010 for more information.

Walking with mastodons: Gray Fossil Site offers very old with a bit of new

DSC_5076

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

There’s a high school, a Dairy Queen, and a softball complex just a few miles off the main road that runs through Gray, Tennessee. But most don’t realize this tiny town is also home to the remains of prehistoric rhinos, alligators and elephant-like animals ready to be uncovered and restored at the Gray Fossil Site and Museum.

“One of the things about this place that people don’t realize is that this is a world-class fossil site. It’s a treasure for the entire world and it’s incredibly rare having a fossil locality like this where you have such a diverse deposit of organisms,” paleontologist and Director of GFSM and the East Tennessee State University Center of Excellence in Paleontology, Blaine Schubert said. “And they represent a time that we don’t have represented anywhere else in the entire Appalachian region. So what that means is that most of the plants and animals that we find are things that we’ve never found before. They’re completely new to science or they’re a long ways away from we knew they were before. So a lot of new animals get discovered.”

And now the Hand-On! Regional Museum that has been stationed in downtown Johnson City for over 30 years is headed to it’s new home at the GFSM. Here ETSU will team up with Hands-on! as a rare team of museum coordinators and paleontologists.

“The Hands-On! was really looking to grow substantially and move into a newer facility where they could grow,” Schubert said. “We were really wanting to do a lot more in public education but also in research. Once we realized there was the possibility for us to partnership where they (Hands-On!) would handle more of the day-to-day public aspect and where we could help them and oversee the science that was going out about the fossil site, it became really this synergy and excitement of basically doubling our whole program.”

For Hands-On!, a location change (which should be complete by 2018) will bring differences in the look of the museum, but Hands- On! executive director Andy Marquart is also looking to keep the heart of the regional museum right where it always has been.

“Our mission won’t change. Our goal is to be an extension of the classroom, to provide a safe place for families to come and create memories and learn together,” Marquart said, “We’re really looking at the space as an empty canvas for experiences we can have over time and really adjust on a day-to-day basis. And I think that’s what people will notice the most.”

Apart from a new location, the staff at Hands-On! will also work next door to the 5-million-year-old fossil site behind the building. The site has provided the museum with complete fossils of numerous animals like the red panda (that has been found in only one other place in North America), a venomous lizard, tapirs and short-faced bears.

 

Before the fossils are on display, they are studied, cleaned, and assembled in the lab at the site.

Before the fossils are on display, they are studied, cleaned and assembled in the lab at the site.

It’s served as the centerpiece of ETSU’s role with the site.

“Our goal to the general public is to teach them more about their natural heritage and more about how things have changed here overtime and get them interested in this sort of bigger picture of the world through time,” Schubert said. “It becomes pretty amazing to people when they realize that there used to be rhinos here. And there used to be red pandas and alligators. So it’s that concept that sometimes is really hard for some people to even believe.

“But when you’re at a place where you can show them as you’re pulling it out of the ground and putting it back together again that it is genuine and that it’s right there. It’s gets people a lot more interested in science and in discovery. And a lot of places don’t have the kind of opportunity that we have to show that hands-on approach, that right-out-of-the-ground science in action that we can do.”

Out of that ground also came a discovery that will take up much of these paleontologists’ time (and laboratory room) for the next few years; ETSU and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum registrar April Nye told the Herald & Tribune that remains from an elephant-like mammal with long tusks known as a mastodon were discovered in 2015. Though parts of the mastodon are yet to be pieced together, the lab holds a large mastodon skull incased in an enormous cast, a lengthy radius ulna bone and a few sections of the mammal’s tucks which are on display for visitors through the windows at one end of the lab.

DSC_5057 Mastodon tusk

A mastodon tusk can be spotted through the window of the lab where the paleontologists work on their findings.

“This one was also a surprise. We didn’t know what kind of elephant-like animal we had,” Schubert said. “There were a couple of different possibilities. And it turns out that what we have is one of the earliest and most complete mastodons in North America. But as people come out and see us excavating this summer and next summer, that’s one of the primary things we’ll be working on is this enormous mastodon. One of our new paleontologists that works on these kinds of animals has estimated that the weight of it was around 16 tons. So that’s one of the newer highlights.”

Prehistoric heavyweights aren’t the only fossils taking residency in the lab at the museum; Paleontologist Joshua Samuels—while examining a chipmunk footbone—explained the importance of also studying small rodent-type fossils which have also been found at the site.

