Storytelling to welcome Beth Horner

Beth Horner will share stories for entertainment and education.


Storyteller Beth Horner has worked with organizations like NASA and National Geographic to build big stories out of individual experiences. Soon, as the guest of the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, she’ll lead a workshop to help participants do the same for their institutions.

Her Thursday, Sept. 27 workshop, “Stories to Create Positive Change,” will focus on ways that organizations can use storytelling to create internal cohesion and communicate messages to outside audiences. Horner will teach techniques that include putting aside PowerPoint presentations for stories that can be found, developed, and used in institutional settings. Space is limited and advance registration is strongly recommended.

For those who aren’t ready to work with stories just yet, Horner will offer a series of entertaining storytelling concerts. The matinee shows will be Tuesday through Saturday, September 25 – 29, starting each day at 2 p.m. Advance purchase is recommended, but not required.

Horner’s weeklong appearance is part of the Storytelling Live! series,. As an entertainer, Horner is known for her deft mix of personal stories and traditional tales. “Embedding a concise, insightful folk tale into a story about my life experience brings a depth to the piece,” she said. “It grounds the story, and it helps you realize that life situations such as these have been occurring for centuries.”

Her repertoire runs the gamut from high literature (think Edgar Allan Poe) to dark war stories. Even her most serious stories are delivered with a light touch. “Every life situation can be humorous, no matter how trying or difficult it might be,” she said. “That’s how we get through it.”

It’s a technique that works just as well for a character in one of her silly romance stories as it does for a real live astronaut dealing with a problem in the depths of outer space.

Tickets for Horner’s matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276.

Local shipping store offers lots of options

Mark Hicks III is the proud owner of Packet-N-Post.


Staff Writer

While shipping makes up the lion’s share of their business, the Packet-N-Post, located at 107 E. Courthouse Square in downtown Jonesborough, offers enough different business options to open another store.

According to owner Mark Hicks III, that is no accident.

“The shipping is going to get you a 40 to 45 percent return, which is good, but you have to have a lot of it. But you have to do other things, too. You need to do the printing. You need to sell some supplies. You need to do the notary, the laminating. They’re small charges, but they add up. They make the difference.”

Hicks, who also owns the building, tried to rent the space out, but had difficulty finding a steady tenant for the space that was his father’s law office in the 1960’s. Instead, he said he decided to open up the mail specialty store in October of 2017.

Since then, “business has been picking up. It’s been getting better. We don’t have a big storefront, we don’t have a lot of signage, so people have to find us. But everyday we have somebody walk in and say, ‘I didn’t know you all were here’.”

The Packet – N – Post offers shipping through UPS, FedEx, DHL, and the U.S. Mail as well as freight shipping. Other services include: printing (business cards, greeting cards, pictures), copying, scanning, office supplies, notary, fax, gift wrapping, laminating, mailbox rental, fingerprinting (using Fieldprints service) and rubber stamp making. Recently, the store began offering a room to rent for various business related uses.

“If someone is in town and needs a quiet space to negotiate. If they need a place in town for a few hours. And it can even be something like if you were catering food for something like an all-day meeting event.”

With the holidays fast approaching, gift-wrapping may be a desirable task to outsource.

Office Manager Gail Stallard added, “We will custom pack anything they have for shipping. There’s no need for them to have something to ship and to look around at home and try to figure out how to pack it. They can bring it here and we can professionally pack it.”

Another unique service Hicks said the store would offer is auction pick-ups and shipping. If someone bids on an auction item online and needs to have it shipped anywhere, an employee would pick up the item, have it packed and then shipped to the desired location.

Hicks said the biggest issue the business had was simply the knowledge there was a mail specialty store right in downtown Jonesborough.

“Our main concern is letting people know we’re here. We’re here for the holidays, you don’t have to go to Johnson City.”

For additional information, contact Mark Hicks or Gail Stallard at (423) 753-0101 or online at

Guy Sabin: Town’s first fire chief memorialized

Family, friends and firefighters gather to honor Guy Sabin.


Staff Writer

The man who organized and modernized Jonesborough Fire Department received a touching memorial service on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at the Old Jonesborough Cemetery.

Attendees included Sabin’s family members and the Jonesborough Fire Department.

As chief of the Jonesborough Fire Department, Sabin perished less than one year after organizing the department, falling off a building he was attempting to save.

“A hero is defined as a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his life. Heroes are ordinary people like you and I that accomplish extraordinary things on a daily basis,” Jonesborough Operations Manager Craig Ford eulogized.

“Guy Sabin was one of those heros, when he gave his life in service to his community 130 years ago today. Firefighters to me are one of the few remaining heros that we have with us today.”

Sabin’s grandson, also named Guy Sabin, was present for the memorial service and was thankful for the service as well as the information the family has learned about their relative.

“When we got the word, we were interested in what was going to be done and what the purpose was and we were invited to be present. So we wanted to take part,” Sabin said.

“He was my grandfather. I was born in 1937, so there’s a 50 year gap between us. We never knew much about him. My dad was only two years old when he was killed. He didn’t know him well. It’s good to know some of the stories and we’ve got his diaries and we’ve learned a lot from that. We have finally made some connections here.”

JFD Lieutenant Chason Freeman, who has spent much of his time investigating Chief Sabin, was grateful to the contributions Jonesborough’s first fire chief made.

“Without him wanting to take our bucket brigade and organize an actual, at the time, a volunteer fire department and try to get modern fire-fighting equipment to save the town, that was a tremendous burden on him, and he was able to do it. He set the example. He was a leader.

“I feel extremely honored to do this for Chief Sabin and (for) the family to come up. We’ve got grandchildren of Guy Sabin here. To me that’s an honor.”

Rain can’t keep crowd from fair fun

The crowd at the fair showed up, despite the rain.


Staff Writer

While rainy weather drove off crowds for the first two days of the Appalachian Fair in Gray this year, record crowds on the remaining days made up for the dreary start.

“(Attendance) was down about five percent and I think that was due to Monday and Tuesday night and all the rain we had,” Appalachian Fair Manager Phil Booher said.

“We didn’t have many people here and there’s not much you can do about that. But Wednesday through Saturday were record crowds and were great. Great weather. Just tough weather on Monday and Tuesday.”

According to Booher, 185,528 folks attended this year’s fair.

“Our monster trucks and our demolition derby always draw huge crowds and did very well this year. We had two or three new rides on the Midway that did very well.

“They changed things up a little on the Midway and laid things out a bit differently, and I thought it looked great. Of course, they had the new rides, the Matterhorn and the Tornado. I thought they did very well.”

As some attendees come for the rides, some for the derby and some for the 4-H shows, there is always a little something for everyone. Booher said that future fairs would try to appeal to those who always attend for the same reason as well as those who want to experience new rides and events.

“We’ll try to continue doing everything that we do, but I’ve got some ideas for next year. But I don’t want to really disclose them now because I’m not sure if we can get them booked or not but we’ve got some educational things that we’re looking to try and bring in.

“They’re two very good things if we can get them booked and brought in here.”

Some of the most popular events are the competitions held each year. Winners for the 2018 Appalachian Fair were:

Ali Kosinski is crowned the Fairest of the Fair.


Fairest of the Fair Winner: Ali Kosinski

First runner up: Emily Helton

Second runner up: Ava Burke

Third runner up: Desiray Bacon

Fourth runner up: DeAnna Greer

Miss Congeniality: Devin Riddle

The Kaitlyn Matheson Award: Tatum Gouge

Little Miss Contest

Pictured are the winners of the 18-and-up division in the “Appalachian Fair’s Got Talent” contest (from left to right), Sabrina Hess (second place), Hunter Patterson (first place) and Kandice Moser (third place).

