Matilda: JRT to bring childhood classic to stage

Millie Williams plays Matilda in the musical, a child with strong feelings of right and wrong.


The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is excited to bring you the regional premiere of “Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical.” Based on the book “Matilda” by Dahl, this much anticipated show runs March 28 through April 14. Come meet a brave and compassionate girl who faces difficult trials but handles each with a dose of courage, a touch of cleverness, and a lot of heart.

Matilda is a bright, sweet, witty child who has every reason to hate a world that has treated her so cruelly. Her parents are horrendous and her school’s principal even worse. Yet she chooses not to view the world as an ugly place, but one of beauty. She sees people in the best light she possibly can, which, given her circumstances, isn’t an easy thing to do.

The story begins with Matilda being born to parents who do not want her. They already have a son and think their family complete. They don’t want to change anything from their normal. And Matilda’s normal is very different than they know how to deal with.

“Matilda is too smart for them,” said Shawn Hale, who plays Mr. Wormwood, Matilda’s father. “They don’t know how to take care of her, so they lash out. When you lash out, you tend to be mean.”

Shawn Hale and Lorrie Anderson as the Wormwoods, the not-always-kind parents of courageous Matilda.

Lorrie Anderson, who plays Mrs. Wormwood, agreed. “She’s terrible,” she said of her character. “I’m so used to playing characters that are quite similar to me, but this character is so completely different. She’s crass, rude, and materialistic. And I’m not.”

However, somehow, Matilda turns out to be the opposite of her parents. She follows a different set of rules . . . or rather, one rule.

“I think the message of the show is to follow the Golden Rule,” said Millie Williams, who plays Matilda. “To treat others how you want to be treated. To be nice to each other because it’s a good thing to do.”

In spite of being mistreated and unloved, Matilda rises above that and becomes the hero of many.

“Because of the environment Matilda grew up in,” stated Kylie Green, who plays Matilda’s kind teacher, Miss Honey, “she has a very keen moral compass, and so she is always very sensitive to injustices. She has strong feelings about what’s right and what’s wrong. So she’s a champion of the underdog.”

Though it’s true that Matilda is a type of hero and helps others who are treated poorly, she also encourages them to fend for themselves. She believes strongly in standing up for oneself.

“Matilda does set about correcting all the wrongs that are around her,” said Lucas Schmidt, who plays the evil Miss Trunchbull, who traditionally is played by a man. “Yet, in one of her songs, she sings about how people are victims of fate. But also how they could have seized control and done something about it. She feels that though life may not seem fair, it’s up to you to do something about it.”

Though this show has strong themes and messages, it’s done in such an entertaining, funny, and lighthearted way, people will leave feeling very satisfied.

“It is really a heartwarming and touching story,” said the choreographer, Heather Allen, who also is in the ensemble. “The music is so fantastic and contemporary; very different than what we usually do here. We hope it will pull in another generation of kids who love the theatre.””

“Matilda The Musical” is written by Dennis Kelly with original songs by Tim Minchin. This show is directed by Jennifer Ross-Bernhardt and choreographed by Heather Allen. The sponsors are Monkee’s of Johnson City, Home Trust Bank, Wolfe Development, Ignacy Fonberg, Denny Dentistry, and Sonia King/Mary B. Martin.

Rounding out the cast are Vanessa Bushell, Chris Carroll, Abigail Chapman, Rachel Chapman, Stephen Cradic, Hollyn Dixon, Liz Dollar, Will Dollar, Mia Freemon, Ryan Gray, Joseph Gumina, Charles Landry, Kyle Mason, Tiffany Matthews, Tristan Matthews, Abby Raper, Rheagan Shelton, Sharon Squibb, and Elliott Tucker.

Show times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. The theatre is located at 125.5 West Main Street, Jonesborough. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to

Tickets on sale for Masterpiece Mingle


Tickets are now available for the McKinney Center’s Masterpiece Mingle on Friday, April 5, 7 to 9 p.m.  After last year’s sold out event, participants exclaimed that the McKinney Center must do the event again. 

