Mt. Juliet vies to win $20K in park contest

During Earth Month in April, the National Recreation and Park Association is collaborating with the Walt Disney Co., including Disney Citizenship, Disney-ABC Television Group and ESPN, to revitalize parks across the U.S.

The city that receives the most nominations will receive a $20,000 grant to improve a local park.

“Local parks make Mt. Juliet a better place to live and shape so many of our lives,” said Mt. Juliet parks director Rocky Lee. “Parks are essential to our city’s health and wellbeing. They provide safe places to be active and enjoy nature, and they help preserve the environment and bring people together. That’s why from April 1-30, Mt. Juliet residents will have the opportunity to nominate our city to receive $20,000 in grant funding to make improvements at a local park.”

To nominate Mt. Juliet for the honor, visit At the end of April, the city with the most nominations will receive grant funding. Everyone who nominates a city will be entered into a drawing for a tablet outfitted for the outdoors.

“We are always searching for new ways to provide access for citizens to play in M.J. This grant could go a long way in helping us maintain that focus,” Lee said.

“Supporting local parks is essential to the health and vitality of communities everywhere,” said Lori Robertson, NRPA Director of Conservation. “That’s why we are proud to collaborate with The Walt Disney Company to help fund critical park improvement projects in communities in need. We encourage everyone to join us in giving back to the places that shape so much of our lives by voting in this year’s Meet Me at the Park campaign.”

During April, a public service announcement to support the Meet Me at the Park campaign will be shared with audiences across Disney, including ABC Television Network, ABC-owned and affiliate stations, Freeform, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, the ABC app and other digital platforms. The PSA will also be available to view on the voting site at Additionally, Radio Disney will support the campaign with an on-air radio spot.

During Earth Month, Mt. Juliet can show what parks mean to the community by nominating the city. Friends can be encouraged to nominate Mt. Juliet by taking a selfie in a favorite park and using the hashtags #MeetMeAtThePark, #Parkies and #BeInspired.

Mt. Juliet aspires to always be a signature city in the Middle Tennessee region. Employing the characteristics of its traditional Southern hospitality as a foundation, Mt. Juliet will utilize the ever-increasing resources afforded it through the influx of people and businesses to create an ideal community featuring a wholesome and well-rounded lifestyle. Mt. Juliet will develop an environment where planned growth does not forsake the values and comfort of a close-knit community where providing for the needs of people is the priority. Mt. Juliet will establish a core business district to encourage vibrant economic growth and stability. Mt. Juliet will shape its government to be responsive to citizen concerns and to provide safety for our citizens as we strive to cultivate education, recreation and cultural opportunities.

The Mt. Juliet Parks and Recreation Department works to create and provide recreational activities and facilities, as well as leisure and community services necessary to promote public well being and quality of life for the citizens of Mt. Juliet. It strives to build and promote a sense of hometown spirit based on its belief in family, fitness and fun. For more information, visit

The National Recreation and Park Association is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that all Americans have access to parks and recreation for health, conservation and social equity. Through its network of nearly 60,000 recreation and park professionals and advocates, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles, conservation initiatives and equitable access to parks and public space.

Staff Reports

Children’s author plans autism presentation

April is Autism Awareness Month, and Mt. Juliet children’s author D.G. Driver recently released a new book for anyone looking to learn more about autism.

She will speak about autism and read from her book, “No One Needed to Know,” on April 8 at 2 p.m. at the Linebaugh Library in Murfreesboro.

“No One Needed to Know” is a story about an 11-year-old girl who learns to deal with the pressures and responsibilities that come with having an older autistic brother. The book is targeted toward readers 8-13 years old, and is based loosely on Driver’s personal experiences growing up with an autistic older brother.

“I always enjoyed playing make-believe with my brother and hanging out with him at the park,” Driver said. “When I turned 12, I stopped wanting to play that way anymore, and he, at 16, still did. That’s when I began to understand how different my brother was from the other kids his age.”

Driver decided to write a book to which other children who are siblings of autism or other challenges might relate.