Teen Miss (13 years old): Lexus Seymore – Rick & Sherrie Seymore, Bristol, TN

Pre-teen Miss (12 years old): Kaylie Burns – Justin & Jessica Burns, Greenville, TN

Little Miss (8 years old): Elaina Philbeck – Cam & Nancy Philbeck, Greeneville, TN

Tiny Miss (4 years old): Kilynn Barger – Jonathan & Chantai Barger, Kingsport, TN


Wee Miss (3 years old): Ayla Taylor – Amy & Hart Tyson, Brentwood, TN


Appalachian Fair’s Got Talent – Division I (ages 6-17)

1st place – Laney Falin

2nd place – Rylee Peters

3rd place – Eden Rowland

Appalachian Fair’s Got Talent – Division II (ages 18+)

1st place – Hunter Patterson

2nd place – Sabrina Hess

3rd place – Kandice Moser

Researchers ask the question: ‘Who was Rhea Wells?’

This self-portrait shows a young Wells.


Associate Editor

Who was Rhea Wells? That was the guiding question for Brenda G’Fellers and Kristin Pearson of the Bristol Public Library as they researched local artist and children’s book author Rhea Wells (1891-1962). As explained in their History Happy Hour presentation titled “Rhea Wells of Jonesborough, Artist, Author, Actor, Soldier, Philanthropist” on Thursday, Aug. 16, at the Chester Inn, he was “well-known, yet reclusive.”

G’Fellers said, “Rhea tended to be protective of his private life even as a public figure.” Biographical research of events in Jonesborough, Alabama, New York and Europe presented a challenge for the two researchers in a project that began in 2015.

G’Fellers explained the reasons for taking on the task. “He was very successful. A man who endowed the town’s library deserves recognition.” She was working on a post-graduate degree at the University of Tennessee when she first began the research.

Approximately 25 people attended their power-point and lecture presentation that would have been instructive to any individual interested in genealogy. Pearson and G’Fellers skillfully used census records, city directories, a draft registration, a master’s thesis written at East Tennessee State University, publishers’ materials and newspapers, including an obituary from the Herald & Tribune. In their research, archival materials were discovered in both the states of Arkansas and Oregon.

This house on Main Street in downtown Jonesborough was once Rhea Wells home.

Rhea was born in Jonesborough on Sept. 24, 1891, the son of Rufus and Lida Wells. The Wells family was well-known in the community and his mother, Mrs. Lida Simpson Wells, became the first president of the Schubert Club in 1898. The Schubert Club celebrated music, art, and literature. It continues in Jonesborough today. He spent part of his childhood growing up at 703 West Main Street in a house named Rose Hill.

Wells was surrounded by art and literature on the family’s small farm in Jonesborough. In The Junior Book of Authors (published 1951), Rhea described his early art, saying: “When I began to go to school most of my writing paper was used for drawing. These drawings, as I remember them, had little, if any, merit. A few years later I began to paint. My mother still preserves some of those efforts of my early adolescence. They are deplorably bad. It was not the quality of my work that interested me, it was the work itself.”

The Wells family, according to the researchers, was “moderately wealthy.”  However, they have not been able to discover why the family moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1901. Wells’ father died on Feb.15, 1903. By using census records, the researchers learned that by 1907 Rhea’s mother was remarried to Ernest G. Goldsmith. She was again widowed by 1920.

The children’s book author studied at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee and then at the Art Institute of Chicago. In her research, Pearson discovered that following his studies, Wells worked for a Birmingham newspaper for a year.  Wells moved to New York City where he participated in the professional theatre scene as a costume and scene designer. In 1917 he volunteered for the draft and served in World War I as a cook. In his draft registration form, he stated that he was supporting his mother. He was 5 foot, 5 inches tall and had brown eyes and hair. Wells was discharged from the Army in 1919 and returned to New York City.

A passport issued on June 4, 1920 provided a wealth of information, G’Fellers said. “At that time,” she told her audience, “a new passport was issued each time you left the country.”  Rhea’s passport included “his wife Mildred along with a photograph of the couple.”  The U.S. Census, Pearson said “listed Rhea as 28 years old and Mildred as 25, with his occupation stated as ‘advertising.’” Other research indicates that Mildred was a psychologist.

Further research showed Rhea Wells married Mildred Stiebel, born in New York City, on April 9, 1919.  She was a graduate of Columbia University. Her brother attended New York University and was active in the theater, which would explain (G’Fellers and Pearson believe) his later participation in theatrical productions. In 1925, he co-authored with Elizabeth Grimball a book on theater costuming.

Mildred and Rhea Wells traveled the world. Rhea ventured far and wide throughout his life from the Austrian Alps to the coast of Sicily to a village in Spain as documented in the literature he wrote. He was writing in the 1920s and 1930s, when the field of children’s literature was just developing. The travels influenced his writing, and his first children’s book, “Peppi the Duck” (published 1927), was set in the small town of Tyrol in the Austrian Alps.

He published nine books, six animal biographies  – “Peppi the Duck,” “Beppo the Donkey,” “Ali the Camel,”  “Coco the Goat,”  “Zeke the Raccoon,” and “Andy and Polly.” He wrote two stories about Washington County, “An American Farm” and “Judy, Grits, and Honey.” The books don’t directly say that’s where they’re set, but they were definitely influenced by his childhood in Jonesborough. Wells also illustrated for other authors. His work continued through the early 1940s. He carefully renewed his copyrights, the first of which expires in 2025.

Pearson said “Changes in Rhea’s life in the 1930s were sad. Mildred died in 1934. Her occupation at the time of her death is listed as ‘housewife.’ She is buried in Fresh Pond Cemetery. In the 1940 U.S. Census, Rhea is listed as ‘single.’”

While living in New York City, the children’s book author and illustrator  also kept in touch with the people in Jonesborough. After a career writing and publishing children’s literature, he retired to Jonesborough in 1940. He lived at the Chester Inn for five years, ironically the site of the August lecture. Later he moved to a home in town on Second Avenue. 

While living in town, he visited the Library Service Department at ETSU at least once a year to lecture on children’s literature. He appeared on local TV programs, like “Talk Time,” and he directed a play called “The Nativity” at Jonesboro High School.

There are several unfinished manuscripts written by Rhea Wells in the collection at the Jonesborough Library. He did most of his painting before returning to Jonesborough. Once he returned home, he advocated for children’s literature and libraries with the observation “You cannot learn to read from a computer – you learn to read from a book.”

During the time he returned to Jonesborough, several residents remember visiting Wells. The late Alfred Greenlee followed Rhea’s advice to purchase a home. As a Jonesborough town employee involved in installing water pipes and mains, per Wells’ suggestion, Greenlee omitted writing down the exact location of his work. Wells told Greenlee, who began his town employment digging ditches and retired as superintendent of the Water Department, that it would be hard to discharge him if the town did not know where their mains and pipes were located. G’Fellers also said Wells encouraged Greenlee to get his high school diploma. Since the races were segregated and Jonesborough lacked a high school, he had to travel to Johnson City where he attended Langston High School.

Local resident John Lyle calls Wells “our unsung hero of Jonesborough and a very generous man.” Lyle would visit Rhea to talk about German art after World War I.  He said, “If I had something in art history class, I would go and talk to Rhea. We discussed a number of artists. I saw him just before he died at the Veterans Administration at Mountain Home.”

