‘Safety over ballfields’: Parents’ frustration over Jonesborough school spills out during new athletic facility discussion

Kerrie Aistrop and Jamie Freeman display the difference between outside spaces for the new Boones Creek School and Jonesborough Elementary to the Washington County Commission.


Staff Writer

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Update: A joint meeting to discuss a “Jonesborough School building proposal” between the county commission, the Washington County Board of Education and the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen has been scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 15, at 6 p.m. at the McKinney Center located at 103 Franklin Ave., Jonesborough.

The poster-sized photos depicting the difference between the future Boones Creek School’s outdoor space and that of Jonesborough Elementary’s seemed huge as parent Kerrie Aistrop and local teacher Jamie Freeman held them in front of commissioners.

But somehow, those images and their impact only grew larger as commissioners considered the county athletic facility project versus the student needs in Jonesborough.

“Is it too much to ask that you say, ‘Okay, let’s get our priorities straight — children’s safety first and then let’s build those ballfields,’? Aistrop asked the commission. “I don’t think that’s a very unfair thing to ask.”

The Jonesborough School project, which last saw a “Scheme 6” design plan voted down by the county commission in May, came to the forefront during Monday’s meeting when commissioners considered phase one of the county’s sports facility project behind the new Boones Creek School. Phase one of the project for no more than $800,000 was approved in a 9-5 vote, with Steve Light, Kent Harris, Jerome Fitzgerald, Danny Edens and Mike Ford voting against (Robbie Tester abstained from the vote).

To parents and community members at the meeting, it was less about the dirt being used for the athletic project and more about putting funds towards upgrading Jonesborough Elementary and Middle Schools.

“If we have the money to open this brand new (Boones Creek) school and build ballfields, how can we possibly not have $800,000 that could remove the asbestos? Let’s spend the money to put in a fire system. I’m asking you all to prioritize the absolute needs in this county before we go and get extras,” Aistrop said.

“Think about the decisions that us Jonesborough parents are going through seeing this great school being built and this great idea of ballfields … But this is what we have,” she said as she tapped on the Jonesborough Elementary School photo. “And y’all are going to vote for $800,000 and then a $3 to $5 million sports complex down the road when we can’t even do anything to fix this.”

Aistrop and another parent, Josh Ledford, spoke at the meeting after parents received a letter that day saying the water in the cafeteria at Jonesborough Middle School had too much lead in its water supply according to state standards.

The news of the excess amount of lead in the cafeteria’s water, in addition to the commission’s decision to vote on the next step in the athletic facility project, were enough to bring Ledford back to the podium after two years of grid lock and a project standstill in regards to the elementary and middle schools in Jonesborough.

“I’m glad, genuinely, honest-to-God glad that the kids at Boones Creek are getting this school because those kids deserve it,” Ledford said. “I want my money that I pay for my taxes to go to our local government and straight to our kids. But when I see on one hand that my kid doesn’t have safe drinking water in the lunchroom and then there’s a meeting for a $5 million ball field, it hurts me. I grew up behind that middle school. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m proud of this community. I’m glad to be a part of it and I want my children to be proud of it too. My kids can’t be proud of what they have.”

The budget for the athletic facilities project is $3.2 million. The Jonesborough School was originally set to be a renovation project for $10 million, and eventually had a $20,750,000 budget for a Jonesborough K-8 School renovation and addition project at the current elementary school site and the creation of a academic magnet at the middle school site. However, county officials maintained those dollars were not allocated and is no longer budgeted for a Jonesborough School project.

As for the future of the Jonesborough School project, Chairman Greg Matherly resulted back to that former plan to use $10 million for a Jonesborough renovation.

After coming down from the chairman’s bench in the courtroom to the commission floor, Matherly requested the school system “bring the plans” for that next step.

“Even up until the last few months, the last few (financial) proposals we had, (county financial director Mitch Meredith) told us we had $10 million to spend there at Jonesborough,” Matherly said. “Let’s get the plan together and bring it to this county commission. Let’s bring it to Jonesborough if that’s what we want to do. I’m for it, 100 percent. Let’s put the plan together. We’re just waiting for it.

“If it requires a tax increase to build a new school, this commission needs to consider that. It will take the support of the parents to do that. It will take support of the teachers, (the director of schools) Dr. Flanary. It will take so much support. But I think it’s very important.”

In consideration of the athletic facility project, commissioners expressed concern in approving the next step in the sports project while a solution has yet to be found for the schools in Jonesborough.

“When we can’t put the necessities out there for them, I don’t think we’re at the point where we can build four fields,” Ford said. “I just don’t feel like we’re there.”

As for Washington County’s other schools, Danny Edens said he felt those other schools also had athletic facility needs.

“We’ve got other county schools, not just Jonesborough,” Edens said. “South Central School, they bus their kids to a ruritan building too play baseball and softball. Jonesborough, among with all their other problems, they bus their kids to Persimmon Ridge to play softball, baseball and soccer. And they have to work their practices and their games around a whole entire age group of little leaguers because they have to share the field.

“So they don’t just have the drinking water problems and the asbestos problems and the mold problems and the roaches that are crawling out of the wall problems — because I’ve seen them. They’ve got other issues with their ball fields because they don’t have ball fields.

“And we’ve got a brand new school sitting out there for Boones Creek.”

Market to launch new cookbook

Pat Sheets shows off the new “Grow & Cook Book,” a community effort by Jonesborough.



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“This is what a whole community can do,” said Pat Sheets, proudly holding up the new Jonesborough Locally Grown cookbook to be released Saturday.

Jonesborough Locally Grown is the umbrella organization for the Jonesborough Farmers Market and year-round Boone Street Market.

Shoppers visit the Farmers Market.

Sheets is sitting in Boones Street Market surrounded by fresh, local produce as well as shelves, baskets and bins filled with locally prepared food products. The book, titled “Grow & Cook Book, ” features these products and more in the 200-plus recipes found within its covers.

“This book reflects what happens when you come to the Farmers Market,” explained Sheets, who is considered by many to be the genius behind the cookbook.

But Sheets is quick to discount her importance. The recipes, the stories, the photographs, the designs and more, she said, are all the contributions of an amazing group of 70-plus local volunteers who were determined to bring this project to a successful conclusion.

“Honestly, a whole community did this,” she stressed. “Everybody was in on it. They wanted to do it. They were willing. They volunteered their time.

“I had proofreaders, people that spent a lot of time. All I did was collect the stuff.”

Other key collaborators that brought the project to completion include graphic designer Lise Cutshaw and several financial supporters: individual donors, the Pick TN program of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and Interstate Graphics for printing.   

The idea for the cookbook began to form about four years ago when market supporters met to brainstorm.

“It was in the summer of 2015,” Sheets said. “I was on the board at the time, and it was like what kind of fun events can we do?

“It seemed like an obvious given. You got food. So how do you cook it?”

A cookbook project may have seemed an obvious one, but that didn’t mean it was easy. Sheets and fellow volunteers spent more than 36 months gatherings recipes from local farmers, chefs and a community of cooks in Jonesborough and surrounding areas.

Sheets also thought it was important to introduce readers to the farmers who were necessary in providing the ingredients. Their stories are at the front of the new cookbook.

“These are the farmers. This is what makes it possible,” Sheets said. “They had to be first in the story because they are what it’s all about.”

Chapters throughout the book are organized to mimic Farmers Market schedules. In the chapter “Spring Harvest,” for example, cooks can find recipes featuring early greens like Brussel sprouts and kale. In “Summer Harvest,” you can find ideas for beans, beets and turnips.

The full-color, spiral-bound book also includes a chapter on preserving the harvest with instructions on drying herbs, pickling, fermenting, making jellies and jams, canning, freezing and making broth at home.

There are even yellow-highlighted sections that provide guidance on how to plant the crops or cultivate bees.

“That’s the ‘grow’ part of the ‘Grow & Cook Book.’” Sheets said with a happy smile.

“I wanted our book to be extra special, because that’s how I see the market and all our farmer friends,” she added.

Such a special book deserves a special launch, Sheets believes. So this Saturday, July 20, at the downtown Jonesborough Farmers Market,  the new “Grow and Cook Books” will be available for purchase – for the first time – and samples will be on hand at the Saturday market to showcase a few of the recipes that can be found in the cookbook. Then, on Tuesday, July 23, from 6 to 8 p.m., the public is also invited to sample recipes at a reception honoring the cookbook contributors at Boone Street Market, 101 Boone Street.