In “No One Needed to Know,” Heidi sees her brother bullied by children in the neighborhood. She worries that if her friends find out about him, she will get bullied, too. So, the book is also about how to handle bullying.

Driver said she was bullied in sixth grade but not about her brother. Still, she used her memories of that hard time to create the tough scenes in the novel, and she also used some of her experiences as a teacher in special education for scenes toward the end.

Courtney Morgan, a literacy coordinator with United Way, was an early reader of the novel.

“Heidi is one of the more convincing 11-year-old characters that I have read in recent times,” Morgan said. “She is smart, passionate, caring, athletic and yet still has the flaws that make her a convincing, well-rounded character. Throughout the story, Heidi has many struggles that readers can relate to as she is grappling to understand life, especially her brother, who isn’t quite like every other 16-year-old… “Consequently, as you read through the scenes of this book, you can feel the love, confusion and cringe-worthy moments that come along with self discovery and a preteen’s introduction to the encroaching awareness of other’s opinions.”

Driver is a multi-award-winning author of young adult and middle-grade novels. She likes to write about diverse characters dealing with social and environmental issues. She has written articles for Autism Society of East Tennessee, Geek Club Books and Multicultural Children’s Book Day, among others, and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She has lived in Mt. Juliet for nine years.

In addition to writing, she is the lead teacher of the infant classroom at a child development center in Nashville that helps special needs children alongside their typically developing peers. She is also a performer and will be in a production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” alongside her husband, with Center Stage Theater Co. in May in Lebanon.

Staff Reports

Evening with the Arts brings Nashville songwriters to Mt. Juliet

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s Evening with the Arts: Writers in the Round featured several notable Nashville songwriters perform at the school Feb. 25.

Billed as a night with Darryl Worley and friends, the event featured performances by Worley, Kenny Beard, Andy Griggs, Mark Narmore and Lauren Kleeberg, winner of the school’s songwriting competition.

Worley has been a songwriter in the country music industry for more than 15 years. His hits include “Awful, Beautiful Life,” “Have You Forgotten” and “I Miss My Friend.”

Beard has been a prominent songwriter in Nashville since the 1990s, with many songs garnering critical acclaim.

Griggs has performed in country and bluegrass groups, and has performed music in Nashville for more than 20 years.

Narmore has had a songwriting career spanning more than 25 years. He has had songs recorded by many notable musicians, including Josh Turner, John Michael Montgomery, Shenandoah, Blackhawk, Terry Clark and Craig Morgan.

Kleeberg is a sixth grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. The school organized a songwriting and poetry competition leading up to the Evening with the Arts event to showcase the bright, young artists at the school. Kleeberg was named the winner a few weeks before the event, and she performed her original song, “And If Only They Knew,” during the event.

The event served as a fundraiser for the fine arts program at the school, and also featured a silent auction that was held that featured many one-of-a-kind items.

The Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Fine Arts Booster Club will use proceeds from the event to replace outdated theatrical curtains and lighting needed to support the fine arts students at the school.

For more information about the annual event, visit

Traditional country artist Ross Key dies

Staff Reports

Traditional country music entertainer and musician Ross Key sustained fatal injuries Monday while working on a roof in Mt. Juliet. He was 54.

Paramedics took Key to Tri-City Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, where was unresponsive upon arrival due head trauma. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Ross is well known in Wilson County, Nashville and beyond for his staunch support of traditional country and held several shows each year in Lebanon, which drew performers from around the world. Best known for his annual Spring Fling festival, a 12-hour music festival, featuring stars such as Ron Williams, Allen Karl, Bobby Lewis, Bobby G. Rice and many more, the festival won its first international award in 2013 for “Best Country Music Festival” from the Independent Country Music Association.

Key went on to earn two commendations from the state and Gov. Bill Haslam for his support of veterans and one for his contributions to traditional country music, both awarded in 2015. Ross held a Virginia State Dobro Championship and recently won an international Fan’s Choice award in 2016 for “Best Country Music Band” in the United Kingdom.