Wells passed away on March 7, 1962. His body was donated to the University of Tennessee Medical College in Memphis and later his remains were buried there.  In his will, he left his home to the Town of Jonesborough for use as a public library. The rest of his estate was left for the maintenance of the library.

Inspired by her research G’Fellers has written a children’s book titled “Rhea Wells: Boy of Jonesborough.”

G’Fellers said, “He was the beginning of children’s literature. We have gathered enough material in our research to write a comprehensive adult version of the Life of Rhea Wells.”   

New Chester Inn exhibit showcases ‘The Great Outdoors’

A camp photo, apparently taken at Clark’s Creek in Washington County in 1904, shows a number of unidentified campers.  If any reader of the Herald & Tribune recognizes any of the campers, they are asked to contact the Heritage Alliance at (423)753-4580 or by email at


Associate Editor

Camping, hiking, swimming and experiencing the beauty of this Appalachian Region are the subject of a recently opened exhibit at the Chester Inn Museum titled “The Great Outdoors.”  The display cases at the museum contain camping items and photographs beginning in the 1890s and continuing through 1920.

“In the late 1800s and early 1900s people started to have more free time and money to spend,” said Joe Spiker, head docent at the museum. Spiker assembled the exhibit. “There was a push to get out of the larger cities in the northeast and explore this area. Many visitors were of middle- and upper-class families, including the Vanderbilt family who constructed Biltmore in Asheville. But there were also local residents who enjoyed outdoor recreation as well.”

The items on display are from the Heritage Alliance collection consisting largely of items from native Jonesborough conservationist and historian Paul M. Fink (1892-1980).  They were acquired by James Thompson, a Jonesborough resident, from Miriam Fink.  Thompson was a long-time friend of Paul’s. All of the items were used by Fink.

Spiker said, “His two big legacies were outdoor conservation and history.”  Fink researched regional history and for a time wrote a column for the Herald & Tribune titled “DID YOU KNOW?”  containing interesting bits of local stories.  His publications include  “Early Explorers in the Great Smokies” (1933); “The Nomenclature of the Great Smoky Mountains” (1937) and more. He was the author of many articles on campcraft in such magazines as Field and Stream and Outdoor Life.

Fink was a leader in the movement that led to the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains Park.  He served as a member of the board of managers of the Appalachian Trail Conference (1925-1949) and helped establish the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee. He was the recipient of the Tennessee Conservation League’s Z. Carter Patten Award in 1973.

One of the more fascinating displays in the exhibit is a canvas tent used by Fink and his friends that features handwritten information on much of its exterior.  One side of the tent can be seen in the museum’s exhibits featuring its name, details about their camp plus several amusing inside jokes.

The legends read: “The Hotel Whangbird, Whangbird Chim, Proprietor – Reasonable rates, American Plan: Somewhere in the mountains, here today gone tomorrow.  ‘Where the Whangbird goeth not, neither does the buzzard or the storm.’”

The other side of the tent features two columns of various peaks, trails and points of interest that Fink hiked including several mountains and their elevations.  Most of the trails are in the Southern Appalachians and part of what is now the Appalachian Trail.  Some of the peaks listed are Celo, Black Mountain, Balsam Cone, Mitchell, Roan, Cherokee, Unaka and Big Bald.

A camp photo apparently taken at Clark’s Creek in Washington County in 1904 shows a number of campers.  They are not identified. If any reader of the Herald & Tribune recognizes any of the campers they are asked to contact Spiker at (423) 753-4580 or by email at

Spiker said he put together “The Great Outdoors” collection when he found enough items “that tell a story. One of my personal areas of interest was how people spent their free time. Over 100 years ago people were becoming more recreational than ever. This (1890s-1920s) is when hobbies like camping really took off. At the same time, people including Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, were promoting conservation.”

As president, Roosevelt created five national parks (doubling the previously existing number); signed the landmark Antiquities Act and used its special provisions to unilaterally create 18 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon; set aside 51 federal bird sanctuaries, four national game refuges, and more than 100 million acres’ worth of national forests.

As proof of camping’s attraction, the exhibit contains several advertisements from a 1914 supplement that accompanied the Abercrombie and Fitch catalog that was geared specifically toward outdoor recreation customers. The company located in New York City said it was “The Greatest Sporting Store in the World.” The Chester Inn display also includes a L. L Bean Pneumatic Air Mattress made in the early 1900s. There is also a 1908 Sears catalog in the Heritage Alliance collection with camping items. 

A  Boy Scout Axe and Sheath were advertised in the supplement for $1.  They weighed a total of 2 ½ pounds.  A Matchless Justrite Carbide Lamp – The Newest Lamp on the Market – sold for $1.25.  Both items are on display in the museum.

Canvas bags and knapsacks were often used on hiking and camping trips for storing and carrying items. The most curious item in the display is a homemade piece of equipment consisting of two boards – one with a compass inset, the other covered with string around it – and a chart that indicates the distance covered by the number of paces taken.  When used together they could possibly keep track of distance and direction during hiking or mountaineering trips.  Also in the exhibit are a number of pots and pans used for cooking and a canteen dated in 1918 along with a drinking cup.   

Besides camping and hiking, the museum also has a photographic collection of people swimming.  As indicated in a legend with the pictures: “Before citizens swam at Wetlands, they used swimming holes. One of the most popular was known as ‘Sally Hole’ on Clark’s Creek.  . . Jonesborough residents would state that the ghost of Sally stayed in the area waiting to grab others who got in the swimming hole.”

Docent Spiker said he expects the display will be at the museum through at least the month of September.  The Chester Inn Museum is open during the months of May through October from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday, Wednesdays and Saturdays and from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sundays. 

Center to hold auditions for premiere of a new play

Auditions are now open for the senior center’s play “We Were So Young” and you could be a part of it.


The Jonesborough Senior Center will host auditions for a new, original play based on the stories collected from members of the Jonesborough Senior Center. The play, “We Were So Young,” produced through support from the Town of Jonesborough and Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts, features dozens of true-life stories about the extraordinary people from this community.

The play is written by the McKinney Center’s outreach program director, Jules Corriere, who wrote last year’s play, “Not All That I Carry.”

It will be directed by Lucas Schmidt, actor and director from the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.

The auditions will take place September 11 and 12, from 2-5 p.m. at the Senior Center. Please be prepared to possibly do cold readings from the play. Rehearsals will take place at the Senior Center on Wednesday and Friday afternoons during regular business hours.  Roles are being sought for senior actors and actresses and there are some roles for children and young people. This experience is an ideal opportunity for home schooled children to participate in a theatrical production.

The stories in the play include a young woman and her husband who served overseas at Okinawa during Vietnam, and the difficult days they faced in the aftermath of the TET Offensive; a young teacher and her students caught in the difficult days of the Pittston Miners Strike; a family who loses their mountain view while still living in the same home; and other exciting, often perilous adventures during the Cold War Era.

The play will open at the Jonesborough Senior Center at noon on Nov. 15 for its’ members, and performed for the general public Nov.16-17 at 6 p.m..

To sign up to audition or to find out more information, contact Shawn Hale at the Jonesborough Senior Center at (423)753-4852. The Jonesborough Senior Center is located at 307 East Main Street in Jonesborough.

Jonesborough Repertory Theater kicks off season

New shows are coming up this year for the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.