From then on, the cookbooks will also be available for purchase at Boone Street Market, the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center, the International Storytelling Center, the Makers Market and Mauk’s of Jonesborough. Cookbooks cost $25 and all proceeds go to support Jonesborough Locally Grown.

Three-day festival ends with spectacular show

Jonesborough’s festival culminated in fireworks downtown. (photo by Cameo Waters)


H&T Correspondent

Hundreds turn out to celebrate the 49th Annual of Jonesborough Days on Saturday, July 6.

The festival began July 4 and ended Saturday starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. Each day had a main event.

Thursday’s big event was the was the Fourth of July parade that began at 10 a.m., Friday’s was a low country boil at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday’s was a firework display at 10 p.m.

The parade is a part of the annual festival that is a highly anticipated event by attendees. It traveled down the middle of Main Street and had 60 different floats.

According to Melinda Copp, Jonesborough’s events coordinator and owner of Makers Market, the event had a great turn out. She said that the low country shrimp boil also went well.

“We sold over 250 tickets to the boil,” Copp said.

The shrimp boil took place at the International Storytelling Center, and attendees enjoyed entertainment by the Ozone Rangers as they ate. 

Copp said they were hoping for an equally great turn out for Saturday’s events, but they had a slow start due to rain that morning.   

The rain stopped around 11:30 a.m. and people began arriving in larger and larger groups. 

On Saturday, there were more than 80 craftsmen booths set up on both sides of main street. The first booths were the “I Made It Market” where items were made and sold by young artists and were open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The first booth belonged to Josh and Christopher Tomko. Josh sold coasters and other items that he painted. Christopher built things like magazine racks, towel bars and birdhouses from pallet wood.

The Tomkos are originally from Jonesborough but now live in West Jefferson North Carolina. They came back for a visit and to participate in the festival. Though they no longer live in Jonesborough, they said that the town is still very important to them.

Christopher said that when he was thinking of what to make for the festival, the idea to make things out of pallet wood just came to him.

“It’s great because the material is inexpensive and since it’s wood it’s recyclable,” Christopher said.

Josh said that doing the booth was really fun and that the thing he hoped for most was that people enjoyed his art.

“It’s a great way for the kids to make crafts and helps them learn about business and how it works,” said Allison Tomko, Josh and Christopher’s mother.

The booth directly beside the Tomkos belonged to Ella and Lily Thompson. The name of their booth was Sister’s Soap and Scripture.

The idea to sell homemade soaps came from Ella. She also thought of putting a slip of paper with a Bible verse on it in the bag with the soap.

Each bar of soap was in a different shape and scent. There was rose, orange, vanilla, and peppermint sold for a dollar each.

They also had homemade jewelry for sale.

“It helps kids learn about business in a fun way,” Ella said.

Ella and Lily’s father, Ben Thompson, said that he was really proud of his daughters’ accomplishments.

“They always want to make people smile,” said Thompson. “They are truly a light to the world, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Two booths down from the sisters was John Chapman, a young artist whose work has been published eight times on the celebrity art website. His work was also on display at the General Morgan Inn in Greeneville in July of last year.

John was a little shy, but clearly proud of the unique cards, bookmarks, and other items that he hand painted.

“We were on a trip to Nashville when we saw a boy John’s age at a booth selling his art, and he thought it would be fun to sell his work too,” said John’s father.

In front of the “I Made It Market” on the corner of East Main Street and Fox Street there was a children’s train. It ran from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Children could ride the train for free. It went down the middle of town, to the end of Main Street and back.

Tory Street, who is from Jonesborough, brought her two children to the festival.

Street has been attending Jonesborough Days for the last 15 to 20 years and does her best to attend at least one day of the festival each year.

“It’s so much fun. It’s great for the town because it brings people in and they will like what they experience and come back,” said Street.

Her 5-year-old Daughter Sawyer and 2-year-old son Bo were yelling with excitement while riding the train and impatiently waited in line to be able to ride again. 

“The train ride was the thing the kids anticipated the most,” Street said.

Street said that going to Jonesborough Days is a family tradition especially the parade that took place Thursday.

Street was also interested in seeing what the vendors had to offer.

The vendors sold a variety of items. Some sold homemade jewelry, decorations, and other items that can be used around the house. There was even a booth set up where people could get a caricature done.

Paws in Blue, who had a fundraiser on June 15, had a booth and gave out pamphlets and cards detailing what their origination is and does. Loki and his handler Dustin Fleming, from the Jonesborough Police Department, were there to greet people.

Jonesborough Presbyterian Church had a booth set up to the side of the church selling jewelry donated by the congregation. There was more being sold inside the church.

The booth was maned by Kathy Scheu, Ida Shurr, and Shurr’s granddaughter, Sydney Sheehan.

Sheehan was visiting from Colorado. She loved being apart of the churches annual fundraiser and seeing all the people.

Both Shurr and Scheu said that Sheehan was their best salesman and that people just loved talking to her.

“Jonesborough Days is the ideal time to hold the fundraiser because so many people come out to be a part of the fun,” said Scheu.

The money raised by the fundraiser goes to several local charities.

“We raised $1,000 last year and hope to get the same, but if we don’t reach our goal, we are still grateful for whatever we’re blessed with,” said Shurr.

The shop owners in Downtown Jonesborough also got involved in the festivities by having sales.

Marty Glasgow who owns Noelle in downtown was one of them.

She had marked down several of her spring and summer items.

“Jonesborough Days is always great,” said Glasgow.

“It’s wonderful to see so many people come to town and all the things that the craftsmen sale.”

As the day progressed, more people could be seen walking down Main Street and crowding vender booths.

Dan and Becky Reece, along with their granddaughter Daisy, were visiting family. They heard about the festival and thought it would be fun to attend.

“We live in Raleigh, North Carolina, but we’re originally from Jonesborough,” said Dan. “We went to Jonesborough Days years ago and enjoyed it.”

Other visitors had the same idea to come out and see what the festival had to offer, but staid for the food.

Jessica and Adam Byrd from Unicoi wanted to walk around, see what vendors were selling, listen to the music, and to enjoy the fries at the food stands set up along side one of the side streets along Main Street.

Aside from the multiple food options, from Philly cheese steak, Polish sausage, blooming onion, and crazy fries, visitors had the opportunity to enjoy some Moon Pies by participating in the Moon Pie Eating Contest.

The contest was set up in front of the courthouse and started at 2 p.m. Sign ups began at 1:30 pm. The contest had eight participants for three categories.

The first category was for those eight and younger, the second was for nine to fifteen, and the last for sixteen and up.

The winner of the contest was decided by who could eat and keep down the most Moon Pies within three minutes and was given a free t-shirt and a year’s worth of Moon Pies.

Throughout the day people could sit and enjoy live music performance in front of the Internal Story Center. Such as Harlen Country Grass, Blue Railroad, Teller in Residence

In ISC, Bluebirds and Larry and Gayleen Kelley.

One of the main music events of the day began at 5:30 p.m. with a mixed tape ‘80s party lead by DJ Robbie Britton. Those that had on the best 80s ensemble was picked from the crowd and won the costume contest.

The main music event for Saturday began at 7:30. It was a live performance by the Breakfast Club, the top ‘80s tribute band in the country.

According to Copp they have been providing live ‘80s pop since 1993 and are most recognized ‘80s tribute band in the US.

There were several other events for visitors to enjoy throughout the day. Such as the Beer Garden where people could enjoy locally brewed beer, tour of the Chester Inn and photo taken in historical fashion, town tour, and the presentation of Mamma Mia! by the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.

The morning rain shower caused some of the days events to be cancel, such as the Old Jonesborough Cemetery Tour. It was canceled because mud made the tour a little too perilous.

The children’s events, which were set up at Discovery Park behind the Storytelling Center, were also affected by the rain.

The McKinney Center, who came up with the idea of the “I Made it Market,” had a kids crafts and hands-on-learning booth set up.

The Heritage Alliance had a version of an early 1900s classroom set up with quill pen writing lessons from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They also had several toys from that era that that allow children to play with.

According to Joe Spiker, head docent of the Chester Inn Museum, who was helping with the school and demonstrating how the toys worked said that there had not been a lot of children come through due to rain, but that he expected more to show up as the day progressed.

