Young racer Chase not ‘kidding’ around

Young Mt. Juliet racer Chase Johnson has been impressive in his first season of driving stock cars.

Chase Johnson, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, says he knows what goes through the minds of some observers when they see him climbing into his stock car at Fairgrounds Speedway:

“They think I’m a kid in a driver’s suit.”

But it doesn’t take skeptics long to realize that the kid’s not kidding.

In this first season of driving full-bodied stock cars, Chase has come close to winning all three races he has run.

Racing against some seasoned veterans in the rugged Pro Mod division, Chase finished third in his first race and second in his second race.

In his third race he was leading with three laps to go when he was spun out by another driver, snatching away what would have been the biggest victory in his fledging racing career.

“It was really disappointing, and it made me mad,” Chase says. “But that’s part of racing. I’m going to win one before the season is over.”

“He’s doing great,” says his father Andy, a former Fairgrounds champion. “He works hard at it and he’s a fast learner. He’s a good little racer.”

Chase started racing quarter-midgets at age eight on the Music City Quarter-Midget track in Hermitage, where he continues to race when not involved with his Fairgrounds efforts. He won 32 races and three championships in three quarter-midget divisions last season, and is currently leading the standings in all three divisions this year.

Making the change from quarter-midgets to full-bodied stock cars is not difficult, Chase says.

“I did a lot of practicing in the Pro Mod car before the season, and I feel comfortable in it,” he says. “It hasn’t been a big adjustment. I thought that driving bigger, faster cars would be exciting, and it has been.”

Chase says he feels accepted by the older drivers.

“They’re all pretty nice to me around the track before the race,” he says, “and when the race starts they race me like anybody else, like I’m just another driver.”

As though his racing schedule is not crowded enough, Chase plans to run a Pro Mod event at Huntsville (Ala.) later this summer.

“I’m looking forward to it,” says. “It’ll be exciting to race on a different track against different drivers.”

Like all racers, Chase realizes his sponsors are vital to keeping him on the track, and he makes sure to tick them off in his media interviews: Universal Kia, Barrett’s Garage, Action Homes, Lynch Tree Service, Matt’s Transmissions, Skyline Manufacturing, Parker Brothers Windows and Hale’s Mobile Home Parts.

Then he double-checks his list.

“I don’t want to leave anybody out, because they’ve all been good to me,” he says.

Andy, one of the area’s top drivers during his heyday, sees a racing reflection of himself in his young son.

“He’s eat up with it,” Andy says. “He’s like me when I was his age — I couldn’t get enough of it. Once racing gets in your blood it’s hard to get it out.”

Andy ran a couple of races last year at the Fairgrounds, then sold his car and equipment to Lebanon’s Scott Fetcho for use by his son Dylan. After a couple of past semi-retirements he says he is now officially retired from driving and will devote his time to assisting his son.

Andy admits he misses the completion, but says, “I get a bigger thrill out of seeing Chase win than I did when I won.”

Fans can follow Chase’s exploits on Facebook at chasejohnsonmotorsports.


Fairgrounds schedule: Fairgrounds Speedway will hold a “Throwback & Past Champions Night” Saturday, June 24, honoring some of the past greats who have raced there over the past half-century. The full schedule, along with ticket information, is posted on the track’s website.


Rim running: Highland Rim Speedway races every Saturday night. The schedule and point standings, involving a number of local drivers, are posted on the track’s website.

By Larry Woody


Hours extended for St. Jude dream home tours

Tickets are almost gone for a chance to win the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway, but hours for open house tours of the home were extended past last weekend.

The house, built by Signature Homes and estimated to be worth $450,000, is in the Jackson Hills community in Mt. Juliet. The house and other prizes, including a car, will be given away live June 25 at noon on WZTV Fox 17.

Additional open houses have just been added for the public to see the house for the last time. 

The house will be open June 21-24 from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Everyone who visits the house has the opportunity to reserve a $100 ticket to win the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway house while tickets last and also register free for a chance to win a $10,000 shopping spree at Ashley HomeStore.

The first 500 people to visit June 24 will receive a cookie from Christie Cookie. Tickets reserved by June 23 will also be eligible for the bonus prize, a 2017 Ford Escape, courtesy of Two Rivers Ford.

“We had more than 500 people tour the house this past weekend, so we decided we should extend the open house dates,” said Jennifer Gailey, volunteer coordinator.  “We just want everyone to come see this beautiful home that has been built with so much talent and love. It’s exciting that one lucky person will win June 25 for just $100.”

Other prizes also up for grabs include two $1,000 Visa gift cards, Brizo Artesso articulating faucet with smarttouch technology in stainless steel finish, two Segway tours of downtown Nashville for six people and a $1,000 gift card at Shaw Floors.

To reserve a ticket while they last, call 800-746-6713, and for directions to the home and more information, visit Tickets are also available at Two Rivers Ford while they last.

Sponsors of the fundraising campaign include WZTV Fox 17, Signature Homes, the BIG 98, Two Rivers Ford, Ashley HomeStore, Crowe Horwath and national sponsors, Brizo, Shaw Floors and Trane. 