Staff Writer

Another season of standout performances by local actors and actresses at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is creeping closer every day.

This season’s lineup will feature three premieres, one of which will be a world premiere, a first for the JRT.

The artistic director for the JRT, Jennifer Ross, recently provided a glimpse of the shows this season.

  • “Disney’s Newsies”, Aug. 17–Sept. 9 – “Opening this Friday Aug. 17. This is a wonderful, family-friendly show,” Ross said “There was a movie first, then they made it into a Broadway play, both of which were very successful. It’s based on a true story, based on an event that happened when the newspaper boys went on strike. But the dancing and singing on the stage is filled with 25 amazingly talented kids that are playing the newsies. And we have probably 15 adults. It’s a huge cast. The dancing and choreography is brilliant and they’re doing stunts and all kinds of things and the set is just genius. Carol Huie is our new set designer and it’s great. Lindy Ley is our choreographer and Janette Gaines is the director. Newsies is a premiere for this area, never been done.”

• “The Fantasticks”, Sept. 20-30 – “It’s a small musical, only eight people,” according to Ross. “But that’s the longest running musical off-Broadway in the history of Broadway – in New York. It’s funny and sweet and we’re running that two weekends in September, the last two weekends.”

• “The Wild Women of Winedale”, Oct. 26-Nov. 11 – “We’re doing a world premiere,” Ross said excitedly. “Several stories about the wild sisters and they chose JRT to premiere their play. The playwrights will be flying in (from New York) and we open that show Friday, Oct. 26. It’s brilliant because from this point on every script will have Jonesborough Repertory Theatre, the town of Jonesborough will be in every script and our actors will be in there for everyone that performs their show around the world. That’s a first for us. And the playwrights are (Jessie) Jones, (Nicholas) Hope and (Jamie) Wooten.  It’s a comedy, a non-musical, and it is hilarious. And that will run for three weekends.”

• “USO Christmas Show”, Dec. 6-16 – “We open the first weekend in December, and this will be our 15th (USO) show,” Ross shared.  “And that’s with a live band, and it’s to honor our military. One of the shows will be a benefit for ‘Honor Flight.’ “                                                                                                                          

• “The Miracle Worker”, Jan. 25-Feb. 10 – “The true life story of Helen Keller,” Ross said. “In this play Keller is a child and she is deaf and blind. Her parents hire a teacher, Annie Sullivan, her parents realize she is very smart but this is the 1800’s and they don’t know how to help her so they hire Sullivan. And she moves in with them and she is able to teach Helen sign language. We did the preview gala last week and the little girl that played Helen Keller was brilliant. You would never have known that she could see or hear. People were moved to tears because her portrayal was so genius.”

• “Shrek”, March 21-Feb 10 – “We did (Shrek) five years ago, and it’s a musical and it’s wonderful. Hilarious. And we’re bringing Shrek back.”

• “Harvey”, May 10-26 – “Classic comedy … Jimmy Stewart was in it (the movie). It’s about Elwood P. Dowd, and he has a friend who’s a large, invisible rabbit named Harvey,” Ross said. “It’s a classic and it’s hilarious. We did a scene from that show for the kickoff and people were laughing hysterically, because he sees this rabbit and has his portrait made with him. Anyways, he’s a giant rabbit.”

• “Mamma Mia”, June 21-July 14 – “We close out the season with another premiere for this area,” Ross said. “It is gonna be like a tidal wave. People want to see that show. Listen, the audience was on their feet when we did it at the preview gala, cheering. Because it’s the music of ABBA, from the Seventies. And it’s just so much fun. We had platform boots, the men came out with the Elvis jumpsuits. It was wonderful.”

“That’s our season, and it’s going to be remarkable,” Ross added, “We are really, really looking forward to it.”

While the JRT has many talented actors currently in the fold, Ross was impressed with the performances of the younger actors and actresses.

“We have so many talented students in our program, they’re unbelievable. Right now, we have probably 120 kids just in musical theater. I think next semester we’ll add another class because there’s a waiting list of students.”

So as the JRT begins the season, there will be no reason to worry about it’s future performances, as the future is already well represented.   

For information about tickets or show dates and times, call (423) 753-1010 or visit

Students to say ‘hello’ to reading program

Teachers gathered at Lamar Elementary School to learn about the new reading program.


Staff Writer

Last week, Washington County teachers were the ones sitting behind a desk ready to learn about a new reading program in Washington County.

Three Washington County Schools are saying “hello” to Vello, which is a virtual reading program that allows students to read an online book to a volunteer each week in order to improve a student’s reading proficiency. Thanks to United Way’s Washington County chapter, the program will be implemented this school year in two second-grade classrooms at Lamar Elementary, two at South Central Elementary and one at West View Elementary.

United Way President and CEO Kristan Ginnings said Vello was a program the group wanted to implement in order to address the needs of the community head on. And in her mind, helping young students build their reading skills was at the top of that list.

“I know where reading scores are,” Ginnings said. “That’s something that really changes a child’s life, if we can get them reading proficiently by third grade. My goal is to get our teachers extra resources to get those kids reading proficiently before they reach third grade.”

Ginnings said the group raised $25,000 from generous donors within the past four months for the program. Those funds went directly towards implementing the program in five classrooms throughout three Washington County Schools as well as five classrooms at Mountain View Elementary School in Johnson City.

Ginnings teamed up with Valley of the Sun United Way National Director Reid DeSpiegelaere to show Washington County teachers how to use the online reading program in their classroom. While going over the logistics of Vello, DeSpiegelaere said the program not only boosts student reading skills, but it offers a new way of impacting what a child thinks of reading while also offering a new way to volunteer in schools.

“We said, ‘We’ve got to change how volunteers engage with schools.’ It’s hard for volunteers to get to a school, walk in your door, not be disruptive but also help kids with their reading,” DeSpiegelaere said. “So how do we break down that barrier for volunteers? We’ve got to help teachers and volunteers and then we’ve gotta make sure the kids are having an impact on their reading — that we grow their love of learning, that they have a caring adult besides (a teacher) who is invested in them.”

So where do these volunteers come from? Throughout the community, companies can adopt a classroom where a team of 10 to 20 people from the organization can prepare to become a tutor after completing a background check, self-guided training and self-scheduling on the Vello portal. Then, the volunteers can go on to read with a student for 30 minutes a week throughout the year.

Ginnings said that companies like CitiGroup, BrightRidge and the Johnson City Chamber have already signed up to adopt a classroom.

“I think it’s important for the kids and the volunteers because the kids are not only getting help with their schools, but they’re getting a mentor and a friend to really help them because they may not have that at home,” Ginnings said. “ But it’s important for the volunteers because it shows that they’re actually making a difference in these children’s’ lives, no matter how busy they are in the work force.”

Volunteers are able to connect to the program through their work computer or smartphone where they can connect with students through screen sharing and audio. Once a student puts on a set of headphones and logs on, they are able to pick out an online book to read to their volunteer from the community.

“What happens during these sessions are obviously reading,” DeSpiegelaere said, “but also a relationship is built. Kids get a confidence boost and they get this social, emotional growth.”

The local chapter is the first group to implement the reading program in a Tennessee school system. Ginnings also said the group hopes to add the program to every second grade classroom in Washington County and Johnson City Schools.

With these hands: Heritage Alliance, McKinney Center partner in play’s return

Mike Da Vella, Ashton D’Avella and Jules Corriere, back row, and Dana Kehs and Alexis Shearin, front row, rehearse ‘With These Hands,’ stories of Jonesborough’s history to be presented by the Heritage Alliance and McKinney Center.



