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.

Artists share passion for recreating life’s reflections

from STAFF REPORTS

Two local artists will be showcasing their work this summer at Jonesborough’s McKinney Center, but don’t be surprised if you’ve heard their names before.

Caroline Tomko, former director of the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center before she retired years ago, and Richie Hayward, whose name has come to be linked locally with a renewed intererest in aerial photography, will both be featured at the Mary B. Program for the Arts second second show of its Artist Exhibition Series.

The exhibition will be open and free to the public starting with the Opening Reception on Friday, June 9, at 6 p.m. It will run through July 21.

The McKinney Center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

When Artist Carolyn Tomko was growing up up in eastern Virginia, where summer days are hot and humid, one of her favorite things to do as a child was to create mud pies for family, friends, dolls and pets.

It wasn’t enough to just create them, she had to find berries, rocks and even bugs to enhance their beauty.

Years later, when Tomko had a young family, creating tea sets and animals out of Play Dough were some of her favorite family play times.

It therefore seemed only natural to make a full circle and play in clay after retiring from the Town of Jonesborough nine years ago.

One of the beauties of this stage of her life, Tomko said, is the ability to create beautiful pottery that is fired and can last for generations. She loves creating hand-crafted characters such as animals, Santas, gnomes, snowmen, angels and nativities.   

Making houses for birds is always a fun challenge. Pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns are great fall creations. Yard art, wall pockets, tree art and wall decorations are also a joy to create, she said.

Creating usable pottery such as platters and plates is another passion.  It is not enough for her to create a platter, she also adds birds, nests, flowers, or even an animal.

“Almost every day is a ‘clay day,’ ” Tomko said — and she now feels a need to show and sell some of her work. She is not interested in a new career, she said.  She just wants to have fun creating, making new friends, and enjoying old ones.

Like Tomko, Hayward was a later edition to Jonesborough.

After 30 years in law enforcement in South Florida, he retired here, where he has resumed his passion for outdoor and wildlife photography.

In 2005, Hayward made the jump to digital photography and opened a whole adventure in making images. Since then, he has traveled from Katmai National Park photographing brown bears, to South Africa on photo safaris. Richie also traveled extensively across the United States photographing everything from wildlife, scenic and old rusting cars and truck-rusting relics.

Hayward describes his work as, “eclectic”.

His passion, in addition to giving a fresh look to the ordinary, is to spotlight endangered species of wildlife, especially those in Africa such as the much-poached rhino and elephant species. He has been up close and personal with these possible -to-be-extinct creatures. Hayward also likes to share his images via Facebook, digital gallery and community presentations.

According to Director of the McKinney Center Theresa Hammons, “Ritchie Hayward and Carolyn Tomko have something in common. They both interpret the natural environment around them through their artwork. Whether Ritchie is in Africa or Arizona, he captures the beauty and power of nature through his photography. Carolyn’s love for the natural world and the spiritual world is so delicately expressed in her ceramic birds, lily pads, angels and nativities. They both approach their art with passion and reverence for the world around them which is truly moving and inspiring.”

For more information, email Theresa Hammons at theresah@jonesborougtn.org or call 423-753-0562.

ISC takes storytelling magic to the Pentagon

Rotary Peace Fellow Kiran Sirah speaks about telling the story of peace during general session 8. International Assembly, San Diego, California, USA, 22 January 2015.

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

International Storytelling Center President Kiran Singh Sirah is on the road again for storytelling; this time with the surprising task of sharing the value of Appalachian’s oldest art with the Pentagon.

“This is a project that has been in the works for a while,” Sirah said of the Washington, D.C.-based event being held this week. “It’s actually a collaboration between ISC and 40 other government, academic and other participating organizations.

“It relates to storytelling and peace building.”

Sirah will act as one of three keynote speakers who will help frame the two-day symposium. ISC, along with frequent collaborator the Alliance for Peacebuilding, also worked together in the early stages to format the event.

“Ultimately this helps bring together many think-tank agencies,” Sirah explained.

Participating organizations include many branches of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, Johns Hopkins University of Applied Physics and Laboratory, George Mason University-Center for the Study of Narrative and Conflict Resolution, Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the U.S. Institute of Peace, just to name a few.

“These are people from the top,” Sirah stressed. And his message  to these global thinkers is one he continues to share every time he leaves Jonesborough.

“I want more and more people to realize that storytelling goes way beyond entertainment,” he said. “It’s the most powerful tool to connect  and create communities peace i the world. We may be a town of 5,000 people, we actually have an art form that can literally change the world,”

Though he believes Jonesborough may hold the key, stories and conflict resolution have always been something of a personnel quest for Sirah. It actually began the day he transformed being bullied on a playground as a youth into a position of power as he began to share his family stories and his pride in that family.

Kiran has also already used this age-old art in such locations at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he has been called upon to share his knowledge of peace-building techniques with commanders and eventually their troops.