The American Heritage Girls/ Trail Life USA had a booth set up beside McKinney Center. Pamphlets and cards were available for the boys or girls who would like to become a part of the Christian based organization. 

The day’s events ended with a spectacular fireworks display set off in the Washington County Library’s parking lot.

Books on wheels: Bus keeps summer reading rolling

Washington County’s new “library bus” can be seen in Thursday’s Jonesborough Days parade.


Staff Writer

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It’s not unusual for the Washington County School System to cycle out a few buses each year. But it is unusual when one of those buses is transformed into a library — that is, until now.

The school system recently morphed a big yellow school bus into a rolling library complete with wooden book shelves filled with thousands of books waiting for eager hands to turn the pages. This new bus wasn’t just the brain child of Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary and the school system’s special project manager, Jarrod Adams; they leave the credit to Zephaniah Wells, the Eagle Scout who first brought the idea to the school system.

Hundreds of books donated by the Washington County Library await students.

“We have been chewing on (the library bus idea) for five years,” Flanary said. “What really put it over the top was we had a meeting one day with a home-schooled student that’s trying to get his Eagle Scout badge. He came up with the idea and he didn’t know we had been talking about it. I thought, ‘This is a sign. We’ve got to get after this.’”

Wells said in addition to earning his badge, he wanted to work on a project that focused on bringing opportunities for reading to students.

“My mom told me about the bookmobile in her hometown and suggested that I could try and put one together for my Eagle Scout project,” Wells said. “I chose this project so that I could share my love of reading with the community by addressing problems like illiteracy, summer learning loss and a lack of transportation.”

Throughout the summer, students in the county school system’s summer program have seen the big blue bus roll up to the elementary schools to offer a chance to browse through the books donated by the Washington County library.

“The plan was to bring this out during the summer to communities where maybe they don’t have access to the public library,” Adams explained. “We’ve got the public library in Jonesborough, one in Johnson City and one in Gray. Other than that, we don’t have access to books for our kids. We take it out to West View and Fall Branch and those kids have an opportunity during the summer to read books and take them home that are more on their level.

Lynn Archer, Jarrod Adams and Tony Roberts smile with the finished library bus project.

“When you’ve got a second or third grade kid, to be able to get on a bus and find a book he’s interested in and take it home, I think that promotes the reading we’re looking for from our students.”

Learning through reading isn’t the only education the bus has provided; once the transportation department checked on the mechanics and removed the seats to make room for the book shelves, it was up to David Crockett High School’s auto body, art, and woodworking students to do much of the work.

“The teachers led (the project) in that they would help give ideas and suggestions, but the kids are the ones who really built it all, which is just really cool to see,” Adams said. “We had the auto body kids paint part of the hood and they painted the roof of it. The auto mechanic teacher and his group checked out some of the mechanical issues on it, the art teacher had all that work that her kids did to design it, the librarian at Crockett had some ideas for us on how to do the books — it was a full-court press and we got a lot of people involved to do it.”

For many Crockett students, it’s more than a library on wheels — it serves as a source of pride and offers the feeling of a job well done.

“I’d say half of the kids at Crockett had something to do with it, the design, the build,” Flanary said. “I remember walking in to check on it one day at Crockett and this student said he’d show it to me. He walked me through step by step what they had done. This is a 16-year-old in auto body, not an honor student, but he was so proud of the work they’d done. He was so tuned in to what they were doing. The students in took a lot of pride in it. I think it’s just pride and satisfaction in seeing a big project that is so unique get out there.”

To show off that work, Flanary said the book bus will be featured in the Jonesborough Days parade set for Thursday.

“I really wanted it in the parade to showcase what the students can do as much as the bus itself,” Flanary said. “(We want to show) what the school system is capable of doing in-house. We are proud of it.”

Now that summer school has wrapped, the school system is already thinking of ways to use the bus during the school year and incorporate curriculum standards in an exciting way.

“We’ve had talks about using it as a traveling library for social studies so that if it goes out to Gray for a week or two, they can get sections of the library that are focused on a specific content standards,” Adams said. “The kids and teachers can come out and use the library as another resource to help work with their kids on content. We’ve involved instructional coaches on that concept as well as the librarians. That’s in its infancy, but that’s what we’re going to do with it this school year.”

Adams said they are also considering using the bus, or potentially another cycled-out bus, as a traveling bus to showcase the Career Technical Education options the high schools offer.

“Some of the people at the high school are floating the idea of a CTE traveling bus and putting stations on there to show kids what it’d be like to work on a small engine or maybe build a small wooden object, whatever they would design,” Adams said. “They could travel around and these middle school kids would get an idea of the type of programs we offer at the high school level.”

Family steps into the next chapter of historic home

Andrea and Shaffon Finley and their daughter Selah stand outside their new historic Jonesborough home.


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On the side of Tavern Hill Road, a two story farmhouse sets at the foot of a hillside surrounded by a mountain silhouette. The farmhouse is believed to have been built around the turn of the century and comes with its own set of history. But for the Finley family, who moved into the home in November, it offers the family of three a place they plan to build their own history on a backroad in Jonesborough.

“We fell in love with the surroundings,” Andrea Finley said, standing in the middle of the open area that joins the kitchen, dining and living area — along with a view of rolling hills through the large windows on either side of the house. “It was between this and a newer remodel. We knew this one needed work, but I cried when I saw it (laughs) because the other one just didn’t have the charm and the outdoors here. I mean, look out that back window. It just won my heart.”

The house was said to have been the first stagecoach stop in East Tennessee and later served as a tavern. But the Finleys are hard at work to find more details about the farmhouse’s beginnings after a man with a metal detector and a bit of history showed up at their door.

“After we lived here for about a month, there was a guy who stopped and said, ‘Hey, I’d like to metal detect around your house. Do you know the history of it?’” Andrea’s husband, Shaffon Finley, said. “I told him we knew just what was in the listing. He said people used to come from Hales Chapel and they would come down and on their way to Jonesborough they would stop here. It’s pretty close to Jonesborough.”

Even without knowing the full history of the farmhouse, it’s not hard to imagine the stories of the people who once roamed through the house, like the long gone strangers who might have once stopped in for a cold drink in the 19th century on the dusty road between Boones Creek and Jonesborough or bygone travelers who likely gathered to share the warmth around the aged fireplace still setting in the center of the open living area of the house.

Though the Finleys said a good amount of work had already been done to the farmhouse when they bought it, they’re dedicated to honoring the history of the old homestead. A staircase adorned with a mosaic made of broken china leads you to the upstairs bedrooms that also serve homage to the home decor techniques of the past — the floors in the upstairs bedrooms are painted just as they would have been in previous centuries.

“The reason the floors are painted is in old farmhouses they would put spare wood, whatever was left, in the floor,” Andrea said.

“It didn’t all match up, so they painted it. We tried to keep it true to that,” Shaffon added. “They were already painted up here.”

As if hand-stenciled tiles in the upstairs bathroom (which will sadly have to be removed after a shower leak) and painted floors aren’t enough to give the farmhouse personality, Andrea and Shaffon have made sure to put their own personal touches in and around the house to honor their own history.

In the upstairs hallway, a small wooden letter board that was once used at the church Andrea grew up in hangs on the wall between pages from old hymnal books. And next to the old red water spigot on the side of the house rests a concrete slab embossed with odd shapes and is believed to be an old doll mold.

“As a kid I thought it was the coolest thing,” Andrea said looking at the piece she used to ogle over as a child. “At my grandmother’s house it laid up against the house. I always thought it was an angel as a kid. I finally asked when my grandmother passed if I could have it. It just mesmerized me.”

The Finleys would tell you the house is a work-in-progress, but Andrea and Shaffon, along with their daughter, Selah, are also considering another project: turning the shed that was said to have once served as a smoke house into an Airbnb.

But for now, the ground has been leveled for a future fire pit overlooking the hills behind the farmhouse, a small garden filled with tomatoes, small pumpkins, cucumber and other vegetables is well on its way and the family’s two goats, Honey and Sugar, stand nearby hoping for a piece of bread from Selah. And that’s precisely what Andrea and Shaffon pictured when choosing between the farmhouse and another remodeled home — a farm for their daughter to enjoy.