The hands of the Heritage Alliance are reaching out once again. Only this time, they are linked in purpose with those of the McKinney Center, and the resulting play, “With These Hands,” may be even better than ever.

“We loved this show so much when we did this in 2016,” said Anne G’Fellers Mason during a recent rehearsal for the upcoming revival of “With These Hands,” which will take stage at the McKinney Center Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3 and 4. “But it was just a one and one thing and the actors had worked so hard and there were more stories to tell.

“This is now the full-realized version of this play.”

With Mike D’Avella always hovering nearby as the cast’s magician of history, Anne Mason shows off some of the arcival photos that will be a feature of the play.

Written by Mason and directed by the McKinney Center’s Jules Corriere, “With These Hands” will once again highlight key moments in Jonesborough and Washington County’s history, from the Civil War to the building of the Jonesborough Courthouse.

It also features some of Jonesborough’s best known residents, including town historians Paul Fink and Miriam Fink-Dulaney, as well as stories that might not, as yet, have been shared with a wide audience.

“I love the fact that there is such a diversity of stories,” Corriere said. “We’re hearing from people who might have been left out of the history books but who lived here and contributed to the community here, despite their class or the color of their skin.”

Both the original play, as well as the new additions, took some work, Mason acknowledges.

“We have stories as old as the Civil War and others from as recently as the 1970s,” she said. “Some stories you know a whole lot. With others, it’s just a kernel and you want to know more.

“It’s the truth as close as you can get it, not only the person but also the time period.”

Bringing the stories inside has also meant some changes.

“We always wanted to bring “With These Hands” back, but with an indoor setting,” Mason said. “An outdoor setting is beautiful, but it has its limitations.”

Now, she said, thanks to so many historic pieces, the play has a brand-new dimension.

For example, Corriere said, “We’ve got archival photographs, and as different things are happening and are being talked about on the show, we are actually able to bring you back in time and show you what things looked like.”

Of course, all this Jonesborough time travel could not work without a cast of excellent actors, according to Corriere, many who are returning to their roles from 2016.

“I am back because it is in me to tell these stories and be a part of it,” explained Dana Kehs, who not only was one of the stars of the first production, but has also created many of the historically accurate costumes to be worn. Kehs again shares the stage with Alexis Shearin, portraying two friends on opposite sides of the Civil War, yet trying to maintain their bonds.

“It’s the sense of what people think are insurmountable, is not. Before us, our forefathers had so much more to overcome and they did.”

These are real people, Kehs added. And they prove that Jonesborough can survive.

Mike D’Avella, who is returning as the town magician who leads the audience on a magical journey with the help of his son and apprentice, Ashton D’Avella, agrees.

“What really draws me is the interweaving of historical stories that draws us back to things we all go through,” he said. You see what people have survived in the past.”

Things may be inconvenient right now,” he said, “but certainly not insurmountable compared to what has been overcome.”

For many, coming back to “With These Hands” was also about re-establishing connections that had meant so much one summer day in 2016.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said 12-year-old Ashton D’Avella, who is enjoying his own “back story” as he works with his dad. “So I’m thinking he’s more like the person who does the cheap parlor tricks, and I’m actually the real magician,” he shared with a grin.

Alexis Shearin fell in love with the cast in 2016 and was excited to be back. “I cleared everything to make sure I was able to come back. Especially with our scene, ‘With These Hands’ really shows you can believe different things completely and you can still work together and be friends. You can still love one another not matter what your decisions.”

Performances for ‘With These Hands’ will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3and 4. There will be also be a 2 p.m. matinée performance on Saturday, Aug. 4. Tickets are $20 and proceeds benefit both the Heritage Alliance and the McKinney Center. Tickets may be purchased in advance and at the door of the show, depending upon availability. To purchase tickets, please call the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center at (423) 753-1010. Tickets can also be purchased online at

Scoop Fest returns to Tennessee’s oldest town


Scoop Fest is returning to Tennessee’s Oldest Town on Saturday, August 11 from 4 to 7 p.m. The event will offer a variety of over 30 flavors of ice cream to sample throughout Main Street shops and eateries along with family-friendly activities for all. Tastings include flavors that range from traditional to unexpectedly delicious and everything in between!

Ice cream tastings aren’t all you can experience; a variety of activities will also be available. The McKinney Center will be hosting their Popsicle Pop In Open House, where you can join in on hands-on activities, arts and crafts, demonstrations and even hip-hop auditions. While you’re downtown, look for their booth and grab a flyer, take it up to the Popsicle Pop In Open House at the McKinney Center and receive a free popsicle while experiencing all the art classes they have to offer for their upcoming semester.

The Jonesborough Elementary and Middle Schools will also be offering some fun literacy activities, a book drive and a book give-away for children of all ages to promote their “Tell a Story, Read a Story, Share a Story” Initiative.

Ticket packs are available in increments of 15 tickets for $10.00. Each tasting will require one ticket. It is recommended to purchase tickets online as there will be a limited amount of tickets available.

For more information on Scoop Fest or to purchase tickets, visit the event on Facebook or go to You can also call the Visitors Center at 423.753.1010. This event is sponsored by Blue Bell Creameries and Jonesborough Area Merchants and Services Association.

Storyteller to share historical tales

Carolina Quiroga-Stultz will present historical stories and traditional folklore tales  in Jonesborough next week.


Dynamic young talent Carolina Quiroga-Stulz, whose storytelling career jumpstarted in 2012 when she left her home country of Colombia to move to East Tennessee, will soon be showcased in an extended storytelling concert series in Jonesborough.

Her live performances will be hosted by the International Storytelling Center (ISC) as part of its Storytelling Live! series. ISC will also bring a new storyteller to its downtown center each week through the end of October.

Quiroga-Stulz originally moved to the U.S. for ETSU’s renowned Master’s in Communication and Storytelling program. A fast-rising star in her field, she was awarded the Outstanding Performer of the Year prize by the university in 2014, and earned the J.J. Reneaux Emerging Artist Grant from the National Storytelling Network in 2015.

Now based in Texas, the teller performed at her first National Storytelling Festival just last year, where she was well received at the Exchange Place.

As a young professional in Colombia, Quiorga-Stulz began her career as an engineer. Her first move into a more creative field came early on, when she became a graphic designer—but ultimately, she wanted more artistic freedom. “Most of my career, I worked as a graphic designer promoting cultural events,” she said. “I got to meet a lot of artists while I was doing all that. As I met these artists from different fields, I kept telling myself I love putting it all together, but I want to be the person on stage. That’s when I made the decision that I needed a break. I needed to do something different, and then I figured out how to get there.”

The storyteller’s blend of historical stories and traditional folklore has drawn wide acclaim. Quiorga-Stulz feels a deep connection between fact and fiction as it’s expressed through history and folk tales, which serve a similar function. “To me, history explains who we are, where we are heading, and what we should or shouldn’t be doing,” she says. Folk tales, of course, do exactly the same thing.

The performer’s residency runs Tuesday to Saturday, July 31 – August 4, with daily shows at 2 p.m. All performances are in ISC’s Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall.

Tickets for all matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. All ticketholders can present their ticket stubs for a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at Main Street Café (lunch only); Medley Vegan Vegetarian; Olde Towne Pancake House; and The Corner Cup. Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and 5 percent off any other purchase.

