Daniel Boone FFA gets to work

A Daniel Boone FFA student instructs younger students during Farm Days at the Appalachian Fair Ground in Gray.



Student Contributors

From showing cattle to cleaning up the stretch of adopted highway in front of Daniel Boone, Daniel Boone’s FFA Chapter has had an active fall.

Daniel Boone’s FFA beef cattle show team went to roughly 10 local shows and ended the season with six grand champions, eight reserve champions, and several first and second places.

Daniel Boone High School student Haiden Ferguson engages in a conversation with Betsy DeVos, the United States Secretary of Education, at a convention.

The season ended with a trip to the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. The trip was a valuable experience and all of the members came back with more knowledge than they left with. Makenzye Stoots, Daniel Boone Senior, went to NAILE.

When asked how the national show impacted her she said, “It made me more determined to take pride in what I do. I had never been to the show, so it was really cool to gain new friends across the country and be encouraged by all the great competition there.”

The chapter volunteered at the annual Farm Days at the Appalachian Fairgrounds, which allows kindergarten and second graders to enhance their knowledge of agriculture and see various farm animals that they might have not had the accessibility to view before.

“Farm Days encourages youth to pursue a career in the agricultural industry, educates younger citizens on the importance of agriculture, and brought into my view that not all children know the importance of agriculture,”

Preston Kellner, Chapter Vice-President, said. Farm Days extends beyond the education of citizens and into benefits for the community as a whole.

If you pass through Gray there is a good chance you could have seen the stretch of highway in front of Daniel Boone and noticed the “Adopt-A-Highway” sign advertising for Daniel Boone FFA.

The chapter cleans the adopted highway four times a year. Makayla Phipps, senior member and Chapter President participates in the clean up service every opportunity she gets.

She believes that members greatly benefit from the community service hours and the knowledge of understanding the responsibility and impacts of human actions on the environment.

“The greatest lesson I have acquired from participating in this event is the importance of protecting our environment,” Phipps said.

Not only does the chapter work hard to better clean the highway, the chapter attended national FFA convention in October.

Haiden Ferguson, chapter member, attended the convention in October 2018. Haiden was asked about the impact of attending possibly her last National Convention as a chapter member.

“As my last National Convention as a high school FFA member it could probably not have been more enriching for me. In addition to display and interactive agricultural activities, we were also blessed by the presence of our United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, and our president, Donald Trump.

“I actually had the opportunity to speak to Secretary DeVos. I was able to share some of the career-oriented tools available through National FFA. She was impressed that an agricultural organization was so technologically advanced. It was an overall great experience that I will never forget.”

While at National FFA Convention, two former Daniel Boone members, Elizabeth and Rebecca Arwood, received their American FFA Degree. The American FFA Degree is the highest award given to FFA members, with less than one percent of all members receiving this award.

Washington County Farm Bureau wins Tennessee’s Pinnacle Award

Accepting the Pinnacle Award for 2018 on behalf of the Washington County Farm Bureau are, left to right, Velma McKee, Tony Marshall, Kevin Broyles, Anthony Shelton, Margaret Saylor, David Saylor, and Jeff Aiken.


Staff Writer


While the Washington County Farm Bureau has been in existence for more than 50 years, the local organization devoted to local farmers had never won the industry’s most prestigious award until 2016.

Fast forward to 2019, and the county farm bureau has three of them on their shelf.

The Washington County Farm Bureau was recently awarded the Pinnacle Partnership Award for the third year in a row at the state farm bureau’s annual convention in Nashville.

“The Pinnacle Partnership Award is the highest recognition a county Farm Bureau may receive,” Tennessee Farm Bureau President Jeff Aiken said.

Only 12 county farm bureaus won out of 95 total in the state.

“Over a calendar year, it’s our program of work, which consists of involvement in the community and everything that the Washington County Farm Bureau tries to do to sponsor agriculture-related programs,” Washington County Farm Bureau Agency Manager Kevin Broyles said.

Some of the programs offered by the local bureau are the ‘Ag in the Classroom’ program, which provides an agriculture related book to first graders, the “Farm Bureau Women’s Committee” and the “Young Farmers and Ranchers” program.

While many think of Farm Bureau as an insurance provider, its roots began with agriculture.

“We actually started out as a farm organization. We’ve kept those farm roots. We’re still a farm organization that now offers insurance products and services,” Broyles said.

According to the press release announcing the winners, “Twelve county Farm Bureaus were recognized for reaching the highest standards possible in membership, programs and teamwork.

“The Tennessee Farm Bureau is the largest Farm Bureau in the nation with a membership more than 671,000 and is a farm organization whose goal is to develop, foster, promote and protect programs for the general welfare, including economic, social, educational and political well-being of farm people of the great state of Tennessee.”

Contra Dance to go ‘Gluten Free’ in first event of brand-new year

Contra dancing can provide a new method of fitness for 2019.


The Historic Jonesborough Dance Society will kick off the 2019 contra dance season on Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center, 117 Boone Street.

The guest band is Gluten Free. Calling the dance will be the ever popular Tim Klein from Knoxville.  Admission for the dance is $7 for adults and $5 for students and children.  A beginner’s lesson is offered at 7 p.m.  The dance runs from 7:30-10:30 p.m. with a waltz and Klondike Bar break at 9 p.m.

“This is our 14th year in Jonesborough.  It’s hard to believe that we have produced close to 400 dances in that time, but we are even more thrilled to start the year with such amazingly talented band and caller,” said event organizer, David Wiley. “Many area citizens still do not know what contra dance is all about. It’s similar to square dance, but the formation and flow is vastly different.”.

The movement is just a walking step that requires no fancy footwork.

The group’s winter promotion to attract new dancers is an offer to all comers to “Buy one ticket and get one free for new dancers.” The BOGO offer is intended for those who have never tried contra dance before, according to Wiley, who is also president of the Historic Jonesborough Dance Society.

“Bring a friend who has never danced and they get in for free,” he said.

“Contra dance is a way for all citizens of the area to rededicate themselves to New Year’s higher ideas and ideals for diet and exercise changes. We know from the experts that most people start the year with ambitious goals for weight loss, smoking cessation or other behavioral changes during the first ten days of the New Year,” Wiley added.  “The problem is that many of these commitments fade away in the short term.  Our contra dance program, even though it is held only twice per month can jump start anyone toward their goals. We had 30 dances again 2017.  In and of itself, 30 dances won’t make or break anyone’s fitness program, but for many, it made a difference.”

Gluten Free is a band from Asheville made up of Laurie Fisher on fiddle and Chelsey Henley Cribbs.  Laurie Fisher is a popular musician, dance caller and music teacher.  She plays fiddle, keyboard, guitar and bass and has performed and called in Jonesborough on many occasions most recently with her band “BOOM CHUCK”.   Chelsey Henley Cribbs is a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Master’s Degree in Fine Art majoring in piano.  She teaches piano in Asheville and is being mentored by Fisher to learn to play for contra dances.

Tim Klein hails from Knoxville.  He has contra danced for many years and has become one of the most entertaining and talented dance callers in the country.

Come to dance or come to listen.  No partner is necessary.  It is customary at contra dances to change partners after each dance.  As always, our dances are smoke, alcohol and fragrance free.  Families, students and singles are welcome.  All dances are taught by the caller. No previous dance experience is necessary.

Contra dancing can be aerobic! Most dancers like to wear short-sleeved shirts and skirts, pants or shorts, depending on the season. Don’t forget to dress in layers – what may be comfortable at the start of the evening might be too hot by the second or third dance. Some folks, who find that dancing really makes them sweat, bring a spare shirt to change into at the break. Generally, contra dancers are an informal bunch and dress to reflect that.

Please wear comfortable shoes. The most important feature is a smooth sole that will slide across a wooden floor. Contra dancers have used jazz shoes, leather dress shoes, bare feet, duct-taped bare feet, character shoes, dance sneakers and regular sneakers with or without suede glued to the sole.

Contra dancing is social dancing. The best way to improve your dancing is to dance with people who are more experienced than you. More experienced dancers know this, so you may be surprised to get many invitations to dance from people you haven’t met before. Although contra dancing is a couple dance, it is, in the larger sense, a “team sport.” If new dancers get to dance frequently with more experienced partners, they learn the basics faster and everyone has more fun.

Usually, people change partners after each dance. Men ask women to dance and women ask men to dance. Sometimes men dance with men or women dance with women.