“Some of these really small things, the useful thing about them is that they will tell you a lot about the environment but also, they’re really useful in helping to tell time,” Samuels explained. “A lot of them, they’re short-lived. They tend not to be very geographically widespread. Something like a mastodon, they live everywhere. They can walk from one place to another real easily, but something like a chipmunk or a gopher or a mouse, everywhere you go you find a different one. So they’ll tell you a lot about the environment.”

DSC_5086

Paleontologist Joshua Samuels explained what all studying prehistoric rodents can tell the world about an area and a time period from which the animals came.

“Some of these really small things, the useful thing about them is that they will tell you a lot about the environment but also, they’re really useful in helping to tell time,” Samuels explained. “A lot of them, they’re short-lived. They tend not to be very geographically widespread. Something like a mastodon, they live everywhere. They can walk from one place to another real easily, but something like a chipmunk or a gopher or a mouse, everywhere you go you find a different one. So they’ll tell you a lot about the environment.”

Not only do these paleontologists have work to last them years but they also serve as living examples of a type of career the topics displayed throughout the museum can lead to. Marquart said.

“The lab is right there. You can see what they’re working on and the dig site is hundreds of feet from the back door of the museum,” Marquart said. “So you get this intimate experience with folks that are dedicating their lives to these ongoing discoveries and that’s something that we’re really really thrilled about. They get to talk to real life scientists and they get to see exhibits that they’ll never forget and they’re going to go home and tell their parents about and tell their friends about. That’s really the difference we’re into making and this opportunity allows that to grow.”

Marquart also said the collaboration with these paleontologists also helps the GFSM’s work in presenting the community with a place where an interest in science can thrive.

“The general public is stuck a lot of times finding their own research if they’re interested in something or they’re seeing it on TV or they might come across it in some news article if they see it in their social media feeds,” Marquart explained. “Very rarely does the general public have access to actually go and talk to live scientists that specialize in something that’s happening like they can at the Gray Fossil Site.

“And we’re not saying that we want every child that comes through our museum that we have a specific direction for them—that they should be the next Nichola Tessla or the next major paleontologist, but what we do want for them is to find their own interest in science.”

From learning about paleontology to seeing firsthand the kinds of animals that used to roam East Tennessee, the site and museum is ready to continue educating the community—while also fascinating them with their discoveries right here at home.

“People quite often don’t know what’s in their own backyard,” Samuels said over the rodent fossil sitting on the table in front of him. “You might have something like this sitting at your feet.” “If it wasn’t for the road,” Nye said, “we wouldn’t know either.”

Aromatherapist blends oils, education

DSC_4988

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

From joint pain to the inability to sleep at night, Ann Boynton, the owner of Aroma-Sense Essential Oils on Fox Street in Jonesborough, has an oil for that.

“People have gotten away from this. And this isn’t new. It’s not new age,” Boynton said in her shop, surrounded by tiny glass bottles of her own brand of essential oils. “This was medicine before the pharmaceutical people took it away in the ‘90s. You would go to a doctor and he would have a long prescription and he would go to the pharmacist and it might be a week before you could pick up different things that they’d mix up. This is where it started.”

For Boynton, it all started in Boca, Florida where she first smelt the aromatic allure of essential oils at a lady’s booth at the mall. From there, she took classes to learn more about the essential oils, their medicinal properties and how they can aid numerous ailments. But It was the medical side of the oils that sent her to work with dermatologistsDSC_4957 and plastic surgeons to develop a love for skin care. And it was her interest in essential oils that sent her to England and France to study under aromatherapy expert Robert Tesserand and medical herbalist Martin Watt. And now she even has her own essential oil brand made from flowers and plants cultivated on farms in places like Canada and Texas.

But simply owning a shop full of scents, scrubs, skincare and permanent makeup isn’t her passion—it’s the oils and sharing her extensive education.

“I was retired twice. I decided to come back to life,” Boynton said, laughing. “I couldn’t stay because when I saw these oils out in shops and they’re adulterated and they’ve got different things that they put in it that makes it not a pure oil. I’m like, ‘People need to know.’”

These essential oils, which seem to have become increasingly popular, are used for their fragrances, but they’re also used for medicinal properties. Things like headaches and acne issues are treated with oils like peppermint and tea tree oil, but for the essential oil shop owner, it’s all about understanding symptoms and treating them naturally.