“When it was between the two houses,” Andrea said standing on the porch just in front of the newly stripped front door that took a week to refinish, “I wanted her to have the same type of childhood that I had where you could just run the fields and just enjoy being outside instead of worrying about your crazy neighbors.”

To capture all the farmhouse magic that goes on, Andrea has created “The Finley Farm” instagram account complete with pictures of goats peaking through the fence and various decor throughout the house.

“I think the reason you see all the posts you do with her is because she truly loves it,” Shaffon said. “Like I love playing the bass, she loves decorating. Just everything about farmhouse decorating. And she used to be a photographer as a side-gig so she loves taking pictures of it.”

Andrea may love taking pictures of the farmhouse and the picturesque front porch, but Shaffon had reservations in taking on an older home after the Finleys left their last house which required a lot of upkeep.

“I think what he was most nervous about was the first house that we had had a lot of leaks in the ceilings,” Andrea said. “He was just over home improvement.”

“I was tired of fixing stuff,” Shaffon added. “It’s just something that’s ongoing. This house hasn’t been that bad. I think (the previous owners) worked on it quite a bit. I just know what goes into the upkeep.

It seems the work of getting a historic farmhouse like you want it is never truly finished. But the Finleys are taking it one day at a time and spending each day taking in the East Tennessee surroundings in the home they knew was meant for them.

“I just like character of farmhouses instead of cookie cutter houses,” Andrea said, thinking back to the moment she first fell in love with the farmhouse. “I like something with charm that’s different.

“I could just see life being good here.”


Celebration planned at Christopher Taylor House

The Christopher Taylor House was built in the 1700s and relocated to downtown Jonesborough in 1974.


At last week’s meeting of the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Mayor Chuck Vest designated Saturday, June 22, as Christopher Taylor House Day. And everyone is ready to celebrate.

The event, “Raise the Roof Celebration,” is set to begin at 6 p.m. and will not only provide the chance to revel in the historic building’s distinction, but also mark the recent addition of its new roof.

The log house is an important icon of Jonesborough’s historic preservation movement and is one of the few remaining examples of v-notch log house construction that was popular during the 1700s.

Christopher Taylor fought at the Battle of King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War and was an important presence in early Washington County. His log house was open to travelers as they headed west. One of the boarders who reportedly spent time at the Taylor residence was a young lawyer by the name of Andrew Jackson. When the Town of Jonesborough moved the home to its current location in 1974, the building became a central piece of Main Street’s restoration.

This past year, the Heritage Alliance obtained a grant from the State of Franklin Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) to replace the building’s worn out roof with cedar shakes. This new roof allowed the doors to be reopened on the Christopher Taylor House, and the building is now being used for all sorts of activities, including weaving, storytelling, music, rug hooking, and more.

Join the Heritage Alliance, the Town of Jonesborough, and the State of Franklin Chapter of the NSDAR  for the evening event and ceremony on the Taylor House’s front lawn. The log house will also be open for tours. Parking is available around the Washington County Courthouse.

The Heritage Alliance is dedicated to the preservation of the architectural, historical, and cultural heritage of our region and to providing educational experiences related to history and heritage for a wide range of audiences.  For more information, please call our office at (423) 753-9580, or contact the organization via email at [email protected].

Maintenance needs stack up at Jonesborough schools

The school system’s maintenance supervisor said Jonesborough Elementary’s cooling tower and Jonesborough Middle’s HVAC controls are the latest maintenance needs at the two schools.


Staff Writer

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The Washington County Board of Education might not have a plan for a Jonesborough K-8 School after the county commission voted down the latest design for the project last month, but that hasn’t stopped the ongoing maintenance needs from popping up at Jonesborough Elementary and Jonesborough Middle.

In a 5-4 vote on Thursday, June 6, the board tabled a decision to replace the cooling tower at Jonesborough Elementary School for an estimated $225,000. The board also tabled a decision to replace HVAC controls at Jonesborough Middle School for an estimated $63,329. Board members Annette Buchanan, David Hammond, Mary Beth Dellinger, Chad Fleenor and Keith Ervin were in favor of tabling both decisions. Phillip McLain, Mitch Meredith, Todd Ganger and Jason Day were opposed.

Maintenance Supervisor Phillip Patrick said his team had to “do a little rigging” on the cooling tower to make it last through next fall, but that it would need to be replaced before next summer. He also explained that Jonesborough Middle was let out three days before the last official day of school this year due to a HVAC control malfunction that set the school to a default mode, turning the air off.

“After some long searches, we found enough parts and an old control board that could communicate with the old equipment we have,” Patrick said. “We kind of got that rigged in there to where it’s working. It’s not working perfectly. We can’t see part of the building, some of the rooms. But we can verify we do have cooling (at the middle school).”

Fleenor asked if these items were on the school system’s list of maintenance needs submitted to the county commission. Patrick said they were not due to the anticipated Jonesborough School project that instead has been stuck in limbo for over two years.

“About five years ago we started talking about renovating Jonesborough,” Patrick said. “They said, ‘Can you make (the equipment at the Jonesborough schools) last a couple of years, Mr. Patrick?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I believe I can.’ That was five years ago.”

Chairman Ervin made the motion to table the two recommendations from the facility committee until the board could meet for a called meeting to discuss the future of the Jonesborough School project.

The “Scheme 6” plan was voted down unanimously by the county commission at its May 20 meeting. This was the first design plan to make it to the commission floor after numerous designs were turned down by the Health Education and Welfare committees over the past two years. The Scheme 6 plan came to the commission with no recommendation from the HEW committee or the budget committee.

Because the Jonesborough School project boasts even more uncertainty following the commission’s recent disapproval of the plan, board members said they felt it is imperative to make maintenance improvements until a new plan is approved.

“You’re going to have kids in this school for three years,” Meredith said.

Before the board’s meeting on Thursday, the county’s HEW Committee unanimously voted to extend the McCoy property land option once again. The option has been extended more than seven times.

The property sets next to Jonesborough Elementary School and was part of the Scheme 6 plan. Despite numerous commissioners previously saying they felt the $777,900 price tag was too high for the property, commissioners and HEW committee members said they felt the county should extend the option regardless of the project’s current uncertainty.

“If we do nothing, it ends,” Commissioner Danny Edens said. “Then it’s just gone. If we don’t extend it, we’re going to lose our option on it.”

At the school board meeting, board members questioned if a meeting to discuss the Jonesborough School project is needed in the midst of the still unclear financial situation for the project.

“How can you schedule to make a decision on Jonesborough,” McLain said, “when we’ve voted for three different schemes and they’ve all been voted down — even after we were told what (money was available) to spend time and time again. Until (the commission) comes back and tells us what we have available to spend, how can we do anything?”

A meeting to discuss the project is yet to be scheduled. Thursday night, Ervin adjourned the meeting before a date could be set.

“Nope,” he said just before hitting the gavel. “I’m done.”

Studying Storytelling: student learns to rewrite her story


Harshadha Balasubramanian explored town and the world of storytelling during her stay in Jonesborough.


Staff Writer

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It’s not unusual for people to flock to Jonesborough to listen as storytellers weave a tale so vivid it feels as if you’ve been transported to another place entirely. But for Harshadha Balasubramanian, a graduate student from the United Kingdom, her trip to Jonesborough was more about listening, learning and considering her own story in the storytelling capital of the world.

Harshadha, or “Harsha” for short, is working on her master’s degree at University College London with a thesis on storytellers’ use of movement. While storytelling was clearly the main reason for her trip, for the UK student, coming to Jonesborough was also about finding adventure in a place not too far outside of her comfort zone.

Harsha said fascination trumped any fears she might have had about coming to America for the first time. Most of her interest, she said, focused on how she’d fit in a small Southern town.

“I was perplexed as to how people would react to me because I’m not someone you can box up easily in the sense that I look Asian and I am Asian. I was born in South India and that’s where most of my family hail from,” she said. “But I’ve got a British accent. And there’s also the fact that I’m visually impaired.

“I don’t fit the stereotypes — at least I don’t think I fit the stereotypes. I was quite keen to make sure that I would be able to make people comfortable in my presence.”

Harsha lost her vision as a child after a tumor had spread to her eyes, forcing doctors to remove them in order to save her life.

“I’ve had most of my life to get used to being blind, which is a real convenience because it means that you don’t have conflicting perceptions of the world that you’ve kind of got to deal with,” Harsha said. “Some of my friends lost their sight much later on in life and so they still know what certain things look like … whereas I only have people’s descriptions in terms of the visual world to try to contend with and try to understand.