“We are all seeking the same thing,” Sirah said. “We all want to be loved. We all want to feel like we belong in the world.

Never, as yet, has the world known a conflict-free existence, he admits.

“We can’t know what peace looks like,” Kiran said.

But through the power of shared stories, he said, it is something we can all envision. And Sirah is convinced ISC and Jonesborough will be at the forefront of that coming revolution.

Take anything and make it into something

From STAFF REPORTS

Ask someone about themselves and you will get a half-truth.

Ask someone about a close friend and you will find a whole truth with a great story tagging along.

McKinney Center art teacher Larke Foster began chuckling when asked to describe her coworker and close friend Sharon Squibb. “Wakadoodle,” Foster said, laughing. “No, three words to describe Sharon…” Before Foster could give a description, she told of a road trip they recently took to D.C., the story contained more of the two laughing than anything else.

Squibb and Foster have been a helping hand in growing the McKinney Center since the beginning. They were two of the original committee members and began their summer camp program before the McKinney Center building was even in place. They first taught summer camp at the Methodist church annex.

“We’ve really been tied to this building from the beginning.” Said Foster. “We’ve been here fighting about where the sinks are gonna be, where to put things and planning the curriculum.”

As they began to dive deeper into their past experiences, seeping with passion and determination Foster shared her story as an art teacher. “Watauga County hired me straight out of college — green as grass. I didn’t know what I was doing. Just big eyes, thinking I’m going to save the world.”

Foster and Squibb began laughing knowing what comes next. “One of my classes was seriously in a dungeon. They had a plank to go down to it, it’s where the boiler room was. The janitor put a little table down there for us and the kids would walk over this plank. I mean, to this day I can’t believe they actually had me teaching in that room.” Lark explains reminiscing on her past experience.

Foster continued with another story of teaching art in the mountains of North Carolina. “Oh my gosh, the kids would come and they would smell like a fire place. It was a really really rural school. I walked in the school and I asked about the budget. The principal said how about fifty bucks? Hahaha fifty bucks,” Foster laughed.

“I would steal supplies from Blowing Rock and take them to the other school because they didn’t have anything. My truck was full of paper and paint, it was the only way you could do it -— yah know! Art teachers will take anything and make it into something.” At this point, Squibb is nodding in agreement and laughing along with Foster at this age old story for any art teacher.

Squibb began to flip though student pieces from her print making class and discussing what she loves about teaching beginners. “I’m giving them skills that sometimes they are surprised with. Anything I’m teaching can be done beyond the class room We give them a taste of what’s out there.”

Be a part of Sharon Squibb and Larke Foster’s story by joining them for Summer Camp at the McKinney Center June 5th – 9th.

For more information contact Theresa Hammons at 423.753.0562 or theresah@jonesboroughtn.org.

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.”

Couple creates treasure trove in Gray

DSC_3174_1088By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

lwhaley@heraldandtribune.com

When James Robertson was preparing to retire from Zak’s, a Johnson City furniture store he had served proudly for 18 years, he knew the time had come for he and his wife, Margaret, to plan a new chapter for their lives.

Their children were grown and neither was the type to sit quietly with little to occupy themselves.

“I wanted a furniture store, but I knew we didn’t have the money to open up something like Zak’s,” James recalled.

So the couple decided to merge their talents – James with his knowledge of furniture and household items and Margaret with her flare for beauty – and they would open their own unique spot.

It would be much smaller than the Zak’s store James would be leaving, and it would house a collection of treasures both old and new that both would be proud to share with the world.

“We knew we just didn’t want a smelly thrift store,” James said with a gentle smile. “We wanted some unique pieces. We had some antique pieces, new pieces, and gently used.”

Margaret added some quality clothing items. Pieces of colorful jewelry found its way into mix.

And Treasures Old & New opened in Gray at 5202 Bobby Hicks Highway in July 2016.

Now, after nine months of operation, they’ve learned more than they ever imagined about a store’s operation. It has already been quite journey, they said.

James recalls with a chuckle how the journey began more easily than expected thanks to the helping hand from some caring friends.

“We started kicking the idea around at work and of course the discussion led to where to find the inventory,” James said. “One friend says, ‘I’ve got a container in my yard.’ And another friend said, ‘I’ve got some stuff in  storage building we can put in there.’ And another friend said, ‘Well, I’ve got some stuff.’ And the next thing we knew we were full.”

Soon they were selling that merchandise and then going out and adding more to their collection.

“We just look for things that are kind of odd and nice and they catch your eye,” Margaret explained. “Things that we like that we think other people would like.”

During those first few months, the Robertsons learned not only the value of good friends, but also to never underestimate the mesmerizing quality of piece of red leather furniture.

“One of our first sales was a red leather sofa set,” James said, shaking his head. “Everybody who saw it loved that.”