One surefire way to make sure you have a partner for the next dance is to ask someone. Otherwise, rather than sitting down at the side of the hall, stand up and walk toward the front of the hall. Some people take sitting down to mean that you would like to rest.

For more information on this dance event or any upcoming events, please contact David Wiley at (423) 534-8879 or visit www.historicjonesboroughdancesociety.org, or Historic Jonesborough Dance Society on facebook.

QUEST grant winners for 2018-2019 announced

The 2018-2019 QUEST Foundation grant recipients are ready to start their classroom projects.


Staff Writer


Christmas is next week, but for five Washington County educators, Christmas came early when they were awarded Quality Educational Support for Tomorrow or “QUEST” grants.

The QUEST Foundation offers funds for educational projects and materials to selected Washington County educators who submit a grant request. QUEST has been serving the county school system for eight years and has awarded grants to 54 classrooms in 14 of Washington County’s Schools, totaling over $152,000 over the years. This year’s rewards totaled $16,016 from the foundation.

“It’s a diverse group, but we all share a common passion; it’s a passion for learning,” QUEST Director Jim Harlan said at the grant ceremony held on Wednesday, Dec. 12 at the Washington County Department of Education. “We are continuing that passion for teachers and students in Washington County by striving to support enhanced education in learning excellence.”

Melanie Barkley

Melanie Barkley

For Melanie Barkley, a first grade teacher at Grandview Elementary School, the $1,738.60 she received in her QUEST grant will offer more than just Chromebooks for her students.

Barkley said the new technology will offer her the chance to break her students into small groups to learn more about everything from researching skills to educational programs.

“Having the children in small groups allows me time, but it will give me the opportunity to instruct them,” Barkely said, “whether it be teaching the first graders how to research, teaching them about different programs, using a program called IXL. That will help as they go into other classes and take online assessments.

“Using (chromebooks) in small groups is really going to be helpful so that we can take time and discuss everything that they’re doing.”

Belinda Lyons receives her check with Jim Harlan (left) and Bill Flanary (right).

Belinda Lyons

When it came time for QUEST grant applications, Belinda Lyons had individual lessons in mind.

Lyons, who is a special education teacher at Lamar Elementary Schools, wrote the grant for her project “Bridging The Gap With Technology” in hopes of buying 24 Chromebooks to better individualize lessons at Lamar. She was awarded $5,879.70 for her project.

“We are going to use them to develop the individual lessons the students need,” Lyons said. “It saves time with the teachers. We can go in and assign each students what they need at the level that they are able to work on and still have our grade level curriculum, but just put it at a level they can work on it.”

Angee Woody

Angee Woody

Technology was the main goal for many teachers who submitted their projects for a portion of the grant funds, but for Angee Woody, it was all about musical instruments.

Woody is a music teacher at Lamar Elementary School and received $3,140.24 for the “Orffestra” at Lamar.

An Orffestra incorporates singing, acting, dancing and playing instruments. It was first introduced by Carl Orff, a German composer who came up with the approach to music education. Woody, who is now in her second year of certification in Orff’s methodology, said the grant dollars will be put towards incorporating the lively music education practices in the classroom.

“Orff is based on sing, say, dance and play which is exactly how we’ll be using those instruments, in all of those ways,” Woody said. “Our kids will be over the moon with the opportunity to play these instruments. We are absolutely thrilled. This will change the way I teach in the classroom and it will certainly benefit our students.”

Amy Knight receives her check with Jim Harlan (left) and Bill Flanary (right).

Amy Knight

Amy Knight had a vision for the small groups that would fill her classroom when she submitted her project “Google Classrooms and Lunch and Learn Reading,” which was awarded $480.30 in grant funding.

Knight, a fifth grade English and language arts teacher at Gray Elementary School, said she hopes to help her students hone their writing and editing skills with a Google Classroom for all three blocks of her classes and a printer to print out their writings.

Knight said she also plans to sacrifice her lunch period two to three days a week to set up a coffee shop-like setting to allow students to work in groups, read books and discuss their work.

“(the Lunch and Learn setting will) give everybody a chance to learn and everybody a chance to read on their level and work on their level and interact with other kids that their not actually in class with,” Knight said. “We’ll be able to bring some of the children in and take turns and read with other children they don’t normally get to do that with.”

Valerie Moore

Valerie Moore

According to Valerie Moore, Fall Branch School has had a real desire to get to a one-to-one student-to-device ratio. And now, they are a step closer thanks to the $4,777.60 grant Moore secured with her “One, Two, Three, Four: We Need Chromebooks to Learn Some Moore” projects.

Moore, who is a second and third grade teachers, said the grant will add 16 Chromebooks to the shared second and third grade cart. Moore shared her excitement in the future added technology while also recognizing that keeping strong teaching skills at the forefront won’t disappear with new technology.

“We also realize that Chromebooks do not replace good teaching practices,” Moore said. “We know that. But we do realize that Chromebooks will enhance and support our students in their learning. And to that we’re grateful to QUEST for providing this opportunity for our students and making that possible.”


Mary Jane Allen and Christie Bass prepare to receive their check, accompanied by Katy Brown.

In addition to the QUEST grants, Christie Bass and Mary Jane Allen from Jonesborough Middle School were also awarded $10,0000 for a flexible seating project from QUEST and Comcast Cable.

Bass is a seventh grade language arts and social studies teacher and Allen is the instructional coach at JMS. The grant money will go towards making Bass’s classroom more comfortable for students in hopes of creating a more conducive learning environment.

“As we look at the world and how it’s changing in corporate America, there are many companies focused on the comfort and care of their adults,” Allen said. “What they have found is, the more comfortable we are, the more pleasing our environment is, the better our brains work.

“It’s not just a furniture grant. It’s a grant that presents itself as flexible seating to make sure that our students are as engaged as possible in the classroom.

South Central goes one-on-one

South Central students prepare for 1:1 learning.


South Central Elementary School is the first school in Washington Co. to go to one-on-one with regard to technology.

Utilizing funding over the last three years from the Washington County Commission, the Washington County School Board, Washington County Title1, Washington County Special Education and South Central School to raise funds totaling $16,000; every student now can use a Chromebook every day for school.

This is so important because today’s students are digital natives. When anyone over the age of 30 learned how to use computers back in the 80s, it was the equivalent of learning a new language.

Today’s students are radically different from those of the past. They were born into a time where information is at their fingertips with instant connectivity and networking. Most students start using technology at a very early age, and they explore the world in a very different way. These digital natives have a very different expectation of what school should look like for them. Students want more feedback. They interact and network differently. They want choices and a say in what they are learning. They want a more integrated approach to learning.

Understanding that today, students do not all learn at the same pace and in the same way. The classroom must adapt to meet the needs of each individual student. Technology allows teachers to differentiate content and assignments using a variety of teaching methods and tools. This allows teachers to address all learning styles using technology.  In differentiating content, students are more engaged, motivated, and have an ownership of learning.

In a 1:1 environment, the learning shifts from the more traditional teacher-led lecture to a more student-centered focus. Students are able to access online learning tools that engage them in the learning process.  When students complete their assignments, written work and presentations through web-based systems such as Google Drive, IXL or Canvas, teachers are able to view student work and progress. This facilitates ongoing feedback to students from teachers and increases formative assessment opportunities; both of these are considered research best-practices in assessment and will lead to higher achievement. This also leads to a more differentiated classroom.  For example, instructional videos can be paused and viewed multiple times by students for whom the traditional lecture moves too quickly. Also, resources like Khan Academy and online textbook videos from Go Math, McGraw-Hill Science and Social Studies are available during and after school hours.

In addition to videos, electronic and online resources like “EPIC Books for Kids” allow students to access 25,000 high-quality books for reading from any device, even at home, giving kids access to high-quality literature providing more equity in their learning opportunities.

In a 1:1 environment, students are able to interact and network differently creating opportunities for group and project-based learning. In Project-based learning, students solve ‘real-world problems’ that require students to work in groups, gather and synthesize information, think critically, and apply what they have learned. The technology allows the teacher a variety of ways to deliver content. It also offers a wider range of opportunities for students to show what they know and understand about a topic. This allows the teacher to become a facilitator/coach, guiding student instruction and questioning versus the traditional method of viewing the teacher as the source of knowledge.