“In Europe all acupuncturists, they treat the symptoms before it becomes a disease, America, we wait until it gets to be a disease and then when it’s so far down the hill, it’s hard to catch up with it,” Boynton said. “Look at what they’ve done to some of the medicines that someone really really needs—they put it up 300 percent. In Asia, if you go to an acupuncturist, you pay him when you’re sick. You don’t pay him when you’re well.

“All these oils, all these flowers, everything has medicinal properties. From putting your feet in a footpath to smelling them on a pillow.” 

Boynton has books, folders and certifications throughout her shop to back up her education and knowledge. But it’s phone calls like the one from a customer whose pain had been relieved thanks to some peppermint oil from Boynton’s shop that solidifies the store owner’s belief in these oils.

DSC_4970“I can’t prescribe because I’m not a doctor, so forgive me for that,” Boynton said with a laugh. “But I can tell you, tell me something that’s wrong and I can tell you something that you can mix as a massage oil, to smell, to put it in bath water.

“I stand behind it. I stand behind all of it. The thing about it is, it works. And I’ve had thirty years. And I have a lot of formulas and I have a lot of books. This is something that has been my passion.”

Boynton also wants to educate people on the natural chemical balance she says essential oils can offer. From help in getting to sleep to finding an oil to help relax, Boynton is dedicated to all levels of oils and the people she comes across.

From customers like the one who called for advice on another ailment during Boynton’s talk with the Herald & Tribune to any interested customer that happens to wander into her shop, Boynton is ready to educate the world on the role these age-old oils can have in one’s life.

“I have a reasonable market. It’s not much because I’m selling the knowledge of the oil for mankind to get away from all this stuff and we’ve hurt the planet so badly,” Boynton said. “It takes just a little bit.”

“I don’t know how much longer I have on this earth, but I’m gonna try. I wanna try and do as much good as I can.”

Aroma-Sense Essential Oils is located at 105 Fox Street in Jonesborough. The store’s hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 8 to 5 p.m. Boynton will also hold free Sunday classes and the next session will be on Sunday, April 30 from 2 to 3 p.m.

African children drum up education opportunities

DSC_4743 Full frame

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The stained glass windows in Jonesborough United Methodist Church typically pour light into the sanctuary, but this past Sunday, nothing beamed as brightly as the smiles on the faces of the singers, dancers and drummers of the African Children’s Choir.

The choir made a stop in Jonesborough as part of their American tour filled with contemporary Christian songs as well as traditional African songs.

DSC_4755The group doesn’t just travel throughout the world to entertain and fill up every church pew in a small Tennessee town’s church though; the ACC is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to help pay for education through the donations accepted on tour for children in African countries.

“They know from their experiences in Uganda that not everyone gets schooled,” ACC volunteer, Kyle Serquinia, said. “I mean, that’s evident every day of life. They understand how valuable school is and they are very serious. They love the opportunity they have to go to school. And they do understand that by going on tour they are helping to raise more money for other kids to go to school as well.”

Not only do these dancers and musicians help better their education when they return to their home country, but the kids also get to experience America.

DSC_4693

ACC volunteer Kyle Serquinia is traveling the country with the choir.

“These kids before coming on tour had never been outside of Uganda. And for many of them had never been outside of a 20-mile radius,” Serquinia explained. “On tour they see new things, new experiences every single day. It just kind of blows us away that it’s normal for us. Having hot showers, that was a big thing to them—having lights everywhere that you just turn on and off with a switch. One of the very first things they recognized when we were driving through America was how clean the roads were. It’s fun to just experience America through their eyes.”

Their experiences don’t just affect their lives today or even just when they get back to Uganda; Serquinia said that before he became a volunteer with the organization, he saw first-hand what ACC had afforded these children, and also, their futures.

“I got to meet a lot of young adults, men and women in their 20s and 30s who got to tour as a child and are now adults, professional teachers, doctors, nurses and lawyers and business men.” Sequin recalled. “All of them said to me, ‘We would not be where we are today without the help of this organization.’ I just got blown away by the organization, the work they do and how it changes children’s lives to where in 15 or 20 years, they’ll be doctors, teachers, lawyers and other professionals and will help them not only provide for themselves, but also change their community.”

DSC_4677

It was standing room only at the Jonesborough United Methodist Church on Main Street on the night of the choir’s performance.

“This education will not only help themselves, it will help their family and their whole community,” Serquinia said. “When they go back to Uganda they’ll have their education paid for from now all the way through the university level. That education will give them the opportunity to do great things and to build up their communities and help themselves and help other people.”