When you purchase a ticket and arrive the night of April 5, you will draw a number that corresponds to a work of art exhibited at the McKinney Center, which has been donated by a regional artists. Mediums include watercolor, acrylic, ceramics, fabric art, jewelry, woodwork, and more. All pieces will be on display for guests to admire throughout the evening. At the end of the night, guests take their corresponding piece of art home with them. When guests find their work of art they have the opportunity to keep it or find other guests with whom they may “swap.”

Amid the fun atmosphere guests will enjoy live jazz music provided by the Tusculum Jazz Quartet. Main Street Café and Catering will be providing heavy hors d’oeuvres such as smoked salmon quesadillas, beef crostini, grilled chicken skewers, artichoke bake and a chocolate mousse for dessert.

A silent auction will also be available. Items will consist of works of art, sculpture, books, and household items.

Dress is casual. Cash and credit cards can be used for the silent auction and cash bar.

All proceeds go to help with ongoing programming at the McKinney Center which currently boasts over 40 classes and workshops each semester, 400 students annually, 17 artist faculty, and regular schedule of exhibits and activities including the StoryTown initiative, the Juried Art Exhibition, Art in the Park, traveling exhibitions, and more.   

This unique event serves as the signature annual fundraiser for the McKinney Center. Tickets are limited to one-hundred twenty-five, as this is the number of works of art that have been donated. To purchase a ticket, call the Visitor Center at (423) 753-1010 or purchase online at

St. Paddy’s Dash set for Saturday

Runners enjoy last year’s St. Paddy’s Dash.


Join Tennessee’s Oldest Town for its St. Paddy’s Celebration on Saturday, March 16.

Discover everything from live Celtic music, green beer, Irish foods, a fun run, a relaunch of the Jonesborough Gold Hunt and the Leprechaun Trail.

Visitors can also take part in Paddy’s Dash: Brew Fun Run at 4 p.m. at the International Storytelling Center.

The two-mile walk/jog/run will loop through town with an option to stop by Depot Street Brewery for a free five ounce beer and end back at the Storytelling Center.

Enjoy Shamrockin’ on the Plaza in front of the Storytelling Center taking place from 4-7 p.m. with music starting at 5 p.m.

Get into the St. Paddy’s spirit with live music from ETSU’s Roaring Jelly, enjoy a beer garden brought by Main Street Café and Catering with beer from Depot Street Brewery and a special menu of Irish foods.

Come dressed in your kilt, leprechaun outfit or simply all decked out in green for our Best St. Paddy’s Attire Contest for a chance to win a special prize. Shamrockin’ on the Plaza is sponsored by Main Street Café and Catering and JAMSA, Jonesborough Area Merchants Association.

Bring the kids and explore the Leprechaun Trail. This interactive trail will guide you through participating museums, shops and restaurants downtown where you’ll discover treasures consisting of activities or St. Paddy’s-themed treats. One “treasure” along the Leprechaun Trial will be a dulcimer group playing traditional Celtic music. Another treasure you may stumble upon is a make-your-own Victorian, St. Patrick’s Day card from 12 to 4 p.m. at the Christopher Taylor House. Along the trail you’ll also hear stories from playwright and author, Anne G’Fellers-Mason, as she tells the Irish fairytale of, Molly Murphy and the Scorched Leprechaun, in the Chester Inn Museum parlor at 2 p.m.

Participate in the Jonesborough Gold Hunt, a mobile-friendly QR code scavenger hunt, taking place throughout downtown all weekend long. The hunt will include almost 20 locations incorporating Jonesborough’s unique history and architecture. You can find more information about the hunt and get started at Another great way to explore Jonesborough is by taking a guided tour of Main Street with the Heritage Alliance. Tour tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Chester Inn Museum located on Main Street.

The Historic Jonesborough Dance Society will also offer a Saint Patrick’s Day Contra Dance from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children and students.