That living room set was soon followed by another – and along with it, another lesson. Sometimes, they discovered, the best deals can be found closest to home.

“Margaret wanted a new living room suite, so our old red one came down here,”  James added grinning. “That sold in less than a month.”

“Red does really well in upholstery.”

Today, as that one-year mark approaches, lessons are still pouring in, as is the furniture. Thanks to their business parter, Terry Davidson, the shop also currently supplies custom window treatments services.

Currently on the shop floor, “Treasures” offers dressers, beds, chairs, light fixtures, artwork and more. And as the Robertsons treasures grow, so does their enthusiasm about the future.

“We want to give people quality,” Margaret said. “Things that are nice and things that look nice.

“I have a philosophy that I wouldn’t sell you something that I wouldn’t buy myself.”

Or, as James states simply, “We are dedicated for finding new homes for old and new treasures.”

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.

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.”

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!”

JRT brings new life to classic romantic comedy

IMG_1404

Love, family, and acceptance are the themes that linger at the center of the romantic comedy, “You Can’t Take It With You”. This classic and funny show will run Thursdays through Sundays, March 2-12, at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre located at 125½ E Main Street, Jonesborough.

Meet Alice Sycamore (Catherine Squibb) and her strange, wacky, and sometimes embarrassing family. Meet Tony Kirby (Austin Wingate) along with his wealthy, elegant and stuffy relations. Throw in a little romance between Alice and Tony and it’s time for the two families to meet. However, when the carefully orchestrated introduction does not go according to plan, the reality of their plight becomes evident to the young couple.

“I think Alice and I are at very similar places in our lives,” Catherine (Alice) said. “We both have the same unwavering love for our family, even though we may sometimes be frustrated with them. I definitely understand her uncertainty and reluctance to introduce her new beau to her family.” And, as we find out, Alice is hesitant and embarrassed for good reason.

“This family’s weird,” Austin (Tony) said of the Sycamore family. “But it’s the best kind of weird.” In the show, Tony is forced to face the differences between his and his fiancée’s families. “He has to make a decision: should he stick with what’s familiar and comfortable or risk that security to pursue something that’s more true to himself?”

The questions and choices Tony and Alice face will be relatable to everyone who sees the show. We all need to ask ourselves where our loyalties lie? What makes us the most happy and content? What’s most important in life? Director Karen Elb gave her answer: “Life and the joy to be found in it spring from the bonds of love and family.”

IMG_1402Richard Lura, who plays Martin Vanderhof (Alice’s grandpa), narrowed down the story in a nutshell: “It’s about a family that truly loves and accepts each other.” And that’s what is most important.

Come along for the wild ride as we see what difficulties these young lovers encounter in order to make family the most important thing of all. Kari Tuthill (Penny Sycamore) said, “This is a funny, charming, quirky, heart-warming, laugh-out-loud, fun show! You don’t want to miss it!”

Rounding out this talented cast are Summer Boothe, Andy Cobble, Brent Edwards, Matt Elb, Shawn Hale, Adam Honeycutt, Lindy Ley, Paul McQuaid, Ron Peters, Dominic Peterson, Sean Read, Danielle Smith, Michelle Weintre, and Tara White

“You Can’t Take It With You” is written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.

Shows will run on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 423.753.1010 or go online to www.jonesboroughtheatre.com.

Gentle giant loves to give back

DSC_3738 2another

Upon arriving at Rhonnie Miller’s farmhouse set on the rolling pastureland of Keefauver Road, guests are met with a gorgeous southern-style, wrap-around porch—and the world’s tallest breed of dog peering through the screen door.

“We were eating at Main Street back in the fall and it was nice out. And you know how close the seating is to the road?” Miller said, watching Henry, her 1-year-old Irish wolfhound sprawl out on the painted porch floor. “They got a fire call and the fire engine comes down Main Street, full sirens, lights, everything on. And he was laid out like this and literally picked his head up, said, ‘Okay,’ and put it back down.

“They’re gonna have to get a bigger bowl at Main Street,” Miller added, still watching Henry, who has his own Instagram account under the name “Wolfhound Henry”, during the wolfhound’s Herald & Tribune photoshoot. “He just kind of looks at it.”

The story is a testament to Henry’s laid-back nature as he stretches his lengthy legs out in front of the photographer who is aiming to capture Henry’s true height in a photo. This easy-going attitude was just part of what made Miller choose her long-legged best friend, a decision the potter and Jonesborough resident didn’t take lightly.DSC_3924

She carefully decided she wanted to house another wolfhound after owning two when her teenage sons were much younger and toddling around with two wolfhound puppies at their sides. She had lost one of the dogs to osteosarcoma, a cancer that is found in the cells that form bones and is common in Irish wolfhounds and the other to a freak accident with a pig’s ear—which she now advises every pet owner to steer clear of offering to his or her dog. Years later, she decided to hunt down her perfect wolfhound. But little did she know how much healing he would do in other’s lives as well as her own.