Information about all performers, as well as a detailed schedule (including after-dark concerts and one-time workshops) for the 2018 season, is available at

The premier sponsor of Storytelling Live! is Ballad Health. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Niswonger Foundation, Eastman Credit Union, and Food City. Media sponsors include News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Herald & Tribune, and Cumulus Media.

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276.

Storyteller to bring the comedy

Storyteller and comedian Don White will bring his talents to Jonesborough.


People don’t always think of folk music and stand-up comedy as two forms that go hand-in-hand. “Folkies” tend to be on the earnest side, where comedians are a little more, well, sarcastic.

But a deeper look reveals that the songs and the jokes share the same subversive roots—and, of course, both art forms are connected by story.

Perhaps that explains the feeling that storyteller, songwriter, and stand-up comedian Don White had the first time he attended the National Storytelling Festival, where he felt at home right away. The event tied together his different identities as a performer in a totally new way.

“I’m fairly accomplished in the music world, but I’ve never had a weekend like I had down there in Jonesborough,” White says.

“I felt like I found my tribe—that I had found a community who loves storytelling as much as I do. I can’t believe I didn’t know it was there.”

White, who’s played guitar since he was eight years old, has long been a recognizable name in the music industry, having played with the likes of blues legend Taj Mahal. He’s newer to the world of storytelling, but it has familiar echoes. White’s a dedicated fan of folk musician Arlo Guthrie (who he’s opened for in concert), whose recordings frequently featured stories as often as the songs.

“He would talk for the whole side of an album, and he made it seem so easy and normal that I thought everybody could do it,” White says. “Later, after I got to know him and work with him a little bit, I realized that he was the only one doing it. I was just too stupid to know that.”

White will bring his blend of storytelling, music, and comedy to Jonesborough as the next performer for the Storytelling Live! series. Curated by the International Storytelling Center, Storytelling Live! brings a different world-class storyteller to town each week through the end of October.

White’s residency will run Tuesday to Saturday, July 24 – 28, with daily shows at 2 p.m. All performances are in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall.

Tickets for all matinee shows are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. All ticketholders can present their ticket stubs for a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at Main Street Café (lunch only); Medley Vegan Vegetarian; Olde Towne Pancake House; and The Corner Cup. Boone Street Market is offering 10 percent off prepared meals and 5 percent off any other purchase.

Information about all performers, as well as a detailed schedule (including after-dark concerts and one-time workshops) for the 2018 season, is available at

The premier sponsor of Storytelling Live! is Ballad Health. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Niswonger Foundation, Eastman Credit Union, and Food City. Media sponsors include News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Herald & Tribune, and Cumulus Media.

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276.

Splish Splash: Wetlands continues to cool in record numbers

When the weather gets hot, Jonesborough families head to Wetlands.


Staff Writer

If the blazing temperatures the region has experienced recently are too hot to handle, a visit to Wetlands Water Park at Persimmon Ridge will most certainly ease the suffering.

While temperatures have been in the 90s over the past few weeks, business at the park has been booming.

“Our first Saturday in June we set a record here,” Wetlands Water Park Director Matt Townsend said recently. “The following weekend we set a three-day record.

“We beat our June month this year (over) last year, and that’s even with those four days of rain we’ve had.”

Wetlands Water Park has offered summer fun for over 20 years and is still cooling off Washington County citizens.

Wetlands, which will soon be 25 years old, saw just under 1,400 visitors on that record-setting Saturday. And while the crowds have descended on the park over the past month, this year has been rain-soaked.

“We’ve had a lot of rain. I want to say we’ve seen rain at least 12 days. It’s been a battle with the weather this year. But the good thing is that the good weather has been fantastic. It’s been 90 (degrees). Just crazy.”

Townsend recommends getting to the park early if you plan on coming, as the chairs tend to get snagged quickly. He also recommends bringing sunscreen and floaties for the little ones.

Wetlands offers swimming lessons for those interested, with one session left this summer.

The final session is from Monday, July 16, to Thursday, July 19. There are a limited number of slots available. Those who are interested should contact Wetlands Water Park at (423) 753-1553. The cost is $60 per session.

Season passes are an option along with daily passes, and private parties at the facility are available.

“We do after hours parties from 6 to 8 p.m., after we close down,” Townsend said.

“They bring a bunch of their own things, they bring their people in. They can bring in food. All we do is supply the pool and the aquatic staff.

“We (could) keep the café open for them but it tends to be cheaper for them if they just bring their own stuff in.”

One such special event was “Praise by the Pool”.

“It’s a $3 night. And that’s geared towards vacation Bible schools,” the director said.

The event, was held on Sunday, July 8.

Another July special event is “Fun for all Friday” on July 27. The pool will extend its hours from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. and a movie will play at 8:45 p.m. at Persimmon Ridge Ballfield.

Wetlands Water Park will be open with regular hours until Washington County schools begin. Beginning Aug. 5, the park will be open only on weekends. The park closes Sept. 3.

Other services offered by the park are a full service café, lockers for rent, shower/restroom facilities and tube rentals. Some of the water-park related rides include a lazy river, a rain tree and 80 foot, 100 foot and 200 foot fiberglass slides.

While there are plenty of features to keep your attention, there are fully trained lifeguards that keep their attention on the patrons.

“They’re American Red Cross Certified Lifeguards, which is a five day course they have to go through. Anyone that works on our slides, they’re all CPR and first aid supervisors,” Townsend said.

“So everyone out on the pool has some kind of first aid training in case anyone needs anything.”

He added that the average of “saves” per day is just under three, but that there have been no major safety incidents.

“We have a lot of smaller kids that come here. It’s usually just inexperienced swimmers. They get out in the deep end and they lose track of where they are and they panic.”

Townsend, who is in his seventh full year as director of the water park, is also the Assistant Parks and Rec Director for the Town of Jonesborough. He helps out with activities downtown as well as Little League and youth soccer.

Asked what his one wish is for the park, he responded,

”A retractable dome. That way if it rained, we would stay open and everyone would be happy.”

Normal business hours for Wetlands Water Park are Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Half-priced tickets go on sale at 3 p.m.  Information is available at (423) 753-1553.

History Happy Hour to take a look at woodworking

Woodworker Curtis Buchanan is famous for his beautifully designed furniture.


“It takes ten generations to learn something, and one generation to forget it.”

This quote is applicable to many things, but chairmaker Curtis Buchanan applies it specifically to woodworking tools and techniques. Buchanan will be speaking about 18th and 19th century woodworking tools and techniques and the utilitarian items they produced at History Happy Hour’s program on Thursday, July 19, at 6:30 p.m. The program is usually held at the Chester Inn Museum, but this program will be held next door at the Christopher Taylor House, weather permitting.

The program is free and open to the public.

Buchanan is a world renowned chairmaker with a shop in Jonesborough. For more than 30 years Buchanan has produced chairs that have been displayed in the Chester Inn, the Tennessee State Museum, the Tennessee Governor’s Mansion, and Monticello, among other places. He also offers classes, instructional videos, and has made numerous contributions to the field of chairmaking. More info about Buchanan and his workshop can be found on his website at

History Happy Hour is a collaborative program that features speakers and researchers from various local organizations, museums, and schools. Presenters for 2018 include independent researchers, National Park Service rangers, professors, and museum professionals from across the region. The programs are on the 3rd Thursday each month at 6:30 p.m. 

