Joy Center reaches fundraising goal, makes plans to visit theme park

Photo courtesy of Facebook
Members of the Joy Center will take a trip to Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio after they raised enough funds to cover the trip. Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first theme park designed with special needs individuals in mind.

The Joy Center will take its long-awaited trip to a theme park next week after it reached its goal in fundraising.

The Joy Center is a nonprofit organization that works to help individuals with special needs. 

The group will leave Thursday for Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio.

Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first theme park designed with special needs individuals in mind.

One of the caregivers for the organization saw the theme park on a website, and they began raising funds to make the trip in February.

“All of the rides there are built to be totally inclusive,” said Joy Center volunteer Melissa Henley. “So nobody will have to miss out on anything.”

The organization set a goal of $15,000 for the trip, which would take care of the bus there, as well as lodging.

Money was raised through yard sales, selling handcrafted kits at the trading post and performing challenges for donations.

“I personally faced one of my fears in raising money for the trip,” said Henley. “I’m terrified of snakes, but I promised that if we reached $100, I would touch one, $500, and I would hold one. And If we reached $1,000, which we didn’t, we reached about $780, I would let someone put a snake on me. So I just had to hold a snake.”

The Joy Center raised more than its $15,000 goal through its various fundraisers.

The extra money raised will go toward covering food and other extra costs on the trip. According to Henley, any money left over after the trip will be put toward the organization’s building fund.

The group currently meets at Silver Springs Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet each Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., but it has outgrown the space.

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Hot air balloon festival heads to Mt. Juliet

Balloons, music and more are headed to eastern Wilson County next week, as Mt. Juliet will hold the first Music City Hot Air Balloon Festival.

The event will take place Oct. 14 from 4-7:30 p.m. at Charlie Daniels Park and will include live music, a children’s zone, food trucks, craft vendors and a hot air balloon glow at dusk.

The musical lineup includes Time Carroll, Brian Ritchey, Sara Syms and Flat River Band.

The event will be an evening glow, which means the hot air balloons do not launch during the event. Outside food, tents and dogs will not be allowed to enter the event.

Tickets are only available online at mtjuliethotairballoonfestival.com. Early-bird tickets, which are $12, will be available until Saturday. Regular tickets are $15 after Saturday and $20 at the event. Children 5 and younger will be admitted free.

The first 200 children will receive a free light-up toy.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Encore Theatre Co. to present ‘Trio of Radio Comedies’

Encore Theatre Co. invites the community to spend some time listening to the radio.

Encore will present “A Trio of Radio Comedies” on Oct. 6-7 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 8 at 2:30 p.m. at the Mt. Juliet theatre.

The show will feature three of America’s most popular radio episodes of Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, along with a fall episode of Ozzie and Harriet. Audiences should expect to laugh at the quick wit and classic comedy provided by the wonderful duos of a great generation of radio and television.

“Encore’s radio series have been dramas or musicals until we decided to explore the half-hour radio shows,” said director Don Breedwell. “We all need a chance to laugh, so we added the comedies of the old-time radio era to provide everyone with comedy from some of the greatest comedians.”

Breedwell said the episodes are cast by actors of all ages with wonderful voice characteristics. There will be live sound effects, and the soundtracks are as close to the originals as possible.

Tickets will be $10 each and payable by cash only at the door. Reservations may be made by calling 615-598-8950, but no online sales will be available for the addition to Encore’s 2017 season.

Encore Theatre Co. at 6978 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet is a nonprofit community theater founded to stimulate, promote, teach and develop interest in the dramatic arts and to bring all aspects of the dramatic arts to Wilson County and surrounding communities.

Staff Reports

Local rescue farm holds first songwriting workshop

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Hickory Hill Farm, a rescue farm that also provides programs for adults and children, held a unique songwriting workshop for children at a Mt. Juliet foster farm last weekend.

Hickory Hill Farm, a rescue farm that also provides programs for adults and children, held a unique songwriting workshop for children at a Mt. Juliet foster farm last weekend.

Musicians Leah Burey, Charlie Murphey and Kata Rhe Crutcher joined children at Hickory Hill Farm for the Saturday-morning workshop to assist children with discovering and developing their songwriting skills. Hickory Hill Farm assistant director Jenna Gibbons discussed the importance of music and expressing one’s emotions with the group.

“Our morning on the farm was something truly special. These wonderful artists gave the children the opportunity to express themselves and create a beautiful piece about something important to them. We were blessed with amazing musicians, dedicated volunteers, great children, and it was a morning that I was honored to be a part of,” Gibbons said.

She shared the influence of the rescued animals at Hickory Hill and how their stories could even influence their writing, too.

The artists kicked off the morning by sharing their stories, advice and original songs with the group. Everyone then gathered around a campfire next a pasture full of rescued and personally owned horses to put their ideas to paper.

