Back To Brushy Mountain

The drive up to Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary finds you wondering if the anxious feeling in your tummy is equal with how the hardened criminals felt as they arrived to serve time. Originally built of wood in 1896 and arranged in the shape of a cross, the prison was completely rebuilt using sandstone that was mined, hand chiseled and laid by prisoners in the 1930s. However, what you see is a stone, castle like fortress seemingly carved out of the mountain. While the buildings remained in the shape of the cross, an intentional nod to faith based rehabilitation, Brushy Mountain is an intimidating structure begetting anxious feelings.

The state first operated the prison on a convict-lease program, renting out convicts to private coal mining operations in Morgan and Anderson counties. That didn’t last long as the citizen coal miners revolted against the program and the state of Tennessee decided to use the inmates to operate mines located on state property surrounding the prison. Each prison cell of two beds and one toilet housed four inmates on a 12 hour rotation, two inmates worked the mines for 12 hours while the other two inmates utilized the cell. Inmates had daily quotas of coal to meet, with failure resulting in harsh punishments. After 70 years of operation and following the 1967 mining deaths of two inmates, the mines were closed.

Brushy Mountain was the only industry in Morgan County for a long, long time. The county relied on the prison for much more than just employment. The prison doctors and nurses were the only medical staff in the area and delivered many babies for local residents. The local residents also received dental care, hair cuts and other services within the prison walls. With most of the local residents working at Brushy Mountain, the Sunday “dinner on the grounds” included the families of prisoners and workers alike. The prison was a town within a town.

In 2009, Brushy Mountain Prison officials began quietly moving the 545 inmates to the Morgan County Correctional Complex, a maximum security facility about 10 miles away. Moving the general prisoners on a bus and maximum security prisoners in groups of eight. The final group of inmates left on June 4, 2009. It was raining that day as several hundred attended the closing ceremony for former and current prison workers. The prison whistle blew for the final time after 113 years of operation, Brushy Mountain closed.

Often referred to as Tennessee’s own version of Alcatraz, Brushy Mountain is surrounded by the impassable terrain of the Walden Ridge Mountains and today offers a glimpse of a time passed. An historical relic that once housed the infamous James Earl Ray, convicted of killing Martin Luther King, Jr., it is also mentioned in movie, The Silence of the Lambs and written on the pages of the novel, The Firm. Brushy Mountain was known as the “End of the Line,” housing evil men who committed heartless crimes with little remorse. Once an inmate arrived, there was little chance they’d leave. Throughout the 113 storied years of operation and beyond, Brushy Mountain Prison has become its own character, having a story beyond the inmates.

Today, after nearly ten years as just the historical relic carved out of the mountain, Brushy Mountain is back to life. The legendary facility no longer houses the hard-timers but welcomes you to tour the prison, listen to the stories, enjoy great food and taste some moonshine. The prison tour is self-guided with former prison guards around to answer questions. You will see all significant components of the prison from the cell block to the cafeteria and other buildings like the laundry room, gymnasium, museum, movie theatre, exercise yard, and the all-important “HOLE.” There are markers throughout the tour showcasing the story of what happened in that particular spot. It’s a glimpse inside the troubled minds of the hardened criminals that served time, the workers tasked with maintaining the safety and the families of both who lives revolved around the prison. The movie theater plays a 18 minute documentary every half hour that shares the stories of Brushy Mountain life.

The stories live on at Brushy Mountain, the voices echo down “3 Walk” and they are yours to experience. As you depart, the anxious feeling in your tummy no longer includes wondering what it felt like to arrive, but what it would have been like to be locked up for life at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary.

Before or after touring the prison, the new Brushy Mountain experience offers southern cooking with a twist at The Warden’s Table restaurant. Serving everything from classic BBQ plates to cheeseburgers to nachos. There is plenty of food selections and room for families or large groups. With your tummy full from the cafeteria style dining at The Warden’s Table, it is the End of Line that you will find downright enjoyable. The End of the Line moonshine is distilled and bottled on the grounds of the former maximum-security prison. From farm to still, they use local grains and water from the mountains’ natural springs. This is true Tennessee Moonshine.

Best of all is the ability to take a piece of this historical relic home, the gift shop has a variety of items from t-shirts to mugs to key rings and much more. There is a souvenir or gift for any age and the gift shop is also the place to pick up a bottle of End of the Line moonshine. In addition, Brushy Mountain is an unforgettable place to hold an event or party. They are hosting concerts, festivals and even weddings in and on the grounds of the infamous prison.

This unforgettable, infamous prison of history is now a place to make new memories. Those new memories can include a very personal experience at Brushy Mountain. The prison is considered an extremely haunted location by paranormal investigators. Phantom footsteps, apparitions, disembodied voices have been reported and tours are now available for anyone daring to encounter Brushy Mountain after dark.

Developed by The Brushy Mountain Group, the historical relic is re-establishing the economic security lost in 2009 when the prison closed. The thirst for the history of hard time and lure of hard liquor has changed the maximum-security prison to a tourist attraction. The site is currently home to a moonshine distillery, concert venue, restaurant, gift shop and prison tours, but much more is yet to come which includes a campground.