“We were planning to go back to get him when he was 10 weeks old and I got pneumonia and mono. I got put in the hospital for four days,” Miller recalled. “The breeder actually kept him an extra week. Then my husband went up and got him for me and brought him back. Truly, he helped me get better.

“On his AKC papers, he’s Henry the Healer instead of some fancy froufrou name. So I then knew I wanted to kind of give back with him.”

Now Henry is 7 feet long and his love for people is even bigger than he is. Henry is known for enjoying a stroll in downtoDSC_3928wn Jonesborough alongside his family, but now he is an officially licensed therapy dog ready to make folks in nursing homes and hospitals smile on even their darkest days.

“He’s not just meant to stay in the house,” Miller said. “It’s amazing to see the people, especially the ones at Brookdale at the memory care side. Instead of laying there, they light up when he goes.”

Henry may have a new job, but he still has an affinity for frolicking through cow pastures, trips to the beach, strolling along cobblestone streets, and galloping alongside farm trucks like the one that came crunching through the Miller’s gravel path leading up to their cattle behind their house.

Aside from living up to a wolfhound’s unofficial title of a gentle giant and serving as a therapy dog, Miller said that Henry can read people. He’s also been known to read how Miller herself is feeling. Miller said he can gauge the way in which he should behave, depending on who he’s around.

“We were at the beach this summer and he was rompin’ and playing and running like wild early one morning and there wasn’t hardly anyone on the beach,” Miller explained while watching Henry gallop through her spacious yard. “He and I had gone down to watch the sunrise and this couple brings out a set of twins just in their diapers. They’re probably 18 months old, just trying to run, barely walking good. They come waddling up to him and he immediately went from, ‘I’m having fun’ and just laid down. He lays down and those two toddlers climbed all over him. They were sticking their fingers in his eyes, his mouth, his nose. The parents were taking pictures and were amazed.

“That’s just one example. He just knows. He changes when we get to the nursing home and we’re around older people like my grandmother and then he’ll turn around and rough house with people he knows he can and be a total goofball. And he is goofy as all get out. And a klutz.”

Miller has always been a dog-lover and already owned what she thought was her favorite dog. But Henry not only helped her get better and has served as her four-legged best friend—he’s also been the dog that’s taken up the most room in her house and her heart.

“You know how you say you get the one dog in your life? I thought I already had that dog,” Miller explained. “She was a great rescue dog from a shelter when I was 16. Fabulous dog. I had to put her to sleep when she was like 17. And I thought I’d had my dog. But he’s got Kate topped.”

However, Wolfhound Henry isn’t just a well-known, beloved family dog who is the perfect companion for a spring-like Thursday afternoon on the farm. Miller believes her gentle giant is meant to make her smile, but to also be a light for the people with which he comes in contact.

“I’ve had other dogs in my life. I’ve had every animal from lizards to horses. And he was just different,” Miller said. “And I thought, not to sound crazy, but this is the dog’s purpose. He’s here to do something. So if I can help other people and he can, then that’s what it’s all about.”

— Marina Waters

Artist creates beauty in glass

KH.jpeg1

From STAFF REPORTS

The rhythmic ping of a shard of glass ever so delicately placed on a swirl of green and blue that will soon be fired anywhere between 1,099 °F to 1,501 °F ending with a result of a fluted vase, a 4-piece plate, or a coaster is sure to complement any coffee table. This is how Karen Hitchcock, a seasoned glass fusion artist and McKinney Center teacher, spends many of her days.

As Hitchcock lays a sheet of glass beneath a blade to begin the glass fusion process, she tells how her life as an artist and instructor unraveled. Hitchcock comes from a long line of artists, she grew up in New York with parents who worked at the Corning Glass Center and a sister who was an accomplished potter. A young Hitchcock reminisces on visiting the Corning Glass Center for school trips, recalling that as the instant when her love for art first blossomed.

As her eyes are fixed on the minuscule glass piece in-between the tweezers she is carefully holding, she points with her other hand to a small kiln in the corner of her studio. “I’ve had that one since the beginning” Hitchcock says, alluding to a story waiting to be told through a simple object. Hitchcock once owned her own business as a custom picture framer until her husband bought her that small kiln, she then sold her business and got into glass.

Karen.8

When Hitchcock is asked to dot the moment in the time line of her life when she decided glass fusion was her true passion she would say, “When I began teaching at Rochester Arc and Flame.” Those students and experiences provided her with life-lasting inspiration that delivers her daily motivation.

One of the things that drew Hitchcock to Tennessee would be the lower cost of living and one of the cleanest lake in the world, Watauga Lake. However, one of the things that keeps her in Tennessee is the McKinney Center in Jonesborough.