“He was an advocate for the traditional country music sound in Nashville. He and his wife, Brenda, were front and center to volunteer time and talent for so many charitable events, as well as continuously advocating for traditional country music,” said Sebrina Horstmeyer. “He was a refreshing traditional sound in his own right through his original songs, many awesome events showcasing traditional country music talent and was a treasured friend to all who knew him.”

Key was the CEO and founder of the Traditional Country Network, which supported and promoted the traditional country music genre, assisting songwriters and singers of traditional country music.

“Ross wasn’t the kind of guy who said, ‘if you need anything let me know,’ and then when you needed something, find an excuse not to lend you a hand. He was one of the few who has proven his actions and words were the same – at least to me,” said Clint Burgess.

Ross leaves behind his wife, Brenda, of Nashville; his mother, Myra Key, of Punta Gorda, Fla.; a brother, Edward G. Key, of Smith Mountain Lake, Va.; and a son, David Garland Key, of Madison Heights, Va.

He was preceded in death by his father, Edward Garland Key; and a brother, Steven D. Key.

A GoFundMe memorial account was established at

All-Sing gives school choirs single voice

By Jake Old

The Wilson County All-Sing event Thursday evening saw choirs from five local high schools perform a variety of songs.

The Wilson Central High School Chamber Choir, Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Concert Choir, Mt. Juliet High School Vocal Ensemble, Watertown High School Concert Choir, Lebanon High School Mixed Choir, Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Singular Sensations Show Choir, Wilson Central High School Women’s Chorale, Wilson Central High School Aca-Flockas and All-County Mass Choir performed during the event.

Dozens of people packed into Victory Baptist Church on Thursday to watch the performances of local students. Four performances made up the first portion of the program, with six performances following a brief intermission. 

The event, which is run by the Mt. Juliet Noon Rotary Club, raised money for Rotary’s service efforts in the community, and a portion of every ticket sold went to the high schools. Tickets were $10 each, and All-Sing shirts were also sold for $12.

Wilson Central’s Chamber Choir started the first portion of the show with two songs, “Sing Me To Heaven” and “Jabula Jesu.”

Next, the Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Concert Choir performed “Sing We and Chant It” and “Stairs Behind the Sky.”

Mt. Juliet High School’s Vocal Ensemble performed “Carnavalito” and “Blessing in the Leaving,” followed by Watertown High School’s Concert Choir performing “Sure On This Shining Night,” “Dies Irae” and “A New Day Has Dawned,” leading into the intermission.

The second half of the event was kicked off by Lebanon High School’s Mixed Choir performing “I Shall Not Live in Vain” and “Clap Your Hands and Sing.”

Then, the Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Singular Sensations Show Choir performed “You Can’t Stop the Beat;” Wilson Central High School’s Aca-Flockas performed “Cups;” and Mt. Juliet High School’s Vocal Ensemble performed singing valentines.

The show concluded with the All-County Mass Choir performing “Shut De Do.”

Choir directors at each school are Ben Channell at Lebanon High School, Kimberly Overstreet at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, Sandy Elliot at Mt. Juliet High School, Scott Corley at Watertown High School and Lynn Morin at Wilson Central High School.

Youth Leadership brings back Heroes canned food drive

Bobby Reynolds • 
Mt. Juliet News • File
Children throughout Wilson County will get the chance to meet their heroes at two upcoming events sponsored by Youth Leadership Wilson. Hungry for Heroes seeks to collect food for Wilson County Schools and Lebanon Special School District’s backpack programs.

The 2017 Youth Leadership Wilson class will bring back two events aimed to help those in need throughout Wilson County.

The group will continue a service project started by the 2016 class and hold two Hungry for Heroes canned food drives for Wilson County students Saturday at Castle Heights Elementary School and Feb. 25 at West Elementary School. Both events will be from 9-11 a.m. in the school cafeterias.

Youth Leadership members will dress as movie characters and heroes, and children will have the opportunity to meet their favorite characters and learn what makes them unique heroes.

Admission is one canned food item per person.

Dorie Mitchell, Leadership Wilson director, said all food from the Mt. Juliet event will go toward the Wilson County Schools backpack program and food received in Lebanon would go to the Lebanon Special School District backpack program.