Warden’s Table

Before or after touring the prison, the new Brushy Mountain experience offers southern cooking with a twist at The Warden’s Table restaurant. Serving everything from classic BBQ plates to cheeseburgers to nachos. There is plenty of food selections and room for families or large groups. With your tummy full from the cafeteria style dining at The Warden’s Table, it is the End of Line that you will find downright enjoyable. The End of the Line moonshine is distilled and bottled on the grounds of the former maximum-security prison. From farm to still, they use local grains and water from the mountains’ natural springs. This is true Tennessee Moonshine.

Best of all is the ability to take a piece of this historical relic home, the gift shop has a variety of items from t-shirts to mugs to key rings and much more. There is a souvenir or gift for any age and the gift shop is also the place to pick up a bottle of End of the Line moonshine. In addition, Brushy Mountain is an unforgettable place to hold an event or party. They are hosting concerts, festivals and even weddings in and on the grounds of the infamous prison.

This unforgettable, infamous prison of history is now a place to make new memories. Those new memories can include a very personal experience at Brushy Mountain. The prison is considered an extremely haunted location by paranormal investigators. Phantom footsteps, apparitions, disembodied voices have been reported and tours are now available for anyone daring to encounter Brushy Mountain after dark.

Developed by The Brushy Mountain Group, the historical relic is re-establishing the economic security lost in 2009 when the prison closed. The thirst for the history of hard time and lure of hard liquor has changed the maximum-security prison to a tourist attraction. The site is currently home to a moonshine distillery, concert venue, restaurant, gift shop and prison tours, but much more is yet to come which includes a campground.

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2019 Summer Festivals

Music City Hot Chicken Festival
July 4
700 Woodland Street, Nashville, TN
Created in 2007, the annual Music City Hot Chicken Festival brings together the local community and visitors to celebrate the uniquely-Nashville dish, Hot Chicken.
As recently featured by the famous food chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken… Hot Chicken is an infamous Nashville, Tennessee, food. So what is this Hot Chicken?
It turn out there is quite a story behind this famous chicken recipe. Back in the 1930s, there was a man named Thornton Prince, a handsome, tall and good-looking man known for being somewhat of a womanizer. One of Thornton’s women got fed up and wanted revenge. So she made him his favorite fried chicken. But this time she added the hottest spices in her kitchen with the hopes of making it beyond ability to digest. But her plan backfired. He loved it.
In 1945, Prince Thornton, along with his brothers, created their own Hot Chicken recipe and opened Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville. This family legacy has been transformed into a Nashville icon and has everyone’s mouth watering for a taste. Not too far from the original location of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, the inaugural Hot Chicken Festival took place. It has grown to be one of Nashville’s largest festivals.
This FREE event starts off with the Fire Truck Parade at 10:30am followed by free Hot Chicken samples to the first 500 people in line. Festival gates open at 11:00am. Visitors can enjoy Hot Chicken from Nashville’s best Hot Chicken establishments and other delicious edibles from local vendors.
Live music from local bands keeps the “Nashville” vibe going all day long, and visitors can look on while five teams try their hand at cooking up their version of Hot Chicken in the Amateur Cooking Competition.
The event ends at 3pm, when visitors can make their way downtown for the annual fireworks display.
www.hot-chicken.com

Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair
July 12-21
Gatlinburg Convention Center
Gatlinburg, TN
Daily 10am-6pm
Sundays 10am-5pm
Filling the 150,000 square feet of downtown’s Gatlinburg Convention Center, the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair hosts Artisans and Craftsmen from all over the nation. Two hundred booths with unique and one-of-a-kind handmade products are beautifully displayed as these skilled craftspeople demonstrate their talents. All items represented are handmade, and of utmost quality and without duplication. Look for exceptional pottery pieces, molded leather, copper art, local candy makers and many more unique items.
There is something for everyone at the Fair. The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair and Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries provide a free Kid’s Corner during the July fair, with a selection of D.I.Y. crafts for our youngest visitors to take home with them. Enjoy contemporary country, bluegrass and your favorite gospel tunes at 12 and 3 daily. Concessions are available for sale through the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair usually takes most of the day to see. If you didn’t quite get through it all, multi-day passes are available. Come off the street and beat the July heat to celebrate the 44th Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair.

Grainger County Tomato Festival
July 26, 27, & 28
7480 Rutledge Pike
Rutledge, TN
Friday. Noon-8pm
Saturday. 9am-6pm
Sunday. Noon-5pm
The Grainger County Tomato Festival was organized in 1992 to promote the world famous Grainger County Tomatoes. Over the years, a number of special events have been added, making the festival one of the largest free festivals in East Tennessee. The Grainger County Tomato Festival has been named by Parade magazine as one of the top ten festivals in the USA.
It’s a weekend of Grainger County Tomatoes, Live Music, the infamous Tomato Wars, Arts & Crafts, great food and so much more. Pets are welcome and are accommodated by several water stations on the festival grounds. Mark your calendars to spend the last full weekend of July in Rutledge, Tennessee. You don’t want to miss it.
Pets are welcome, and we have several water stations on the festival grounds. We also have misting tents for cooling off that the critters and their people love.