“Always write something that you know and believe in. If it doesn’t make you cry, if it doesn’t make you laugh, if it doesn’t make you feel the strongest version of any emotion, don’t do it,” Burkey said.

Each child worked with the artists to come up with his or her own song before it was the children’s time to shine on stage with the songs they wrote.

To wrap up the day, children got to spend time meeting the rescue horses on the foster farm before grabbing photos with the artists and their goodie bags.

“Addison was in heaven – playing her music in a beautiful barn, writing a song around a campfire, with horses and friends,” said Misha Deem, mother of a participant in the workshop.

Staff Reports

Make-A-Wish foundation to grant two local girls’ wishes

Photo courtesy of Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee
Catharine Beall, 6, of Mt. Juliet, will receive a wish from Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee and visit Walt Disney World in early October.

Two Wilson County girls will get their wishes granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the coming months.

Catharine Beall, 6, of Mt. Juliet, has craniopharyngioma, a type of brain tumor that happens most commonly in children. Beall will visit Walt Disney World in October with her family.

According to Emily Gray, communications manager for Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee, Beall and her family will spend about a week at a special resort.

“They’ll be staying at Give Kids the World Village,” said Gray. “They try to make each day like a party. They have like karaoke nights and different themes throughout the week.”

Give Kids the World Village is an 84-acre, nonprofit resort in central Florida that provides weeklong, cost-free vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Hilda Rosalez, 17, has leukemia and will receive a camera and a laptop in December.

“We don’t have it all fleshed out yet, but we want to connect her with a local photographer,” said Gray, “hopefully someone who can teach her a lot about her new camera. We’re also going to try to get a bunch of programs installed on her computer.”

The Make-A-Wish foundation in Middle Tennessee is privately funded and receives no government support in funding the wishes they grant.

According to Gray, the majority of the funds come from individual and corporation donations, as well as fundraisers and events.

“We try to get the community involved,” said Gray. “We hold a gala in January and a Walk for Wishes event in April. We try to make the walk as family friendly as we can, like we invite businesses to sponsor teams and families come out there, too, with young kids, so it’s a pretty good family event.”

The organization recently held an event at Mt. Juliet High School called Kids for Wish-Kids, where students at the school raised money to grant the wish of a local girl.

Gray said fulfilling wishes for children has been “fantastic.”

“Getting to see firsthand the impact a wish experience can have on a family in the throes of battling a critical illness is incredibly inspiring,” said Gray. “Our organization has the privilege to create a life-changing experiences for children at one of their darkest times. We are well aware that we wouldn’t have that opportunity if it weren’t for dedicated volunteers who give their time, diligent health care professionals and community members who refer children and generous individual and corporate donors who provide valuable resources. Catharine and Hilda are just two of the more than 150 local children who are waiting for their wishes to be granted. We’ve had the honor of granting more than 1,500 wishes in Middle Tennessee, but there is still a lot of work to do.”

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Two Tennessee State Fair champion hams sell for $9,500

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Following the FFA Ham Breakfast at the Tennessee State Fair, TSFA chairman John Rose, Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton, president for Tennessee Farm Bureau Jeff Aiken, CEO and president for Farm Credit Mid-America Bill Johnson, FFA state president Julia Knaggs, and CEO for F&M Bank and ham auctioneer Sammy Stuard (seated) gathered for a photo marking the event with representatives of both Farm Credit Mid-America and the Tennessee Farm Bureau.

Two prize-winning country hams, including one from Mt. Juliet, were sold at auction Monday for $9,500 at the third annual Future Farmers of America-sponsored Ham Breakfast at the Tennessee State Fair.

The state’s seven announced gubernatorial candidates got much of the attention at the $30-per-plate event attended by an audience of about 600 community, business and political leaders.

For the first time since announcing, all seven candidates, including five Republicans and two Democrats, appeared on stage together to answer questions from FFA members on topics that included agriculture, education and the economy.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to make an opening statement, answer questions presented by FFA members and make closing comments.

Republican candidates attending included former state Sen. Mae Beavers, House Speaker Beth Harwell, 6th District Congresswoman Diane Black, former state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and Nashville businessman Bill Lee. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh were the two announced Democrats in attendance.

Farm Credit Mid-America bought the first State Fair champion ham auctioned, a trim-style ham placed in the fair’s annual ham competition by Kody Kimbrough, of Pulaski, for $5,000, while the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, out bid others to buy the second ham, a packing-house trim-style ham cured by Scott Dabbs, of Mt. Juliet, for $4,500.

Both champion hams came from family curing operations with a tradition of winning the country ham competition at the Tennessee State Fair.