For more information, go to Main Street Jonesborough’s Facebook page or call (423) 753-1010.

New Boones Creek School to honor local ‘Bars’ history


Staff Writer

It’s official: the new Boones Creek School will be the Bars.

The Washington County Board of Education, in a 6-1 vote, opted for the upcoming K-8 school to don the Bar mascot and name at the latest school board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

The new school, which is currently under construction off Boones Creek Road, will consolidate Boones Creek Elementary School and Boones Creek Middle School. But the BOE had to vote with either a “bars,” the current mascot for the middle school, or “bears,” the current mascot for the elementary school.

Other than the spelling, the difference between the two is the history of American legend Daniel Boone who, while in the Boones Creek area in Washington County, killed a bear. And so it was carved in a nearby tree that “D. Boone cilled a bar on (this) tree in the year 1760.”

That history is one board member Mary Beth Dellinger said she felt needed to be shared with the elementary school kids in Boones Creek regardless of the mascot outcome.

“I’d like to see the Boones Creek Historical Trust get into the school and possibly do some type of training or teachings to let them know about the history of the Bars,” Dellinger said. “I love history and I think it would kind of buy-in both (groups). I’d like to see that if that’s possible.”

Boones Creek Principal Jordan Hughes told the BOE the plan is to honor the history of Daniel Boone, the bear and Boones Creek through a mural at the new school.

“The idea is that we would incorporate history. The hope is that we would have a wall dedicated in the building to the history of the location,” Hughes said. “Why are we called Boones Creek? Why is our high school called Daniel Boone? The history behind the tree, the history of when he hid in the creek — we want to make sure we incorporate all that. We want to work to make sure we get this narrative correct.”

Though board members Dellinger, David Hammond, Keith Ervin, Jason Day, Chad Fleenor and Todd Ganger voted in favor of the motion (BOE members Annette Buchanan and Mitch Meredith were absent), Phillip McLain was the lone “bear” vote. He said it he felt there was enough space at the new school for both Bars and Bears.

“I think there’s room for a presence of Bars and Bears in the school,” McLain said. “There was a principal in the system say to me that even with the history, they teach the kids the correct spelling. I understand the history. I also understand what the principal said: ‘we teach them to spell and say it correctly.’”

For some board members, the nod to history through the Bars name is something to be proud of and is unique to the Boones Creek area.

“Something stood out to me with that meeting we had at Boones Creek; there’s only one Bars in America,” Fleenor said. “I know some people are like, ‘What’s a Bar?’ That gives us the opportunity to stand up, puff our chest out a little bit and say, ‘Right here’s what a Bar is. This is where we come from.’ I love history. Maybe that’s why my passion is so strong on this, but I feel very fortunate we are different. And I want to be different.”

Jonesborough’s Boone Street Market to re-open this week


Jonesborough Locally Grown is excited to announce the re-opening of Boone Street Market after several weeks of closure due to its expansion construction. On Saturday, March 2, Boone Street Market will open its doors with 450 additional square-feet of space.

With the new expanded market, Jonesborough Locally Grown is excited to have more space to feature and sell local produce and meat from Farmers within 100 miles of downtown Jonesborough. In addition to more retail space, there will be extra tables and chairs, allowing patrons to relax and enjoy a hot meal out of Boone Street Market’s kitchen. While the space won’t be set up like a restaurant, it aims to feel more like a café with both hot food to enjoy in person, and meals to take on the go.

While grant money covered a lot of funds needed to make the expansion possible, the community chipped in about half the cost required to get the expansion underway through an online crowd sourcing campaign.

“We want this to be a space that’s perfect our community to sit, relax, and enjoy locally sourced food and beverage,” says Jonesborough Locally Grown President, Shelley Crowe. “We would not have been able to accomplish this type of growth without their support and patronage, so we want to give back to them as well.