A concern often voiced is screen time in schools, when classrooms become overly-focused on technology and connecting students to devices. However, making devices integrated in the classroom as a learning tool may actually have the benefit of minimizing technology as the focus of learning; instead, students learn with technology.

According to a recent study by the University of Michigan led by Binbin Zheng, assistant professor of educational technology, almost 100 academic studies focusing on laptop programs from 2001 to present day were reviewed, with a meta-analysis performed on 10 of the studies. Findings revealed that students who were given laptops and provided with the right support were able to raise their level of academic achievement. Researchers found the highest improvements in the subjects of English, Writing, Science, and Math.  It also found that students who engaged in learning through laptops were more enthusiastic and engaged with their studies, built better student-teacher relationships, and were gaining tech and problem-solving skills.

Utilizing 1:1 technology, South Central Elemetary School is providing an opportunity for our students to be better prepared to enter high school, college, and a chosen career path, which will offer the opportunities for equity in a global job market of the future.

‘Colors’ sweep through old Jonesborough

Jonesborough’s old homes opened doors to holiday guests this past weekend as part of “The Colors of Christmas.”


Associate Editor


Tour visitors and dinner guests experienced an event that has ushered in the area’s Yule season for 42 years as they participated in the “Colors of Christmas” event on Saturday, Dec.1, in Tennessee’s Oldest Town. A total of 82 guests enjoyed a delicious meal and entertainment at the McKinney Center. Many dinner guests also joined other visitors by embarking on a tour that provided a peek inside Jonesborough’s most treasured homes and historic structures.

This is the second year that the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia has partnered with the Town of Jonesborough by merging the Holiday Tour of Homes and the Progressive Dinner into one elegant evening.  The home and historic structures tour lasted from 3 until 7 p.m.  There were two dinner presentations at 4:30 and 7 p.m.


Diners sit down in the McKinney Center for a festive holiday dinner.

After checking in at the Historic Visitors Center, dinner guests went to the Chester Inn Museum for “Festive Starters” and Holiday Punch. A second set of appetizers was available across the street at the Historic Eureka Inn – Butternut Squash Soup Shooters and Wassail.

Deborah Montanti, executive director of the Alliance, welcomed dinner guests at the McKinney Center, praising the 100 volunteers who made the “Colors of Christmas” event possible. Her introduction was followed by a toast from Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest who spoke about Jonesborough’s history while thanking those in attendance for enabling this historic legacy to continue through their financial support.

A modified serving arrangement this year assured guests a hot meal.  A buffet line enabled those in attendance when called by table number to immediately receive their food – chateau briand, garlic roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted local root vegetables.  An alternate vegetarian meal was also available.  When seated, guest listened to the music by The Tusculum Jazz Trio while dining on a holiday salad.  By the time dessert featuring an Italian rum cake with cream cheese was served the music was being provided by the Jonesborough Novelty Band. In additional to traditional Christmas songs, audience participation with the ringing of bells lifted holiday spirits.

Each of the venues experienced by dinner guests has a unique history.  The Chester Inn State Historic Site was constructed by William Chester in 1797, making it the oldest commercial building on Main Street.  Managed by the Heritage Alliance, it now houses a museum offering a wide range of exhibits and programs throughout the year.

Katelyn and Blake Yarbrough are innkeepers at the Historic Eureka Inn, originally built as a private residence in 1797 before opening as a hotel in 1900.  The Yarbroughs have introduced new traditions to the hotel, including Eureka Bites for breakfast or brunch and Murder Mystery dinners.

The McKinney Center served as Booker T. Washington Elementary School after its dedication on Oct. 7, 1940.  The building was completed with funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and it served African American students until the local schools were integrated in 1965.  Today, it is a cultural arts center that teaches classes to students of all ages in dance, theatre, art, and filmmaking.

After the event, Montanti said, “I think the people who came to this year’s event had a spectacular time. Functions at the Chester and Eureka Inns added to the celebration.  Music at the McKinney Center was absolutely delightful.”


“You’re about to embark on the ultimate Christmas experience” visitors on the Home and Historic Structures Tour were told Saturday. The tour guide given to patrons at the Historic Visitors Center continued: “You’ll discover the stories of years past as you tour private homes and historic buildings.  Along the way enjoy live music and the sights of the season.”

Sponsored by the Town of Jonesborough, nearly 300 people purchased tickets for the tours. Cameo Waters, the Town’s Tourism and Main Street Director, said “It was great.  We had a great turnout.”

After checking in and while waiting for a tour shuttle bus, tour guests could view six trees from the Celebration of Trees exhibit at the Visitors Center.  The tour included seven stops: The Slemons House; Christopher Taylor House; Naff-Hensley House; Febuary Hill; Beale-Kavanaugh House; Tennessee Hills Distillery and the Chuckey Depot. Each venue displayed elaborately prepared Christmas decorations.

The Slemons House (109 Fox Street) is a Greek Revival home built about 1860 by William Chester Slemons. It is now the location of the Storytelling Resource Place, a location dedicated to the celebration and preservation of Storytelling.

Originally built between 1776 and 1778, the Christopher Taylor House (124 West Main Street) is one of East Tennessee’s best examples of pioneer architecture.  Faced with demolition in 1974, the structure was moved from its original location to serve as the centerpiece of Jonesborough’s early preservation efforts.

The Naff-Henley House (127 East Main Street) is the only remaining private residence in the downtown business section of Main Street.  Another Greek Revival home, it was built in 1840 by local tailor, Jacob Naff.  The Henley’s purchase the home in 1986 and updated the residence where Sue Henley now lives.

The stately house known as Febuary Hill (102 West College Street) was built about 1840 for John Blair, an early Congressman representing Tennessee.  It still retains its original lot size.  Listed on the National Historic Register, it has housed some of Jonesborough’s most influential families, including those of Jacob Adler, J A Febuary (from whom the structure gets its name) and Burgin E. Dossett, third President of East Tennessee State University. 

The Beale-Kavanaugh House or Andes-Kavanaugh House (112 East College Street) represents a common architectural style in the 1930s and 1940s around Jonesborough.  It has only had three owners, all listed in this article. It represents a simpler lifestyle on a smaller scale when compared to the Victorian styles popular in the late 18th century.

The location of the Tennessee Hills Distillery (127 Fox Street) has been known as the Salt House since the Civil War when the county authorized the purchase of salt to counter a salt shortage.  The building was also occupied by Rhea Lodge No. 47, a Masonic lodge from 1873 until 1905.  Today, you can taste and purchase products produced onsite by the Distillery.

The Chuckey Depot (110 South Second Avenue) was constructed in 1906 by the Southern Railroad in nearby Chuckey, Tennessee.  Now located in WC Rowe Park, it is the site of the Chuckey Depot Museum and is owned and operated by the Town of Jonesborough with the assistance of volunteers from the Heritage Alliance and Watauga Valley Railroad Museum.  Music during the tour of the museum was provided by singer/songwriter Scott Wild.

Montanti said comments about the Colors of Christmas Dinner and Tour can be made by telephoning (423) 753-9580 or at the Alliance web site at  www.heritageall.org.

Santa Train: Tradition continues across mountain region

The Santa Train kicks off the holidays each year with a fun, festive crowd and an inspiration for giving. (Photo by Ed Rode)


Special to the H&T

On Saturday, Nov. 17, The Santa Train completed its 76th journey. The goal is to bring as much Christmas joy to as many people as possible, along the 110-mile route.  The train makes 14 scheduled stops each year. Volunteers get off the train at each stop to deliver gifts to the waiting hands of children.

Nearly 20 tons of gifts, including toys, coats, socks, hats and food, are distributed through the crowds at each stop. Color-coded back packs let the volunteers know if the bag is packed for a boy or girl, and the age of the child the bag will be given to.

This annual trip is referred to as a tradition.  But, to coal mining families between Shelby, Kentucky and Kingsport, it has become an important part of their Christmas. Grandparents who received gifts from the train as children have been back to the tracks year after year, bringing their children and grandchildren to experience The Santa Train. People who live near the scheduled stops always know what time they can expect the train to arrive.  They line up early at the Shelby rail yard, where gifts are given out before the train begins its journey.   Stops are then made at Marrowbone, Elkhorn City, Kyentucky, and Toms Bottom, Haysi, Clinchco, Fremont, Dante and St. Paul, Va., before ending the journey in Kingsport.