“You don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything because you don’t know what you’re missing out on.”

Though some might see it as an obstacle, Harsha sees it as a small part of who she is. She laughs when she retells the story of causing a small ruckus in downtown Jonesborough prompting a driver to get out and help.

“One of the drivers got out, came up to me and was like, ‘I’ll help you.’ And she was telling off the other driver for not getting out of his car to come and get me. She was like, ‘Some people just don’t want to help!’,” Harsha recalled, laughing at the woman’s reply. “I was like, ‘I’m sorry I’ve been the instigator of an argument.’”

Harsha spent time with various Jonesborough locals, such as Jules Corriere.

She said she didn’t realize just how much she relied on sidewalks until her trip to Jonesborough, which lacks them in places, but Harsha was also surprised at the acceptance and kindness she received while in town.

“I’ve just been really warmly surprised by how people are so happy to give me their time. It’s a blessing when people have that kind of time to make of you,” she said.

The way others have perceived her has at times been misconstrued in the past; when an article was published about Harsha’s acceptance to Cambridge, it became clear to the British student that the world wasn’t seeing her and her story in its entirety.

“It was like, ‘Blind girl goes to Cambridge’. I was thrilled that I was getting into the institution that I wanted to go to and so was my school, but the way that they put it was literally like the news story there was ‘she’s overcome her disability to go to Cambridge.’ It wasn’t ‘she’s going to Cambridge.’ My most difficult battles in life have nothing to do with being blind. For me, my biggest challenge was overcoming that I was rubbish at English and the fact that I had a problem with time management and self discipline. I think (focusing on a disability) is very one dimensional and it does leave out all these other things.”

Dona Lewis and Harshadha Balasubramanian visit the Chuckey Depot in Jonesborough.

It seems that Harsha has been accepted in her entirety during her stay in Jonesborough; she also took up with Jonesborough locals such as innkeeper Dona Lewis and her husband Chuck who hosted Harsha during her stay. Others such as local artist Deb Burger, who taught Harsha to knit, and Deborah Kruse, the owner of the Corner Cup who was fascinated by some of Harsha’s favorite British lingo, made the trip more than she expected.

“They’ve really taken me under their wing here,” she said. “The merchants, the guys at the Corner Cup, the people at the storytelling center, the people I live with, Dona and Chuck, they’ve really taken me under their wing. I feel like I’m part of their family which is really nice.”

During her stay, she also took time to cross items off her bucket list such as hiking part of the Appalachian Trail and trying Moonpies and gravy and biscuits. But Harsha made sure to also feed her fascination with various storytelling events.

Her thesis focuses on how storytellers use movement and the senses to compel listeners and transport them to an imaginary world. For the graduate student, that involves using audio descriptions, which provide detail on stage actions during a performance. And sometimes, studying those movements also takes a hands-on approach.

“What I do is I get storytellers to describe what they’re doing. If they’re like, ‘I use really rigid gestures in my storytelling.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, can you show me how to do that with my hands?’ It’s a really exciting approach because for me what it does is I get their perception of what they think about their technique and what vision is according to them. I use these sort of alternative senses to kind of tap into the visual that I’m missing out on.”

After studying the art form so closely, it’s difficult not to connect storytelling to one’s own life. While Harsha says she is yet to tell her own stories and plans to continue studying storytelling instead, she feels there’s a real value in telling your own narrative and rewriting what others might think of you.

“One thing I have learned about storytelling is not so much the performance aspect of storytelling, but the broader question of how you as a person portray yourself,” Harsha said. “How do you tell your own narrative to the world? And for me, it’s been revealing because I’ve been really quite confused as to how to portray myself. It’s very tempting for people to look at me and think, ‘Right, vision-impaired girl.’ That seems to be the most defining characteristic of my narrative.

“What I feel that does is it kind of smothers and leaves out other things that contribute to my identity. The fact that I’m Indian, the fact that I’m 5’1, the fact that I’m a woman — all those things do kind of get neglected when you’ve got this little cute narrative of ‘blind girl gets great opportunities and overcomes barriers.’”

Following her trip, Harsha plans to continue working on her doctorate at the University College London, keep up with her new American pals from Jonesborough and keep telling her own story, not unlike the way in which the storytellers she studies do on stage.

“I think the reason I’m so interested in storytelling strategies is because I really want to learn how you perceive those narratives when they’re being projected on to you and how you can rewrite them and retell them,” she said. “I think that’s a really important thing for us to learn as a society and also as individuals. We need to learn how to rewrite our own stories and have the liberty and the right to tell our own stories.”

Town recognizes veterans, their families

Dr. Christian Zembower and The Johnson City Community Concert Band demonstrates their patriotism through music.


H&T Correspondent

Jonesborough’s Memorial concert was held at the Jonesborough Visitors Center on Sunday, May 26, to honor the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers.

The event took place from 2:30 to 3:30 with a reception afterwards. It was the 20th Memorial Day concert to take place in Jonesborough.

The concert was hosted by the Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Alderman and the Veterans Affairs committee.

Marion Light, chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee and the emcee of the event, said that the concert was not just to recognize the veterans who’ve devoted their lives to their country, but also for their families

“Every person who enters the military understands that death could be the result,” said Light, who served 12 years in the Army.

The concert began with the Tennessee Highway Patrol Honor Guard and the Daniel Boone High Junior ROTC Honor Guard to forward the colors.

The Honor Guard presented the U.S. and state flags, which were donated by the Jonesborough Civitan Club.

Craig Ford gave the opening prayer and comments.

Before giving a heartfelt prayer asking for the Lord to be with those in the military and their families and to give them courage for what they face, he told several stories focusing on the fact that life is precious and should be cherished.

Mayor Chuck Vest was the next to speak and welcomed everyone to the event.

“It’s a celebration of the fallen that is never ending,” said Vest.

Vest requested those present to take the time to look at the flags flying throughout the community and remember the veterans who laid down their lives so that everyone in this country could live free. He also asked for the families to be remembered because the death of a soldier impacts their loved ones in ways many don’t understand.

“We must all feel blessed to have our veterans serving and protecting our country and our freedom,” Vest said before introducing the band.

The musical guest for the event was the Johnson City Community Concert Band, directed by Christian Zembower.

The band performed seven patriotic songs, one of which was conducted by Torey Hart, a member of the band.

Before each song Zembower told background information about the individual song, it’s composer and what inspired the composition.

The songs were Commando March; Duty, Honor, Country; Flag of Stars; American Flourish; Hail to the Spirit of Liberty; America the Beautiful; and the Armed Forces Salute.

Josh Smith, WJHL news anchor, narrated the speech by Gen. Douglas MacArthur that inspired the song as the band performed Duty, Honor, Country.

Zembower called each military branch to stand as the band played Armed Forces Salute.

Light then read the Roll Call of Sacrifices, giving the killed in action dates for each purchased brick at Veterans Park.   

As Light read the names and dates, sniffling could be heard from around the packed room, mostly occupied by veterans from the Vietnam and Korean Wars and their families. 

The Honor Guard retired the colors and Light concluded the event by asking for a round of applause for the band, ROTC and Honor Guard. 

The reception was hosted by Patti Blackwell, Lacey D’Avella and Kathleen Cook, from the Visitors Center.

Food was donated by Bojangles, Food City, Pals and Rocky’s Pizza.

Meet our neighborhood bomb dog

Hannah Fleming poses with Cygan, a 2-year-old specially trained Jonesborough K-9.


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As the president of Jonesborough’s “Paws in Blue” charity, which raises funds to acquire and support the police department’s K-9 units, Ruth Verhegge knows how much work goes into training and caring for one of the canines.

“(The handlers) all stepped up. There’s a fair amount of extra work involved, being a K-9 officer. The dogs stay with them 24-7. So they’re responsible for their care. But the dogs get continual training, as well.”

She also believes they are game changers for the police, and may have changed the outcome of the recent shooting onn 11-E in Jonesborough.

“Several of us are so convinced the shooting would have been prevented had we had an appropriately trained K-9,” she said. “I really think it would have.”

With the arrival of Cygan and his handler, Hannah Fleming, her wishes have been granted.

A 2-year old Belgian Malinois and Shepherd mix, Cygan is specially trained in apprehension and explosives detection.