Since first opening in 2014, Boone Street Market has been a pinnacle in the community when it comes to featuring and supporting local farmers and the local food economy. Not only does Boone Street Market serve as a year-round farmer’s market, it offers cooking classes on a wide array of topics such as canning, cooking, farming, and more. With the newly expanded space, the store hopes to continue to offer more cooking classes, events, special dinners, taste testings, and more.

Boone Street Market will open at 10 a.m. next Saturday, and will have local dry goods, meats, some seasonal produce, coffee, craft beers, and some hot food and to-go meals made fresh from our kitchen available for purchase. Throughout the next month, Boone Street Market will continue to add new seating and a wider selection of goods to purchase.

Jonesborough Locally Grown is a not-for-profit organization that operates the Jonesborough Farmers Market and Boone Street Market. Funds raised from the dinner help keep market fees low to farmers and enable Jonesborough Locally Grown to offer educational and market opportunities for farmers and consumers.

Wild Game Dinner honors local tradition

From left to right, Don Burger, Leon Caudell and John Tomko honored a Jonesborough tradition at the Wild Game Dinner. (Photos by Tom Pardue)


Associate Editor

A group of men, together with sons and grandsons, attended the annual Wild Game Dinner at the McKinney Center on Saturday evening, Jan. 26. The origin of the dinner is uncertain but most of the “old timers” present believe it started sometime during the 1960s. The largest attendance anyone could remember at the dinner was 87. On Saturday, there were 75 in attendance.  The group was composed of persons as young as 10 years of age and those over 80 years old. 

     What is certain is that Dr. Byrd organized the original Wild Game Dinner. Initial get-togethers were held underneath Sisters Row in kitchen quarters where at one time slaves cooked food for the three residences given to the daughters of Confederate General Alfred E. Jackson.  The impetus for the occasion, according to legend, is that the wives of the original members were tired of “dead animals and fish” taking up room in their freezers.  The men folk were told to do something to get rid of the wild game – and to do it quickly.

    Therefore, the notion of a dinner was suggested.  In the early days, there was an abundance of bear meat, locally caught fish and venison. Included in Saturday’s dinner for starters was “Uninhabited  Organic Salad” or Mexican Corn Bread along with a selection of coffee, iced tea (sweet or unsweet)  and wine. The main course featured ground venison, venison stew, hickory smoked pheasant, quail chowder, and wild Alaskan salmon with noodles. Vegetables included asparagus, baked beans, corn casserole, peas, potato salad,  cinnamon sweet potatoes, Texas hash browns and rice. There was an abundance of desserts that included apple pie, blueberry pie, a butterscotch pudding, key lime pie and chocolate cake along with a selection of several kinds of fudge.  


The group honored John Tomko, who has  been responsible in recent years for organizing the Wild Game Dinner. This year the group was entertained by Brad Eastridge, who played the piano during the early portion of the two and a half hour eat and greet assemblage. Retired pastor Ed Wolfe provided the invocation. He said he remembered when he first attended the dinner only homemade wine was available for drinking. When he mentioned that he did not drink alcohol, he said a fellow attendee went out and purchased a six-pack of soft drinks for him.

The conversation was lively Saturday, with a discussions  at several tables about  the Number 1 rated Tennessee’s men’s basketball team that had handily defeated West Virginia during the afternoon while others were concerned about the East Tennessee State University’s men’s team that during the course of the evening defeated Western Carolina.  

Not forgotten were past dinners where Jonesborough Attorney Jud Thornton cooked bear meat and venison in Dr. Byrd’s kitchen.  When the men gathered at the Three Sisters, there was never enough room for everyone to sit down and eat. Therefore, the eating was done in shifts, with the early diners either sitting around the edges of the room or in good weather exiting the building and gathering in the yard behind the Three Sisters.

Later, the venue for the dinner was moved to Old Quarters on Main Street. 

There, Attorney Bob Green would regale listeners with stories about his days practicing law and Mayor Kelly Wolfe would play the piano, usually attracting some of the men to join him in a sing-along.  Others mentioned former County Attorney Bob May’s attendance and how he could fish all night and bring his catch to the dinner. 