Don Royston, from Kingsport, did his job as Santa for the 20th consecutive year. “Over the past 20 years, one of the things that sticks in my mind would be the tradition that continues each year. Families with three and four generations show up each year,” he said.  None of this could happen without the hard work and dedication of the sponsors, he said.  “The sponsors and volunteers make all of this possible. It is a real blessing for the people communities,” Don said.

A friend of Santa’s, Jim Stouffer from Johnson City, made small wooden trucks for the children. Santa said, “A special memory from this year is a boy about 6-years-old who was standing directly behind the train, among the thousands of others. I handed one of the handmade wooden toys down to him.  This big grin appeared on his face. He was straddling the track rail, and promptly sat down on the rail. For the next 10 minutes, he ran the truck up and down the rail.  He had his new favorite toy and was totally in his own world. He had no interest in the other people or toys being tossed over his head.  One toy was enough”.

Each year, a special guest joins Santa on the train as it makes its journey.  In previous years, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Wynonna and Naomi Judd, Amy Grant, Thompson Square, Darryl Worley and last year, Ricky Skaggs, have been onboard. 

This year, country duo Maddie and Tae were the special guests.  Maddie and Tae broke into the country music scene in 2013, with their No. 1 hit, Girl In A Country Song”. They are only the third female duo in 70 years to top the country airplay charts and have earned Country Music Association and Disney Radio Music awards.  They have also been nominated many times for awards from the Academy of Country Music, Country Music Association, and Country Music Television awards.

The special guests are not just there to go along for the ride, at most stops they join Santa at the back of the train to toss gifts to the children in the crowd.  They also got off the train at a few stops, to meet the people and distribute gifts at the stops.

Maddie and Tae said their manager received an email about The Santa Train.  And they were excited to learn more about it.  This was their first experience on the Santa Train, and Tae said that wasn’t really what they expected, but that she meant that “in the best way.”

Tae said that they both really enjoy giving back, especially at Christmas.  “This gave us the perfect opportunity to do that.“ she said.  “It is an honor to be included, and really great to see firsthand how many people are working together to give back to the communities along the train’s route,” Maddie said.

Maddie really summed up their experience when she said,  “The day has been awesome.”

This really was their first train trip of any kind. Tae said she remembers being on a train in Branson once, but it was a very long time ago.  Maddie said she had never ridden on a train, but did tell us that the motion of the moving train was very much like riding in a tour bus, so they were both used to that.

An event like this will create lifelong memories for the girls.  When asked what their favorite part of the day was, Maddie said, “My favorite part of today was whenever I was throwing a toy to a particular kid, that you could tell they really, really wanted the little toy.  It would take me a couple of tries to make it to that particular kid, but when they caught it, the look on their face was priceless”.

For Tae, her favorite part was “hearing the kids yelling ‘Santa, Santa!’”.  “It was their excitement.  They feel special”.

When the train returned to Kingsport, Maddie an Tae did a short concert for a large crowd that gathered at Santa’s Depot.

Leslie Higgins, Manager of Crisis & Event Planning for CSX, organizes the Santa Train. During an interview on the train, she said CSX is proud of this tradition, and realizes that the gift they get from The Santa Train may be the only gift they receive for Christmas.

Soles4Souls, based in Nashville, participated for the second year.  They donated 5,000 coats, baby bibs, hats and socks which were distributed this year.  “We plan on staying involved with this project as long as CSX needs us,” Buddy said. “Our organization is committed to helping people,” he said.

Sponsors of the train this year were CSX, Food City, Appalachian Power, Soles4Souls, and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.

‘Colors of Christmas’ lets diners step back in time

David Kehs and Dana Kehs practice for their Dec. 1 performance as costumed guides at this year’s Heritage Alliance “Colors of Christmas” dinner.




For guests at this year’s Colors of Christmas Holiday Dinner, set for Dec. 1 in downtown Jonesborough, the chance to experience a true Victorian gathering may be greater than ever.

According to Deborah Montanti, executive director with the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, this year’s dinner – an important fundraiser for the Alliance – is not only more similar to Heritage Alliance dinners of the past; it also provides a perfect historic scene of visitors arriving at the inn during a holiday season.

“This is more like the old format than last year’s was,” Montanti explained.

“The appetizer course is actually being served at the historic inns of Jonesborough.”

These downtown inns on Main Street – The Chester Inn and Eureka Inn – hosted a plethora of visitors during past Jonesborough Christmases.

The Chester got its start in 1779, while the Eureka’s history goes back to 1922.

This year, the Heritage Alliance has elected both as first stops for their new dinner, a dinner that has been evolving for more than 40 years.

Last year marked the first use of the McKinney Center as a dining spot, as well as a few other changes.

Montanti said they listened to the comments from last year’s diners and made the changes accordingly. This new dinner, she said, is more in line with the old.

“The old Progressive Dinner had a meal served in four locations this has a meal served in three,” she said.

The Eureka is all dressed up for the holidays.

“Once people pick up their swatches at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center, they come to – and they have their choice – the Chester and the Eureka,” Montanti said. “And they can go back and forth between the two. There will be soup at one and finger food at the other.”

Guests will be greeted by costumed interpreters in period attire playing host at each location.

“They will have about 45 minutes to see both of those places,” Montanti said.

Problems with transportation last year prompted the Alliance to streamline the process, so when the diners are ready to move to the next course, their chariots – or buses – will await.

“We have two dedicated buses that are taking people from the historic inns of Jonesborough directly to the McKinney Center,” she said.

Once at the McKinney Center, guests will find live seasonal music softly playing in the background and a fresh salad course already waiting at the table.

An elegant, hot buffet will then be served.

Servers will quietly clear the tables, only to return with the perfect dessert to end the meal.

During the dessert course, the Jonesborough Novelty Band will take the stage for a rousing sing-a-long. At the end of the evening, diners will be returned downtown.

“That’s the way it looks this year,” Montanti said. “I’m excited about it. I think it’s a great way to start off the holiday season.”

Tickeets are still available for Colors of Christmas but must be purchased by Nov. 26. The dinner is $85 and seating times are available at 4:30 or 7 p.m.

The Tour of Homes is $15 and takes place from 3 to 7 p.m Montanti recommends those wishing to attend both the dinner and the tour opt for the 7 p.m. seating.

For tickets, visit jbochristmas.com/tickets or call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010.

Auditions to begin for ‘Trip Home’

Local stories from local people will be the focus of the upcoming play.


The Jonesborough Storytelling Initiative will present a brand-new play based on stories drawn from local community members. “The Long Trip Home” will hold its world debut in February of 2019, and auditions for the play will be held Dec.10-11 at the McKinney Center from 6 to 8 p.m.

Playwright Jules Corriere created this play which comes from more than 40 oral stories that have been collected throughout the year by the members of the Jonesborough Story Brigade.

The Brigade members, who have been trained in interviewing individuals as well as holding story circles, provided a rich source of material for the play through these interviews. Transcripts of the interviews were made, and all of the stories that were collected during this period, whether they became part of the play or not, will be archived with the Heritage Alliance for future generations.

“The Long Trip Home” focuses on the lives of ordinary people who encounter extraordinary life circumstances. Often, these harrowing (or hilarious) events lead these beloved community characters away from home, leaving them to discover their own way back.

Wilma Chandley navigates life after losing her hearing, and later, after losing much more, and becomes for many a model of living in grace despite life’s rocky path.

Vincent Dial finds his way to his calling, moving away from a path he was born into, and finding a trail that led to where he was destined to be.

Sue Henley shares a residence with someone (or something) from another century, and each tries to be at home with the other.

Johnny Russaw’s story recounts his days as a football player at ETSU during a turning point moment in the country, and what it meant for him to be on the “home team” during those times.

These are just a few of the dozens of stories found in this new work, which will be performed at the McKinney Center in February and March of 2019.

Corriere, who will direct the play, encourages community members from all backgrounds to attend auditions and be a part of the show.

“The stories come from and belong to the community. They should be the ones telling these important stories of their family, friends, and neighbors. There are roles for people of all ages and from all backgrounds,” she said.

Corriere points out that the cast for these productions are large, in order to tell and honor so many important stories. 

“There are lots of roles for children, teens, young adults, and seniors. Everyone is welcome,” she said.

During the auditions,  scenes for reading will be provided. There will be original music in the play, so those who wish to audition for singing parts and solos may bring a prepared song.