Still singing a song of giving: For Novelty Band, music is about fun, sharing

XLighterThe Jonesborough Novelty Band provides yuletide entertainment at the Knight House

By JOHN KIENER

Associate Editor

jkiener@heraldandtribune.com

It’s about so much more than the music. It’s also about the giving.

Since 1992, the Jonesborough Novelty Band has entertained visitors to Tennessee’s Oldest Town at festivals, schools, churches—any place where folks are having a good time.  The “three guys who love to sing” are Sam Burke, Mark Calliham and Terry Countermine.

“We don’t do elevator music,” said Countermine.  “The fun we have is because of audience reaction.  As long as our audience keeps coming, we’ll keep singing.”

Audience participation is the group’s specialty.

But the band does more than just entertain with fun music and audience interaction.  Each year 90 percent of any proceeds from their appearances benefit Habitat for Humaniy. The money collected during the years now exceeds more than $50,000.  Countermine said, “We have raised more money than it takes to build a house.”

XNoveltyMiddle

Mark Calliham

They raise that money playing a variety of songs. “We like the music of the kind that was played by the Kingston Trio,” Calliham said, “We tend to play music that has been around for awhile.”  As a historical reference, in 1957 the Kingston Trio emerged from San Francisco’s North Beach club scene bringing the rich tradition of American folk music into the mainstream.

The group’s repertoire includes 600 to 650 songs.  “You can play about 40 songs in an evening,” said Burke. To choose selections, he added as an example, “We get together before Christmas with our song book.”  The book is titled “Life’s A Song – Sing Along”.

Countermine put together the original song book while working on his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Penn State University.  He put the songs on computer cards. They are now printed in a songbook.  The Novelty Band has distributed hundreds of books.  Countermine said they usually tell their audience the books are handed out, “Keep the book if you make a $10 donation to Habitat for Humanity.”

The band’s history dates back to downtown Jonesborough in 1992 at a restaurant with a Blue Tick Hound in the window.   “It started because of Steve Bacon’s Coffeehouse,” Countermine said.  “I told Steve I would provide music for the Storytelling Festival.  I called my brother and one of my best friends to help.

“Steve told me about Sam. We sang together for the first time at Halloween, 1992. Mark joined in December for some Christmas sing-alongs and the rest is history.”

The Novelty Band uses banjo, guitar, upright bass and a variety of other instruments to lead crowds in sing-along-songs.  Christmas bells are handed out to participants during the Heritage Alliance’s Progressive Dinners. The trio distributes kazoos when they perform before elementary school audiences.

“I bought a whole bunch of bells and made 40 sets,” Countermine said. We hand them out at Christmas time“. And when we play in front of children, we give them kazoos. We have a whole set of kids songs. We learned quickly that you can’t hand out the kazoos too soon.  Once the children have them, it is like having a swarm of bees in the room.  Now we wait until the last 10 minutes of the program before handing them out.”

“We also have a home-made Applause Meter,” Countermine said.  “The lights go on when you make a lot of noise. The more noise, the more lights go on. We have taken the Applause Meter to several sing-alongs.”

The group also has a “Git-Fiddle.”  It is a homemade instrument that’s a one-person rhythm section.  “It’s always a big hit when we add it to the group,” he said.

Burke said during the band’s “peak years” they were playing 50 times a year at various events. They have participated in the Jonesborough Days and Christmas Parades for more than 20 years. During one stretch, they won 1st place in the summer parade four years in a row.

Other appearances have included performing at the Eastman Lodge in Kingsport, at the Yarn Exchange, for Halloween Haunts and Happenings, for the Jonesborough Days kickoff supper and at the Jonesborough Methodist Church for Appalachian Christmas.  A couple of other gigs have been on Valentine’s and Saint Patrick’s Day at Cornbreads plus a featured performance on Groundhog Day.

The band has traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina for a performance on behalf of Habitat for Humanity.  They played at the “Best Friends Festival” in Norton, Virginia for three years to benefit the fund raising efforts of the local Volunteer Fire Department. The Jonesborough Repertory Theater has used the trio in a benefit concert.

Seniors are a favorite audience for the Novelty Band.  “We sing the old songs,” Calliham said.  The group performs almost every New Years’ Eve at the Colonial Hills Assisted Living Center.  However, this New Years gig does not begin at midnight but at 2 o’clock in the afternoon so the audience can retire early.

The band will also play and sing for wedding receptions.  However, before booking them, Burke said, “You should come hear us if you have not heard us before. Our music is a bit different from other bands.”  Audiences must listen to the Novelty Band in live performance to understand why “novelty” is part of the name.