     I remember when my father-in-law Art Winston cried remembering the sad occasion of his wife’s recent passing.  Alfred Greenlee consoled him, telling him that he also had suffered the loss of a loved one as had other members of the group.  

By the end of the evening, Winston went home in better spirits, saying that he had enjoyed the evening.     

     As the group departed the McKinney Center, they agreed that it has provided a great venue for the dinner and that they were anxious to attend again next year.

McKinney Center looks for answers on Booker T. Washington School photo


The McKinney Center’s continued pursuit of historical photos and artifacts has delivered another mystery to be solved- actually, 34 mysteries. A class photograph featuring 34 smiling student faces has everyone asking the question: who are these students?

Only a handful of students to date have been identified, and the McKinney Center is on a quest to discover the name of each and every student. The staff of the McKinney Center is asking area residents to look closely at the photograph and call, email or come by the McKinney Center with information that will help to properly label and archive this precious piece of history.

It has already been determined that the photo was taken in the gym/auditorium, as the old line markings of the basketball court are visible on the floor. During the next month, this photograph will be available for the community to examine and hopefully solve the mystery of not only who these students are, but the time period in which this photograph was taken.

The McKinney Center is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of the alumni of Booker T. Washington School for future generations, as the school served a vital role in Jonesborough history. In addition, the staff is also looking to find more artifacts, such as photos, report cards, and other memorabilia. These items will be scanned and returned to owners on the same day.

Anyone who can help solve this month’s mystery or who might have additional photos or artifacts can contact the McKinney Center at (423)753-0562 or email Jules Corriere or Skye McFarland or stop by the McKinney Center Monday-Friday, between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jonesborough Senior Center gets accreditation


Staff Writer

Monday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen at Jonesborough Town Hall included some financial findings that many residents will find satisfying, as well as news that the Senior Center had been awarded accreditation by the National Institute of Senior Centers, a rare distinction for any senior center.

The Audit Report from the Fiscal Years 2017-2018 was addressed by a CPA from the town’s auditors of Blackburn, Childers and Steagall, David Babb at the Feb. 11 meeting. Babb said that for the first time in several years, there were zero findings in the audit.

“I think that’s something to be very happy about,” he said.

During the “Communications from the Mayor”, Mayor Chuck Vest announced that the Jonesborough Senior Center had been awarded National Accreditation status and invited Senior Center Director Mary Sanger to speak on the subject.

“We started accreditation about two years ago,” Sanger said.  “It’s a very long process and it’s just really taking a hard look at what we’re doing. Our programming, our planning, our staffing, the physical layout of the building.

“Obviously, going into a new center we wanted it to become accredited. National Accreditation is a huge distinction. It can help with getting grants, and it would really set our center apart from other senior centers,” Sanger continued. “Johnson City is an accredited senior center so of course, we didn’t want them to have an award we didn’t have.”

Sanger added that aiming at such a goal while moving into a new facility was setting the bar quite high.

“It was a little ambitious … so at times it had to go on the shelf for a little bit but it could not have come about without the support of the town,” she said. “Bob (Browning) and Craig (Ford) were very involved. Alderman (Terry) Countermine was involved. Dr. Paul Stanton, the staff at the Senior Center and our Advisory Board.”

According to the official website of the National Council on Aging, the NISC “are committed to supporting and strengthening the nation’s 11,000 senior centers through best practices, professional development, advocacy, research and national standards and accreditation.”

The accreditation program was developed by the NISC using nine standards of excellence, which serve as a guide to improve all senior centers and their operations now and in the future.

In order to attain accreditation, all nine standards must be met.

“It’s really a self-reflection. It’s all about looking at the whole picture, not just one little aspect of it. Looking at all the categories and making sure that across the board you’re offering a whole comprehensive program,” Sanger said.

While attaining accreditation was a huge goal for the Jonesborough Senior Center, now that it has been achieved Sanger said the future has more goals to meet.