“It’s a really fun day for everybody. Each child gets a goodie bag when they come in, and there’s an autograph book for them to get their favorite character’s autograph and pictures made,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said parents and guardians would need to bring their own cameras or smartphones for the event.

“I think we donated around 1,000 cans last year, and we would love to double that this year. I think we can help a lot of people,” she said.

Staff Reports

Encore Theatre Co. to present ‘The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer’

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News Some members of the cast of Encore Theatre’s production of ‘The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer’ are (from left) Jeff Lay, Jeff McCann, Marty Bollin, Fernando Ochoa, Karen Yates, Corinne Cook and Brian McKay.

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Some members of the cast of Encore Theatre’s production of ‘The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer’ are (from left) Jeff Lay, Jeff McCann, Marty Bollin, Fernando Ochoa, Karen Yates, Corinne Cook and Brian McKay.

Cover pictureStep back in time as Encore Theatre will present the Lux Radio Theatre 1949 production of “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer” from the screenplay by Sidney Sheldon.

Two shows only are planned for Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to show time.

The staged reading is a comedy about a womanizing bachelor who is ordered to date the teenage daughter of a beautiful judge.

The cast includes Jeff McCann, Sarah McKay, Corinne Cook, Brian McKay, Jeff Lay, Ron Tatlock, Andrew Smith, Marty Bollin, Fernando Ochoa, Laneese Cosby, Kirk Cunningham and Karen Yates.

Special desserts will be offered at each show in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Responsible adults may bring their own alcoholic beverages.

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

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

Mt. Juliet Christian sixth grader wins songwriting, poetry competition

Lauren Kleeberg 2017

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News Lauren Kleeberg, a sixth grader at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy was the winner of a recent songwriting and poetry competition at the school. Kleeberg will perform her original song, ‘And If Only They Knew,’ during the Evening with the Arts on Feb. 24 at the school.

Local songwriters are preparing a special night of entertainment in Wilson County, and it will be particularly special for one Mt. Juliet Christian Academy sixth grader. 

The Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Fine Arts Booster Club will play host to local songwriters Darryl Worley and Friends for an Evening with the Arts, an annual fundraising event at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. This year’s event, ‘An Evening with the Arts: Writers in the Round’ is scheduled for Feb. 24. 

Sensing an opportunity to provide Mt. Juliet Christian students with significant experience, event coordinators created a songwriting and poetry competition in conjunction with the Writers in the Round event. The competition was designed to showcase the bright, young artists at the school.   

“The songwriters Darryl Worley has lined up for the Evening with the Arts: Writers in the Round event are a stellar crew of talent,” said program chairperson Dorinda Biggs. “Since these writers have such a heart for fine arts education in our community, I knew this would be a wonderful opportunity for one of our MJCA students to showcase their own writing abilities. The songwriting and poetry competition idea was formed out of a heart to allow our students the experience of preparing, performing and being evaluated by a panel of judges in an audition that would lead to one winner performing live with these professional writers. This type of audition helps to prepare and launch our fine arts students into the real world where their creative works will be scrutinized by the music industry and community. It only makes each contestant stronger for having taken the risk. We are so proud of each student who took this exciting opportunity to try out. They were brave, and they were excellent.”

The winner was 12-year-old Lauren Kleeberg, a sixth grader at Mt. Juliet Christian.  Kleeberg will perform her original song, “And If Only They Knew,” during the event.

“The fine arts are being cut in schools all over the country,” said Beth Davis, Mt. Juliet Christian fine arts department director. “We believe it is vital to give our students the opportunity to learn, create and develop their expressive talents for the purpose of being united. Hearing Lauren’s amazing, well-written song that is relevant to the struggles teens face is an inspiration and a thrill to be a part of. I expect great things from our fine arts students here at MJCA because they are so very talented.”

An Evening with the Arts:  Writers in the Round 2017 is an evening of music that will include songs and stories from Worley and other well-known Nashville songwriters. The evening will begin at 7 p.m. with a silent auction. The show will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased in advance at the school or online at

The Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Fine Arts Booster Club will use proceeds from the event to replace outdated theatrical curtains and lighting needed to support the fine arts students at the school. Mt. Juliet Christian has a thriving fine arts program that prepares students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade in the elementary music, band, choral, drama and visual arts.