Hitchcock’s first experience with the McKinney Center demonstrates the friendly and welcoming nature that is typical of Jonesborough. Hitchcock happened upon the Art Glass gallery on Main Street, amidst searching for a piece for her kiln. There she met Steve Cook who pointed her in the direction of the McKinney Center, but not without displaying true southern hospitality. Cook first took her to Earth and Sky so she could experience their delightful chocolate masterpieces.

When Hitchcock walked into the McKinney Center she ran into Pam Daniels, Special Programs Coordinator. Hitchcock explained what she was searching for and Daniels knew just where to get it.

Daniels offered to pick up the piece for Hitchcock, considering she was heading to the kiln parts store, but in the meantime Daniels offered to take that piece off of her kiln for Hitchcock to use until she could get the new one. Hitchcock was blown away by the kindness from Daniels, “I was like Wow! I’m not used to that. Up in New York it’s not really like that.”

That simple encounter snowballed into Hitchcock being part of Fine Art in the Park, a fine art show the McKinney Center holds annually, and then becoming one of their art teachers.

You can find Hitchcock at the McKinney Center working with glass while sharing that passion with her students.

Be a part of Karen Hitchcock’s story by joining in on one of the Glass Fusion Workshops she will be teaching at the McKinney Center Feb. 17, March 6 and April 4. For more information contact Theresa Hammons, McKinney center Director, at theresah@jonesborougtn.org or call 423-753-0562.

Market begins new lecture series

XFRONTcoffee

By BLAINE BOLES

H&T Correspondent

Last Thursday at the Boone Street Market, Jonesborough Locally Grown held its first lectures in a series on the importance of locally sourced foods.

“What we’re doing here is developing an appreciation of our locally sourced foods,” said Karen Childress, the executive director of Jonesborough Locally Grown.

What Jonesborough Locally Grown is about is “connecting our farmers with the local community,” explained Erin Gibner, a 29-year-old AmeriCorps Volunteer.

Gibner, one of the primary organizers of the Jonesborough Locally Grown lectures, noted that she proposed the night’s first lecturer for his “charismatic and captivating personality.”

That lecturer was Bill Chapman, a Jonesborough resident and coffee connoisseur, who came down to the market to talk about the science-intensive process of roasting coffee beans.

Although he has dabbled in roasting coffee for roughly 25 years, Chapman said that he only began seriously roasting coffee when he retired in 2012.

“One can only play so much golf,” he joked — so  Chapman’s wife bought him an “electric-coil heated Alpine roaster” for his next birthday.

“When we lived in Massachusetts, I started roasting in our basement and the smoke would make its way up the air ducts and set off the fire alarms so I was banished to the garage,” Chapman said.

Despite his banishment, Chapman was not deterred from roasting coffee. “A few years later,” Chapman noted, “I purchased a North brand coffee roaster,” which featured four propane burners and could roast up to 14 pounds of coffee beans at a time.

After purchasing his second roaster, Chapman noted that he became deeply interested in the more technical aspects of roasting coffee.

“The outermost layer of the unroasted coffee bean is ‘chaff,’ which must be removed before the coffee can be roasted,” Chapman said. A coffee bean chaff is the “silver-colored skin that covers the unroasted bean.”

Once the chaff is removed from a batch of coffee beans, “the process of roasting coffee beans is designed according to four features of a batch — the beans’ density, the altitude at which the beans were grown, the moisture content of the beans and the level of roast desired.”

Next, Chapman gave specific roasting times and temperatures for each degree of coffee roast: light roast, medium roast, and finally dark roast. For each roast, Chapman and Childress distributed samples of roasted beans and coffee made from those roasts.

What this show-and-tell of coffee was intended to display is that “you can tell when a roast is achieved based on how the coffee smells and tastes,” Chapman said.

“You should be able to taste notes of cherry and vanilla extract in the lighter roasts,” he said.

Chapman closed his presentation by discussing the logistical and political aspects of the coffee industry. “In this inaugural lecture series, it’s important to know that certain small coffee farmers may not be able to afford the cost of having their product certified as fair-trade or organic,” he said.

Chapman noted that he keeps this fact in mind when choosing beans for his product, for he wants to produce the best locally sourced product for the best price.

“The things that I sell here (at the Boone Street Market) will arrive on the shelves within two days of being roasted,” he said.

The night’s second lecture was led by Nathan Brand, a 29-year-old chef, and his wife, Diana Brand, a 28-year-old psychologist, on the use of heirloom crops in local cuisines.

The couple began the lecture with Diana Brand’s reading of Todd Blair’s “Moonshine and Mountaintops: A Living History of Northeast Tennessee” — a selection she believed articulates the connection that traditional Appalachian cooks had to what they cooked, which “is a sort of nostalgic comfort if you’ve grown up in the area,” she said.

Nathan Brand talked about his extensive culinary training that led him to an appreciation of  “locally grown.”