Staff Reports

Wilson County cities ready to celebrate Fourth of July

With everything from water gun parades to firework shows, families who want to find a fun event to celebrate the Fourth of July have plenty of options in Wilson County.

Mt. Juliet

Providence Marketplace will play host to Mt. Juliet’s Fourth of July celebration. There will be live music beginning at 4 p.m. in the town center in front of the Providence 14 Theater.

A 30-foot video game trailer, featuring several gaming systems such as an XBox 360, PlayStation and Nintendo Wii, will be available for enjoyment, along with several high-definition LCD televisions.

There will be face painting, balloon artists, caricature artists, inflatable slides and more to satisfy the younger crowd.

There will be musical performances by Mikki Zip, Scott Honaker, Alayna, Jeremy McComb and the Tim McDonald Band.

The fireworks show will begin at 9 p.m. at the Paddocks Shopping Center. The fireworks will be shot from the empty lot beside Academy Sports.

All activities are free. All Providence Marketplace stores will be open regular hours during the event.

Mt. Juliet has the same rules about fireworks as Lebanon.


Lebanon will hold its fireworks show at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center. The fireworks show will begin at dusk at around 9 p.m.

People who plan to attend the event are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs.

The personal use of fireworks is only permitted from June 20 until July 5. Fireworks may only be discharged between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The rules for use of fireworks are:

Children younger than 18 years old are prohibited from buying or using fireworks, unless the child is under the supervision of a guardian.

It is unlawful to explode or ignite fireworks within 600 feet of any church, hospital, funeral home, public or private school or within 200 feet of where fireworks are stored, sold or offered for sale.

Fireworks shall not be launched or fired onto the property of anyone who have not given permission.

No person shall ignite or discharge any fireworks within or throw from a motor vehicle or at a motor vehicle or group of people.


Watertown will be have its annual Stars, Stripes and Squirtguns Parade, sponsored by the Watertown Chamber of Commerce, on July 4 at 3 p.m. Parade participants should line up at 2 p.m. at Watertown Elementary School or Round Lick Baptist Church. The parade will continue through Main Street in Watertown.

There will be a no squirt zone for people who do not want to get wet.

Float judging takes place before the parade. The entry fee for floats is $20. There is no fee for nonprofits, schools, churches and non-business individuals.

Applications to join the parade are available at or at Jim’s Antiques, Watertown Public Library or Wilson Bank & Trust in Watertown.

The city’s firework show will begin at 9 p.m. prior to the ballgames at Three Forks Community Park. Concessions will be available. There will be free watermelon and freeze pops.

Firework sales will begin July 1 and continue through July 7. Fireworks should be shot only between 8 a.m. and midnight.

By Kaitlin Vatrease

Hats reign this week at rodeo

As thousands of visitors make their way through the Wilson County James E. Ward Ag Center this week for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo, there’s one thing visible in every direction – a cowboy hat.

Xavier Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Billy Treadwell with Heads or Tails Hats works on a custom cowboy hat Monday at the Wilson County Expo Center during the National Junior High Finals Rodeo. The group will likely make nearly 1,000 hats during the six-day event.

“The hat is the most recognized piece of apparel in the world. You can go to any country in the world and they recognize the cowboy hat. But, they are not just for fashion. They are for protection from the elements,” said Rick Phemister, owner of Heads or Tails Hats, based in Haskell, Texas.

Phemister started Heads or Tails Hats in 1980 as a full service western store before closing in 2003 and focusing on trade shows starting in 2006. He said he switched the focus solely to hats due the popularity of the apparel.

Phemister said cowboy hats were important to rodeo competitors and anyone involved in agriculture because they maintain heat in winter, while protecting people from the summer’s harsh elements.

“We learned that caps will not protect you from the sun. All it will do is keep the sun out of your eyes,” Phemister said.

Heads or Tails Hats specializes in custom hats made from flat brimmed and rounded hats, allowing options for customers. The group steams the hat to soften the material for shaping to the customer’s desired shape.

“That’s been our thing – making you a one of a kind custom hat,” Phemister said. “We’re all individuals, so everybody thinks they have to have something different. Straw hats in the last five years have just exploded with all kinds of different patterns, colors and designs.”

Phemister said some styles have made a return from previous generations, but there are still differences among age groups.

“The solid black from the 70s and 80s has come back in style because the kids thinks it’s retro because it was popular before they were born. They go all the way from black to rainbow and anything in between,” he said. “These kids are wearing different shapes than the 60-70 year old men. Even in their age groups, there are five or six different styles. They don’t all wear the same thing.”

Phemister said the group made an appearance at a Houston-area rodeo and sold about 1,500 hats. He said he expects to sell close to 1,000 during this week’s rodeo.

“With the area and country that some of these people are from, they don’t have western stores. They don’t have places they can buy hats. So when they come to events like this, they can buy shirts, jeans, saddle – whatever they need. Some don’t have source for that where they live. The trade show is just as important as the competition for some of these folks,” Phemister said.

By Xavier Smith

Local cinematographer to unveil his new film

Documentary follows American veterans returning from Iraq

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
An award-winning documentary film from a Mt. Juliet cinematographer that follows American veterans returning to Northern Iraq is set to play June 30 at the Full Moon Cineplex.