Butterfly Dash & Burger Bash
August 10th
World’s Fair Park
Enjoy gourmet burgers, live music and a family-friendly atmosphere for a great cause when Burger Bash returns to World’s Fair Park on Saturday, August 10. The event is a fundraiser for East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.
Gather at World’s Fair Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. as teams of chefs and grill masters compete to present the best slider. There is something for everyone to enjoy including kids activities and live music all day by The Coveralls and Soul Finger.
Admission to Burger Bash is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 4-12, and free for ages 3 and under. Admission price includes tickets for adults to sample three sliders (kids to sample two sliders). Additional burger tickets are available for purchase.
The day’s activities will kick off with Butterfly Dash, a 10K race. There is also a 5K and family fun walk. Butterfly Dash and Burger Bash tickets sold separately. Proceeds from race entry fees and sales of food and drink tickets will benefit the Pain and Palliative Care program at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Tickets available online now at www.etch.com/dashandbash. For more information, call Children’s Hospital Development office at (865) 541-8668

Virginia Highlands Festivals
July 26 – August 4
Robert Porterfield, founder of both the Virginia Highlands Festival and the famed Barter Theatre, held
the first Festival in
1949 at the Martha Washington Inn. His purpose was to preserve and celebrate the cultural heritage of this area. The Festival, over the past seven decades, has grown in scope to represent all of Southwest Virginia. Now it not only preserves the arts, crafts and skills that developed in this region, but it also imports talented artists and performers from around the world for creative exchange and the enjoyment of area residents and visitors.
More than 100 volunteers work year-round planning events, tours, performances and exhibitions for the annual Festival. They staff information booths, take up tickets, shuttle out-of-town performers to their programs and represent the Festival to local media. Chartered in 1778, Abingdon is a Virginia Historic Landmark. Visitors enjoy amenities usually reserved for much larger communities. You can stroll shaded, brick sidewalks and savor the ambiance of the oldest town west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or explore a 20-block Historic District filled with outstanding examples of Federal and
Victorian architecture.
Antiques Market
Washington County Fairgrounds
Last year the Antiques Market moved to a better, indoor location that is more convenient for everyone: the Washington County Fairgrounds, 17046 Fairground Drive in Abingdon!
Covering about 45,000 square feet and sporting a concrete floor, restrooms and a catering kitchen, this venue offers many upgrades including safety and security for venders, cooler temperatures and protection from the elements.
The show is open rain or shine under tents.
The “Best in Virginia” Juried Arts and Crafts show will once again set up on the beautiful Barter Square at Barter Stage II.

Dog Daze
August 16, 17, & 18
Village Green
The festivities will start on Friday evening with a local dog “Pooch Plunge!” Local dog owners will have the opportunity to have their ‘puppy’ try a Dock-Dive! K9 Pet Services of East Tennessee has underwritten The Plunge activity, which will allow non-competitors to try the DockDog experience free of charge. Between 4 and 7pm, members of the Smoky Mountain DockDogs Club will assist area pet lovers with their introduction to the sport. If anyone is interested in entering their dog in the actual competition, (all breeds accepted), they can email dd_admin@dockdogs.com, call the office at 330-241-4975 https://dockdogs.com/eventscal/dog-daze-at-village-green/#

Smokey Mountain Dock Dogs
Event Schedule:

Fri Aug 16
Onsite Registration/ Practice
3:00 pm

Try DockDogs
THE POOCH PLUNGE!
4:00-7:00 pm

Sat Aug 17
Onsite Registration/ Practice
10:00 am

Big Air WAVE # 1
11:00 am
Big Air WAVE # 2
12:30 pm
Big Air WAVE # 3
2:00 pm
Big Air WAVE # 4
3:30 pm
Extreme Vertical (All in one)
5:00 pm

Sun Aug 18, 2019 Onsite Registration/ Practice
10:00 am

Big Air WAVE # 5
11:00 am
Big Air WAVE # 6
12:30 pm
Speed Retrieve (All in one Finals)
2:00 pm
Big Air Finals start at
3:30 pm
(Pro, Semi-Pro, Contender & Amateur Finals)

Event Format: Outdoor Big Air®, Extreme Vertical®, Speed RetrieveTM , and Iron Dog Rankings

The final rounds of competition
and award presentations will take place Sunday afternoon.

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Wes Stowers… Leadership in Action

A walk through the buildings known as Stowers Machinery Corporation shows the growth, the hard work done daily and the future, which is a constant of innovation. Most notable is that Wes Stowers is speaking to each employee, by name and that is the definition of this man. The humble and gracious President of Stowers Machinery Corporation guides the company as a family, it’s a team of which each member has significant value.

The Stowers family opened the company doors in 1960, Harry Stowers and his two older brothers, Eugene (Bud) and Dick purchased the R.L. Harris Caterpillar dealership that had been in business since the early 30’s. The winter of that first year was tough, they were rebuilding the dealership and establishing relationships with both the customers and employees. The Interstate Highway Program got started in East Tennessee. The Stowers team worked hard to build a reputation of excellent product support to stand out from the competition already known to the contractors working the highway program. Most of those contractors were not from East Tennessee and the Stowers brothers knew their success depended on offering more than just equipment.

The Interstate Highway Program would complete in the mid 70’s and Stowers innovation in service and forward thinking placed the company in a great position as the Arab Oil Embargo made the energy source of coal reserves in East Tennessee very valuable. Stowers Machinery was able to serve the exacting demands of the coal industry, doubling the size of its Knoxville facility, providing 24 hour service and machine component exchanges. This time of growth was followed by the recession of the 80’s causing the coal industry to collapse, it was a period of transition.