Kimbrough is the grandson of Betsa and David Bolden, of Lynnville, champion ham winners last year. Dabbs is the son-in-law of Ed Rice Jr., owner of Rice Country Hams in Mt. Juliet. Rice and his late father have won the State Fair ham competition multiple times in the past several decades.

Proceeds from the sale of the hams and from tickets sold for the breakfast will be contributed to the FFA Foundation to help fund a number of programs that serve the organization’s youth membership, according to event organizer Chelsea Rose, Tennessee FFA Foundation executive director.

John Rose, who chairs the Tennessee State Fair Association board, a volunteer nonprofit organization responsible for producing the State Fair annually, said the FFA breakfast provides a “unique opportunity to showcase our state’s most talented youth to many of the state’s most prominent business and community leaders and, in the case of this year’s event, our next governor.”

“We are so pleased to help support the Future Farmers of America with the ham breakfast, and we are particularly proud of what the FFA and its members contribute to our state and nation,” Rose said.

The Tennessee State Fair, held annually in Nashville at the Nashville Fairgrounds on Wedgewood Avenue, opened Sept. 8 for a 10-day run and closed Sunday. For more information about the State Fair, visit tnstatefair.org.

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet American Legion Post to hold first reverse raffle

The Tyler Cates American Legion Post 281 will hold its first reverse raffle fundraiser Oct. 7 at the Windtree Golf Club at 810 Nonaville Road in Mt. Juliet.

There will be a meet, eat and greet from 6-7 p.m. A ticket will include two barbecue buffet meals, so a guest may also attend.

There will be a $10,000 prize and 300 tickets will be sold at $100 each. Cash, check, credit or debit cards will be accepted. 

Participants must be 21 or older to participate. All tickets must be present at the drawing to win. Participants need not attend as long as their ticket and instructions are present with an agent. Arrangements may be made.

There will be door prizes at every 50th ticket drawn, and the first ticket drawn will receive ticket money back.

Post 281 sponsors many programs, including a Mt. Juliet Boy Scout troop, a junior and senior American Legion baseball team, Boys State program now in its 53rd year and the Honor Guard. There are several programs available for veterans and their families. A ticket purchase will help the American Legion to continue to help others.

For tickets, contact Warren at 615-754-7464, Will at 615-319-2179, Delmar at 615-364-3619 or Steve at 615-419-5009.    

Staff Reports

Walk, Run & Roll attracts hundreds to Mt. Juliet

George Page • Mt. Juliet News
Pictured are the winners from the Walk, Run & Roll event Sunday at Mundy Park in Mt. Juliet. Bodie Buckelew, 5, (center) was the grand-prize winner of a bike. Other winners included Eli Parnell, Ben Taylor, Jonah Minton and Stephen and Noah Christoffersen.

Event sponsored by Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Hundreds of walkers, runners, cyclists and outdoors-loving families accepted the invitation of the Mt. Juliet Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and came out to Mundy Park for Sunday’s fourth annual Walk, Run & Roll.

The event celebrated physical fitness and drew attention to BPAC projects, which help supply funding for Mt. Juliet sidewalks, bike lanes and greenways.

This year’s event featured three courses that started and finished at the pavilion in Sgt. Jerry Mundy Park at 300 Mundy Memorial Drive in Mt. Juliet. The Sunday afternoon event was free to the public. There were two courses for walkers and runners. The short course covered 3.1 miles and travelled along Belinda Parkway, South Rutland Road, Stratford Drive and Legacy Park Road. The longer course was 4.5 miles. Cyclists followed the same roads on a 5.5-mile loop and were invited to do multiple laps. All turns were marked, and many had Mt. Juliet police officers and volunteers stationed at them.

The Walk, Run & Roll annually is a family friendly event with several water stops, including one at Mt. Juliet Fire Station No. 1 that was open for tours.

This year’s Walk, Run & Roll included a StoryWalk for families with small children. The StoryWalk featured the book, “Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen,” and was presented at 17 reading stations each separated by a short walk in Mundy Park. The StoryWalk was funded through a grant from the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University in a partnership with BPAC and the Mt. Juliet Public Library.

“StoryWalks are designed to fight childhood obesity and promote literacy,” said BPAC member Sally Robertson.

Participants 12 and younger registered to win a child’s bike, courtesy of the Veloteers Bicycle Club, and Bodie Buckelew, 5, was the grand-prize winner. StoryWalk participants registered to win copies of the book, “Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen,” courtesy of BPAC. Participants also registered to win a free bike tune-up certificate, helmet and a floor pump from Biker’s Choice.

“Within the next year, residents will see the start of the Belinda City sidewalk project, Lebanon Road sidewalk project and a Safe Routes to School sidewalk to Elzie Patton Elementary School, all of which are made possible with grant money secured by BPAC and matching funds provided by the city,” said Art Giles, Mt. Juliet city commissioner and chairman of BPAC.