An award-winning documentary film from a Mt. Juliet cinematographer that follows American veterans returning to Northern Iraq is set to play June 30 at the Full Moon Cineplex.

Showtime will be at 7 p.m. with a question-and-answer session to follow.

Filmed in Iraq and Syria, “The Longest Road” follows retired Army Sgt. Richard Campos, Vietnam veteran Stan Rapada, and Gold Star father Kevin Graves as they head to the front lines of combat to see the atrocities that ISIS has committed firsthand. But this isn’t just a sightseeing tour. Campos and his team of veterans, turned humanitarians, are now giving back to those who have suffered immeasurable loss at the hands of the enemy.

“We’ve seen how the refugee crisis has turned so political in our country. This isn’t about politics. It isn’t about religion. It’s about humanity,” said Grammy-nominated musician turned cinematographer Jimmy Cooper.

Cooper, a Mt. Juliet resident, made three trips to Iraq to serve on the film in two years. While in the Middle East, the production befriended a Muslim heart surgeon who shares her story in the film. Dr. Nemam Ghafouri, a former refugee herself, brought the finished film to London and Sweden, where it played to packed theaters filled with diverse crowds. The filmmakers were even invited to attend a meeting at Swedish Parliament to discuss the current refugee situation in the Middle East.

“We are very excited to bring this film to the Nashville area,” said Cooper. “We have been forever changed and will continue to raise awareness for all of these beautiful displaced people. Their dream has become our dream…to find healing, peace and hope while rebuilding what has been lost.”

Full Moon Cineplex is at 3445 Lebanon Pike, Suite 3 in Hermitage.

Staff Reports

George Page: Predators make their mark on the NHL

Did the Nashville Predators become the new face of the NHL? 

The Predators didn’t win the Stanley Cup this year, but they have certainly gained the attention of the United States, Canada and the whole old NHL world.

A lot of it has to be owed to the Nashville hockey fans, which has issued a challenge to every other hockey fan base around the league to step up and provide the same level of support for their team.

The hockey world has taken noticed that Nashville with the tens of thousands of fans outside the arena hours before the puck drops. Those are numbers that the NHL could have only dreamed of when Music City was awarded with an expansion franchise 18 years ago. It’s a dream come true for the NHL that they don’t have to just depend on the traditional hockey markets like Detroit, Toronto or Pittsburgh to drive the hockey ratings.

The Predators don’t have a star power and household names. P. K. Subban and Pekka Rinne and maybe Mike Fisher (who just so happens to be married to country music superstar Carrie Underwood) but they do play an exciting and fearless brand of hockey that seems to feed off their fan base.

And with everything else that’s been going on in this Cup Final, it’s easy to forget that this is a Cinderella story too with the Preds being the #8 seed out of the west. It seems like ages ago that they swept aside the Chicago Blackhawks with ease in the first round.

This is the absolute best-case scenario for the NHL. The number one way to grow the league is to cultivate more marquee stars in more markets around the country. It’s something new and it’s something special. Nashville’s fanatic fan base has lifted the entire hockey brand that can bring light to a sport that desperately needed a boost.

A lot of it is owed to the magic that’s happening in Nashville. Frankly, the city’s embrace of the Stanley Cup and Predators is infectious. You can’t help but get caught up in the rabid fans, the catfish throwing, the country music stars cheering in the stands, like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, free concert by Alan Jackson on Broadway. Inside Bridgestone Arena you see Brad Paisley holding up a catfish, the Tennessee Titans offensive line with quarterback Marcus Maroita waving yellow towels.

A very small percentage of fans cannot afford the ticket prices to get into Bridgestone Arena as four tickets on the glass sold for $31,000 dollars from Stubhub for game six.

So the thousands of fans who don’t have tickets just want to be as close to the arena and action as possible, as an estimated 50,000 people partied in and around downtown during every Stanley Cup Final home game.

Best thing is every Tennessee, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Kentucky football fans are all wearing the same Preds jersey and cheering for the Same team. The Preds, these past few weeks have changed Nashville sports forever.

Nashville seems to have all the momentum and everybody in the hockey world is talking about the amazing scenes in Smashville: Hockeytown, USA.

Music City Star train tickets to July 4 celebration go on sale

NASHVILLE – Tickets for the Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee’s July 4 Music City Star train from Lebanon to downtown Nashville for the Music City celebration at Nashville’s Riverfront Park are on sale.

The train will depart from Lebanon Station at 4 p.m., Martha at 4:13 p.m., Mt. Juliet at 4:24 p.m., Hermitage at 4:33 p.m., Donelson at 4:44 p.m. and arrive at Nashville’s Riverfront Station at 5 p.m. The return train to Lebanon leaves 45 minutes after the conclusion of the Nashville fireworks.

An allotment of 950 tickets is available to the general public. Round-trip tickets cost $15 plus a 88-cent processing fee and are available for purchase through the Music City Star website at or at with a credit card. Tickets will be on sale until 24 hours prior to departure or until they are sold out, whichever comes first. Tickets will not be for sale July 4th on the platforms. Parking is free at all of the outlying stations. Anyone needing special accommodations to board should call 615-862-5925 prior to their trip.