Worley has scored nearly 20 hit singles and three chart-topping hits with the self-penned  “Awful, Beautiful Life” and the poignant “Have You Forgotten,” which spent seven weeks at No. 1, as well as “I Miss My Friend,” which came to him via a songwriter friends in Nashville. He also recognized the importance of giving back every opportunity that he can through his annual charities that has funded organizations such as the Darryl Worley Cancer Treatment Center in Savannah.

“We’ve managed to do a lot by the grace of God over the past 15 years,” said Worley. “We’re having the biggest years of fundraising now just because we’ve learned how to do it. It’s just a very positive thing that we’ve been able to accomplish.”

Next up on the charitable future for the singer-songwriter is breaking ground on a wellness center geared toward assisting youth battling abuse of drugs and alcohol.

“It’s a labor intensive job, but it is a labor of love when you have a chance to really see how it affects human beings,” he said. “We’ve saved lives, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet event connects new people

What started as a search to meet other single people in Mt. Juliet has evolved into a social event aimed at singles, couples and those looking to meet new people.

The social event, dubbed Village Social, took place Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Jonathan’s Grille in Providence Marketplace.

Cecelia Bora, of Mt. Juliet, said the event started after a fake post in the Hip Mt. Juliet Facebook group that was started by a person claiming to seek single men in Mt. Juliet. She said the post was deleted after it was discovered the profile was fake, but the seed was already planted.

Bora said the post featured several married people offering suggestions, which eventually evolved to the tagging of single people to the post.

“That’s when people started tagging their single friends into the conversation and it was hilarious because people had no idea what they were being tagged into. It just made the conversation even funnier,” said Bora, who said plans for a meet up grew from the initial interest in the deleted post.

“What’s interesting to me is there are so many people here who don’t go out and don’t know people and are afraid to go out and meet other people, so they just stay at home and go on Facebook from their phone, but they never really do face-to-face conversations and engage,” she said.

Bora, who moved to Tennessee from Chicago 10 years ago, said the event would benefit those who have had a difficult time finding friends in the area, regardless of relationship status.

“I’m a full-time single parent, so I don’t have a lot of free time and a lot of people are in my situation where you just don’t have a lot of time to go out and meet people because free time is very limited,” she said.

Bora said difficulties arise with married friends because of the obligations that come with marriage and raising a family, but also highlighted the difficulties of people in relationships and married finding new friends.

“It’s not just about meeting single people, it’s about meeting people that you can hang out with and finding friends,” she said.

Bora said some people utilize Facebook and online dating apps and sites to find relationships and meet new people, but said she feel that wave is declining.

“Online dating, I think, has failed many people and has been a disappointment. I think people are looking for other ways to meet people,” she said.

“True relationships are built on face-to-face time and not the time we spend on social media.”

By Xavier Smith

Wilson County Fair shows continued success with awards

Some people use a planner to keep track of days and events happening throughout the year, but Wilson County residents organize their lives by means of the Wilson County Fair.

The Wilson County Fair is a staple in the community and state. It is a nationally recognized fair and continues to excel year after year. Not only does it set the calendars of the citizens of Wilson County, but it seems as though the whole world stops during fair time.

It is a week dedicated to fellowship and fun. With a focus on families, the Wilson County Fair provides a safe, enjoyable environment to gather with friends and family. It is a week dedicated to highlighting accomplishments throughout our community, and not just our community as a whole.

“Our fair does a fantastic job at showing all that Wilson County has to offer but the Wilson County Fair also makes it a priority to give individuals of every lifestyle and background a chance to shine,” said Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto. “The Wilson County Fair is also a week to celebrate agriculture in our community and throughout the world. Our fair’s main objective is to highlight the importance of agriculture in Wilson County.”