Mt. Juliet BPAC is made up of volunteers from the community with the goal to guide the city plans for safe walking, running and cycling infrastructure improvements. BPAC is an advisory committee to the Mt. Juliet City Commission with no decision or policymaking authority.

Staff Reports

Wilson County seeks sponsors for ice rink

The option to install an ice rink at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon during the winter months is on the table for Wilson County residents, but the project needs sponsors to get skating.

“A tender Tennessee Christmas. It sounds just about perfect, doesn’t it? The holidays are quickly approaching and always bring so much joy to our community,” said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto. “However, as the Amy Grant tune implies, our holidays here in Tennessee aren’t exactly a winter wonderland. We hard get any snow. This year, however, wouldn’t it be nice to have ice in Wilson County? An ice rink that is?”

The Ice Rink Project would be a holiday installation of an outdoor ice skating rink at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center for three months, beginning in November. The ice skating rink would allow Wilson County residents an interactive holiday experience with programming provided by the Nashville Predators. The three-month installation would not only allow residents to experience programming from Nashville’s beloved hockey team, but also allow entertainment and educational opportunities, Hutto said.

“Wilson County was handpicked by the Nashville Predators Administration to play host to the attraction,” said Hutto. “The location of the James E Ward Agricultural Center, as well as the variety of large-scale events that have successfully taken place within its borders, was a major attractant to the Nashville Predators when deciding where to host this event. Not to mention, Wilson County is also home to the Music City Star, which hosted the Smashville Express earlier this year. The Nashville Predators fan base in Wilson County is strong, causing the desire for this type of amenity to be stronger.”

But Hutto said without community support and partnerships from local businesses, Wilson County simply cannot offer the event.

“Wilson County government and the Ag Center Committee feel as though the Ice Rink Project would be a great holiday attraction,” Hutto said. “However, tax dollars simply cannot be used to fund this type of event. Though Wilson County government wishes to provide all citizens the opportunity for a great quality-of-life experience through the Ice Rink Project, it cannot come to fruition without proper funding.”

Hutto said the Ice Rink Project is an estimated $170,000 investment, which includes the cost of the assembly and maintenance of the ice rink, staffing, equipment, programming and skates. Because it’s a time sensitive opportunity, all funding has to be in place by Wednesday.

Hutto said there are currently a variety of opportunities available for sponsorship. However, spaces are filling quickly and time is limited.

Any business interested in becoming a partner in the Ice Rink Project may contact Charity Toombs, Ice Rink Project manager, at 615-450-3049 or email her at charity@wilsoncountyexpo.com. 

By Jared Felkins

jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com

Walk, Run & Roll upcoming in Mt. Juliet

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
The Mt. Juliet Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee will present the fourth annual Walk, Run & Roll on Sunday. This year’s Walk, Run & Roll will include a StoryWalk for families with small children. The StoryWalk will feature the book, “Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen,” and will be presented at 17 reading stations each separated by a short walk in Mundy Park.

The Mt. Juliet Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee will present the fourth annual Walk, Run & Roll on Sunday.

The event celebrates physical fitness and draws attention to BPAC projects, which help supply funding for Mt. Juliet sidewalks, bike lanes and greenways.

This year’s event will feature three courses that start and finish at the pavilion in Sgt. Jerry Mundy Park at 300 Mundy Memorial Drive in Mt. Juliet. The event will run from 2-4 p.m. and will be free to the public. There will be two courses for walkers and runners. The short course will cover 3.1 miles and travel along Belinda Parkway, South Rutland Road, Stratford Drive and Legacy Park Road. The longer course will be 4.5 miles. Cyclists will follow the same roads on a 5.5-mile loop and are invited to do multiple laps. All turns will be clearly marked, and many will have Mt. Juliet police officers and volunteers stationed at them.

The Walk, Run & Roll annually is a family friendly event with several water stops, including one at Mt. Juliet Fire Station No. 1 that will be open for tours. Walkers, runners and cyclists of all skill levels are invited to attend, and cyclists are required to wear a helmet.

This year’s Walk, Run & Roll will include a StoryWalk for families with small children. The StoryWalk will feature the book, “Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen,” and will be presented at 17 reading stations each separated by a short walk in Mundy Park. The StoryWalk is funded through a grant from the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University in a partnership with BPAC and the Mt. Juliet Public Library.

“StoryWalks are designed to fight childhood obesity and promote literacy,” said BPAC member Sally Robertson.

Participants 12 and younger will be able to register to win a child’s bike, courtesy of the Veloteers Bicycle Club. StoryWalk participants can register to win copies of the book, “Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen,” courtesy of BPAC. All participants can register to win a free bike tune-up certificate, helmet and a floor pump from Biker’s Choice.