Fleming, who is approaching the one-year anniversary of her partnership with Cygan, was on the force for two years before switching to the K-9 unit.

She recently recalled her first meeting with her partner.

“We showed up at (FM K-9) school the night before it started. We woke up early and went to the kennels. Basically they just handed him to me and said ‘Here’s your dog’. Then I took him outside and the first thing, and he still does it, he nibbled on my pockets. I don’t know why he does it. He likes his pockets.”

As Jonesborough’s only trained explosives detection K-9, Cygan and Fleming’s job is crucial for a place that hosts numerous events with crowds of attendees all over the town.

Fleming urges folks who encounter the duo to make sure they ask permission before getting friendly.

“I think the biggest thing is asking if it’s okay to do something. A lot of people, they’ll just run up and touch the dog and half the time when they do that we’re trying to work the dog.

“For Cygan, we were running the tents at Storytelling, looking for explosives. Well, once you start touching and talking to the dog, it could mess him up. He’ll get distracted while we’re trying to focus on the task. It was a problem big-time at Storytelling.”

Fleming said she always knew what path she wanted to follow, and now that she is traveling that path, she is enjoying the trip.

“Being a handler is awesome. Police work is interesting. I enjoy it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else, for sure.”

Jonesborough to kick off Third Thursdays

The Town of Jonesborough is prepared to introduce a brand new event series to downtown. Third Thursdays will begin Thursday, May 16.


Main Street Jonesborough is set to kick-off a brand new series, Third Thursdays. This event will take place on the third Thursday of every month where you’ll discover unique finds at the many shops, explore museums and grab dinner or a tasty treat from one of the eateries or confectioneries. This family-friendly and open-to-the-public event takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. throughout downtown Jonesborough.

Jonesborough’s Third Thursdays will begin May 16 with a special kick-off in addition to extended shop hours. The festivities will include History Happy Hour at the Chester Inn Museum from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Boone Street Market’s Thursday Burger Night, live music, and extended hours until 8 p.m. for both shopping and dining.

For more information, please call The Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423)753-1010 or visit Main Street Jonesborough on Facebook.

Alliance gets ready for Digitization Day

Anne Mason and Jacob Simpson at work in the archives.



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The call has gone out.

The Heritage Alliance needs your old photographs to help them tell the story of Washington County.

And they’re planning a special digitization day to help them do it.

On Saturday, May 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,  the Alliance will launch Washington County  Digitization Day to help local residents capture, preserve and share their historic photos.

According to Anne Mason with the Heritage Alliance, this is an important way to help fill in current archival gaps in local history.

This old archival photo shows downtown Jonesborough and the early Herald & Tribune building on Courthouse Square.

For example, she said, “we kind of roughly know what town looked like (during particular historical periods), but how about the rest of the county during that period?”

In addition, whole groups of individuals who didn’t fit the stereotype of mainstream America are also woefully represented, she said.

“Any images that help us tell the story of (the African American community), of the Latino community, any communities that are not typical of what you see when you walk into a museum,” Mason said. “We want to tell the whole story of Washington County.”

Digitization was recently made possible by a grant the Alliance received in late 2018 from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission — a division of the National Archives, and administered by the Tennessee Historical Records Advisory Board, as well as the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

“It was actually our second grant,” Mason said with a smile. “The first one provided the shelves that helped us organize our archives.”

Digitization, she said, is helping to preserve the archives, which already includes an extensive collection of local historic photos.

As the collection grows, it will also hopefully lead to easier access by the community into these historic records.

To take part in Digitization Day, participants are asked to bring old photographs and/or negatives along with a flash drive to the Jonesborough/Washington County Historia Museum located at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Staff will scan the image and return the original to the owner, along with the digital copy transferred to the flash drive.

That way, Mason said, the photo is not only preserved in the archive, but also for the family.

Mason and Jacob Simpson, also with the Alliance, both stress that participants may need to toss aside any preconceived notions of what constitutes historical photos.

For example, Mason said, the Alliance would be thrilled to see anything form the 1920s to the 1960s, a noticeable gap in their records. Even later photos with early town events or key individuals can be valuable.

“There are things even going on now that are worth preserving,” Simpson said.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Alliance’s wish list.

“We have very few photographs of the Chester Inn during the time period post World War II…” Simpson said. “We also have no pictures of the interior of the Chester Inn.”

Churches, clubs and organizational gatherings are also important.

“There is one picture that we have that is the Oddfellows parade and it’s actually the African-American Oddfellows group,” Simpson said, adding that it provided another important element often ignored in local history.

Family photos can also be valuable, both for the period trappings, the background and the individuals, as well as photos that capture any of the many communities surrounding Jonesborough, from Telford to Garber to Bowmantown.

The most important thing to remember, Mason said, is that while these photos tell their own stories, any extra details about when, where and who go a long way in helping in the preservation efforts.

“They all have some sort of educational value, but it does help when we know something about the people,” Mason said.

For more information, the Heritage Alliance at (423) 753-9580, or contact the organization via email at [email protected]  Additional information can also be found online at http://www.heritageall.org/.

‘Harvey’ to step onto JRT stage

Lucas Schmidt and Heather Allen, above, are just two of the cast members who will bring “Harvey” to life this month. Schmidt will play the lovable Elwood P. Dowd.


The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is honored to bring the heartwarming comedy “Harvey” to the stage May 10 – 26. This show is guaranteed to delight audiences of all ages just as the 1950 movie starring Jimmy Stewart has for the past seven decades.

“When I cast this show, I knew I had to find someone who could bring the lovable Elwood P. Dowd to life as Jimmy Stewart did,” explained director Pam Johnson. “And I found that someone in Lucas Schmidt, one of JRT’s regulars.

“If you’ve seen him on stage, you know what I mean. Well, unless the only thing you’ve seen him in is “Matilda the Musical.” His role in Harvey is the total opposite of the evil Miss Trunchbull he played in that show.”

Elwood is kind and charming but considered an oddity in town because his best friend is a 6½-foot-tall invisible rabbit named Harvey. As his sister Veta Louis Simmons puts it, “He and Elwood go every place together. Elwood buys railroad tickets and theater tickets for both of them. We have to set a place at the table for Harvey. We have to move over on the sofa to make room for Harvey. And they tell each other everything.”

Veta and her daughter Myrtle Mae are so frazzled by Elwood’s delusions, they decide to have him committed to a sanitarium. But, after a comedy of errors, Veta is the one committed and Elwood goes free. Once the mistake is discovered, the hunt is on for Elwood to bring him back to the sanitarium.

But the question to the very end is, does Elwood really belong in a sanitarium? What’s so wrong about seeing a rabbit, especially when Elwood’s philosophy on life is so beautiful?

Daniel Matthews, who plays the sanitarium orderly Duane Wilson, said his favorite Elwood quote is, “I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I’m with.”

Austin Wingate, who portrays the arrogant Dr. Lyman Sanderson, said his favorite quote is, “You must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”

“The quote from Elwood that I love best,” said Johnson, “is ‘Doctor, I wrestled with reality for 25 years, and I am happy to state that I finally won out over it.’”

Some of Elwood’s statements may seem outrageous, but they can also make people stop and evaluate what life truly is about.

“There is a little bit of Elwood in all of us: believing in the impossible, and not taking life too seriously,” said Dana Kehs, who plays the aristocratic family friend Mrs. Chauvenet.

Wingate added, “This show is a great reminder for our fast-paced world to slow down and appreciate the ‘miracles’ that are all around us.”

“I agree,” Johnson said. “Slow down and look at the world a little differently. It’s a lovely place to live.”

“Harvey” is written by Mary Chase and directed by Pam Johnson. The JRT thanks the show’s sponsors: Wolfe Development, Citizens Bank, Monkee’s of Johnson City, and Sonia King/Mary B. Martin.

Rounding out the cast are Heather Allen, Tim Barto, Andy Cobble, Janette Gaines, Shawn Hale, Sarah Sanders, Catherine Squibb, and Krista Wharton.

Show times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors.

The theatre is located at West Main Street. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to www.jonesboroughtheatre.com. (An American Sign Language interpreter will interpret the Saturday evening, May 25, show. Reservations for the interpreted show need to be made by May 4.)

Rain fails to dampen Crockett plant auction

David Crockett FFA members work the show.