He trained in several Nordic countries, he said, yet during his training, he soon realized that he “wasn’t cooking anything locally sourced,” which disregards an important culinary concept: terroir.

Not cooking with locally sourced ingredients, according to Nathan Brand, deprives you of being aware of your food’s terroir, a French term that refers to both a crop’s chemical characteristics and the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop’s chemical makeup.

This culinary feature is why he believes “everyone is seeking heirloom varieties now.”

“You can buy well-formed black-eyed peas at a Kroger,” Nathan Brand said. “But they are hybrid seeds that haven’t been adapted to specific environments. They’re solely meant to be prolific and ship-well.”

Whereas, “an heirloom crop is a variety of a crop that tastes better than its more common analog,” he said.

He quickly pointed out, however, that it is important to distinguish between “heirloom” foods and “niche” foods.

“There are a lot of ‘niche’ foods in today’s markets and anything niche has an undertone of elite,” he said.“There should be no elitism in the kitchen.”

“I’ve been broke and down-and-out, but I ate something great and that great thing wasn’t boutique or expensive.”

If you’re interested in attending one of Jonesborough Locally Grown’s future events, check out their website at https://jonesborough.locallygrown.net/welcome.

From robots to waterfowl

XSSRobotics

Front Row (left to right): Laila Thompson and Stephanie Mathes. Back row: (left to right) Noah Painter, Blake Riddle, Ben Foster, Mattie Miller, and Joey Hopkins.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

It’s a tradition; you go to a pond and feed a group of ducks white bread. But it can also be a pastime that is harmful for waterfowl—and the South Central robotics team is determined to put an end to it.

The team adopted Angel Wing Syndrome as their main project for the year. The syndrome can occur when any sort of waterfowl ingests an excessive amount of protein found in foods such as white bread, popcorn and even chips.

This can cause the bird’s wings to twist upward and impair its ability to fly. It’s this effect that interested South Central’s robotics team in learning more about the syndrome.

For robotics team member Laila Thompson, the idea to study Angel Wing Syndrome was also important because of the relevance to this area.

“We were trying to find something that we could really try and help with,” Thompson said. “We know they’re around here, a lot and people have always fed them white bread. So it really would affect people around here and animals that live around here.”

Not only did these South Central students learn all they could about the disease, but they also decided to go public with their findings. The team has contacted parks such as Warrior’s Path and Sycamore Shoals in order to warn them of this disease. They have also started an initiative to educate the public by creating pamphlets and signs designed by David Crockett High School to post at area bodies of water to keep patrons from feeding waterfowl any harmful foods.

“We made that mistake last year (not publicizing their work); We had a good project, but we didn’t really tell that many people,” robotics team member Joey Hopkins said. “We just kept it inside the school. This year we want to tell more and more, just be able to get it out there. Not only in this area, but the nation.”

The robotics team has worked to publicize their findings on the syndrome, but they’ve also created a low-calorie bread to substitute for other high-protein foods that can harm the birds. Robotics team member Noah Painter played a large role in creating the one-of-a-kind recipe.

“We were trying to figure out what could be done. There’s not really a good bread to use,” Painter said. “It has fewer calories but costs about the same price. It’s just better for them.”

The animal-friendly project isn’t South Central students’ only focus though. The team competed in the regional competition at East Tennessee State University in December where they won first place in robot design and second in robot performance against 24 other area teams.

They’ve also been gearing up for a science bowl at the Eastman Auditorium in Kingsport on Jan. 26, but their eyes are set on their trip to the state competition in Cookeville, Tennessee on Feb. 11.

At the competition, the team must come up with attachments for their robot in order to complete their assigned mission. But after gaining some experience during previous competitions, the team has worked on their strategy before heading to the state competition at Tennessee Tech.

“When we went to regionals, we had all types of attachments we could use, but we knew that state would be harder,” robotics team member Mattie Miller explained. “So we’re going to try to do one that way it takes less time taken to put them on. That way it’s just one go-around. We’re trying to do the mission in one round.”

These projects and adjustments take time and dedication—which is something South Central science and social studies teacher and robotics team mentor Ginger McAmis said these students certainly have.

“Our days that our teachers come and they can stay home—our in-service days—they come up here and work on it,” McAims said. “They’re very dedicated. They do it themselves. And they work well together.”

But for these South Central students, they have a goal apart from science bowl trophies and functioning robotic structures—it’s all about reaching out.

“The point isn’t really to win,” Miller said, “it’s about discovering new things and helping other people discover new things.”

Taxi! Local driver continues to hit the road in style

XDickConger1

By BLAINE BOLES

H&T Correspondent

Watch out, Uber: Dick Conger is ferrying natives and tourists alike through downtown Jonesborough in his “Old Time Taxi,” educating folks on local history, all for free.

Conger downplays his service as “not really a taxi as such; just a fun ride, in an old car, with some historical trivia about Jonesborough.”