Customers will receive only one ticket for the round-trip and will need to show the ticket to train personnel when boarding. Upon boarding, each customer will receive a wristband in place of the ticket, which will serve as his or her train ticket. Customers must show the wristband to the conductor for the return trip. After the fireworks, passengers should be seated in the same train car for easier exiting at their designated station.

Children age 4 and younger will not need a ticket to board, however, they are required to sit in a parent or guardian’s lap. Children 5 and older will need a ticket. Weekday Music City Star tickets and monthly passes are not accepted on the July 4 train.

Folding chairs will be allowed onboard. Any items that will not fit underneath the seat, such as bikes and wagons, are not permitted on the train. Coolers of any size are not permitted on the train or at the event.

Passengers will not be able to return to the train during the July 4 festivities. To get some relief from the heat, misting stations and water fountains will be available throughout the venue, including at First Avenue and Broadway.

For more information, contact customer care at 615-862-5950 weekdays from 6:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. or visit

Staff Reports

Auditions announced for Encore radio drama

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Gort is a large robot that accompanies Klaatu to earth in Edmund North’s ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’.

Encore Theatre Co. officials announced an audition call for its staged radio drama theatre production of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” on June 25-26 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. 

“If you like to perform but can’t devote the time to extensive rehearsals or have difficulty remembering all the lines, then these radio dramas are for you, “ said James Bealor, Encore creative director.

The phrase, “klaatu barada nikto,” has appeared repeatedly in fiction and in popular cultures and is one of the most memorable lines of the story for all sci-fi fans. Edmund H. North wrote the screenplay based on the 1940 science-fiction short story “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates.

In “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” a humanoid alien visitor named Klaatu comes to earth, accompanied by a powerful 8-feet-tall robot, Gort, to deliver an important message that will affect the entire human race.

In 1995, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Performance dates will be Aug. 11-12 at 7:30 p.m. and directed by Don Breedwell. Live sound effects, along with historical trivia, will be woven through the storyline. Anyone interested in lights and sound should also apply at either the auditions or email the director directly.

About two-dozen roles will be available, some with two lines or fewer. Auditions will consist of a cold reading from the script. An actor can play more than one role with voice variation. The rehearsal schedule will be based upon cast availability after July 10.

Visit for a complete cast breakdown and additional audition details. For specific inquiries, contact Breedwell at

Staff Reports

Long Hunter State Park to debut new Reading Ranger Story Trail

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Long Hunter State Park Ranger Leslie Ann Rawlings stands with visitors along the first Reading Ranger Story Trail in 2016 that featured the book, ‘Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek,’ by Marianne Berkes.

Long Hunter State Park will unveil the second edition of the Reading Ranger Story Trail on June 24.

The story trail combines outdoor exercise with childhood literacy through storybook artwork along a quarter-mile trail.

Tennessee State Parks partnered with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation and Nashville Public Library to bring visitors the children’s storybook, “Pitter and Patter,” by Martha Sullivan. Engaging artwork by Cathy Morrison reveals the journey of two raindrops traveling through the water cycle and greeting animal friends along the way. The story introduces young minds to this vital environmental concept as they walk along a state park trail.

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
The cover of the current story trail book, ‘Pitter Patter,’ by Martha Sullivan is featured on the second edition of the Reading Ranger Story Trail at Long Hunter State Park.

Located near Couchville Lake, the story trail will be accessible daily during regular park hours from 7 a.m. until sunset until next spring.

The grand unveiling of the story trail, which will feature children’s activities and crafts, will be June 24 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Area 2 near Couchville Lake inside the park.

For more information about Long Hunter State Park, visit To learn more about the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, visit

Staff Reports

Olympic Day celebration set

Universal Gymnastics to feature Olympic bobsledder

Photo by Joe Rimkus • Miami Herald • TNS
USA’s team No. 2 members Brian Shimer, Mike Kohn, Doug Sharp and Dan Steele begin a run during the 2002 Winter Olympics four-man bobsleigh competition at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. Sharp will be at Universal Athletics on Saturday.

Universal Gymnastics in Mt. Juliet will celebrate Olympic Day with a variety of activities Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the gym.

There will be an open gym to promote gymnastics, dance and urban movement as well as a full-scale American Ninja Warrior-style course.

American Olympic bobsled team champion Doug Sharp will be at the event. Sharp won bronze in the Winter Olympic Games in 2002.

Representatives from the Mt. Juliet Police Department and Fire Department of Mt. Juliet will also be there.

Booth space in the parking lot is available, and all proceeds will be donated to Wilson County Special Olympics.

Universal Gymnastics is at 5003 Market Place in Mt. Juliet.

For more information, call 615-758-4791 or visit

Joines family continues rodeo involvement

Jeff Joines instrumental in bringing junior high rodeo to Wilson

Photo courtesy of Jeff Joines
Audrey Joines competes in a New Mexico rodeo competition. The Joines family has competed in rodeo competitions with the National High School Rodeo Association for two generations. The National Junior High Finals Rodeo will be June 18-24 in Wilson County for the second year at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.