The production will also require backstage and technical help. Those interested in volunteering for this production should also come to auditions and fill out a volunteer form.

The play will be cast immediately after auditions so cast members will have an opportunity to get familiar with their roles. Rehearsals will begin the first week in January.

For more information, emails Jules Corriere at the McKinney Center at julesc@jonesboroughtn.org of reach her by phone at (423) 794-6320.

‘Colors of Christmas’ to return for historic holiday

Downtown was dressed in its best last year during the Christmas event, which is returning to Jonesborough this year.


The ultimate way to kick off the holiday season is with the Colors of Christmas Historic Tour and Dinner. Hear the stories of years past as you tour private homes and historic buildings beautifully decorated for the season. Cap off the evening with an elegant, multi-course meal and live music.

This December marks the second year for the Colors of Christmas, a historic tour and dinner taking place in Tennessee’s Oldest Town. In 2017, the Heritage Alliance partnered with the Town of Jonesborough to merge the Holiday Tour of Homes and the Progressive Dinner into one elegant evening. This holiday tradition will continue on Saturday, Dec. 1.

On the tour, you’ll have a once in a lifetime sneak peek at historic homes and structures. The tour spotlights the architectural, historical, and cultural heritage of our region. Each location on the tour has a unique story rich with history. You’ll also enjoy sounds of the season with live music featured in various locations during portions of the evening. The tour takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. and there will be a shuttle continually running the route.

End your evening by enjoying a delectable four-course meal set in another of Jonesborough’s historic buildings. Elaborate entertainment will fill the space between courses, keeping the holiday spirit refreshed and relaxed. Have your pick between two seating times, 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Guests will enjoy appetizers in the Historic Inns of Jonesborough from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. or 7 to 7:45 p.m. before being transported to the dinner location. Whether you choose the tour only, dinner only or combine both, the Colors of Christmas is the ultimate kick-off to the Holiday season in Jonesborough.

Colors of Christmas celebrates the restoration of buildings, which does more than simply repair old walls and ceilings; it rebuilds connections, strengthens community and restores the spirit. Not only will you be celebrating restoration during the Colors of Christmas, but you’ll also be supporting two worthwhile causes. Your Colors of Christmas dinner ticket helps to fund the preservation and education mission of the Heritage Alliance. The Colors of Christmas tour helps the Town of Jonesborough fund the many free events, such as At Home with Santa, dedicated to children throughout the year

Come home to Jonesborough for the holidays and take part in Colors of Christmas on December 1. The tour is $15 and will be from 3 to 7 p.m. The dinner is $85 and will be at 4:30 or 7 p.m. This year’s event is a guaranteed sell out, so secure your reservations today.

Purchase your tickets at Jonesborough.com/tickets or call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010.

Storyteller shares tale with Boones Creek Trust, H&T readers

Storyteller Rebecca Kefauver Alexander entertains at the Sounds of Boones Creek Meeting.


Associate Editor


Growing up on a farm in Washington County provides the kind of material that Storyteller Rebecca Keefauver Alexander used Monday, Oct. 15,  to delight an audience at the Sounds of Boones Creek Museum and Opry.  Some 50 people gathered to share desserts and listen to a couple of stories that can make you laugh and cry all in the same moment.

The Museum & Opry venue —  located at 525 W. Oakland Ave. in Johnson City where the audience sits on padded church pews in front of a compact stage loaded with electronic equipment — was a perfect place for nearly an hour of telling.  Two stories enchanted the audience, the first about Kathleen Hall and a second titled “A Clark Story From Boones Creek.”

Alexander received her bachelor’s degree from Milligan College in English/sociology/psychology and her master’s in education with an emphasis in Storytelling from East Tennessee State University. She is a wife, mother, former high school English teacher and spent 11 years as a sales manager for a large electronics corporation. Today, you will often find her at Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home which she co-owns with her husband Howard.

A professional storyteller who has a host of Biblically inspired presentations, she has performed at the Barter Theater, Emmanuel School of Religion, ETSU, Telebration, and more.

In addition, she also has numerous performances before civic organizations, conferences, nursing homes, libraries, a number of churches and a host of schools.

Rebecca says she “shares bits of her experiences in her stories.”  She has been telling stories since 1994.  She is an active member of the Jonesborough Storytelling Guild, the longest running storytelling guild in the nation.  The group which meets each Tuesday night for a performance beginning at 7 p.m. at the International Storytelling Center is in the process of planning for its 25th Anniversary of providing entertainment in Jonesborough.

Rather than continuing with her credits and organizational affiliations, the following short story, used with her permission, is published in the following paragraphs as it was performed on Monday before the members of the Boones Creek Historical Trust.


“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”  (THE BIBLE, 1 Peter 4: 8-10)

When I think of one of the best gardeners I know, I think of my Aunt Kathleen Hall, Aunt Kat as we called her.  I loved going to her home on old Gray Station Road, where red geraniums and white petunias overflowed from concrete boxes on her front porch where rose bushes lined the corner of her house.  She was always outside working in her flowers or her garden.

One of my fondest memories of her was pulling up in her driveway as she was coming out of her garden.  Her skin tanned the color of cocoa from the sun and her hair in ringlets and sparkling from her perspiration.  Her curvaceous figure in a yellow swimsuit top and a pair of shorts.  Her arms were wrapped around a large bushel basket of cantaloupes.

She would set them down and take a handkerchief out of her bathing suit top and dry off her face.  Then she would stuff it back in.  That was always an amazing thing to me, how she could get anything out of that top, cause she was a fleshly woman.  With a big grin on her face she would say, “Whew doggies, it sure is hot out here; let’s go inside and cut one of these cantaloupes and cool off a bit.”

She would reach down and pick out one of the ripest cantaloupe, the one that had a small crack in it.  Then she would cut it in half and take a spoon and clean out the stingy seeds and hand me a half and a spoon.  Juice would drip off my chin and she would grin real big and say, “It don’t get much better than that does it cutie?”

My aunt’s garden was much more than cantaloupes.  She raised lettuce, cabbage, corn, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and zucchini and anything else she could think of.  Then she would can or freeze everything else she didn’t use or give away.

Sometimes we would gather under the pear trees at the back of our house to break beans or shell peas.  We all had gardens that were coming in about the same time and it was so much more fun to gather under those trees sharing the work load and a few stories. Mom would put out the lawn chairs and we would sit down, drape a towel over our legs, place a roll pan on our lap full of peas, and a large pot on the ground to throw the peas in when they came out of the shell.

I can still hear the peas hit the metal pan like it was yesterday. Then mom and Aunt Kat would begin talking and telling stories about what it was like when they grew up. Their words rolled off their tongues like warm molasses. We would just have to ask, “Aunt Kat, did you ever get in trouble?” Then the story would begin. It was always punctuated by my aunt’s contagious laughter.  Sometimes she and mom would get to laughing so hard that, when Aunt Kat threw her peas, she would miss the pan all together and that was when we learned our aunt knew a foreign language.

She had a few words she drew out real slow and then she would say, “Pardon my French.”  Which made my mom laugh even harder.  Later that day, she and mom would divide up the peas and pack them in freezer bags. By the end of the summer you could not open my aunt’s freezer without a bag of vegetables falling out. That was a good thing cause she would need it to feed lots of people.

My aunt knew everyone in Boones Creek and I mean everyone. She had lived there all her life.  She was the bank teller of Hamilton Bank and she had this vivacious personality. If you got in her drive-through line, you would expect to be there awhile. But it was always worth the wait to be greeted by that beautiful smile and maybe a zucchini or two slipped through the bank window.

On Sundays anyone who visited Boones Creek Christian Church (where I have gone all my life) was welcomed by my Aunt Kat.  She would introduce herself and tell them how thrilled she was they were there and then would proceed to invite them to Sunday lunch.  They might respond, “Oh, we could not impose like that.” 

She always replied, “Oh, fiddlesticks! We have plenty and if I thought you were going to be an imposition, I would not have invited you.”

Then she would get in her car and start giving instructions: “Marylynn, you get out two extra place settings out of the china cabinet; Tammie, bring me an extra bag of corn out of the freezer and Robert run down stairs and bring me another jar of green beans.  Bob, you just sit with them in the den and visit until I get in on the table.” When we passed her home on the Old Gray Station Road, my Dad would say, “Kat’s driveway looks like a used car lot.  I wonder who she invited today?”