The innovation of Stowers Machinery Corporation in the middle 1960’s would again positively impact as they met the needs of the industrial firms of Alcoa, Bowater, Oak Ridge National Lab, the forestry and trucking industries. Readied involvement in the changing markets would become the signature company model.

It was also at the close of the 80’s that Wes Stowers, son of Harry, would become company President. Wes joined the company following a 12-year career in the Air Force.

Wes actually began working for the company part time on Saturdays and full time in the summer, in the warehouse and shop at the young age of 16. His childhood goal was to become a fighter pilot. A dream realized after graduating from the Air Force Academy, serving as a fighter pilot in the Air Force with stationing around the globe including Spain and Germany.

While at the academy Wes met Liz and together they build a life which included the addition of daughters, Lisa and Rachel, who were born while they served overseas with the United States Air Force. Wes Stowers returned to East Tennessee in 1988, taking the lead at Stowers Machinery Corporation with the welcomed guidance of his father, Harry Stowers, serving as Chairman until the patriarchs passing in 2007. “He gave me the tools, didn’t second guess my decisions but instead would ask me questions” Wes reflected, “sometimes it would be to understand and then sometimes for me to reach a needed change of thought.” Harry was a good mentor but also utilized a former caterpillar executive manager to guide Wes on being an effective leader.

The combination of teachings would prove success as the next 20 years Wes Stowers led Stowers Machinery Corporation to becoming an industry leader in almost every market. Believing and practicing daily the action of being a good steward of his employees, Wes took care of his people and built a team for long term. Stowers remarked, “During the boom time in 2005 – 2007…we were thinking how smart we are.” Then came the recession.

The start of 2008 brought the recession, seen at the beginning as something on the horizon, not leading to much concern. “We were expecting a 15% downturn.” Wes remembered. It was believed the company was doing well enough to survive the recession and while the effects were not immediate, the hit came hard with a 45% reduction in 2009. “Everything fell out, rentals, demand for machinery, everything.” said Wes, “difficult decisions had to be made.”

As an Air Force Fighter Pilot, Wes Stowers learned the importance of team, that nothing is a solo event. He had to rely on others to do his job effectively and respecting their hard work and time was key to success. This perspective would serve him and the entire team of Stowers well in the hard times. They developed a 12-month plan, a constant balancing act between wages, debt, profit and the bank. Constant communication with his Stowers team was the life bread of the transition.

The toughest part being the effects on his team and the uncertainity in the months ahead without the ability to reassure was overwhelming. “It hurt like hell.” Wes remarked. The pain is still visible on his face as he reflected on that time. Wes Stowers is a unique leader, a fatherly guidance to his over 300 employees.

The cut of extra spending, elimination of raises and yes, some unavoidable layoffs had to be implemented. Wes managed to hold true to promises made to his team and the constant communication softened the forced transitions. The business model proved the foundation to steady the company, they survived, they didn’t fall. Wes believes the lessons learned from that time have served as positives for the future. The company experienced greater innovation, more organization and opened doors to industries that otherwise would of remained closed. 

Making our way back to the administrative offices of Stowers Machinery, the displays throughout express company history as focal points. Forgetting not how you get somewhere is the foundation of maximizing the here and now. Just as he holds tight to the guidance given from that history, so too is his guiding the next generation, adding to the history. He has built a management team on his personal culture of good stewardship. Daily they work together to maintain the standards, cultivate new ideas and innovate the industry.

Nothing is slowing down for Wes Stowers just yet, he is still the necessary element of this well run machine, however, the many other elements in place provide Wes the ability to follow his philanthropic passions. Do not look for him on the golf course, that is not a hobby, look up to the skies…Flying is where he finds personal enjoyment. In true Wes fashion, there is a purpose to his passion as he flys vintage aircraft to give others the opportunity to see a real piece of history. “Ain’t Misbehavin” is  his P-51 Mustang built in the 1940’s and used by the Air Force in World War II as its long range fighter. In 2010, the plane was restored to the exact paint specifications as the original “Ain’t’ Misbehavin” flown by Capt. Jesse Frey in World War II. In addition, Wes serves on numerous business and charitable boards.

Wes Stowers’ culture of good stewardship to others and all things is clear in every detail of his life. The quiet man whose strength of will, faith and  discipline led Stowers Machinery Corporation through the tough times of the recession, is also the core of what maintains the company as an industry leader. His greatest advice to others is always put the backbone of your business first, the employees. What you give to your team they will give to others, leadership is paying it forward. Wes Stowers is living his legacy, not just leaving it behind.

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Unclaimed Baggage

North of Birmingham, West of Atlanta and South of Chattanooga is where you will find the most unique shopping destination: the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where lost suitcases finally settle to have their contents reappraised, cleaned, repriced for display. With over a shoppers that annually visit, it’s a must not miss extravaganza.

The store was founded in 1970 by Doyle Owens, when he borrowed a pickup truck and $300 to head for Washington, D.C., where he purchased unclaimed bags from the bus industry. The selling started on top of card tables from his home, growing into the opening of a store that today is more than 40,000 square feet and occupies a city block.