Wilson County is home to several families involved with the National High School Rodeo Association, including the Joines family from Gladeville who has two generations of competitors and hopes for the tradition to continue.

The National Junior High Finals Rodeo will be June 18-24 in Wilson County, the second time ever for the National High School Rodeo Association to bring its annual event east of the Mississippi River. It is also the second time the event will be held at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.

Current grandparents Jeff and Debbie Joines began allowing their children to compete in National High School Rodeo Association events in 2003. Their children, Audrey and Cole Joines, continued competing until they both graduated high school in 2011.

“We told our kids, ‘this stuff is really expensive, so if we’re going to do this as a family, you’re going to practice hard, you’re going to try hard and you’re going to give 110 percent when you go out there,’” said Debbie Joines.

Audrey Joines, now mother of her own rodeo protégé, competed in all the girl’s events as a junior high and high school competitor. In 2007, she finished in the top 8 in Tennessee in four different events, qualifying her for the National High School Rodeo finals in each.

Cole Joines competed in barrel racing and team roping. In 2009, he qualified for the National High School Rodeo finals in team roping.

Audrey and Cole Joines both continued competing in local professional events after graduating from high school.

Audrey now has a 2-year-old son, Jackson Joines, who works leadline shows with his pony.

Leadline is a youth rodeo event where young children sit on their horses with the reins in hand while an adult or older child leads the horse with a rope.

“His mother is teaching him how to rope, too,” said Debbie Joines. “They were working on it the other day in the backyard. So we have a lot of plans for him if that’s what he wants to do.”

Jeff Joines was instrumental in bringing the National Junior High Rodeo Finals to Wilson County. He used his experience working in past rodeos as a selling point to get the event to come to Wilson County.

In 2015, he presented his idea to bring the rodeo to the James E. Ward Agricultural Center to the National High School Rodeo Association.

“He knew a lot of people in the association just from our previous years being there,” said Debbie Joines. “Jeff knew the capacity of the Ward center, so basically he went to the association in Dallas and gave them a presentation detailing what we had available here.”

Debbie Joines encourages anyone interested to come out to the event and check it out.

“People are going to be blown away by the talent of these young people. Many of them have been throwing a rope on a horse since they were little-bitty guys, and I think that’s the most amazing thing,” said Debbie Joines.

The opening ceremony for the National Junior High Rodeo Finals will be Sunday at 7 p.m. For more information on the event or to purchase tickets, visit

By Jacob Smith

First career victory special for Hale

Photo courtesy of Larry Woody
Wilson County racer William Hale makes his first visit to Victory Circle at Highland Rim Speedway.

They say you never forget your first one:

First kiss.

First pay check.

First race victory.

“I guess that’s true,” says young Mt. Juliet racer William Hale, who last month won his first career major-division race at Highland Rim Speedway.

“Although, to tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. When I won the race I was so busy looking my rear-view mirror (at the second-place driver) that it was over before I knew it. We had a short victory celebration, then started getting ready for the next one. I’ve always heard that drivers are so busy they don’t have time to celebrate until the season is over, and I can see why.”

Hale captured his inaugural win after starting on the pole and leading 50 of the 75 laps, including the most important one – the last one.

That first taste of victory made him hungry for more.

“It was a great confidence-builder,” says Hale, whose race cars are maintained by his grandfather Alan out of their Mt. Juliet team headquarters.

“Even though the win came on the little track at Highland Rim, it was a great feeling to get it,” William says. “Now I’d like to win one on the big track at the Fairgrounds.”

Hale is in second place in the championship standings in Highland Rim’s premier Late Model division. Over the decades several young racers got their start at the historic Ridgetop track, and Hale hopes to continue the trend.

In addition to racing at the Rim and Fairgrounds, Hale plans to run some events at Huntsville (Ala.) Speedway this summer, and will enter this winter’s Snowball Derby in Pensacola, Fla., one of the nation’s premier short-track events.

“We’ve got several things planned and I’m looking forward to them,” Hale says.

Hale has been fascinated by race cars for as long as he can remember.

“When his was just two or three he liked to watch me change the oil and work on the cars,” says his grandfather.

Alan, a mechanic for some of the top area drivers in the 1980’s, started taking his grandson to the track about the time he started walking.

“I remember watching races at the Fairgrounds with my grandfather when I was about three years old,” William says. “I thought it was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen. One night Dale Earnhardt’s car was on display, and it made a big impression on me. Dale was my hero back then, and I always thought I’d like to be like him some day.”

Two people who have inspired William this season are his grandfather and Willie Allen. Allen is an active Fairgrounds driver who competed successfully in the NASCAR truck series and now assists young racers like William.

“William is very focused and a fast learner,” Allen says. “He takes his racing seriously, and is a pleasure to work with.”

Allen adds with a chuckle: “I tell him that the only way to get better as a driver is to learn from your mistakes, and I’ve made so many over the years that hopefully I can teach him how to avoid them.”

As for the assistance of his grandfather, William says:

“I wouldn’t be able to race without him. He’s been there for me ever since I was a little kid and I owe everything to him. I always said that when I started winning, I’d be winning for both of us.”