The current taxi is “a personally remodeled 1919 Model T Ford depot-hack,” Conger said.

The term “depot-hack” comes from the car’s original purpose as a taxi between the end of a train depot and a traveler’s ultimate destination.

“Nineteenth century technological change transitioned from the original, Model T Ford depot-hack [which Conger owns] to the current station wagon, which is the direct descendent of the depot-hack. The idea was to move people around efficiently, even after their train had stopped,” Conger said.

At first, however, Conger and his wife, the late Jane B. Conger, maintained Ford Model T “depot-hack” taxi as well as a 1931 Model A bus.

In the 1970s Conger and his wife owned and operated a Venetian blind installation facility in St. Petersburg, Florida.

According to Conger, the couple owned a Model T Ford depot-hack taxi as well as a 1931 Ford Model A bus, but had no place to store either of the vehicles.

Thus, in 1981 the Congers moved to the Jonesborough area and promptly purchased Jonesborough’s old town hall building.

“We bought the old town hall because it had depot bays, proper places to store and maintain our model T- Ford and our Model A bus,” he said. Conger immediately began giving tours in the area; all the while his wife, Jane, founded Jonesborough Accommodations, the first bed & breakfast in Jonesborough.

In 1982, the Congers renovated sections of their old town hall which they “turned into several shops that, subsequently, became the Old Town Hall Marketplace” and an incubate for roughly 30 local businesses, Conger said.

Conger also noted that, in that same year, he and his wife founded Print Distribution Services because “we felt like we could do a lot by promoting Jonesborough tourism through our brochures.”

Jonesborough’s mayor and aldermen “were extremely helpful in the process of establishing a business within the framework of local laws,” and even asked Conger to “make and distribute brochures” for Jonesborough’s abounding attractions, he said.

When asked why he felt motivated to start these several projects, all within a window of three years, Conger jovially added that he “could not let [his] degree in marketing and merchandising go to waste.”

During this period of activity, Conger would still drive his Model A depot-hack even “when things began to get very busy with the brochure business,” said Conger.

Eventually, Conger noted, he stopped giving local tours altogether.

Although he is now retired, Conger said he has started to give “Old Time Taxi” tours again and manages “300 to 400 short tours in his current Model T Taxi, every week.”

Given that his taxi can only muster a 35 mph top speed, his tours are restricted to “taking back roads through the country and little tours around downtown Jonesborough,” Conger said.

He admitted, however, that these restrictions may not be a problem for those who enjoy being immersed in Jonesborough’s flora, especially when warmer weather returns to Northeast Tennessee.

Conger is also active in the East Tennessee & West North Carolina Railroad Convention as well as the Model T Ford International group. The latter group meets bi-annually and is comprised of over two-hundred American chapters.

Artists to share skills in drawing, painting classes

xbill-bledsoe-2

From STAFF REPORTS

Drawing and Print Making classes will begin Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, February 1, respectively, and will be taught by Sharon Squibb. Squibb received her BFA from the University of Tennessee, her MFA from the University of Cincinnati, and her MAT from East Tennessee State University. She lived in New York City, working as a non-fiction and art book editor for Random House, among other publishing houses. A woman of many talents, while in New York, Sharon performed several one-woman shows, as well as “Don’t Tell Mama” on 44th Street. She also performed in several shows in the West Village. After a successful decade in New York City, she relocated to Jonesborough, where she has shown her fine art work in Jonesborough’s Juried Art Shows, The Women’s Fund Art Shows and more. In her personal art making, she has worked extensively with drawing, printmaking, and painting media, and particularly enjoys exploring the figure as subject matter. Ms. Squibb is also involved at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre as an artist. She has been teaching art at University High School in Johnson City since 2000, and has been a faculty member of Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts at the McKinney Center since the center opened its doors.

Studio Art, with a focus on oil painting, and with an introduction to drawing, watercolor, and acrylic, begins Monday, Jan. 30, and will be taught by Bill Bledsoe. Bledsoe is a working artist, and is known for his work in creating the paintings and posters for the National Storytelling Festival for more than 23 years. While in the military, Bledsoe was an official artist for the United States Air Force, for which he received the Achievement Medal and the Award of Excellence for his artistic contributions upholding the moral of his fellow airman and commanding officers.

Bledsoe has worked for the Walt Disney Company as an assistant to Emmy-award winning director of the television mini-series Roots, Charles Bennett. Bledsoe has illustrated numerous children’s books, including “Everyone Has a Story to Tell” by Rebecca Isbell and Marilyn Buchanan. He has designed public murals including those in the pavilion on Boone Street in Jonesborough, and has been commissioned to paint the portraits of dignitaries from across the United States. He received his MFA in Studio Art and Graphic Design from East Tennessee State University, and serves as head of the secondary studio arts program at Providence Academy.