The finds are cultivated from airlines, bus lines and train carriers from unclaimed baggage and cargo. Doyle Owens’ son, Bryan, purchased the business in 1995 and made getting national media attention for the store a priority. Everyone from“The Today Show” to Oprah have featured the store on their shows. The store itself is much like a typical suitcase with clothes, shoes and jewelry taking centerstage. A significant choosing of books, plenty of eyewear and large selection of electronics and sporting goods are highlighted.

There are items you wouldn’t expect to find like a suit of armor, a mummified falcon and a Jim Henson puppet-goblin from the cult film Labyrinth. And the bling found will blow your mind: a 5.8-carat diamond set in a platinum band that was found packed in a sock, a 40.95-carat natural emerald and a platinum Rolex valued at over $64,000.

According to the Unclaimed Baggage Center website, about 5% of unclaimed bags are reclaimed. The airlines pay the lost claims and then sell those bags to the center. The lost bags arrive by tractor-trailer to the processing facility to be sorted and priced. All clothing is dry-cleaned and laundered at their in-house facility, the largest in Alabama. Fine jewelry is cleaned and appraised.

Electronic equipment is tested and cleared of personal data. The best stuff gets onto the retail floor with remaining items being donated through their Reclaimed for Good program, helping people around the world.

It’s not just about shopping. It’s a wonderful experience from the Guest Services to the Starbucks cafe to the smiling, helpful associates. You can reserve a personal shopper, a ninety-minute session with one of their professional style advisors to build your profile and help you shop the best of all

the clothing and accessories. There is custom shipping that will take the hassle out of getting those fancy finds home. They even have a plan for the furry ones who can be cared for while you shop at Cutie Petooties for $10 a day, located only five minutes away. Most fun is that daily you can join in the action with the Baggage Experience. At 2:30 each day, a shopper is chosen to experience opening an unprocessed bag; you never know what you might find! The Unclaimed Baggage Center is located in Scottsboro, Alabama, a picturesque town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on the banks of the Tennessee River. It is the perfect road trip break. Enjoy the shopping experience, and then head an hour south to Huntsville to check out the U.S. Space and Rocket Center or north to experience all the fun of Chattanooga. The final home of lost luggage in the middle of the best road trip route all the year-round!

Monday-Friday:

9:00 – 6:00 CT

Saturday:

8:00 – 7:00 CT

Closed Sundays,

Thanksgiving

and Christmas

509 W. Willow Street

Scottsboro, Alabama 35768

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Two Time National Champions!

Its takes great determination and dedication to battle for a championship in collegiate baseball. Add some inspiration and you will be guaranteed the “W” in the bracket. Tennessee Wesleyan University became a two-time baseball national champion with a 6-2 win over St. Thomas in the final game of the 2019 Avista NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.

As they had throughout the season, the Bulldogs drew inspiration from 8-year-old Neyland Picke of Athens. He threw the ceremonial first pitch before the championship game. Neyland is attempting to beat cancer for a third time, the 8-year-old second grader at City Park Elementary is the star player of the team. “We played for each other. We played for everybody in the stands. We played for our coaching staff. Most importantly, we played for Neyland,” Junior Outfielder Bryce Giles said in a release on the NAIA website. “That was the biggest thing.”

Bryce Giles was named the Most Valuable Player of the World Series. For the tournament, Tennessee Wesleyan (56-10) led in a number of offensive categories including batting average (.332), slugging percentage (.526), runs scored (41), hits (63) and RBIs (37). The pitching staff for the Bulldogs had the second-best ERA (3.48) of the tournament. The 56 wins on the season are the most in the program’s history dating back to at least the 2004 season. The second most wins in a season dating back to the same time period is 53…the amount the 2012 national championship team had.

The best description for the TWU Bulldogs attitude can be found in the words of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, at all the time you can.”

GOOD JOB BULLDOGS!

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McMinn County High School: 116th Annual Commencement

McMinn County High School honored the 2019 Graduates at the 116th annual commencement exercises. The oldest school in East Tennessee and second oldest in Tennessee welcomed families, friends, teachers and graduates to receive final commencement remarks from the Former McMinn County School Director, Mickey Blevins who is retired this school year.

McMinn County High School recognized 13 valedictorians: Bethany Elaine Carideo, Emma Jane Gunnells, Jaye Holland Harris, Kandice Joann Henry, Alexis Sheree Hudson, Emma-Claire Kovach, Mary Brianna McKinney, Maggie Claire Montgomery, Conor Aiden O’Malley, Collin Chase Robinson, Cameron Alexander Smith, Ashlyn Taylor Songer and George William Sullins.

C.J. Giles, a member of the school’s first competitive fishing team, also became the first graduate to receive a scholarship in the sport, signing with Bryan College. Additionally, three graduates have been appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Principal David McDonald charged the class of 2019 to live a positive life void of a negative mind, to not complain and to surround themselves with those that would influence being a better person. McDonald presented the Class of 2019 for graduation. History continues to be made at McCounty High School. Congratulations to the Class of 2019.

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Lee Grant Johnson

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.- 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

Truth is, as told in the Bible and shared by Pastors around the world, we are handpicked, created to bring glory to God. For Lee Grant Johnson “Houser” of Madisonville, it was a lifetime of being handpicked by both his earthly connections and his Savior.