“We’re looking at continuing to expand. We launched MyRide in December and so we’re looking to continue to expand that program and then probably to continue outreach and do more and more things while we’re outreaching to our seniors who are homebound.”

Commission honors former county budget director

Bobbye Ayers Webb


Associate Editor

The Washington County Commission has proclaimed Feb. 10 – 17 as Mrs. Bobbye Ayers Webb Week  honoring her 40 years of service to county government. Retiring as the county’s budget director, she first took a bookkeeping position under County Judge Jack Wiseman. She worked during the administration of a number of the county’s officials who were elected under a several titles including county chairman, county cxecutive and county mayor.

Born Aug. 4, 1940 in Day Book, Yancey County, North Carolina, she was the first child and only daughter of four children born to Murlin Junior and Geneva Peterson Ayers. Webb died on Oct.19, 2018 at 78 years of age having been a resident of Washington County for 60 years.

Her early life was spent on a farm before the family moved to Johnson City where she attended Stratton and Kings Springs Schools. She excelled in academics and athletics.

After graduating from Science Hill High School in 1958, her family lived in the Keystone Community in Johnson City, about a block from the family-run Webb’s Store on Bert Street.

There she met a store employee, Jack Webb, who she married in 1959.  Her husband, her parents and a brother preceded her in death.

Shortly after marriage, Mrs. Webb took a job working for the newly formed C.P.A. accounting firm of Blackburn and Childers. Within a short period of time, the couple purchased a home in Jonesborough where she lived until her death. Honorary pallbearers at her funeral included George Jaynes, Dan Eldridge, Joe Grandy and the members of the Washington County Commission from 1974 to 2018.

Hired by Judge Wiseman, Mrs. Webb excelled throughout her professional life ranging from the respect of her government colleagues to an award for achievement from the Federal Bureau of Accounting for the United States and Canada.

Washington County, in its Dec. 17, 2018 Proclamation honoring her, announced the formation of the Bobbye Webb Endowment Accounting Scholarship through the Northeast State Foundation.  The scholarship will provide education funding for students pursuing financial careers. Donations to the scholarship fund may be made to the Northeast State Foundation, P. O. Box 246, Blountville, TN 37617.

Jonesborough Library to bring sky-high fun to Chocolate Fest


Staff Writer

This weekend downtown Jonesborough will feature not only the fourth annual Chocolate Fest and all the treats that accompany it, but an opportunity to see the festival from a bird’s eye view. Literally.

One of the 37 stops in this year’s Jonesborough Area Merchants and Service Association sponsored event will be the Jonesborough branch of the Washington County Library, which has arranged for a full size hot air balloon to offer tethered rides for $10 per person, weather permitting.

“I believe it goes up about 60 to 80 feet,” Lollipop Shop owner Jeff Gurley shared recently.

“So it should give a truly spectacular view of downtown Jonesborough, especially over Valentine’s Day weekend and Chocolate Fest.

Gurley coordinated the balloon for the event, and also has some hot air balloon experience.

“I’ve been up in a hot air balloon twice and it truly is the most peaceful setting there is. It’s quiet, you’re up in the air, there’s no engine like a helicopter or an airplane, and there’s three to five people around you, not 200 people like an airplane. It’s just very, very peaceful.”

For those with a fear of heights, library manager Christy Widner said there would be other offerings on hand.

“Our ‘Friends of the Library’ group is doing this book sale (Love & Chocolate: Romance and Cookbook Book Sale) in conjunction with the Chocolate Fest. We’re making chocolate covered pretzels.

“We’re having a couple other things for our patrons. ‘Blind Date with a Book’ is where the books are covered with wrapping paper and you just get a little blurb on the outside of what it’s about, sort of like an online dating service type of blurb and you can check those books out.

“And there are things you can do to enter for a chance to win a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card. (The gift card giveaway) is also at our sister location in Gray. Of course every year we have a candy count. We have a jar full of M&Ms and whomever guesses the closest wins the jar.”

Widner said she hoped that the attractions would help increase interest in the library.