On one occasion, about 20 years ago, Terry’s wife, Sandy, gave him “several hours” of studio time as a present.  JNB made their first – and only CD. “It never made the charts,” Countermine said with a smile.

XNoveltyTerryThe only “professional musician” in the group is Burke.  He remembers bagging groceries when his father said, “If I could make one-half the money, he would put up the other half for a musical instrument costing $75.”

“I started playing in 1964 – the bass,” Burke said.  “I played music while in the Army.  When I got out, I went on the road as a professional musician.  When Sam moved back to the area, he played in the Johnson City Symphony, as well as many other local bands.

Burke has been an engineer, teacher, musician and an educator.  He worked for a number of years with the Wellmont Health System maintaining their medical equipment. On occasion, he would have to leave a Novelty Band performance for an emergency repair of life saving equipment at a Health System hospital.  He currently is an associate professor in the Department of Computing at East Tennessee State University where he obtained both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees. His faculty web site states, “When not teaching, Sam plays, creates, eats, sleeps, edits and in general does anything and everything music.”

     Calliham grew up, played and sang in a family that enjoyed music. He was in 5th grade when his father got him a guitar.  It was a hand-me-down from his brother – an Electric Silverton.” His philosophy of music is “If it is not fun, why do it?”   

     By the 9th grade, Calliham was playing with a group called “The Ambassadors.” He said, “We wore yellow shirts and paisley ties.  We played beach music.”  He went to Tennessee Tech University where he majored in chemical engineering. As part of his education, Calliham was in a Co-Op project at Huntsville, Alabama and found the time to join a group playing “honky-tonk” and Rock-n-Roll music. The chemical engineer continued to enjoy playing the guitar while employed by Eastman Chemical from 1973 until his retirement in 2011.

   Recently retired from teaching Computer Science courses at ETSU, Countermine said he remembers taking music lessons in the 4th or 5th grade.  At one time he played the tuba.  He now plays the banjo, bouzouki and ukulele. “We all sang – we all loved to sing,” he said about his family. 

     After high school, he went to Alliance College in Pennsylvania on a basketball scholarship and later was an assistant basketball coach at the school. Also a mathematics teacher at Alliance, he left the college for graduate degree studies completing his doctorate in computer science at Penn State.  For Countermine, “Music was always about having fun.”

     With the combined musical experience of more than 100 years, the trio has been described in one newspaper story as having “spontaneous personalities.”  They all agree, “We sing good harmony together.” The ‘three guys who love to sing” will have looked at the chord structure of a piece of music before they bring that new song to their play list.

      However, Calliham said, “We play on eye contact as a means of communicating with one another.  We play off the crowd.” In the final analysis, he said, “We live by the code that we don’t want to peak too.”

Turning a page: Town Hall ‘mama’ gets ready for a new chapter

WEBVirgnia

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

Tears are flowing freely at Town Hall this week as administrators, staff and the community prepare to say farewell to a longtime fixture at 123 Boone Street.

“You’re the linchpin,” Mayor Kelly Wolfe told Virginia Causey before an audience at Monday night’s Board of Mayor & Aldermen meeting when Wolfe declared Friday, March 17 — Causey’s last day as a town employee — as Virginia Causey Day in her honor.

“We love you, Virginia. You’re heart is as big as this room if not bigger. And I can’t help but think that the culture of this town has been profoundly influenced by (you).”XVirginiaCraig

Causey will retire after almost 40 years with the town, getting her start many years ago in the two-room old town hall now occupied by Jonesborough’s Corner Cup.

That was back in 1971, she said, and little did she realize the adventure and the strong relationships that waited ahead.

“At that time, I was the only female that worked for the town,” Causey recalled. Everything was done by hand and Causey not only took care of town business, she also fielded fire and police calls — sort of a one-woman operation. When Causey and her husband, Bud, adopted their son, Frankie, she quit to spend more time with her family.

But the lure of Town Hall couldn’t be denied and Causey returned in 1983, dedicated to the well-being of staff and community every since.

She loves this town, she said, which has been her home for her entire life. And she tries to hold tight to her belief that she must treat everyone she encounters with love, patience and kindness.

In that pursuit, Causey has become “mom” to more staff members than she can list, and they have become her family, she admits. “Since I’ve been working here, I’ve lost so many family members,” she said. “My mom. My dad. My brother. My sister. It’s so different here,  how everyone just engulfs you.”