Cecil and Dude Johnson were very special people with big hearts. After adopting their first son, Terry, they walked the heartache no parent should as he passed on to grow up in heaven. With faith in their dream of children, they opened their hearts adopting sons, Ray and Guy, then expanded their hearts once more to hand-pick Lee Johnson, a baby brother to complete their family. Raising the three boys to be honest, punctual or don’t bother showing up,  work hard, laugh much and love all. All of those character traits existed and thrived in the youngest Johnson boy. Reminded often by both parents, Lee and his brothers were chosen, cared for, loved beyond measure and given a foundation of knowing the importance of being embraced by another. Lee’s life is a legacy of embracing others, loving much and yes, laughing even more.

Growing up in Monroe County, the love for his friends and classmates at Madisonville High School is memorable. In fact, he is the infamous “Houser.” The class of 1980 was and remains forever changed by life of the party, Lee Johnson, who never missed a moment to be in the middle of it all, hand-picked by classmates as favorite. Naturally, he studied at Hiwassee College and loved the University of Tennessee Volunteers just down the road. Lee was a huge fan with a lifelong dream to have a bright orange Harley Davidson. His life is a legacy of being proud of his roots, loving his friends and being the greatest Vol fan!

Along with loving his family and friends, it was his love of country that would make his legacy a part of American history. Following in the proud footsteps of his father, Cecil Johnson, a U.S. Navy World War II veteran, Lee served in the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment of the United States Army. It is readily identified by its nickname, The Old Guard. Each member of The Old Guard is hand-picked to guard the President of the United States (Ronald Reagan at the time), the White House, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and perform ceremonial funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. The regiment is the oldest active duty regiment in the U.S. Army, having been first organized as the First American Regiment in 1784, being the official ceremonial unit of the U.S. Army since 1948. Lee’s life is a legacy of service to country, something he honored for those that served in the past, alongside him and currently.

With a foundation of love for family and country, it was an acknowledgement of God’s love that made Lee personally proud. He shared often about being hand-picked by his Heavenly Father and lived a life of gratitude. With the heart of a servant, Lee never met a stranger and made sure there was a smile or laugh shared. It was a good time, all the time for the vibrant and contagious personality that lit up the room with positive energy. Lee’s life is a legacy of letting his light shine to show that love hand-picked all of us for glory if we allow ourselves to be embraced.

It was that embracing love of God, family and friends that would sustain Lee Johnson during his valiant life battle. In September of 2017, Lee was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Small Cell Adenocarcinoma of the lung. The warrior readied for the fight, armed with his constant smile, positive outlook and unmoving faith. It is known today that most did not know about his diagnosis at first due to Lee always presenting as the same fun-loving, smiling “Houser” they had always known. Every three weeks, his older brother Ray would pick Lee up in the early morning hours, drive him to Vanderbilt for treatments and make the return trip home. It was a precious time of togetherness for the brothers, moments that time nor space can erase. The aggressive cancer, long trips for treatment and medication never dimmed the famous grin. Lee’s life is a legacy of fighting to the finish with constant joy of heart.

In the wee hours of the morning on Monday, February 19, 2019, Lee was hand-picked for heavenly wings and a glorious reunion with his beloved parents and the oldest brother he had never known. Lee’s life is a legacy of loving dogs, collecting Mickey Mouse memorabilia, loving Hooters for the hot wings, playing with his nieces & nephews, enjoying his dream job riding tractors all day for the city of Madisonville, working at the local golf course, being a best friend, being a baby brother, being a U.S Army Veteran, honoring all military personnel, and being the biggest UT Vols Fan!

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Hawassee College

It is the 60 acres of unmatched beauty with magnificent trees and mountain views that capture your attention, it is the peace felt as you take in the surroundings… it is a special place. Each building rich with history. If they could talk, oh, the stories that could be shared. Every square foot of this historical land is deeply rooted in the people of Monroe County. With a history that spans over 170 years, it is Hiwassee College.

The name Hiwassee is derived from the Cherokee word “Ayuhwasi”, meaning “meadow place at the foot of the hills,” which is reflective of the college location at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Hiwassee’s first president, Reverend Robert Doak, also served as its senior professor and the only college-educated staff member. Students entered at around age fourteen and graduated in their late teens or early twenties. David M. Key, Hiwassee’s first graduate, went on to be the Postmaster General under President Rutherford B. Hayes. The Honorable Albert H. Roberts, graduate 1889, would later become the Governor of Tennessee from 1919 to 1921.

Back in the day, Hiwassee College housed an elementary school taught by the student teachers. Charlie Brakebill was one of those students. He fondly remembers the three-room school and his student teachers. Charlie has a lifetime of memories at the Hiwassee campus. During his time at the elementary school, he was rewarded with a 1lb box of chocolate-covered cherries; immediately consuming the sweets, it was the box that remained on display in his home until heading to college. “I walked over 2 miles daily to Hiwassee for school,” reflected Charlie, “coming home so hungry, telling my Mom it was from the walking.” Mrs. Brakebill didn’t believe her son’s story, discovering that Charlie was sharing his sandwich each day with a friend who never had a lunch.“Mom never said anything to me,” said Charlie. “From that day until I was finished with school, there were always two sandwiches.” The 93-year-old native of Madisonville entered the U.S. Army at 18 and served three years in Europe during World War II—including at Omaha Beach, retiring as a lieutenant colonel from the Air Force in 1967.