Superspeedway update: NASCAR has announced its 2018 schedules for its three touring series and, as expected, Nashville Superspeedway is not included. That means the Gladeville track is probably destined to continue to sit idle next year, despite reports that a prospective new owner has expressed interest in the facility.

By Larry Woody


Fire and ice theme adds sparkle to Phoenix Ball

Bailey Wrenne • Mt. Juliet News
One of the premier charity events in Tennessee, the 34th annual Phoenix Ball black tie gala to benefit Cumberland University was attended Saturday evening by hundreds of prominent Middle Tennesseans and their guests and raised thousands of dollars for scholarships and other programs of the university. The theme was fire and ice.

The 34th Phoenix Ball on Saturday to benefit Cumberland University has come and gone, leaving memories of flickering flames, sparkling snowflakes and wonderful fun.

The entire interior of the Dallas Floyd Gymnasium on the Cumberland campus was wrapped in shimmering white fabric while icy blue lights reflected off it. High above in the center of the room, a snow-making machine blew a shower of artificial flakes every few minutes that glittered in the lights as they softly fluttered to the floor below

Tables accommodating 10 guests each sat ready to handle the 404 attendees. Centering each was a tall branch that sprouted several smaller limbs. These were painted a glistening white, hung with crystals and rhinestones representing ice cycles and “planted” in a tall cylinder covered in sparkly paper. The linens were silver as were the trays under each plate, and the dozens of pieces of silverware.  Between all that and several crystal glasses at each place setting, the lights couldn’t help but reflect, making everything seem to come alive.

The parade of the guests began at Baird Chapel where a bar was set up, hors d’oeuvres passed around and silent auction items made available for bidding. The party convened for dinner in the gym at 7:30 p.m. There followed a welcome and remarks by Cumberland president Paul Stumb. Stumb then introduced the Phoenix Ball committee chairs, and Scott Lawrence, former alumni board president, gave the invocation.

The five-course dinner opened with firecracker shrimp with watermelon salsa. The second course consisted of fried-green tomatoes with creamy sriracha sauce. A roasted beet salad made up the third course. The main course was presented, featuring a fork-tender filet mignon with bacon cream sauce, sweet potato au gratin and roasted asparagus. Dessert included white chocolate cinnamon mousse with fresh berries on the side.

Following dinner, Stumb introduced Jackie and Chuck Cowden who will play host to the 2017 Patrons’ Party, “Fire & Ice in Paradise,” on June 23. He then introduced Ray Hubner with Compass Auctions and Real Estate who handled the live auction.

Music and dancing by the Downtown Band followed closing remarks from Stumb. The band was in full swing.

By Bonnie Bucy

Living Writer

Group dives in to new restaurant concept

Former Nashville Jam Co. has new look, dining experience

Sinclaire Sparkman • Lebanon Democrat
Bobby Hansen (left) and Michael Paul sit under the Dive In sign inside the lakeside restaurant. The new owners plan to update the concept and launch a new brand for the former Nashville Jam Co. location.

Formerly known as the Nashville Jam Co., new owners of the restaurant with a view of Old Hickory Lake have some big dreams for the future.

Dive In restaurant offers some new spin on the Nashville Jam Co.’s brunch menu, while adding its own lakeside flair with help from Nashville chef Bobby Hansen. New owner Michael Paul and his partner Matthew Wilson met while doing work with Paul’s nonprofit, On Target for Veterans. For more information about the nonprofit supporting disabled veterans, visit

Wilson saw that the previous owners, Gary and Cortney Baron, had put the Nashville Jam Co. restaurant location up for sale and helped to assemble the four-person partnership that would create the Dive In concept.

“The previous owner, Gary [Baron], was into making jams, and decided he wanted to focus his attention on just making the jams,” Paul said. “So we’ve come in. We think it’s a great location. Our chef came from downtown Nashville and is adding flair to the menu to make it more of a Nashville foodie experience.”

The Dive In menu includes plenty of breakfast staples like biscuits and gravy, grits and omelet choices, while also offering some unique options like the Bronut, a biscuit dish that involves Nutella, pancake batter, bananas, a deep fryer and caramel sauce. There’s also breakfast tacos, hot chicken biscuits and, of course, a fried green tomato wrap.

Lunch options are also available like the old favorite BLT burger with a fried green tomato and pimento cheese standing in for the ordinary.

“We’re really excited,” Hansen said. “We’re adding our own spin to the lake vibe in the hopes of creating a festive, lake and country spot.”

The restaurant also serves mimosas, wine and beer, but Paul said the usual brunch crowd is mostly interested in the mimosas.

All four partners are local to the Old Hickory area, and when they bought the restaurant at the end of April, the hope was for the restaurant to create the experience they can only currently find near Nashville.

“We came with the idea that we live here but there’s no place that really gives us the foodie experience,” Paul said. “We really want to try and make this a family place where people can come hang out. It’s kind of trial and error right now.”

The partners have already updated the location with a back parking lot, more tables inside and structural upgrades like central heating and air. Paul said they eventually want to put in some outside seating, maybe a beer garden and a place to smoke their own pulled pork. Paul is also working with a paddleboard instructor to hopefully have some paddleboarding classes on Old Hickory Lake in the near future.