That, Causey said, is why it has taken her so long to finally retire. She had been talking about it since turning 65. Causey turns 69 today.

“Bud and I have been married for over 50 years,” she said. “We’ve known each other all our lives because he lived beside me growing up.”

Still she hesitated, until this past September, as she and her husband were talking. “Bud said to me ‘You will never set a day. You’re going to work until one off us dies.’” Causey recalled. “After he went to bed that night I went in there and started to write my letter of retirement. It’s just time.”

XVirginia3But that doesn’t mean it’s easy — this decision that Causey calls one of the hardest of her life.

“I love all these employees,” she said simply. “I’ve worked with so many of them. I’ve nurtured them. I’ve been with them through divorce. I’ve been with them through sickness. I’ve been with them through births.”

And these employees have loved her back.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for me,” Town Operations Manager Craig Ford wrote earlier this week. “Your guidance and encouragement have helped me so many times. May God bless you in your retirement as you have blessed me.”

Other comments were just as inspiring.

“Virginia is like your best friend, mother, guardian angel and Number 1 supporter all rolled into one,” said Town Administrator Bob Browning.

“I have worked with Virginia for over 27 years,” wrote Lorena Cradduck. “During this time she has demonstrated over and over that she truly cares for all employees for the town and our citizens regardless of the situation. Her little shoes will be hard to fill.”

As for Causey’s sidekick and work “sister” Donna Freeman, her message have summed it up best.

“Thanks for all the memories and fun times,” she wrote. “Love ya!”

Ramsey makes stop at Kiwanis to advocate school voucher plan

XRonRamsey

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

Former Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey’s black truck rolled down Second Avenue in search of the small yellow building in which he’d be talking with the Kiwanis Club of Jonesborough. Ramsey wasn’t in Tennessee’s oldest town to talk East Tennessee State University basketball (of which he’s a fan) or to explore the nearby downtown streets of Jonesborough.

He was on a mission to talk to Tennesseans about the Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act.

“We don’t understand it in Northeast Tennessee because we have great schools. But there are some areas like Memphis, like Nashville that parents need a choice on where to send their kids,”  Ramsey said. “And I’m traveling the state right now trying to spread that word.”

Ramsey has travelled to numerous towns across Tennessee as part of the tour organized by Tennesseans for Conservative Action in favor of the bill that offers scholarships to students who are zoned for a school within the bottom five percent of schools in Tennessee. This would allow students from these low-success public schools—who must also be eligible for free or reduced-price lunch—to attend a participating private school.

Ramsey said the system, as it is now, only allows a family two decisions in making sure their child attends a better school.

“We have school choice now for parents that have means,” Ramsey said. “You either have the money to send your kid to private school or you simply move. For those kids that are stuck in those failing schools in the inner city, I think they need some kind of a voucher system.”

Though the bill has gained support from many Republicans in the House, it comes with opposition as well; Ramsey said many school boards are not in favor of the act due to the fear of pulling money from public schools and putting more money into private schools.

“I’ve heard that it’s taking money away from public schools and stuff like that,” Ramsey said. “But to say that, you have to say that I’m more for the system than I am for the student. And the way most of these programs are designed, half the money stays with the school system, half goes with the students.”

As for students who might fall behind at their new private school thanks to these vouchers, Ramsey said individual education plans where multiple faculty and staff — along with the student and his or her parents — can create a plan to keep the student on the right track can also be of assistance.

Ramsey also said the bill wouldn’t really affect Northeast Tennessee.

“It won’t affect (an area like Jonesborough) at all. I really don’t think so,” Ramsey said “That’s what frustrates me at times, that we have people that aren’t necessarily for it around here when it won’t affect Northeast Tennessee at all. You’ve got to think, we’re about raising the whole ship, the whole state of Tennessee, not just us. We’re the example, not the problem.”

Ramsey also has a focus on higher education. The former Tennessee Lieutenant Governor is now on the East Tennessee State University Board of Trustees. And in his post-political career, he’s ready to help ETSU adapt its policies to that of the region.

“What works for the University of Memphis doesn’t necessarily work for East Tennessee State,” Ramsey explained. “So we passed a bill to allow each of these six four-year schools to have their own board. So now we can decide what majors we need at ETSU, what are the policies we need for ETSU. If we decide there’s a certain major at ETSU to get a good job at Eastman or somewhere else, we can do that over night instead of going through a big bureaucracy to get there.”