Staff Writer

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Cold and rainy weather was not enough to keep green thumb-owning folks from the Fifth Annual David Crockett Future Farmers of America plant auction on Saturday morning.

“I was expecting fewer people to come because of the weather,” Crockett FFA Chapter Treasurer Anna Young said, “But that just goes to show how big of an event this is and how much people love it.”

Students celebrate the auction’s success.

Held at the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center in a steady rain, lilac trees, chainsaws, pallets of mulch and much more was auctioned off to help pay for the expenses and travels of the Crockett Chapter FFA.

A table full of awards claimed by the club greeted everyone who walked in, displaying their successes in their travels. According to Josh Conger, a Crockett Agriculture teacher with the FFA, around $9,000 was raised at the event, which will help pay for future trips to competitions.

The 2017 Chapter was successful at the state level and advanced to the national competition.

“We were the runner up. It was in the nursery and landscaping (category) and they were second place. Just getting to go to a national competition in itself was a treat for us,” Young said.

She added that the Crockett FFA would soon begin the state event, and that the auction money would help them at any competition they advance to.

One hundred percent of the auctioned items were donated and Conger estimated that one quarter of the plants were grown in the Crockett greenhouses.

The event has proven popular in the past and remained so this year even in the constant rain.

“I think it went really well this year. This is definitely one of the best years that I’ve seen and this is my third year doing it,” Young said.

According to Young, some of the popular items were the hanging baskets and the mixed planters, while the landscaping equipment also went quickly. She said the club was beginning to branch out this year and added weedeaters, chainsaws and more to the auctioned items. Also available were season tickets to Wetlands Waterpark.

After the event, Conger said that there were still two greenhouses full of items available for purchase by the public. The available hours are the first two Saturdays in May from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and on regular school days during school hours.

Reaching toward the heavens

Visitors to Jonesborough have been witness to a restoration in progress at Jonesborough Presbyterian Church. According to Gordon Edwards, the restoration began on March 12 and will continue until it is complete. “My role for the church is Project Leader for this restoration of the “belfry, roof and spire,’ “ Edwards said. “That’s technically what we are doing — instead of using the term ‘steeple’”  The church was established in 1790 with the current building erected in 1831.

Principal of the Year: Grandview’s Rachel Adams receives honor

Principal Rachel Adams observes a Grandview classroom.


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Every morning at Grandview Elementary, Head Principal Rachel Adams greets each student as they enter the school. Whether it’s raining or 20 degrees outside, she offers a smile and greeting as they arrive. But little do the students know that’s when they also offer Adams her favorite part of being a school principal.

“Honestly my favorite thing to do every day is car line,” Adams said. “It’s welcoming the students every day and hopefully making them feel like they are welcome here, they are wanted here, they are loved here. It’s important that they’re here. That’s really important to me. The weather might not always be the best, but that’s my favorite part.”

But Adams’ day doesn’t just involve smiling at kids as they walk through the door; she’s constantly looking for ways to better serve the teachers of Grandview who can then expertly serve students — and it’s her dedication to that mission that earned her this year’s Principal of the Year Award for Washington County Schools.

Adams is in her second year as head principal after serving as an assistant principal at Jonesborough Middle School for two years and a teacher at Jonesborough Elementary School for eight. Since then, Adams has been selected as one of the state’s 25 principals in the Governor’s Academy for School Leadership and is also part of the Tennessee Rural Principals Network.

Adams’ recognition as the principal of the year comes after Grandview reached its Reward School status, the highest distinction a school can receive. And for that honor, she points to the talent at Grandview.

“I think when I came to Grandview, I recognized there was a lot of talent here with the teaching staff and the support staff,” Adams said. “I think I saw a lot of potential and it just took focusing everyone. The vision was there, it was just putting all the pieces together. I have very high expectations, but I just truly believe that all students can learn at high levels and that we just have to push them to their fullest potential.”

Grandview’s success is attributed to hard working teachers, support staff and students, but it also comes from Adams’ focus on highlighting others’ strengths.

“Instead of trying to fix things that are wrong or trying to shape someone into something they’re not, I try to identify where people’s strengths are and let them use their strengths,” Adams explained, “whether it’s the way they’re teaching, what committee they serve on, the grade level they’re in or the subject they’re teaching.”

It might be hard to believe that someone who has dedicated so much of her time each day to the betterment of teachers and students ever wanted to anything other than teach and lead. But there was a time that Adams thought she’d be behind an operating table instead of a principal’s desk.

“What’s funny is, all through school I wanted to be a doctor. I was going to be a doctor. I knew that through high school and that’s what drove my path and everything. Then my first year in college over Christmas break, I shadowed a doctor in surgery and I said, ‘Oh. Nope, not for me,’ Adams said, laughing. “So then it was just a natural decision. I realized then that teaching is what I wanted to do.”

Instead, Adams has taken her natural love for teaching and leadership and honed those skills into administrative work.

“I love to teach people and watch them grow,” she said. “One of the things I would do (as a teacher) was help other teachers. I really enjoy working with other teachers and serving in leadership roles as a teacher. The reason I wanted to be principal was I love to help grow other teachers and help them do their best.”

Though being a principal sometimes includes mountains of paperwork and disciplinary duties, it also involves keeping an eye on the big picture, which Adams said is the most important part of her job.

“All of the teachers here, all of the support staff here, every person here, our number one priority is what’s best for our students and their learning,” Adams said. “We are thinking about what’s best for the whole child academically, socially, emotionally, physically. I think that’s important. If you’re not thinking about what’s best for the child, it’s easy to lose some children.”

“I always make decisions thinking about, ‘What if this was my child?’ That’s something that I think is really important, too, when dealing with parents and teachers and support staff. We always have to think about that. I think that helps a lot.”

Part of focusing on the “whole student” also involves recognizing student success and strengths. In fact, it’s typical at Grandview to see a smiling student heading off to the principals office with a positive referral in hand to share a recent success and grab a goodie from the treasure box.

“This morning I had a third grade student come into the office to do her positive office referral. She had her multiplication test, which she had made a 100 on — which is fantastic. She had her data notebook, showing me where she was, which was about 40 percent and jumped to 100 percent. She was so excited. (It’s good) to see the success and the growth in the students and also in the faculty and staff.”

Adams doesn’t plan to stop here. Her expectations are high and she already has plans for next year, (which include focusing on how teachers and staff can better serve students who have had traumatic experiences as well as digging into test scores later this year.) But all of her goals start and end in the same place; and that just happens to be the place where she starts and ends her day — with students.

“My vision is that every student, first and foremost, is able to build a relationship with someone here and that they feel like they are welcomed, they’re wanted, they’re loved,” She said. “If we don’t build those relationships with students then all of those other things, academics, test scores, it’s not going to be the same. So the first thing is I think we’ve got to make them feel welcomed and wanted.”

McKinney Center goes in search of names

The McKinney Center, formerly the Booker T. Washington School, was the home to a generation of wonderful educators. Many are known, yet some names have been lost. This month, the McKinney Center is looking to fill in some gaps concerning the faculty and staff of Booker T. Washington from the years of 1940-1965.

During the 25 years that Booker T. Washington operated as a segregated school, there were two mainstays. Ms. Brown, who taught grades 1 through 4, and Ms. Silvers, who taught grades 5 through 8.

The school also operated under many different principals during these years. The McKinney Center is looking to organize these principals in chronological order. Former students are encouraged to call the center with information concerning names and dates of tenure. The center is especially looking for any photographs, as well.

In addition, the names and roles other supportive people who contributed to education at Booker T. Washington are also being sought. This would include people who cooked for students, drove the bus, provided maintenance, and taught. The center is especially looking for photographs of these individuals, in order to honor their contributions to education in Jonesborough.

If you have information about educators at Booker T. Washington School, have photos or artifacts, or a story you would like to share, please contact the McKinney Center at (423) 753-0562 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Photos and documents will be scanned and given back immediately. These photos and documents will help tell the story of Booker T. Washington School.

New chef gets cookin’

Chef Neal Smith fires things up at Boone Street Market.


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Chef Neal Smith has only been at Boones Street Market for a few short weeks, but he just can’t stop talking about the food.

“There is no reason to go anywhere else. It’s phenomenal,” Smith said. “The quality of the meat is unreal. There are probably Japanese  chefs that are mad at the quality of waygu meat I’m getting. It’s ridiculous.”