For more information on the Chester Inn Museum, History Happy Hour, or the Heritage Alliance please call our office at (423) 753.9580 or the Chester Inn Museum at (423) 753-4580.  You can also contact the organization via email at  Additional information about the Heritage Alliance and its mission can be found online at Be sure to follow the Chester Inn and Heritage Alliance Facebook pages for updates about events at the Chester Inn and other Heritage Alliance programs.

Veterinarian gives back with K-9 Unit protection

Veterinarian Catrina Herd with Sgt. Stocky and Deputy Kenneth Harless.


Staff Writer

Jonesborough native Catrina Herd returned to her hometown Friday for many reasons — but her favorite reason is a furry, four-legged member of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit who goes by the name of “Sgt. Stocky.”

Stocky tries on his new bulletproof vest.

Herd donated and delivered a bulletproof vest to Stocky at the WCSO to protect the German shepherd while he’s on duty with his handler, Deputy Kenneth Harless. But the donation wasn’t at random; Herd — a veterinarian who now owns her own practice, Animal House Veterinary Clinic, in Nashville — met Stocky and Harless prior to the donation. She said she knew then that she wanted to donate a vest to her new canine friend.

“They were so helpful and just kind and I got to meet the dog,” Herd said. “When I found out they had a new dog that needed a vest, I just thought it’s a no-brainer because I have the means to buy a vest and protect a dog. And I think that’s a pretty good thing to be able to do.”

Stocky is one of six dogs in the WCSO K-9 Unit. The unit had five bullet proof vests before the donation, leaving one dog unprotected.

Now, thanks to Herd’s generosity, each of the unit’s furry friends are protected and ready to hit the streets.

For Harless, however, the donation doesn’t just mean another member of the WCSO family is protected — now his best friend and partner in crime is safe while on duty, along with the rest of the unit.

Harless and his K-9 partner are now ready to hit the streets.

“It means a lot,” Harless said. “Not only has she protected my partner if something happens, but I’m giving his old vest to the new guy so now his partner is protected. Now every dog at the sheriff’s office is protected so if we have any situation, we can take care of it.”

And the WCSO K-9 Unit “takes care of” a lot; Stocky is certified in obedience, tracking, narcotic detection, article search, area search, building search and handler protection.

But for Herd, donating the vest wasn’t just about equipping Stocky with protection and giving back; she also said one of the areas in which Stocky is trained is one that is of most importance to her. And it’s an issue she hopes improves in her hometown.

“I’ve lost a lot of family members to drug addiction,” Herd said.

“So drugs on the street, that problem is really close to my heart. And of course I love animals, so what better could I do than to protect him so he can get more drugs off the street and protect our kids.”

Harless said Stocky is trained to pick up scents from marijuana, heroin, cocaine and meth. He also said there have been numerous instances when Stocky has discovered those drugs and he’s also been helpful in capturing escaped felons.

His training isn’t just a one-time thing; by state law, Stocky and Harless must complete 16 hours of training each month.

Stocky however, received his second certification in Meridian, Mississippi where he and Harless placed in the top five of the 21 canines competing in drug and narcotic tracking.

“So he’s good on his tracking,” Harless said.

Herd said she specifically wanted to donate the vest to her new friend, Stocky.

For her generosity, WCSO presented Herd with each of the WCSO K-9’s baseball trading cards, complete with their handler’s names, certifications and background information, assembled in a shadow box as a token of gratitude.

The shadow box now serves as a reminder of the good work done in her hometown and the good work waiting ahead to be done in the lives of animals and their owners.

“(Having a dog) changes your life,” Herd said. “I just love helping these animal because I can help them, but it helps people too. That’s why I love what I do.”

New event kicks off with family fun, country artists

Soldiers enjoy the show in honor of their service.


The first Hometown Heroes event took place on Saturday, June 30, at the Johnson City Mall. Hundreds of people attended to honor veterans, first responders and military personnel. The Johnson City Mall collaborated with 96.9 WXBQ, U.S Army, and East Tennessee State University Office of Veterans Affairs to produce this event.

Kelly Roberts, marketing director of the Johnson City Mall, told the Herald and Tribune that the event was “family friendly” and was a “day full of all kinds of things.” Many businesses and vendors attended such as Johnson City Brewing Co., Niswonger Children’s Hospital, Hometrust Bank, Baxtor Real Estate Co., Caribbean Grill and more. There were also inflatables for the children.

Michael Ray entertains.

Stage presentations throughout the day included the Forever 21 Red, White and Blue Fashion Show, Olson’s Martial Arts, and crowd favorites Michael Tyler and Michael Ray. Tyler is a new country songwriter and artist. He told the Herald and Tribune he grew up “hunting, fishing, and riding four-wheelers” in a small town of about 2,000 people. He said if he could have one thing for fans to remember about him it would be “how good they felt at one of my shows.”

Michael Tyler sings his thanks to the crowd.

He also shared a special message for local Hometown Heroes. “There is nothing we can say or do to make up for what they done” Tyler said. “I just want to say thank you all so much.”

Michael Ray is a well-known country artist. His songs can frequently be heard on 96.9 WXBQ. He too  grew up in a small town, he said,  and “played at a lot of festivals around town with my grandfather.” Ray said his “middle class hardworking” family was very supportive and “kept a guitar in my hand when I was a kid.” Ray said he would like to thank our Hometown Heroes “for putting all on the line and doing it for people you don’t even know.”

“We all have the same opportunities because of the men and women that fight  for us to have that,” he said.

Kids Craft show will teach youngsters business skills


Youngsters will get the chance to show off their crafting skills at this year’s “I Made It Market” at Jonesborough Days.


The 48th annual Jonesborough Days will offer an event that will teach some special lessons to kids along with a chance to capitalize on their creativity and hard work.

The McKinney Center will provide a tent and the tables necessary for kids age 8 to 14 to sell their home-made crafts to festival patrons.

The event, “I Made It Market”, will take place at Discovery Park, behind the International Storytelling Center, on Saturday, June 30 from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Main Street Director Melinda Copp said, “We are excited to learn about some of the younger members of the community and what they make and teach them some entrepreneurial skills and see what they have to offer.”

Copp said the idea initially was picked up from other communities.

“(We’ve) been trying to figure out the right time to do it and the right way to do it. So we thought ‘This is a great opportunity’ and the McKinney Center is the one that’s really made the effort to kick it off.”

According to McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons, “We do a lot of children’s art here, of course it’s what we do. Our mission is art education and so it seemed to be a good fit.

“We’ve put out a call for young makers ages 8 to 14 and we are flexible with those ages. We do have a couple of four and five-year olds that are participating. Right now, we have three to four signed up – with their parents, of course. We are looking for more.”

Hammons added that each young vendor will be required to have a guardian accompany them. Volunteers at the event will simply oversee the show. A large tent and tables will be provided, but the kids, along with their parent or guardian, will need to provide a description as well as the anticipated quantity of their product. Vendors will also be responsible for their setup, clean up and money handling.

“A parent needs to be there to oversee them and to do the money management. We won’t be doing that for them. They need to do all of that on their own,” Hammons said. “Our goal is to make well-rounded individuals and a part of that – in any profession – is to be able to understand supply and demand and how much does it cost to make your product and then how much do you need to sell it for to recover your expenses.”

So far some of the items that will be available include bath bombs, soap and small wooden signs. Items such as friendship bracelets, necklaces, slime, paintings or drawings and many other hand-crafted goods are encouraged. No food items will be allowed, however.

All earnings from the sale will go to the vendors.