“This is our way of trying to connect with the business community and to get more people interested in the library, in general.”

Washington County Public Library Director Richard Griffin added, “It helps increase the awareness of the library. People forget about us sometimes, they pay for us with their tax dollars but they don’t always make use of us.

“This is our fourth year working with JAMSA. We’ve worked with them also on other projects, but the Chocolate Fest has been pretty big. It helps us because we’re really trying to be part of the community and it gets people into the library so they know we’re here. Hopefully, we’ll get some library cards signed up.

“We have heat, sometimes we have a movie going for the kids if they get tired of walking around, and we have bathrooms and things like that. This is a nice little pit stop for a lot of the folks.”

However the main draw, most likely, will be visible to those driving into downtown Jonesborough for the festival.

According to Gurley, an additional bonus for prospective balloon riders is the opportunity to float over downtown Jonesborough.

“It’s pretty uncommon that the fact that because of the underground utilities that we can even have a hot air balloon in a downtown setting. Typically it’s open farmlands. So this is kind of a one of a kind event that we’ll have.”

While the balloon rides are subject to perfect weather, at this early point in the week the weekend forecast, Gurley said, looked very promising. But he added, “Winds must be below six miles per hour with no rain or moisture. Basically if you see the flags blowing as you come into town, that’s about five miles per hour.”

The Lollipop Shop proprietor added that no tickets would be sold for balloon rides, and a ‘first come, first serve’ style will determine the passenger list. Within a two-and-a-half hour time frame, Gurley said he hoped 80 to 100 people would get the unique experience, with each “load” holding up to a 600-pound weight limit.   

“Each year Chocolate Fest has grown so we wanted to add something different, something fun and something affordable. The balloon in that setting offers a gateway to people as they come into Jonesborough to let them know that there is something going on. It’s a great event to do something outdoors in the middle of winter that is fun for all ages.”

BOE closes new school’s enrollment

This 2018 map illustrates the bus routes for the northern part of the county. These routes are used as a guide in determining enrollment qualifications in Washington County School System in closed enrollment situations.


Staff Writer

It might be a bit more difficult to enroll a student in some Washington County Schools now that the Washington County Board of Education has opted to close enrollment once a school reaches 90 percent capacity.

At a called meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24, the board voted in favor of the motion, made by school board member Todd Ganger. The motion also included closing student enrollment for the future Boones Creek School, which is scheduled to open in August of 2019.

“I would close Boones Creek until we know how many students will be there,” Ganger said.

Students can still apply to one of the closed enrollment schools, but must fill in a form stating the student will be on time and his or her guardian will provide transportation to the requested school. Washington County Schools Director of Attendance James Murphy added that when a student requests to be placed in a specific school outside of his or her district, the principal of that school is always contacted to see if there is room in specific grade levels for those students, no matter the capacity.

When it came to student capacity, board member Philip McLain said Ridgeview Elementary School, which he said was currently at 122 percent capacity, was his main concern.

“If we’re going to overload that school, it’s my fear that the quality of education for the students is going to go down,” McLain said. “I also think it’s a heavier workload on the teaching staff that’s there. That’s my overall concern. How can we put almost 200 students above what we think it should be? How can we keep on sending students in there?”

In November, the board voted to change the bus routes in the northern part of the county in an effort to bring more students to the new Boones Creek School and to relieve Ridgeview of its amount. In those new bus routes, lines were shifted to take 189 students from Ridgeview to place 75 at Gray School, 70 at Sulphur Springs and 44 to the Boones Creek School. Meanwhile 32 students were moved from the Gray School district to the Boones Creek School and 18 were moved from Sulphur Springs to the Boones Creek School.

But if students were shifted to help influx the Boones Creek School, why close enrollment?

Murphy said he has had an overwhelming number of parents asking to enroll their students in new Boones Creek School, which, Murphy said, doesn’t exist in the system just yet.