“Within the next year, residents will see the start of the Belinda City sidewalk project, Lebanon Road sidewalk project and a Safe Routes to School sidewalk to Elzie Patton Elementary School, all of which are made possible with grant money secured by BPAC and matching funds provided by the city,” said Art Giles, Mt. Juliet city commissioner and chairman of BPAC. “If you walk, run or ride, we invite you to join us on Sunday, Sept. 17 to show your support for these local projects.”

Mt. Juliet BPAC is made up of volunteers from the community with the goal to guide the city plans for safe walking, running and cycling infrastructure improvements. BPAC is an advisory committee to the Mt. Juliet City Commission with no decision or policymaking authority.

For more information, email info@mjbpac.org.

Staff Reports

State tourism director visits the fair

One of Wilson County’s primary tourist attractions received a visit from the state tourism leader Wednesday, and it made a lasting impression.

Kevin Triplett, Tennessee Tourism development commissioner, took his first tour of the Wilson County Fair while the fair was in full operation and spoke about his experience with county leaders during a dinner Wednesday night.

“I texted my wife and told her I want to live in a town like this,” Triplett said of Fiddlers Grove.

“You have a jewel here. This is an amazing – this is a county fair that, from what I’ve read, is bigger than 17 state fairs. If you put that on a list, this would be the 33rd largest state fair in the country, and it’s a county fair. Think about that,” Triplett said.

Wilson County Promotions president Randall Clemons said on any given night, the Wilson County Fair could have visitors from as many as 19 states.

“That’s tourism economic impact,” said Triplett, who said Tennessee is now a top-10 travel destination state in the country.

The commissioner’s visit came a day after the state released its 2016 tourism statistics.

Tennessee tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached an all-time record high of $19.3 billion in 2016, up 4.7 percent from the previous year, as reported by the U.S. Travel Association.

For the 11th consecutive year, tourism topped $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue, reaching $1.7 billion. All 95 counties saw more than $1 million in direct travel expenditures in the economic impact of tourism and 19 counties saw more than $100 million, with Wilson County seeing about $150 million in direct travel expenditures.

Jenny Bennett, Wilson County tourism director, said Wilson County’s location, attractions and hometown feel contribute to the county’s current and potential future success.

“Our proximity is our selling feature in the sense that within 30 minutes, our guests can be here and experience life on a farm, agriculture and things they’ve probably never experienced,” Bennett said.

Wilson County ranks 12th out of 95 counties for tourism, according to Bennett. She said the wide variety of attractions, such as the Sellars Farm archaeological site and Jug Creek Distillery, make Wilson County attractive to all people.

“I think that’s helped drive people to a real rural setting,” Bennett said of Jug Creek. “It feels like you’re in the foothills of the Smokies, but you’re still in Wilson County. Here go people from Canada, Mexico and all over, because they’re on the Tennessee Whiskey Trail.”

Bennett said the future of tourism in Wilson County would be shaped by storytelling.

“We have so many mom and pop businesses here. I think that’s a great story to tell. We have a great history with the Sellars Farm archaeological site and other things. We have fascinating stories, and we just have to work harder at telling the stories and letting people know,” she said.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson County Fair has big year despite rise in prices

Sinclaire Sparkman • Mt. Juliet News
Despite a $4 increase in adult ticket prices, the total attendance at this year’s Wilson County Fair beat last year’s by 21,063 people with a total of 488,299 visiting the fair. It was also the sixth highest attendance on record.

One of the big talking points in this year’s Wilson County Fair was the increase in ticket prices from $8 to $12 for adults.

Wilson County Promotions president Randall Clemons cited higher operation costs as a reason for the increase.

“Many times people don’t understand the cost of operating the fair as we have utilities, insurance, security, cleanup and trash, traffic, parking, etc.,” said Clemons. “We also pay rent on the new Expo Center, as well. Our entertainment costs, motorcross events and event costs continue to increase like in any other event.”

According to Clemons, the budgeted expenses for the 2017 fair were $1.8 million. The budget predicted a loss of money, which led the executive committee to recommend an increase in ticket prices to the board of directors.

Despite the $4 increase, the total attendance this year beat last year’s by 21,063 people with a total of 488,299 visiting the fair. It was also the sixth highest attendance on record.

“I think it went great,” said Rob Vivano, director of Amusements with America, the official partner and ride provider for the Wilson County Fair. “I’m very happy with the outcome, attendance was wonderful. I’m just very happy.”

One big draw to the fair this year was the solar eclipse day Aug. 21. More than 12,000 people attended before 3 p.m., including visitors from different states and even countries.

A couple from California and another from Knoxville got engaged at the event.

Other features included two concerts that featured the Oak Ridge Boys and Jason Crabb sponsored by Bates Ford, the largest flower show in fair history with more than 800 entries, dairy milking demonstrations for the first time and the unveiling of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics building.