“We’re still working on a few things, and the bigger that we get, there’s more to consider,” Paul said. “We want to have a good family environment where people can come get food and spend time together.”

Paul said sunsets seen from the restaurant are particularly breathtaking, and hopes restaurant patrons will soon be able to kick back and enjoy a lakeside sunset with the new upgrades planned to take place at Dive In.

By Sinclaire Sparkman

Volunteers needed for junior high rodeo finals

Volunteers are needed for the upcoming National High School Rodeo Association Junior High Division Rodeo Finals to be held June 18-24 at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.

Volunteers are especially needed for overnight shifts. Specific needs include contestant check in June 16-18 from midnight until 5 a.m.; horse check June 16 from midnight until 5 a.m., June 17 from 8 p.m. until midnight and midnight until 5 a.m., and June 18 from midnight until 5 a.m.; and campsite guide from midnight until 5 a.m.

A dry run will take place June 10 at 10 a.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center.

Students receiving Tennessee Promise scholarships may volunteer at the event to fulfill community service requirements as part of the TN Achieves effort.

The event is expected to bring in more than 1,400 contestants and their families, coaches and livestock to Wilson County from across the United States, Canada and Australia. The total number of visitors to the area is estimated at around 50,000.

Created in 2004, the NHSRA Junior High Division was established to bring the excitement of the sport to sixth through eighth graders and to serve as a feeder system into the high school ranks of the association. The 48 states and provinces that belong to the NHSRA also produce a junior high division, with more than 2,500 members competing. Junior high division students participate in a variety of events, including barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping, tie-down roping, chute dogging, team roping, ribbon roping and junior bull riding, bareback steer riding and saddle bronc steer riding.

To register, visit

By: Xavier Smith

Plans set locally for upcoming solar eclipse

Plans are set in Lebanon and Mt. Juliet surrounding a solar eclipse that will bring nighttime during the day for about two minutes in August.

NASA ambassador Theo Wellington addressed the solar eclipse with the Wilson County Commission earlier this year and said in August, the state will see its first total solar eclipse since 1869.

“I use to qualify it and call it the biggest astronomical event. I don’t do that anymore. This is going to be the biggest public one-day event ever in U.S. history,” Wellington said.

The Wilson County Fair will celebrate the occasion, with the total solar eclipse expected to start at 1:28 p.m. during the only Monday of the fair.

About 10,000 solar eclipse glasses will be provided when admission gates open at 10 a.m. as long as supplies lasts. The carnival will offer the “Best Seats in the House” for anyone that would like to ride the Ferris Wheel during the solar eclipse.

An emcee will direct the activities and information about the eclipse, directing everyone when it will be safe to take off their glasses.

Interested individuals must sign up with their mobile number to receive the winning call.

For more information, visit or call 615-443-2626.

Mt. Juliet will hold a solar eclipse event at Charlie Daniels Park from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

There will be activities for the whole family, which will include special music, food trucks, vendors, field day fun, as well as all the activities that the park normally has offer. The community will then come together to share in the once-in-a-lifetime event.

The event will be free, but eclipse survival kits will be on sale that will include viewing glasses, “I survived the Mt Juliet Eclipse” T-shirts and more.

All proceeds will go to Friends of Mt. Juliet Parks and Greenways. 

Wellington said the eclipse is not a “science geeky” occurrence and would challenge people’s senses and could cause emotional reactions for some people.

“To see the sun go out in the middle of the day is something your brain knows doesn’t happen, so it hits you at a very human level. People cry. They shout. They go silent and speechless,” she said.

Wellington said half of the U.S. population is within a one day’s drive to the total solar eclipse path, which means areas along the path, such as Wilson County, will experience an influx of visitors.

Wellington said the total eclipse path is important, because it’s the path in which a total eclipse is visible. Other areas will only experience a partial eclipse, which doesn’t bring darkness.

“It’s a nationwide event. Everybody will see part of the sun covered up that day, but only those in the 70-mile wide path get to see the total eclipse,” said Wellington, who said the eclipse causes a night and day difference.

“You guys are snugged up right next to the very center of the path,” she said.

Wellington said the maximum amount of time the total eclipse can be viewed is two minutes and 40 seconds.

“The Wilson County [Fairgrounds] is only two seconds off the longest time,” she said.

By: Xavier Smith

Electrical issue delays Ava’s Splash Pad opening

George Page Lebanon Democrat
Ava’s Splash Pad’s opening is delayed about a week due to an electrical issue that involves the computer used to operate the splash pad, according to Mt. Juliet Parks and Recreation officials.

Originally scheduled to open Tuesday, children wanting to splash around Ava’s Splash Pad in Mt. Juliet will have to wait a bit.

Mt. Juliet Parks and Recreation officials said electrical issues at the splash pad at Charlie Daniels Park were delayed, which caused the opening to be pushed back to Monday or possibly later next week. Officials said on Facebook recent storms destroyed a computer used to operate the splash pad, and they are working with electricians, the city’s information technology department and the originally installer to get the issue resolved.