It’s the kind of “ridiculous” on which Smith thrives.

A native of Stoney Creek, Tennessee — “the Hunter community,” he said — Smith traveled a number of miles to end up back here, close to his roots and in a situation of which he had only dreamed.

“At the risk of sounding trite, because everybody  is doing it, I miss what my grandmother made,” he explained. “My grandmother was an amazing cook. My mom was and is an amazing cook. And I miss, like when I was a little kid, going out in the garden with my grandfather, and coming back home and canning with my nanny. I miss that taste…”

Neal Smith shows off some of the market’s offerings.

Yet in the beginning, Smith admits he had no idea that recreating that experience for others would become his passion and his career.

He was first bitten by the culinary bug as a teenager at the local Waffle House.

“My first cooking job was I was a night shift lead at the old Waffle House on Roan Street,” Smith said. “This was the summer before I was a senior and the summer after.

“I really liked it though. The guy I worked for over there, his first name was Ed, he was the manager…He was really cool and he had all these pictures of him in the toque blanche, the tall white hat, of him cooking on cruise ships and such in the little Waffle House manager’s office.

“I guess he just got burned out and came home.”

The gentleman was a great teacher, however, Smith said, helping to lay a groundwork that this chef would rely on his entire life.

“Honestly, I will say this,” Smith added. “if you can work at a night shift at a busy Waffle House, you can work at any commercial kitchen. You might have to learn technique. You might have to learn a lot of other stuff, but as far as speed, you’re set.”

For example, in a Waffle House, they don’t use a ticket system. “It’s all call and heard. They call and there is never a ticket for you to look at. So no matter how busy a Waffle House gets, you have to memorize what’s coming in.

“So hats off to the guys that work at the Waffle House.”

Of course it’s been many years since Smith was in a Waffle House kitchen. After training and a guide for river rafting, Smith established a pattern of working as a guide in the summer and sometimes acting as cook as well, then getting a cooking job in the winter months.

Smith attended some college and some culinary school, but got much of his training working under what he considers some of cooking’s great master chefs.

“I fell in love with it,” he said. “I thought ‘this is what I’ve been missing.’ ”

Smith went on to work at several executive chef positions, mostly in Ohio, until he and his wife decided to return home to Stoney Creek to be close to Smith’s family.

Someone told him about the opening at Boones Street, and he was immediately interested.

“Cooks and chefs usually have a one- to two- year span in a restaurant. They just get burnt out,” Smith explained. “It ain’t the kitchen stuff you see on TV.  You’re going to work six days a week. You’re going to work 70 hours a week.

“ You’ve got to love it to live it.”

At Boones Street Market, he was offered the chance to work with real farm-to-table ingredients, all while getting to meet the farmers and have creative control.

His response?

“Yes please.. I don’t know a better way to put it than that.”

Now, Smith is part of a project that still has its challenges, but offers so much promise.

“We’re still in development in the kitchen itself,” he said with a shake of his head. “You know what a camel is, right? A horse made by committee. That’s our kitchen right now.”

He also likes what Jonesborough Locally Grown executive director Shelley Crowe says.

“What Shelley and I are doing — with the help and support of a lot of people — is we’re building the airplane while we’re trying to fly it.”

But he believes it is all worth it. It simply comes back to the food, and the chance to bring back some of his grandma’s cooking, with a bit of a modern twist.

“A lot of times when you get something from the grocery store, the flavor’s not there,” Smith said. “It doesn’t taste like what it is. .

“Here, it tastes like spinach is supposed to taste like and it looks like spinach in a picture book. The same thing for the beef and the lamb.

After all, he concludes, “where else can you go where you call a guy and he’s going to pull something out of the ground and bring it to you?

“Everything I have here is like that.”

Boones Street Market will be featuring Chef Smith’s dishes at hot lunches and weekend brunches. Set hours are still in progress. Visit  Boone Street Market’s Facebook page for continued updates.

Jonesborough spreads St. Paddy’s spirit

Joel Van Eaton, Van Eaton, Carol Huie enjoy the St. Paddy’s Day fun.


Hundreds of locals and visitors took part in Jonesborough’s St. Paddy’s Celebration that was held on Saturday, March 16.

The day was filled with kids’ activities, live music, a fun run, Irish foods, green beer and lasting memories.

Malachi Peek and McKinley Honeycutt show off their first place costumes.

During the day, families enjoyed the Leprechaun Trail which led them places like the Christopher Taylor House where visitors could make-their-own Victorian St. Patrick’s Day card, visit the Chester Inn Museum parlor to hear an Irish fairytale from playwright and author Anne G’Fellers-Mason, stop by Bewitched Boutique to get a free green Oreo ball, visit Tennessee Hills for a free green koozie and sweet treat, step into Noelle for some St. Paddy’s goodies,  enjoy Downtown Sweet ‘s shamrock cookies, learn skills at Mill Spring Makers Market for rock painting, and relax at Main Street for live music from the Celtic Dulcimer Trio.

The Jonesborough Gold Hunt, a mobile-friendly QR code scavenger hunt, took patrons throughout downtown all weekend long.

The hunt included almost 20 locations incorporating Jonesborough’s unique history and architecture.

At 4p.m., the Paddy’s Dash: Brew Fun Run began at the International Storytelling Center with the two-mile loop making a pit stop at Depot Street Brewery, then back to the International Storytelling Center for Shamrockin’ on the Plaza.

Shamrockin’ on the Plaza incorporated live music from ETSU’s Celtic Band, Roaring Jelly, Bangers and Mash, Irish stew and Depot Street Beer all provided by Main Street Café and Catering as well as a St. Paddy’s Costume Contest.

First-place winner for the costume contest was Malachi Peek and McKinley Honeycutt and the second-place winner was Carol Huie and her puppy Tucker.

MOTS to get ready for 21st season with kick-off gala

Listeners gather at a Music on the Square concert.



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For area music lovers, Music on the Square’s spring gala has become almost as much a sign of the season as crocuses in bloom.

But for organizer Steve Cook —  currently getting ready for the March 22 gala, to be held once again at the historic McKinney Center — it’s still all about bringing the tunes to downtown Jonesborough.

Music lovers gather at the 2018 gala.

“We’re 21 now,” Cook said, adding with an impish grin, “we’re legal.”

From May 3 until Sept. 27, MOTS has and will continue to offer top-of-the-line talents each Friday to residents and visitors alike — all at no cost for the listeners, other than what they choose to toss into the entertainment hat that goes around each performance.

But while Cook remains committed to continuing to offer this family friendly event to all who come to listen, he soon recognized there was a cost to be met.

That’s how Music on the Square’s  springtime gala and fundraiser was born. Cook decided it was the perfect way to provide the community with a fun event, showcasing some of what MOTS has to offer, all while raising needed money to continue the tradition.

This year, the Friday event, which begins at 6 p.m., will feature music, a live auction, heavy hors d’oevres and drinks, much like past galas.

But 2019 is boasting a few differences.

For one thing, while Cook promises the food will be every bit as good as in previous years, he is hoping it will be a bit more Jonesborough focused, partly out of  necessity.

“Last year, the Noli Truck provided all the food, free of charge,” Cook explained. “This year, however, with a new Erwin restaurant on the horizon for Noli, MOTS needed to look elsewhere

“I thought what better way than to feature our own restaurants,” Cook said. “So Dawn Heaton (of Barrell House) is in charge of organizing the food.”

Cook added that they will be meeting this week to fine tune the details, but ideally, diners will be able to sample everything from brisket and burritos to pizza and more.

Auction items will also be paired down a bit to feature more of the best-of-the-best.

And music — always a necessity at a MOTS event — will this year be provided by Blue Foxx.

“Sol Driven Train was not available,” Cook explained. “Blue Foxx is a great oldies band. They do Santana, the Beatles, the Allman Brothers. . . “

Of course, in all that fun, ticket-buyers will also have the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to make MOTS available for all. And for Cook, that makes this one of the best causes to participate in.

“I love music,” he said simply. “I’d rather be playing music than presenting, but you can’t play all the time.”

Tickets for Music on the Square’s 21st Anniversary Gala are $50 per person and can be purchased by calling the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 753-1010 or by visiting jonesborough.com/tickets.

Sponsorships are also still available throughout the season. Contact Cook at [email protected] for more information.