Though the 2016 Wilson County Fair has come and gone, but the success of this year’s fair continues. Each year, the Wilson County Fair attends the International Association of Fairs and Expositions contest program. This year’s contest had more than 1,468 entries judged by more than 50 industry experts. The Wilson County Fair received a total of 18 awards, including:

Agriculture Awards

• first place in agriculture programs promotional video for the Junior goat show video.

• second place in any other agriculture program or exhibit for the watermelon patch.

• third place in agriculture program area beautification for landscaping improvements.

• third place in non-fair-related agriculture event or program for the spring garden festival.

Competitive Awards

• first place in use of a single theme throughout all divisions for “We Want You at the Wilson County Fair” and the featured agricultural commodity for watermelons.

• first place in unique contest for the fair commemorative print contest.

• first place in competitive exhibit display photo series for the kids’ power tractor races.

• first place in general display photo single for the flower “bed” photo.

• second place in competitive exhibit display method and/or prop for the new rose show display.

• second place in create it on the spot contest for the watermelon carving for adults and watermelon head decorating
for youth.

• second place in participatory contest for watermelon gumball blowing.

• second place in new or unique contest to attract competitive exhibitors for the gaited mule show.

• second place in general display photo series for the broom-making demonstration.

Communication Awards

• second place in promotional or advertising poster.

• second place in unique advertising specialties, merchandise and souvenirs.

Sponsorship Awards

• first place for sponsorship innovation.

• first place for first-time sponsorship.

• second place for sponsorship.

• best of division for innovation in sponsorship.

“We are so proud of the accomplishments of our fair. However, none of these accomplishments would have been possible without the hard work of the Wilson County Fair Board and all of the volunteers that work continuously to make our fair the best of the best,” Hutto said. “So many people work year after year to provide the best fair experience possible and there is no way to thank each and every person enough for their contribution. Here at the county mayor’s office, we would like to say congratulations to Wilson County Promotions and the Wilson County Fair on another job well done.”

Staff Reports

Encore Theatre to offer its first play of 2017

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News The cast of ‘The Senator Wore Pantyhose’ (from left) includes Michael Rex, Linda Patrick, Fernando Ochoa, Jeff Lay, Lanie Shannon, Sarah Parker McKay, Jared Dalton, (seated, from left) Corinne Cook, Tony Shannon and Laneese Cosby. Not pictured is Hope McKay.

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
The cast of ‘The Senator Wore Pantyhose’ (from left) includes Michael Rex, Linda Patrick, Fernando Ochoa, Jeff Lay, Lanie Shannon, Sarah Parker McKay, Jared Dalton, (seated, from left) Corinne Cook, Tony Shannon and Laneese Cosby. Not pictured is Hope McKay.

Encore Theatre Co. announced “The Senator Wore Pantyhose” by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Millmore will be the opening play for 2017.

Directed by Holly Smith with James Bealor as executive director, the outrageous farce will open Friday and runs weekends through Jan. 29. Friday and Saturday shows will start at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday afternoon matinees will begin at 2:30 p.m.. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to show time.

Fed up with political and religious scandals? This comedy revolves around the failing presidential campaign of “honest” Gabby Sandalson, a regular guy whose integrity has all but crippled his bid for the White House. His sleazy campaign manager trumps up an implausible sex scandal to garner votes, a scheme that gloriously backfires.

Tickets are on sale at, 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 Hwy. 109, in Mt. Juliet. Encore is a nonprofit community theater that serves Wilson County and surrounding areas since 2006.

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet filmmaker to premiere new movie


Jim O’Rear, a Mt. Juliet resident and longtime worker in the entertainment industry, will premiere his newest movie, “Nightblade,” in a special showing Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at Full Moon Cineplex at 3445 Lebanon Pike in Hermitage.

“Nightblade,” is a 1980s-style police thriller produced and directed by O’Rear with his business partner, Scott Tepperman, that features Hollywood faces acting alongside homegrown talent.

The movie aims to capture the feel, style and fun of the 1980s police dramas and television shows such as “Miami Vice” and “Magnum P.I.”

“It’s definitely inspired by the ’80s, but it doesn’t take place in the ’80s,” O’Rear said.

“It’s a typical whodunit you might see in something like ‘Miami Vice.’”