Hiwassee College is a fixture in the community, with an impact that reaches beyond the campus and the educational offerings. The grounds of the campus and buildings have always been available for community events. The Barker Learning Center held the commencement services for Madisonville High School, and annually the Monroe Area Council for the Arts presents a world-class performing arts series at the Hiwassee Performing Arts Center.

Under the leadership of President Dr. Robin Tricoli, the college regained accreditation in 2013 (lost in 2008) with reaffirmation in 2018. Enrollment increased, as well as the priority of community commitment. Working closely with Lisa Bingham, the Hiwassee H.O.P.E. program was founded. This program provided students, within or aging out of the foster care system a home, three meals, financial aid and a support parent enabling them to achieve higher education. Proceeds from Monroe Life Magazine’s Celebration of HOPE Balloon Festival, held on the campus, provided the funding. When the program caught the attention of Hiwassee Alumni, Jim Henry, then Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, it became a fully funded government program and today is offered in post-secondary schools throughout Tennessee.

In addition to community and education, Hiwassee College has excelled in sports with National Championship appearances in Baseball, Men’s Basketball and Women’s Basketball. The Hiwassee Tigers gave opportunities for students to play their sport on a collegiate level while obtaining their

education. Carolyn Bush-Roddy, 2019 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and 1975 Pan-American Games Gold Medalist, enjoyed that opportunity. She finished her playing career with the Dallas Diamonds of Women’s Professional Basketball League. In 1997, she returned to Hiwassee as Head Coach of the Lady Tigers until 2000. The Hiwassee College Athletics Department was diverse with Basketball, Soccer, Baseball, Golf, Shooting, Volleyball, Cross-Country, Softball and Cheerleading.

Hiwassee College has a rich heritage. The liberal arts college is affiliated with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. The core values and foundation of faith are the pride of Hiwassee alumni; it is the lifelong connection that brings so many of them back to the campus. Brittany Tipton, class of 2012 valedictorian, returned eight months after graduation to be Resident Director and Equestrian Center Manager. “From the moment I started working, President Tricoli pushed me to go for my Master in Equine Science,” said Brittany. “I was accepted to UTK’s graduate school and achieved it. The plan was to return to work in April.” She did return to work at the Equestrian Center as planned; however, now it is to manage the first-class boarding and training facility until it is sold. “I was speechless,” expressed Brittany upon learning her beloved Hiwassee would closed. “It’s a part of me.” The Hiwassee College Board of Trustees voted to close the institution at the end of the spring semester. The announcement came in late March, citing financial instability. In an official statement from the communications department:

“We are proud of our historic mission of educating students for 170 years in the United Methodist tradition of John Wesley…Hiwassee College’s legacy will survive through those who attended the college and who continue to lead and serve…changes in demographics, our rural location, and declining enrollment have combined to produce an unsustainable economic model. Our current full-time equivalent enrollment is 225 students… the community, our alumni, and this region have all been a vital part of supporting our mission and campus. Our faculty and staff have been supportive through the years and we are grateful for their commitment to Hiwassee College and Christian higher education…We wish to thank all of those whose prayers and support have been so meaningful for so long.”

Although the college is closing, the legacy will live on with those positively impacted by Hiwassee College. The final graduates walked across the stage in May. It is a new start for them and the finale of the historic school. Eric Wolfe, student body president and graduate, will have the unique legacy of being the first Biology major to graduate in 60 years and also the last one in school history. This reality for Hiwassee College was heartbreaking for students, alumni, parents, faculty, community and the entirety of Monroe County.

According to national reports, colleges are closing or merging at an accelerating rate, from about eight per year between 2004 and 2014 to an estimated 20 per year moving forward, with small private colleges particularly vulnerable. It was a business decision for Hiwassee College as it faced an enrollment of 225 with a sustained need for at least 500. As the pool of college-bound students shrinks, elite schools will recruit more from populations once left to the smaller regional colleges. Sweet Briar College, a women’s liberal arts college about 12 miles north of Lynchburg, Virginia, had the fiercely loyal alumnae bring their school back from extinction. But there are not enough alumni and, increasingly, not enough students to replicate that everywhere. Sadly, many communities are experiencing the same loss of institutions that is currently being grieved in Monroe County.

It is a harsh reality that we wish did not happen anywhere, but especially our Monroe County, our Hiwassee College. The experience has also brought reflection into a time of our lives somewhat forgotten. When asked, Charles Brakebill was unable to express the hurting within his heart on the closing. Brittany Tipton shared about finding comfort in the memories, stories being shared of Hiwassee greatness. Lisa Bingham hopes that something will revive the beautiful campus and continue providing educational opportunities in the area. The responses are varied, the grief at different stages; however, they are the voices for the buildings that cannot talk, they are sharing the stories of those 60 acres, they were a part of the history and, along with the countless others, they will continue the legacy of Hiwassee College.

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Hawks Cay

The Florida Keys are the subject of much folklore, a romantic yet mysterious destination located at the southern tip of the United States. With non-stop flights from Knoxville to South Florida, it’s also an easy getaway. Just book a flight, rental car and head down the Overseas Highway to Ernest Hemingway’s paradise.