Long before there were writers like Erma Bombeck who wrote pieces like “If I had my life to live over,” there was my Aunt Kat who knew how to really live.  I would bet 90 percent of those who came to her home ended up joining our church. She was the perfect example of southern hospitality and evangelism rolled into one.  Her home might not always have been in perfect order but no one ever noticed because when you entered her home, you were greeted with such warmth and happiness you could only see Jesus.

In 1987 my aunt started getting sick.  They finally figured out she had contacted hepatitis from a blood transfusion 20 years before when she gave birth to her first child.  In 1988, she had a liver transplant at Emory University in Atlanta.  I stuck my head in her hospital that morning. I said, “Are you ready for your new liver?”

She smiled and gave me a thumbs-up sign. Well, I guess God had more important jobs for my precious Aunt Kat cause she went to be with him that day. I am not sure if she is working in his garden or cooking for his banquet but I know for certain she is having the time of her life.  Perhaps if we are quiet enough we can hear my mom and Aunt Kat laughing.

Comedian James Gregory returns to Niswonger


GREENEVILLE – Using home spun comedy, common sense wisdom, old-fashioned values, and politically incorrect humor, James Gregory pokes fun at crazy relatives, modern sensitive parents and out-of-control environmentalists. With a grass roots following now numbering in the millions, you do not want to miss this zany guy’s rib-tickling reflections on life from the front porch. James makes his return to Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Nov. 3, at 7:30 PM.

James Gregory grew up watching stand-up comedy on programs like Jack Benny, Milton Berle and the Ed Sullivan Show. After some nudging from his friends, he started doing open mic stand-up in Atlanta and things just took off.

Today he performs his down-home stories of food, funerals and funny relatives to sold-out theatres, casinos and corporate events working 48 weeks of the year. He’s also a regular guest on national radio shows, like The Bob & Tom Show, Rick and Bubba and The Big Show with John Boy and Billy.

Early in his career he earned the moniker, “Funniest Man in America,” but he’s quick to tell you, “At that time there were only 13 states.”

His jokes are squeaky clean as, he says, “My mother wouldn’t let me tell them if they weren’t.” It’s the kind of show you could feel comfortable bringing your date or your grandmother.

What’s really unique about Gregory is his appeal to people of all ages, races, creeds and colors. It’s not unusual to see three generations rolling in the aisles. He comes off as that funny uncle that everyone gathers around at family reunions, because he has the best stories and so reminds people of their own families.

Gregory’s success, like his comedy, is the direct result of the values he grew up with. And now, twenty something years later, it is this unique brand of humor that packs the crowds into his sold-out shows.

The absence of vulgarity sets James apart and his stories are carefully crafted art. “I have lived long enough to know people, know life,” Gregory reflects. “My comedy is based on my life experiences. It’s real, it’s funny and the audience loves it. That’s why I’m still in business.”

Laugh until you cry with James Gregory at Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Saturday, November 3rd at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for orchestra and mezzanine level seating and $15 for balcony seats.

Tickets are on sale now for all performances for the entire 2018-2019 season and may be purchased online at NPACgreeneville.com, in person at the NPAC box office, or by calling 423-638-1679.

NPAC offers online seat selection with no processing or delivery fees. There is an additional $1.50 ticketing fee per ticket regardless of purchase method. The box office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The 1150 seat performing arts center is located adjacent to the campus of Greeneville High School. For venue information, and to purchase tickets, please visit www.npacgreeneville.com.

Seniors win another Brain Games

Nancy Weaver, Joe Allison, Carol Salinas and Mike Willis make up the Olde Towners.


Staff Writer


You can go ahead and group the Jonesborough Senior Center Olde Towners alongside the Golden State Warriors and the New England Patriots as recent dynasties.

The trivia team claimed their third straight Tennessee State Brain Games championship by a slim margin at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough last Wednesday.

Joe Allison, Carol Salinas, Mike Willis and Nancy Weaver claimed the 2018 trophy by only one point over the runners-up from the Chester County Challengers, 131-130. South Knoxville and Smith County finished in third and fourth.

“Well, we came kind of close to losing it last year,” Allison said, “We won by four points last year, but this time we won it by only one point.”

Along with the trophy comes a prize of $2,500 for the Jonesborough Senior Center and bragging rights.

The format of the Brain Games may appear similar to “Jeopardy,”  but there are some differences between the venerable game show and this competition. According to the State Senior Brain Games website, “There is an element of wagering, as well as risk, based upon point values and confidence in a specific category. Senior Brain Games is both strategy based and knowledge based, in other words.”

Each team must decide how many points (2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 points) to assign each answer based on how confident they are with that answer. There are five questions per round and each team is allowed each point amount only once per round.

In the fourth and final round the points are doubled.

The subjects covered include anything and everything, Allison said.

“They can cover any kind of question under the sun. Basically the people that put the questions together can draw on any subject they want to.”

He added that the winner must know more than just the answer to each question.

“Basically what you have to do, you have to be able to skillfully bet your points.”

Allison said that the Olde Towners started smoothly but lost steam as the competition progressed.

“We were actually doing quite well until the fourth round,: he said. “We’d pretty much answered all the questions correctly, except for one of the two bonus questions. I think we were pretty much in the lead up until that last round and then we had some questions that we couldn’t answer.

“We thought that we had blown it. One of the questions that got us was ‘What color is malakite?’ which is a stone or rock of some type. That was one of the ones we lost in that last round. It’s actually green. So now I know.”

Salinas also added that she wasn’t certain of victory, as well.

“I really didn’t think we would have pulled it off this time,” she said.

While there was doubt about ultimate victory, they still got an outcome that made the home crowd rejoice.

In order to be victorious, the entire team must have knowledge of any number of subjects. Any one member may know more about certain subjects than others, and they all get that knowledge from all sorts of different places.

There is a regularly scheduled trivia game every Friday at the Senior Center, Salinas said, and many are fans of trivia shows on TV.

“At the old Senior Center they started (trivia) and I’ve always liked stuff like that,” she said. “I like Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? And my favorite was Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

“We all know a little bit of everything. Mike was more towards sports. Joe was on fire the first couple of rounds. I’m telling you, he really came up with some things. But there were things that I came up with. For example, there was a question about what you don’t feed to babies under 12 months old. The guys had no idea it was honey. And I told Joe, I’m a mother. I know stuff like that.”

The winners of the competition usually host the next year’s competition. However, with the Jonesborough team’s recent domination, Allison said the competition will shift back to Nashville.

“What I understand now happens, since we’ve won three times, we’ve retired the trophy. So we get to keep the trophy but they have to take (the competition) back to neutral ground, I think is how they explained it, so next year it’ll be held in Nashville.”

As the event was held at the McKinney Center in Jonesborough, the Olde Towners had plenty of support during the competition and have become local celebrities.

“There was quite a crowd there and all the different teams brought their own supporters and everything so there were people there with signs and making noise, yelling and cheering and all that. It was pretty exciting,” Allison said.

“I think in a little town like Jonesborough especially, people are very aware of things going on like that.”

Salinas added that she has people who recognize her, which sometimes lengthens her trips to the store.

“Everybody says ‘Oh, you’re the one that was on the team!’”

Washington County to honor volunteers


Nominations for the Eleventh Annual Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards are now being accepted within Washington County. The awards will celebrate the efforts of volunteers who strive to improve their communities through service.

One youth and one adult volunteer will be selected in Washington County to receive this prestigious award. Nominees will be judged based on the community’s need of the volunteer service performed, initiative taken to perform the service, and impact of the volunteer service on the community.

The Jonesborough Community Chest (JCC) sponsors the awards for Washington County. JCC’s mission is to mobilize the county’s residents and institutions to help their neighbors through volunteering and community engagement. “Volunteerism is a vital aspect of our identity as American citizens,” said Adam Dickson, president of JCC.

Those interested in nominating an individual are asked to email Jbo.communitychest@gmail.com. Nomination forms can also be found at the Jonesborough/Washington County Public Library. Applications must be received by Thursday, October 25, 2018.

Recipients from Washington County will be honored at the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony in Franklin, TN on Sunday, February 10, 2019 in Franklin, TN

For more information about nominations, email Adam Dickson at Jbo.communitychest@gmail.com.