“Our 300-member board of directors and 1,000 volunteers have put on one of the best fairs in our history,” said Clemons. “Our fair is a showcase of the talents of Wilson County, and we believe this year’s fair did that in a grand fashion.”

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Eclipse headlines Monday at Wilson County Fair

More than 30,000 people came to the Wilson County Fair on Monday to see the eclipse, the Fairest of the Fair pageant and the Oak Ridge Boys.

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

More than 30,000 people came to the Wilson County Fair on Monday to see the eclipse, the Fairest of the Fair pageant and the Oak Ridge Boys.

The fair opened at 10 a.m. Monday morning and offered half-price admission until 3 p.m. for the special eclipse event.

A special viewing area was set up at the Motorsports Arena for the 12,598 attendees, and fireworks went off afterward. There was even a proposal as a couple all the way from Studio City, Calif. got engaged just after totality.

After the eclipse, visitors were invited to stick around and enjoy the carnival rides and attractions.

The Fairest of the Fair pageant was Monday night. Fair history was made as pageant winner Anna Belle Gallaher, of Lebanon, was the third generation of her family to participate in the event.

Gallaher’s mother, Ashlie Gallaher, finished in the top 10 in 1987, and her grandmother, Linda Johnson, was first runner up in 1961.

The Oak Ridge Boys capped off the events of the night with a concert in the Wilson County Expo Center, sponsored by Bates Ford.

The group performed a 45-minute show to packed stands and seats. Jason Crabb even joined them on stage to sing “Amazing Grace.” Crabb was featured in concert Tuesday night.

The fair will open again Wednesday at 5 p.m. and will feature the School Spirit Kickoff, community youth rally, Doll Parade Division II pageant, King of the Fair Divisions I and II, junior dairy cattle show, go-kart races four-cycle competition and a $1,000 cash giveaway.

Tickets may be purchased online at ticketsnashville.com or at the admission gate. General admission tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for children 6-12 years old and free for children 5 and younger. Season tickets, which are good for all nine days, may also be purchased for $45. 

Parents get internet safety lesson

Homeland Security agent discusses dangers for children

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Andy Hendricks with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security spoke to Wilson County parents Wednesday night about internet safety at Mt. Juliet High School.

Hendricks spoke about the dangers teens and younger children face with unlimited access to the internet through their devices.

“A child with a smartphone or device has no way of understanding ‘what should I be looking at and what should I not?’” said Hendricks.

The dangers of sexting and sexploitation were also discussed. Sexploitation is when someone receives explicit pictures of a person and uses the pictures to bribe the person into taking more pictures and sending them

Hendricks stressed the importance of never sending any kind of explicit pictures over any kind of social media.

“Once an image is on the internet, there is nothing I can do,” said Hendricks. “I work for the United States president and the United States government, and we still have the most powerful government in the world. Once those pictures go online, though, there is nothing we can do. They’re there forever.”

Cyber bullying was also discussed at the event.

Hendricks closed with a story of a teenager from Canada named Amanda Todd. Todd was the recipient of severe bullying both online and in person after a nude picture she sent was shared with everyone she knew.

Todd eventually attempted suicide but was saved when her dad came home from work early and took her to the hospital. After the incident, her dad decided it was for the best they move to a new area for a fresh start.

Somehow, the picture Todd had taken found its way to her new school, and the bullying began again. In 2012, after posting a video on YouTube where she told her story, Todd killed herself.

“I see the darkest side of humanity,” said Hendricks. “This girl was someone’s child, someone’s sister. I can’t help her. This is something that we need to know exists because it can be prevented. Don’t do it. Don’t let your kids share this stuff online. Our children don’t understand they are playing with live ammo.”

Mt. Juliet draws thousands of visitors to watch eclipse

George Page • Mt. Juliet News
An estimated crowd of more than 4,000 people gathered Monday at Charlie Daniels Park to watch the solar eclipse at nearly the longest span of totality in the nation.

Charlie Daniels Park featured more than 4,000 guests

An estimated crowd of more than 4,000 people gathered Monday at Charlie Daniels Park to watch the solar eclipse at nearly the longest span of totality in the nation.

The total solar eclipse started at 1:29 p.m., when Wilson County experienced two minutes and 38 seconds of totality or darkness, which was two seconds off the longest possible time.

NASA ambassador Theo Wellington said half of the U.S. population was within a one day’s drive to the total solar eclipse path, which meant areas along the path, such as Wilson County, experienced an influx of visitors.

One couple from Orange County, Calif. flew in Sunday night, stayed at the Hampton Inn in Providence and took part in the solar eclipse Monday at Charlie Daniels Park. They have family in Franklin, but they came to Charlie Daniels Park for the closeness to Interstate 40 and the Providence Marketplace.