The Overseas Highway, US Hwy 1 in Florida, is one of America’s most scenic roads. Traveling through the Keys is a breathtaking trip. At approximately mile marker 61 between Conch and Grassy Keys on the island of Duck Key sits a landmark of the Florida Keys, Hawks Cay Resort. You will find clear turquoise water, endless sunshine, great fishing and abundant relaxation. Recently, the landmark oceanside resort reopened after completing a $50 million dollar renovation post Hurricane Irma.

Hawks Cay Resort, recipient of the prestigious AAA Four Diamond Award and a member of the Preferred Hotel Group Lifestyle Collection, is a 60-acre, tropical destination boasting 177 guest rooms and 250 two- and three-bedroom villas, a full-service marina, six restaurants, saltwater lagoon, five swimming pools, kid and teen clubs and spa.

It is also the only resort in the mainland United States offering free viewing of trained dolphins. Guests have the unique opportunity to encounter and interact with bottlenose dolphins in this marine mammal’s natural environment.

Located in the premier fishing destination of the Middle Florida Keys, The Hawks Cay Marina is home to the most knowledgeable and friendly fishing captains and guides with a complete fleet of both inshore and offshore charter boats.

Hawks Cay Resort is a tropical destination, easily accessible by car, boat or plane yet feels worlds away from everyday life. Alongside the aquamarine water of the Atlantic Ocean, guests of all ages will find fun and relaxation at its best.

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Chimney Rock State Park, NC

Today, reaching the top of Chimney Rock takes driving up a three-mile winding road to a large parking area, followed by climbing 500 steps or riding the elevator to the top. The reward, on a clear day, are the 75-mile views overlooking Lake Lure and the Hickory Nut Gorge. The adventure took on a whole new meaning in 1956 when a fast driving visitor simply asked, “Hey, can we run up that road?”

Chimney Rock Hill Climb was created. The smell of fuel would fill the air and the loud engines roared with tires squealing, as drivers raced up the narrow winding road in less than two minutes. The road that rose from 1,100 to 2,200 feet above sea level with 13 hairpin turns always lined with spectators. What started as just one man’s adventure became the signature event for the Sports Car Club of America; even a few NASCAR drivers took it on in the latter years of the race. In 1995, despite the fact no one had ever been seriously injured, the growing attraction of visitors and liability concerns ended the event. It is certain that every race car driver who attempted or was crowned “King of the Hill” will never forget the Climb.

Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park has been a tourist destination in western North Carolina since a simple stairway was built to the rock’s summit in 1885. In 1902, Lucius B. Morse of Missouri bought the site, and the Morse family developed park facilities in 1916. The attraction included a tunnel and elevator to the rock summit, a nature center and a network of hiking trails to geologic points of interest including the 404-foot-tall Hickory Nut Falls. On May 21, 2007, the 1000-acre Chimney Rock Park was purchased by the state of North Carolina for $24 million from the Morse family, and Hickory Nut Gorge State Park became Chimney Rock State Park.

As one of North Carolina’s newest state parks, Chimney Rock brings the best of the mountains together in one place. Standing atop the 315 foot Chimney Rock, the view is stunning. Visitors enjoy scenic hiking trails, guided rock climbing, live animal education programs and ancient geological history. The Park’s highest point at 2,480 feet, Exclamation Point, can be reached via

the Skyline trail.

The stunning scenery was featured in the 1992 blockbuster, The Last of the Mohicans, and the adjacent Lake Lure was the filming location for the 1987 pop culture classic Dirty Dancing.

Chimney Rock, North Carolina, is a year-around destination, the perfect day trip or weekend getaway; rent a lake house, take a boat tour, hike a trail or attend a festival. And while the racing is not acceptable anymore, a relaxing, scenic drive on the country roads is highly recommended.

Chimney Rock Village has an old-time feel due to locally owned businesses that occupy historic buildings full of character and flair. Walk along Main Street to shop at stores with one-of-a-kind finds including Appalachian crafts, unique souvenirs of the area. Dine at a riverside table, try a local craft beer or savor a glass of wine. After visiting Chimney Rock Village, just head down main street, take a right and the road will lead you to Lake Lure.

Lake Lure is one of the most beautiful man-made lakes in the country, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. This is a must do for getting a new perspective to the incredible scenery of the area. From atop Chimney Rock, you viewed from above, and now, surrounded by lush mountaintops and sheer granite cliffs, the “look up” is breathtaking. Bet the song, “Time of My Life,” from Dirty Dancing starts playing in your head. In the fall of the year, Lake Lure invites you to Have the Time of Your Life and relive the moments of the classic film. You can experience movie-inspired dance, music, arts and entertainment. There is even a lakeside screening of the film. Venture out into the lake; attempting the infamous lake lift is encouraged but watching others trying the move is even more fun.

Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park is an international outdoor destination in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC, attracting visitors from around the world. Recognized as one of the Southeast’s most iconic outdoor attractions, Chimney Rock is located 25 miles southeast of Asheville on Highway 64/74A in Chimney Rock, NC. Visiting Chimney Rock and Lake Lure from Knoxville will take less than 3 hours; it is approximately 141 miles. But you won’t mind it. Driving through western North Carolina is an adventure in beauty and worth every mile traveled.

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