Volunteer Tennessee is coordinating the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards at the state level. Volunteer Tennessee is the 25 member bipartisan citizen board appointed by the Governor to oversee AmeriCorps and service-learning programs and to advance volunteerism and citizen service to solve community problems in the Volunteer State. For more information about Volunteer Tennessee and the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards, please visit www.volunteertennessee.net.

Volunteer Start Award nominations begin


Nominations for the Eleventh Annual Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards are now being accepted within Washington County. The awards will celebrate the efforts of volunteers who strive to improve their communities through service.

One youth and one adult volunteer will be selected in Washington County to receive this prestigious award. Nominees will be judged based on the community’s need of the volunteer service performed, initiative taken to perform the service, and impact of the volunteer service on the community.

The Jonesborough Community Chest (JCC) sponsors the awards for Washington County. JCC’s mission is to mobilize the county’s residents and institutions to help their neighbors through volunteering and community engagement. “Volunteerism is a vital aspect of our identity as American citizens,” said Adam Dickson, president of JCC.

Those interested in nominating an individual are asked to email Jbo.communitychest@gmail.com. Nomination forms can also be found at the Jonesborough/Washington County Public Library. Applications must be received by Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.

Recipients from Washington County will be honored at the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony in Franklin, Tennessee on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019 in Franklin, Tennessee.

For more information about nominations, email Adam Dickson at Jbo.communitychest@gmail.com.

Volunteer Tennessee is coordinating the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards at the state level. Volunteer Tennessee is the 25 member bipartisan citizen board appointed by the Governor to oversee AmeriCorps and service-learning programs and to advance volunteerism and citizen service to solve community problems in the Volunteer State. For more information about Volunteer Tennessee and the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards, please visit www.volunteertennessee.net.

Cross Country race takes on greater meaning

Dustin, Gideon, Lynn and Aldon Erwin gather around at Gideon and Aldon’s competition.

Gideon Erwin, left, poses with “Papaw” Lynn Erwin and his younger brother, Aldon.


Staff Writer


Finishing in second place in the State Cross Country race would make most young runners ecstatic.

But Lamar School runner Gideon Erwin had a spectator in the crowd that meant more to him than the race.

Erwin’s grandfather, Lynn Erwin, was able to make the trip to the race after missing out on the previous years due to an ongoing battle with cancer.

“Last year (Gideon) went to state and his papaw, Lynn, couldn’t make the trip because he has cancer. So this year we did a lot of praying and (Gideon) really worked hard to come in first or second place this year to go to state again,” Gideon’s grandmother, Shirley Erwin, said. “So we went down last Saturday, and Lynn made the trip down to watch Gideon. He came in fourth place in all the state. (Gideon) has really worked hard and they’re really close. He is a really good young man, and he has worked very hard this year. Every day he would run five or six miles and his papaw would drive (behind) and make sure he was okay. But that was a very special time that our family spent together and (was able to) watch Gideon come in fourth at state.”

The presence of Gideon’s grandfather encouraged him, as the two are extremely close. “It’s always great when I see him at a race. When he wasn’t there last year, all I could think about was him while I was running,” Gideon said. “And this year, knowing that he was there to support me really helped to give me a boost to finish the race, and to finish strong and give it everything I had.”

Gideon’s grandfather was also able to attend the qualifying race at Greeneville the week prior to the state meet, where he qualified in second place to secure his state spot.

“(Gideon) has been in several races just around the community. I know he went to Bristol, he went to Fenders Farm. He would always come in first or second place,” according to Shirley Erwin. “He had to win so many races just to get to the state meet. I think there were around 109 runners he had to compete against. We’re very proud grandparents.”

While Lynn Erwin’s presence helped spur the young runner to a top position at the race, the hard work Gideon put in also helped his grandfather.

“I had a little trouble with this illness. But my health was fine down there. It gives me a lot of encouragement to keep on fighting,” Lynn Erwin said. “Track and cross country are a race, it’s kind of like life and I said, ‘You know, when you start at the pole (position) you want to finish even if you might have a bad day’. And he’s done very well and I am so proud of him.”

Gideon had a large group of supporters there to cheer him on who were also thrilled that Lynn was able to attend. His other grandmother Linda Lacey said, “It was such a blessing, because we didn’t know that his papaw was going to get to go down because of the illness, and when he was able to go, it was just one great blessing because all of us were there under one big tent. We were all there. I guess if I had my druthers, I’d have rather had Lynn there over any of us because Gideon’s papaw is so important to him. The Good Lord made it to where Lynn was able and felt up to going.”

During the previous year when his papaw was unable to see Gideon race, his grandmother Shirley said that Gideon’s thoughts were always about his grandfather.

“(Gideon) always asks his papaw to pray for him, to pray with him. He would say ‘Papaw, this is for you’. (Lynn) wanted to come a little more “up” but Gideon said ‘Papaw, you did all you could do’.”

She added, with a laugh, that even when the whole family was able to attend, Gideon’s grandfather Lynn was always a priority.

“We’ve always tried to go to his games and he always looks for his papaw there. He doesn’t care if I’m there or anything, but he wants his papaw right there. He’s his number one fan.”

The second place finish that wrapped up his Lamar Middle School cross-country career will certainly remain a highlight for Gideon. But the presence of his entire family, including his biggest fan, certainly added luster to that last race.

As Gideon himself put it, “It meant the world to me.”

Kiwanis plans new dinner, dancing event




Jonesborough Kiwanis Club members and their guests will soon be kicking up their heels for a good cause at the club’s new Dancing & Dining for Kiwanis Kids event, set for Nov. 3.

Scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the McKinney Center, the dinner, dance and silent auction will feature good food, good music and good fun, all with the purpose of raising money to help fund additional Chromebooks for Washington County Schools.

Tickets are $40 each or two for $70.

Kiwanis President Lowie van Staveren said he first got his inspiration for the event from an earlier Music on the Square fundraiser put together by Steve Cook and held at the McKinney Center,

Van Staveren said he paired the location idea and some of the other details with another fundraising event he had helped oversee as a teacher “up North.”

The Kiwanis dance and silent auction was born.

He promises that the club will provide a good time to all who attend.

The dinner, provided by DNA Catering, will feature beef brisket, chicken or a vegetarian option, roasted vegetables and scalloped potatoes and will conclude with a dessert of Southern Pecan or Lemon Icebox Pie.

Ben Dean with Big Time Entertainment will be in charge of the music, and he promises Classic Rock, as well as music from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

No one, he said, will be able to stay still.

“It will be jovial,” Dean said. “If you’re not dancing, you’re tapping your toes and your feet.”

There will also be chance to pick your favorites, Van Staverens said.

“We’re setting it up at each table where people will have a form to request a favorite song,” he said.

A silent auction will be ongoing throughout the evening, with amazing deals and packages to be had.

Beer and wine will also be available.

The most important thing, however, according to the Kiwanis members organizing the event, is both the community and the benefit.

“The whole goal of this is to raise money for computers for the school,” said Kiwanis member Jack Van Zandt. “It’s just part of the Kiwanis  Club commitment. Of all the things that we do, we try to do things that are enjoyable for the community but also raise money for the community.”

Van Staveren agreed.

“We want people to walk about from it and go, ‘We had a really nice time. We’re going to do it again next year.

“We want it to be something that grows.”

For tickets to the Kiwanis dinner/dance/auction, contact the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 753-1010. Tickets are available until Oct. 30.

For questions about donating to the Silent Auction, contact Lowie van Staveren at (269) 929-3358 or Jack Van Zandt at (423) 948-0237.

Festival: Event closes with good memories, solid numbers

Another successful Storytelling Festival closed this week, complete with blue skies and stunning sunsets.


Staff Writer


This year’s edition of the National Storytelling Fe

stival wrapped up Sunday, highlighted by blistering temperatures, over 10,000 visitors and a diverse group of tellers to dazzle the crowds.

“The atmosphere was fantastic. The energy was just beautiful. Wonderful.” International Storytelling Center President Kiran Singh Sirah said. “To be able to spread this message of good will, peace, understanding and a celebration of our humanity, that’s what this festival really sums up for me.”

From Friday through Sunday, over 10,000 folks criss-crossed Jonesborough to hear stories filled with laughter, love, awe or in the case of Bil Lepp, a humorous story about the running of the bulls.

While the 18 featured storytellers were the main attraction over the weekend, Sirah believed the concert on Thursday night set the tone for the festival.