While county kids outside of the bus route for Boones Creek require a form, Chairman Keith Ervin said a city student would be able to attend the school if they are within the Boones Creek school zone, though he said the county school system would not overlap the city bus routes.

“If there’s a city child that wants to come to the new Boones Creek School and it lives in the Boones Creek zone, then it can come,” Ervin said. “It’s not a county kid; it’s a city kid.”

Board member Jason Day said he felt allowing city students into the school wasn’t fair to students in other Washington County school zones, such as the Jonesborough students, who are yet to see a school renovation plan approved by the Washington County Commission.

“It’s not fair to the Jonesborough kid when their parent wants to take them to the new Boones Creek,” Day said. “They’re county tax payers.”

However, Mitch Meredith asked if kids from Johnson City, including the ones outside of Boones Creek’s bus zone, would be able to come to the new school. Director of Schools Bill Flanary said they would at the county’s discretion. Murphy added that the form would be instrumental in helping the system evaluate if they will accept a new out-of-county student or not.

“We don’t have to take (city) kids,” Flanary said, “but we can.”

Flanary added that the school system plans to send letters out to those who were affected by the new bus routes to see what their plans are for the future — and mostly where the new school is involved.

“We’re going to try to get ahead of it a little bit,” Flanary said. “The staff is going to be sending letters to the families that were involved when you moved the bus routes and actually ask them, ‘What are you going to do? What are your plans?’ If they don’t respond, we’ll call them at home and try to get a real good handle before the end of this school year so that (the board) can budget for this and we can think about moving teachers and be ready day one.”

Town unites to honor MLK

Local residents gathered at the McKinney Center to share stories and their hopes for the future on behalf of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Staff Writer

Although frigid temperatures forced the postponement of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day walking tour and the community art project to a future date, the McKinney Center opened its doors to more than 80 visitors, regaling them with stories of local residents who meant so much to the Jonesborough community.

It was perhaps fitting that the event was moved to the building that housed African-American students from its opening in 1940 to its closure in 1965 after integration.

“This has now become a building where stories are remembered and collected and shared,” McKinney Center Theater Director Jules Corriere said. “We’re able to hear so many because this building has so many stories to tell.”

Attendees posted dreams of respect, love and peace.

Among the speakers was Anne G’Fellers Mason, who discussed  the Emancipator, the nation’s first abolitionist newspaper; Katelyn Yarbrough, who talked about the door with no stairs at the back of the Eureka Inn that has been kept as a reminder of ancient segregation; as well as tales of Jonesborough’s own Alfred Martin Rhea, who raised the flag on San Juan Hill during the Spanish American War serving as a Buffalo Soldier in the US Army, and Alfred Greenlee, a Jonesborough resident and Water Department employee for decades with a near blueprint-like memory of every pipe laid in the city.

Alderman Adam Dickson, originally slated to read from Dr. King’s most famous speech, spoke to the attendees at the event.

“The importance of the MLK holiday is rooted in Dr. King’s 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech that society wants to live out the true meaning of its creed; that all men and women are created equal. We want to be an inclusive society. We want to move forward for the sake of the republic. We must have serious conversations about what it means to unite.

“My comment earlier was a quote from Dr. King in which he said, ‘If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But one way or another we have to keep moving forward.’ And as American citizens we have to keep moving forward. We have to pay attention to each other, we have to recognize each other. And interestingly enough, here in Tennessee’s oldest town, we have this unique history of appreciating each other, listening to each other. And that’s what real community is. That’s the beauty of the MLK holiday.”

While the community art project will be scheduled for a later date, many children were in attendance to hear the stories.

Eleven-year-old Johnson City resident Penelope Strickland said, “I learned about the Eureka Inn that had the door that had no steps to lead up to it. I also learned about the Buffalo Soldiers. In my school we did learn about Buffalo Soldiers and so it was nice to hear more about it.

“(Dr. King) was a really good guy and he had a really big movement about how everybody was equal. It doesn’t really matter what their skin color or gender is. And that’s really important to know in life.”

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, 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

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 or call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010.