Another couple from Boston flew into Nashville on Monday morning for the one-day trip. They said they researched the Nashville area and looked at Mt. Juliet because of the green space, low crime and proximity to I-40. “We love the area, the people are so nice and friendly…we’re not accustomed to  that much in Boston,” the couple said.

Another group from New Orleans drove to the area Thursday and stayed south of Nashville. They again said they did research of the Nashville area and picked Charlie Daniels Park. They intended to stay until Wednesday, shop and go home.

A family of 10 from Birmingham, Ala. drove to Mt. Juliet on Monday morning. They said they came to Mt. Juliet a few years ago, loved it and decided to come back for the eclipse.

At least 15 states and the United Kingdom, including a television station from Birmingham, Ala., which did a live remote, were represented Monday at Charlie Daniels Park.

Staff Reports

Expo Center to take Wilson County Fair to new level

 

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Hometown USA at the Wilson County Fair will feature the Jim Ward Ford Motor Co., which will display Ford antique automobiles of yesteryear in the Expo Center. The Wilson County Fair is sponsored by Middle Tennessee Ford Dealers. The fair kicks off Friday and continues through Aug. 26 at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.

The new Expo Center at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center will take the Wilson County Fair on Aug. 18-26 to a new level. 

The center will be the home of the competitive exhibits, which include non-perishable entries in adult home economics, fine arts, photography, stained glass, baking, farm-crop entries, school exhibits and egg contest. 

The youth exhibits will now have a new home in the East-West Building, which will allow them space to grow. The flowers and roses will also have a new home in the Arnett Education Building.

The new Expo Center will also be the home for all the pageants, as well as God and Country Day, at the Wilson County Fair.

“The new Expo Center will benefit the people of Wilson County during the fair as all events that will be in it will be limited to Wilson County residents,” said Randall Clemons, president of Wilson County Promotions. “The Expo Center will also feature Hometown USA during the fair that will be an outstanding display that you don’ t want to miss.” 

For more information, visit wilsoncountyfair.net or call 615-443-2626. Fair catalogs are available at local banks, chambers of commerce, The Lebanon Democrat office and the fair office.

Staff Reports

Drivin’ Pumas band ready to rock

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Drivin’ Pumas includes Lauren Kleeberg, 12, Savannah Brewer, 14, Jackson Pollard, 14, and Albert Sauter, 15, and Thalle ø, 19. The group members are from Wilson County and hope to make their mark in the music industry.

A group of Wilson County teens are ready to make a splash on the area’s music scene after it held its first performance Saturday.

Drivin’ Pumas is the latest group to form in the Music City’s eastern neighboring county, drawing members from several Wilson County Schools.

Lauren Kleeberg, 12, is the group’s lead vocalist and attends West Wilson Middle School. Savannah Brewer, 14, joins Kleeberg as a vocalist and attends Mt. Juliet Christian Academy.

Jackson Pollard, 14, and Albert Sauter, 15, play bass and electric guitar, respectively. Pollard is a freshman at Wilson Central High School, while Sauter is enrolled in Wilson County Schools’ TVOLS program.

Thalle ø, 19, joins the group as a percussion specialist. If his last name appears unusual, that’s because it’s a Norwegian name pronounced “ough.”

“They are four elite musicians,” said Laura Brewer, Savannah Brewer’s mother. “Their technique and artistry is three to four years ahead of their age. They are legit craftsmen.”

Three of the group members are students of Jim Critcher at Shiloh Music in Mt. Juliet.

“They’re skilled musicians, and Lauren is strong enough to work with them to where they’re strong enough to be impressive,” said Laura Brewer, noting the group had about 70 close family members and friends at the first show last weekend.

The group performed more than a dozen songs, including “Champion,” which Brewer said drives home a positive message.

“I believe young people today are struggling, and the idea behind the song is if they can make it through their battle, they can make it through anything,” she said. “These are good kids, and they have a solid message.”

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Drivin’ Pumas includes Lauren Kleeberg, 12, Savannah Brewer, 14, Jackson Pollard, 14, and Albert Sauter, 15, and Thalle ø, 19. The group members are from Wilson County and hope to make their mark in the music industry.

Laura Brewer said the beauty of the group is each member is strong in a different genre, which allows diversity among songs.

“I told them if they didn’t like the genre of one song, then just wait and one will come on that they love,” she said. “They’re elite and ready to be heard.”

Drivin’ Pumas plan to have another concert Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at 4118 Smotherman Lane in Hermitage.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

Wilson County Fair school exhibits to expand

The Wilson County Fair school exhibits will expand to the North Hall of the Expo Center during the fair, which will be Aug. 18-26. 