While Hammons already has some volunteers for the event, she said that more volunteers would be helpful and that she could always use more volunteers. Background checks are required of all volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Skye McFarland, the Community Programs Specialist for the McKinney Center at 423-753-0562 or

Any young entrepreneur interested in selling some of their home-made crafts should call the McKinney Center at 423-753-0562 or email

School system shows gratitude for school officers

Washington County’s school resource officers were celebrated at the school system’s annual SRO Appreciation Lunch.


Staff Writer

Usually when a school resource officer is in a room full of school principals, it’s following an intense situation at a school. But on Friday, June 15, each of the county schools’ principals gathered for the district’s annual SRO appreciation lunch to celebrate the officers and to show gratitude for the men and women who serve and protect Washington County’s schools.

SROs were honored with kind words from school principals and a home-cooked meal.

Apart from offering a home-cooked meal to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department SROs, Washington County Interim Director of Schools Bill Flanary said he hoped the event expressed the system’s deep appreciation for all the officers do throughout the year — from protecting schools from intruders to building relationships with students throughout the system.

“It is our meager expression of thanks for what they do,” Flanary said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Look at all of these horrible things that are happening around the nation.’ But they are that thin blue line but it’s more than that.

When a 7-year-old girl or an 11-year-old boy can look at these officers in the hallway everyday at school and form relationships with them — for the rest of their life, they look at officers as more than just a badge and a uniform. To protect and to serve becomes something meaningful, not just writing on the side of a police car. I think it literally changes the way young people think about police officers.”

The director wasn’t the only one to notice an SROs impact; each principal took time to talk about the officer placed at their school and the difference those men and women in uniform have made within their hallways. Though the introductions of each officer included kind comments and humorous memories, a clear emphasis was placed on the seriousness of an SRO’s role in a school.

For Fall Branch Elementary School Principal Mark Merriman, the seriousness of that job was forever marked in his mind when Officer Emily Phillips’s quick reaction offered protection for everyone in the building during a lockdown situation.

“Locking down the building at Fall Branch is basically the end of the world because it’s Fall Branch and we’re in a nice quiet end of the county,” Merriman said. “Next thing I know she’s at one door and I’m at the other door. It’s just the SRO and the principal in the hall and there are six or seven sheriffs cars flying by on Highway 93.

“It’s that time that you get goosebumps and you realize it’s you and your SRO. It’s so powerful what you all do for our community. It’s times like that when the power of the principal is gone and we need that outside support.”

It was also made evident that each officer has been challenged to jump into action, which numerous principals said proved the ability and training of each officer in these schools.

“There’s not a weakness,” Daniel Boone High School Principal Tim Campbell said. “Usually in a big group, there’s a weaker one, but there’s not a weakness sitting at this table. It’s just amazing. Each time someone (threatening) shows up, like the other principals said, you all have it covered.”

The discussion also led to a call for more SROs; a few schools throughout the county share an SRO, which is something many local officials have cited as a concern.

Captain Greg Matherly addresses the call for more SROs in the school system.

WCSO Captain Greg Matherly, who is also a member of the Washington County Commission, addressed the concern at the luncheon. He said he felt that the department was close to their goal of placing an officer at each school.

“It’s very hard to share SROs,” Matherly said. “These principals right here will get in the same line I’m in and say ‘We need an SRO in every school.’ We are committed to placing SROs in each school. The most highly trained, the most dedicated and the most qualified. I know what I expect of them and I know what you expect of me and those are the only ones I’ll send.”

He also cited the time required to adequately train an SRO as something his department must consider in hiring an officer to place at a local school.

“It’s a whole different thing (being an patrol officer as compared to being a SRO). We do things differently with educators than what we do on that hot call. I have more field training officers than any other division. People say, ‘How is that?’ — it’s because I get all the good ones.”

Until the goal is met, school system and county officials all agreed that when it came to school safety, there was nothing more valuable than the protection of a dedication, well-trained officer behind the door of each school.

“We’ve had a lot of changes in our county. One of them was security.” Phillip Patrick, the school district’s maintenance supervisor, said. “And we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on securing our buildings. We’ve put fences in, cameras, locks, alarm systems, all these things, but none of those are more valuable than you people sitting there. I think I speak for everyone when I say we’d give up all our stuff to keep you all.”

Local library offers more than books

Nine-year-old Jonesborough resident Polly Braswell gets to know Simon the kitten at the library’s Cat Adoption Day.


Staff Writer

The next time you visit the Jonesborough branch of the Washington County Library, you may be able to come home with someone to read the book to.

The Humane Society of Washington County recently held “Cat Adoption Day” in the conference room of the library.

“We’re always looking for different venues to be able to come showcase our friends,” Humane Society Program Assistant Makani Timlick said. “Sometimes we’ll have dogs, if they ask for them. This one was just a cat adoption event.”

According to Timlick, the organization hosts events at Petsmart in Johnson City every other weekend and roughly once every six months at the Jonesborough Library. The Humane Society is also a foster-based program, which relies on volunteers who open their homes to take in animals in order to prepare the animal for adoption.

“(The volunteers) take the animals to their homes and give them love and attention, and that helps us to keep them out of cages, which can be very stressful,” Timlick said. “It also helps to get to know their personality and their character. Each animal is very different so when we have potential adopters looking for something specific, having them in foster homes and seeing how they do in a home environment around other people, around children, then we get to really tell them a lot more in depth as to how they are.”

Because the Humane Society is a foster-based program, there are very few animals in the actual building. Timlick believes that while there may be four critters on their site, there are many more dogs and cats in the program.

The organization also routinely seeks volunteers willing to become foster “parents” and also volunteers to assist with building maintenance, events, clerical work and even dog walking. Those who wish to help can fill out the application on the website, call the Humane Society or just drop by.

Another goal for the organization is making sure that pets are spayed or neutered in order to limit the number of stray animals. All animals from the Humane Society are already “fixed” and they offer low-cost vouchers to help reduce the price of getting a pet spayed or neutered.

“It usually costs around $300 for dogs … with our program it ranges between $70 to $85,” Timlick said. “That’s our No. 1 goal in this area, especially because it’s just such a huge problem, and that’s one of the reasons why the animal shelter is getting in as many animals as they are. People don’t understand that a female cat can get pregnant at four months old and every year they can have two to three litters of two to three live, healthy cats that will go on to reproduce.”

While all potential pets have already been fixed, they have also been micro-chipped, are up to date on all shots and have become accustomed to living in someone’s home.

“Every animal deserves a home. And adopting from us, you’re ensured that they’ve already been in a home environment where they’ve been loved and cared for,” Timlick stated. “You’re getting a cat or dog that’s been worked with, where they can tell you their different quirks and personalities so you’re not going in blind-sided.”

Joining Timlick at the library and up for adoption were three adult cats; Bruno, Drucilla and Reese; as well as three kittens; Alvin, Simon and Theodore. According to Timlick, the event was the first for the three adult cats. “Reese came in and she was an outdoor cat and had kittens. So we got all of her kittens fixed and she’s fixed now and she’s just looking for a home. Bruno and Drucilla, they were adopted from us before but you know, things happen. Their owners have to move and unfortunately their new housing doesn’t accept pets.”

But at least one of the potential pets had caught the eye of 9-year-old Polly Braswell of Jonesborough. She seemed to enjoy the cuddling ability of Simon the kitten, while he definitely enjoyed the petting skills of Miss Braswell.

For more information, call the Washington County Humane Society at  (423)926-8533, located at 2101 W Walnut Street, Johnson City.