On Tuesday, Mt. Juliet firefighters arrived at the splash pad to help children cool off using a sprayer truck.

Once open, Ava’s Splash Pad will be available Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. until July 21.

Once the splash pad opens, officials said swimwear is required will be strictly enforced. Food and drinks are prohibited, however, water in a clear plastic container is permitted.

Ava’s Splash Pad is a 4,000-square-foot water play pad that opened in July 2013 with sprinklers where children can cool off during the summer.

It was named after Ava Shaye Bright, who loved nothing more than to splash. A common childhood surgery cut short Bright’s life March 21, 2010 when she was 2 years old. Something went wrong after what was to be a simple tonsillectomy. Her memory lives on through Ava’s Splash Pad.

By: Kaitlin Vantrease

Encore Theatre to present ‘Really Rosie’ musical

Encore Theatre Co. announced the next production, “Really Rosie” with book and lyrics by Maurice Sendak and music by Carole King.

Directed by Don Breedwell with music director James Bealor, the musical will open Friday and runs weekends through June 11. Friday and Saturday shows take the stage at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday shows start at 2:30 p.m. Doors open 30 minutes prior to show time.

Remember the days before electronic devices and fidget spinners when children used their imagination to amuse themselves? Rosie, the sassiest kid on her block of Brooklyn’s Avenue P, entertains herself and her friends by acting out show biz fantasies, notably directing and starring in an Oscar-winning movie. The childhood flashback entertains the modern-day child and children at heart.

The show will feature an all-youth cast of middle and high school students, including Makensie Smith, Hannah Laws, Christian Begnaud, Abby West, Britton Cherry, Kennedy Smith, Emily Wethington and Hope Sloan.

Tickets are on sale at or or by calling 615-598-8950. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 60 and older and $10 for children 12 and younger.

Encore Theatre Co. is at 6978 Lebanon Road, just west of Highway 109, in Mt. Juliet. Encore is a nonprofit community theater that serves Wilson County and surrounding areas since 2006.

Staff Reports

Upcoming Reverse Raffle offers chance to win $10K

Wilson County Court-Appointed Special Advocates will hold its bi-annual Reverse Raffle on July 6 at 5:30 p.m. at the Wilson County Expo Center in Lebanon.

Two Fat Men Catering will serve dinner at 5:30 p.m., and the drawing begins at 6:30 p.m.

Three hundred tickets will be sold for $100 each. Each ticket will admit two people for dinner. Tickets will be drawn until the last 10 tickets remaining. Those remaining 10 ticket holders will have the option to split the $10,000 grand prize and take home $1,000 each. If one person doesn’t agree to split, drawing continues, and so on. If the drawing gets to one ticket remaining, the ticketholder will win $10,000.

Anyone who would like to have a ticket delivered, contact Cathey Sweeney at 615-443-2002, or tickets may be bought at the CASA office at 111 Castle Heights Ave. in Lebanon.

Staff Reports

State Fair names award in honor of Hale Moss

Hale Moss

The Tennessee State Fair’s Distinguished Service Award, presented annually at a special ceremony during the fair’s 10-day run in Nashville, will be named in honor of the late Charles Hale Moss, of Mt. Juliet.

Moss died in April at age 68.

Members of the Tennessee State Fair Association board of directors approved the motion to name the award in honor of Moss at its May meeting, citing his many contributions to the State Fair, agriculture and his leadership role in reviving the Wilson County Fair into becoming one of the South’s best county fairs.

John Rose, TSFA board chairman, said the board’s decision to name the distinguished service award after Moss was “appropriate and fitting because of Hale’s lifelong commitment to agriculture in Tennessee, his volunteer work with the State Fair as well as his tireless efforts in leading the development of his home county fair [the Wilson County Fair] into arguably one of the nation’s best county fairs.”

Moss, who served as president of the Wilson County Fair for every year since 1979 except one, was instrumental in seeing the fair’s quality and achievements recognized locally and on a national stage and led the fair to astonishing attendance records that in recent years have soared above the 500,000 mark, attracting visitors from multiple states all of Tennessee’s 95 counties.

Moss, who was inducted into the Wilson County Agricultural Hall of Fame in April, taught agriculture at Lebanon High School for four years, and then in 1973 entered the family’s business in Mt. Juliet, which primarily sold feed, fertilizer and other agricultural products. He and family members, including his wife, Brenda, later transitioned the business into Moss’ Florist and Garden Center.

A graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and an active leader in 4-H and FFA, Moss served as beef cattle superintendent of the Tennessee State Fair Advisory Board from 1977 to 2005.

The State Fair Distinguished Service Award is presented each year during the fair to the person or people who make significant contributions to help develop and maintain the traditions of the Tennessee State Fair.

The Tennessee State Fair is a 10-day annual event held on the state fairgrounds in Nashville. For more than 150 years, the State Fair has showcased the accomplishments of the citizens of Tennessee and brought family friendly entertainment for all to enjoy. This year’s theme is “Tennessee Proud.”

The fair will open Sept. 8, run for 10 days, and close Sept. 17. For more information about the Tennessee State Fair, including how to become a sponsor, visit

Staff Reports