Each school in Wilson County, including private schools and homeschools, will present a display that depicts the unique characteristics of the school. Included will be examples of superior work completed by students during the prior school year.

This year’s fair theme is “Here Comes the Fun.” Displays and video presentations will share exciting moments from the past school year.

As a new feature of the school exhibits, visit the STEM Building G, where children of all ages can enjoy interactive science, technology, engineering and math centers. STEM allows children to explore, engage and develop the capacity to make changes in our world.

Also included will be a LEGO competition Aug. 19 at 1 p.m. More details are available at wilsoncountyfair.net.

Staff Reports

Oak Ridge Boys member talks fair performance

Longtime Oak Ridge Boys member Joe Bonsall recently shared his thoughts on the group’s performance at the Wilson County Fair, along with the group’s other happenings.

Bates Ford in Lebanon will bring back the Oak Ridge Boys in concert for the second straight year Aug. 21 at 7:30 p.m. Jimmy Comer, vice president of the Wilson County Fair, said last year’s concert was the largest concert in fair history.

Bonsall said the group was excited to make its return to the “greatest fair in Tennessee.”

“It’s a great, great fair. We’re honored to sing there. Last year was a big night for us. I think it was big night for the fair. I got a personal text from Tony Bates with Bates Ford this past year. I gave him a call and we chatted,” said Bonsall, who said the conversation led to the group’s return.

Fans and attendees will enjoy the patented “fast-paced, family-oriented show” the Oak Ridge Boys have featured for decades, according to Bonsall.

“That’s what the Oak Ridge Boys are all about. Mom, dad, the kids and grandma can all come out to hear the Oak Ridge Boys and know they’re going to hear a lot of music, have a lot of fun, and it’s going to be a clean show. They’re going to hear a lot of hits, gospel music, we’ll wave the flag a little bit, and it’ll be a great, fast-paced 90-minute show from the Oak Ridge Boys.”

The group has had a busy summer, according to Bonsall, in part due to the success of the collaboration with Blake Shelton on “Doing it to Country Songs,” featured on Shelton’s 2016 album, If I’m Honest.

“About a year and half ago, Blake called. He’s been a good friend for a lot of years and he loves the Oak Ridge Boys, and we love Blake. He said, ‘What do I have to do to get you all to sing on a song with me?’ I said, ‘Name the time and place, Blake,’” Bonsall said.

Since the song’s release, the group has performed the song live with Shelton at the 2016 CMT Music Awards and five major country music festivals, re-recorded their hit, “Elvira,” with Shelton and received an animated video of the song courtesy of Spotify and Warner Brothers, with Bonsall portrayed as a beaver.

Bonsall said the collaboration allowed the Oak Ridge Boys to reach new audiences, which is on par with the group’s philosophy of non-complacency.

“Whether it’s William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Richard Sterban or myself, everybody has this thought pattern of keeping this thing going and what can we do today to make it better than last time,” Bonsall said.

The group has enjoyed tremendous success, including a 2015 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. They charted single after single and album after album, celebrating more than 41 million records sold, two double-platinum albums, and more than 30 top 10 hits, including No. 1 chart-toppers “Elvira,” “Bobbie Sue,” “Thank God For Kids,” “American Made,” among dozens more.

Bonsall said group members enjoy being a part of the group just as much as they enjoy success, which fuels their continued drive.

“We love being the Oak Ridge Boys. I think at this point in our career, the four of us have been blessed, because we’re still feeling good, singing good, playing a lot of shows and just enjoy being the Oak Ridge Boys,” he said.

The group recently recorded a new album, tentatively titled “17th Avenue Revival,” which is set to release next year.

“Let’s keep rocking and let’s keep the Oak Ridge Boys going as long as we can. I think only God will tell us when it’s time to stop singing,” Bonsall said.

By Xavier Smith

xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com

City in search of local artists for public display

Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin is on the hunt for local artists who want to display their work throughout the city.

Martin got the idea after he noticed public art displayed in other cities.

“I’d see these really neat pieces from artisans who had made something,” said Martin. “I just wanted to see if there were any local artists who wanted a place to show their art, or maybe there’s someone who wants to donate it for permanent display.”

The city seeks any kind of art such as metal sculptures, carved figures, statues, monuments and paintings that could be displayed publicly.

“A lot of people make such cool art, but they just can’t find anywhere to display it,” said Martin. “I think that’s half the fun, getting to see something on display and say, ‘I made that.’”

Martin said he’d like to to display a sign or plaque that lists the name of the artist below any art pieces used for display.

“I’m not trying to get anything for free,” said Martin. “I just wanted to give people an opportunity to display their work in public.”

Anyone interested in having his or her art used as public display may contact Martin at City Hall at kmartin@mtjuliet-tn.gov or 615-754-2552.

By Jacob Smith

jsmith@lebanondemocrat.com