Charcoal Portraits from Photograph begins Thursday, Feb. 2, and is taught by Janet Browning. Browning taught art in public schools for seven years, before founding ArtSmart Inc., an after school art enrichment program that later became KidSmart. This program operated in eight states and employed over one hundred teaching artists. Browning has also worked as a portrait artist in resort areas, on cruise ships, and in malls. After twenty years of this work, Browning began focusing on buying art from all over the world, with a particular passion for traditional arts of the indigenous tribes in the Amazon area. Browning makes several visits each year to deep jungle locations along the Amazon, along with a guide, and participates in fair trade with these indigenous artists. She has also recently been visiting other places, such as Nepal, where she has started discovering fabric artists. She owns Hands Around the World, a shop on Main Street selling handmade art items from these locations and others around the globe. She received her degree in Art and Education from East Tennessee State University.

Rounding out the painting and drawing classes is the Watercolors course, beginning Tuesday, Jan. 31, taught by Ginny Wall. Wall spent most of her life in the far north of Minnesota, where her appreciation for nature began. Her artwork largely depicts her interpretations of natural things that inspire her.

While most of her work centers on realism, she also has a focus on more experimental, impressionistic work involving mixed medium, collage, print-making and calligraphy. She has been featured in numerous art shows and exhibits over the last ten years, and has won several awards for her work. She has been published, and has a huge following on Pinterest, where hundreds of her watercolors are featured.

Registration for these classes and others continues through Jan. 21. Registration forms are available at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough on 103 Franklin Avenue, and can be found online, along with the full catalog of classes on the Town of Jonesborough website at: http://www.jonesboroughtn.org/images/2017_Spring_Class_CatalogRV_9_003.pdf

For more information, email Theresa Hammons at: theresah@jonesboroughtn.org. or call 423-753-0562.

At the McKinney Center: Teacher restores magic in young art

xchassidy11

From STAFF REPORTS

“The librarian said it wasn’t art,” Chasidy Hathorn read as she pointed to the words painted on the mixed medium piece hanging on the wall of her historic home.

Hathorn, a former school teacher and now an art teacher at the McKinney Center, said “I had to retire from public school teaching because it got to the point that I couldn’t help those kids anymore. There were so many rules and so much red tape. When I got home I felt like I was crushing children’s dreams, and I wasn’t going to do that anymore. That is why I do what I do, and this painting is a reminder of that.”

As Hathorn continued up the stairs, her fingers traced the woodgrain of each picture frame surrounding the unique pieces on her wall. “When I began my journey at the McKinney Center, I found that the kids were so brilliant and fun!” she said. “It revived in me a child-like view of art.”

The McKinney Center continues to grow as an arts and humanities mecca where creativity and expression come to life.

Now in 2017, the McKinney Center will continue to incorporate classes of all kinds including the one Hathorn will teach.

From brilliantly bright, acrylic-gold speckling works of her own to creatively crafted canvas pieces by students filling her collection, it’s evident the inspiration each brings to her heart.

“Sometimes we get so caught up in details of a still life or trying to make our paintings into photographs, but these kids were just having fun and they loved it,” Hathorn said.

“I want to help them to continue that and not lose it. Let’s not take that away from them. Let them be creative, color outside those lines.”

Every time Hathorn passed a piece on her wall she smiled with each glance. These pieces of art, she believes, are sharing their story.

“And who are we to say what kids do. We are going to have a curriculum and a guide but at the same time I want them to have fun, paint their emotions, paint what they see, not what we see.”

A Mississippian at heart and a well-known artist in the region, Hathorn found a home at the McKinney Center back in 2014.

“When we first moved here I was trying to find my way,” she said. “I was almost afraid to get involved, to get settled. I finally began to explore, and I found the McKinney Center. They made me feel like home.”

While Hathorn worked on a piece inspired by her grandfather, she gently glided her brush over the words “empty chair” while she described days of the past spent with him.

She routinely took a step back while looking at the canvas, then leaned over to dip her brush into the gold paint sitting on the antique British table in the middle of her studio.

In the spring, Hathorn’s journey at the Mckinney will continue, with her teaching children’s fine arts, fine art construction and homeschool art classes. It will entail everything from mixed media collage to clay hand building, knife pallet painting, upcycling and even a bit about historic artists.

“I want them to leave confident with their talent and to know that each child is unique and special.” Hathorn said, “I don’t want them to look at each other’s works and say, ‘my work isn’t as good as so and so’s.’

“I want them to see all of their works as a masterpiece.

“I want them to leave feeling like true artists, like they are creative. I want them to make friends and I want them to leave with a sense of appreciation for art.

“Because every single one will leave as little Picassos.”

If you are interested in taking Chasidy’s class or another class at the McKinney Center email McKinney Center Director, Theresa Hammons at: theresah@jonesboroughtn.org or call 423-753-0562.