“We had a really exciting Black Lillies concert on Thursday night and I think that did a lot to really bring both our traditional audiences, our regulars, as well as lots of younger people to come and celebrate, to dance and really enjoy themselves and have a real nice celebratory kickoff to the festival.”

Sirah added that many visitors arrived before the festival began.

“It was great to see lots of people coming in earlier, and just enjoying the whole festival build-up. People, when they come in earlier, they like to come in and they go for hikes, or they go eat at the restaurants, or they like to experience our trails, and our walks and our pubs and all the things that East Tennessee has to offer. Especially in these mountains, and then they come for the Storytelling.”

Among the tellers present were familiar faces such as Donald Davis, Connie Regan-Blake and the aforementioned Lepp.

Visitors to the festival were invited to tell their own tales over the weekend at the Swappin Grounds or on one of the bright yellow Story Stages spread across town.

While all the tellers were able to showcase their talents to the crowds, one of the stars, as always, was the town — and the town residents themselves.

The ISC president said he has heard many times how Jonesborough and its residents provide such a warm welcome to festival attendees.

“One thing I always hear people say is that they never get a better welcome than when they come in and see the people of Jonesborough just open up this town and welcome people in. This is one of the most inclusive places I’ve ever been in the world because we welcome people from all over the world.

“One of the beautiful things about this festival is that there are so many opportunities to make friends and connect with the community.” 

The National Storytelling Festival begun in 1973 by Jimmy Neil Smith was quite a different event.

According to the festival press release, only “a few dozen people gathered on hay bales around a wagon”.

The 2018 edition welcomed over 10,000 visitors, while nearly 3,000 listened in on the Festival’s livestream on Friday.

Bledsoe’s festival poster returns for 29th season

Artist Bill Bledsoe continues to create posters commemorating storytelling.


Staff Writer


When Bill Bledsoe created the first poster print celebrating the Jonesborough Storytelling Festival, he never dreamed the prints would become so popular.

Bledsoe, who began designing the prints in 1989, shared a story that speaks volumes about the impact of the festival and the festival inspired art.

“I think it was in 2002, this gentleman came up to me at the festival as I was signing prints, and he said ‘You’ve cost me $40,000.’ And I thought he was pulling my leg. He said, ‘We built an addition to our house to hang all of your artwork.’ And he pulled out a photograph and sure enough, there it was. He had spotlights, a window looking out over a lake in Vermont, and nothing but Storytelling artwork on all the walls.

“He said ‘It’s the nicest part of our house, we always go there to just re-live our memories in Jonesborough.’ It was really humbling for me. They had a stereo system in there so they could listen to tapes and CD’s of the storytellers. It was like a time capsule. So it does mean a lot to people and that’s why I’ve carried on.”

Bledsoe, a Jonesborough native, has the Storytelling festival coursing through his veins.

“This is my 29th year (designing prints for the festival). I grew up in Jonesborough and I’ve been to every Storytelling Festival since the first one.”

His first print in 1989 was partly a result of his job at the Parson’s Table.

“Jimmy Neil Smith owned the Parson’s Table for years and I worked there while I was going to school. I was actually his head cook and I was paying for my degree in art at ETSU. And I said to Jimmy, ‘ Of all the things you all make for the Storytelling Festival, there’s nothing that you have that says Jonesborough and Storytelling together’. To me they were inseparable. So I told Jimmy we ought to create a print, something that combines those two things.

“Of course, even though he was the founder and director, he had a board and most of the people on the board didn’t even live here. So (Smith) said ‘Well, we really can’t do that but if you want to do something independently, I encourage you.’” 

The first print Bledsoe designed was called “The Tale Tree” and he paid for the posters out of his own pocket. In order to raise the necessary funds for the project, Bledsoe even sold his car to an ETSU professor. One thousand of  the prints were made, and every one sold..

According to Bledsoe, Smith told him that any money made on the prints, would come right back to Bledsoe, who used those proceeds to fund the following year’s prints. After the first two successful years, the prints became part of the festival.

While Bledsoe sells fewer than the 1,000 he began with almost 30 years ago, he still allows the town to use the image on any merchandise and to keep the proceeds made from their sale.

According to Bledsoe, most folks who buy his prints are visitors.

“The majority of people who buy these, they’re not from here. They’re from all points of the country, different parts of the globe to some extent.”

As a Jonesborough native, he also got involved in order to give visitors a piece of the town and the festival.

“That’s how I got into it because I felt like there needs to be something that people can take with them that clearly illustrates the connection between the town and the Storytelling festival.

“I believed in it so much because I love Jonesborough, it’s my home. I love Storytelling, have grown up with it.”

Currently the head of the Art Department at Tusculum University, Bledsoe tries to involve his students in his project to give them an example of how they can make a living as an artist.

While the number of prints available began in the early years at 1,000, Bledsoe only releases 100 of the prints during the festival, which usually sell out quickly. However, those who miss out on the first edition may still be able to obtain one of the prints.

“What I’ll do is make a second edition just ordered for that weekend. In other words, they’ll come in and there’ll be a list of people. They’ll run the prints and mail them off.”

However, the second edition is not numbered.

Bledsoe said he continues to attend the festival, spending most of the day on Saturday at Mauk’s, where he personalizes prints for folks who buy them and catches up with attendees he’s become familiar with from the festival over the years.

As next year will be his 30th festival where he designs a print, he added that it’s always been about his hometown and the event it’s become famous for.

“I’m going to continue to do (the prints) until I can’t do it anymore. I’ve always wanted Storytelling to be a beneficiary of it, in every regard. I love Jonesborough and I love Storytelling. They go great together. They are the Reese’s Cup of art as far as I’m concerned.”

Play to help fund maintenance at Old Jonesborough Cemetery

Get ready for “Spot on the Hill.”


Staff Writer


Returning for its fifth season, the original, research-based play “Spot on the Hill” tells the stories of the lives of the cemetery’s “inhabitants.”

Performances begin in October at the Old Jonesborough Cemetery. The play is a fundraiser for the Heritage Alliance to help maintain and restore damaged graves stones in the aging cemetery.

“The great thing about ‘Spot on the Hill’ is that there’s a lot of graves up there,” Heritage Alliance Executive Director Deborah Montanti said. “So we have a lot of stories to tell. If you’ve seen it once, you haven’t seen it this year. There’s always new stories coming up.”

According to the press release for the event, some of the new stories in this year’s play “include William Elbert Munsey, the namesake of Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Jeremiah Edwards, founder of the Zion Hill School in Jonesborough, and Laura Brunner Dosser, who was well known and respected for her eye for fashion.”

Now in the fifth year, the event began as a means to help with the maintenance of the cemetery.

“We partnered with the town about six years ago to bring the Old Jonesborough Cemetery back to life, ironically,” Montanti said. “The care and maintenance of the cemetery had been neglected for awhile and there was no malfeasance on anybody’s part. It’s just that there was a question as to who actually owned the cemetery. The town basically took on the maintenance when it looked like that was going to be the only way to get the weeds down.

“So the Heritage Alliance got involved at that point to assist in that process. We recovered numerous graves that had been overgrown and were back in the woods. So we were looking for a funding stream to help us. We just happened to have, through the graces, an exceptional playwright on our staff.”

Montanti added that the idea that emerged was: “Real Stories, Real People, Real Tombstones”.

The first four years of the play have been so successful that the cemetery is now back to the original boundaries and 100 stones have been restored.

Anne G’Fellers-Mason, Special Projects Coordinator for the Heritage Alliance, is the play’s writer and director, and usually performs, as well.

“I want to pick a mix of stories for men, stories for women, and when I can, if I have younger actors available, I like to share stories from children,” Mason said. “Unfortunately, it’s a reality of life that many children would die young in that time period … there’s a lot of truth to the stories. I always use primary sources. Newspapers, census records, diaries, family histories, wills. I try to find something document based for every person.”

Performances at the Old Jonesborough Cemetery will be on Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. and Oct. 27 at 2:30 p.m.

The Oct. 20 show at 2:30 p.m. will show indoors at the Jonesborough Visitors Center.

Audience members should arrive 15 minutes prior to showtime and are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. The performance will move to the Visitors Center in the event of inclement weather.

Tickets are available at the Jonesborough Visitors Center (423) 753-1010 and online at www.jonesboroughtn.org/tickets. Cost is $8.