“Nightblade” was filmed in Mt. Juliet, Lebanon and surrounding Nashville areas. Filming took place over an eight-day period, 16-18 hours each day.

“With most of our movies, we set aside 10 days, and we did that for this movie,” O’Rear said. “Everything went so smoothly that we just needed eight days.”

Among the actors featured in the movie are Todd Bridges from “Diff’rent Strokes,” Robert LaSardo from “CSI: Miami,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Death Race” and Betsy Rue from “How I Met Your Mother,” “My Bloody Valentine” and “True Blood.”

O’Rear has worked in the Hollywood entertainment industry for more than 30 years as an actor, stuntman, screenwriter, director, make-up artist and producer.

He got his start in the business after becoming one of the youngest people to be accepted in the American Society of Magicians.

“I went on tour with Harry Blackstone Jr. and worked several other magicians,” O’Rear said.

A producer asked O’Rear if he would be interested in acting in a commercial. At first, O’Rear resisted.

“I told him, ‘I’m not an actor, that’s not what I do,’” O’Rear said. “He said, ‘no, when you’re on stage doing magic, that’s what you’re doing; you’re acting.’ After a week or two of him begging me and my agent and my parents, I said OK, I’ll do the stupid commercial, and that’s how I got into the acting side of things.

He would later go on to work in a variety of different jobs in the entertainment industry.

“Really, I just wanted to be able to work,” O’Rear said. “Whenever someone would call and ask if I could do something, I’d say yes, and I just learned a little bit of everything.”

Normally known for his work in horror and science fiction films, O’Rear has decided to branch out and offer his fans a different experience with Nightblade.

“We’re still giving the fans a horror element with Nightblade,” said O’Rear, “because at its core, the story focuses on tracking a serial killer, but we’re hoping to expand beyond blood and guts and let the story elements and performances drive this one.”

The theatrical premiere of “Nightblade” is open to the public, and will be held Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Full Moon Cineplex. Tickets are $5 and are available at the theater.

The audience will be able to watch the film for the first time with members of the cast and crew, who will be in attendance.

A question-and-answer segment with the cast and crew will be held after the screening for anyone interested in behind-the-scenes stories or filmmaking advice. 

“I do about 15-20 convention appearances throughout the year at different comic cons, and I’m asked to do filmmaking panels … I go there to share with people who want to learn, because not too many people in the industry who like to share their secrets. I don’t mind. I think there’s room for everyone,” O’Rear said. 

By Jake Old

Second annual Christmas Lights Walk upcoming in Mt. Juliet

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee will hold its second annual walking tour Monday to view the best of Mt. Juliet Christmas displays.

The walking tour will cover the Brookstone and Willoughby Station subdivisions and will begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Coffee, hot chocolate and cookies will be served at City Hall before the walk. Participants will car pool from City Hall to Brookstone and park at the neighborhood clubhouse. Willoughby Station will be the second stop on the tour, and again drivers are asked to park at the clubhouse. The walk will last between one to two hours, and everyone is encouraged to bring a flashlight for added visibility.

“Last year, a small crowd of residents joined us for the walk, and this year, we want to invite everyone to be a part of this special event. We have all viewed Christmas lights from our cars, but this is a unique opportunity to see the lights from a different perspective. I can’t think of anything that will get you in the holiday spirit more than looking at Christmas lights and mixing that with a little exercise and Christmas cheer,” said Art Giles, Mt. Juliet commissioner and BPAC chairman.

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

Staff Reports

Christmas lights shine in Wilson County

With Christmas just a few weeks away, there are several places in Wilson County to enjoy festive light shows to help get into the Christmas spirit.

Chad’s Winter Wonderland at 791 E. Old Laguardo Road in Gladeville, opened Thanksgiving and will continue with light shows each night from 6-10 p.m. until New Year’s Eve. This year marks the 34th year of the Christmas lights display.

The drive-through light show features a nativity scene and live animals, along with more than 2 million lights on eight acres. A special mailbox is also set up to mail letters to Santa Claus. Santa will be there every night.

According to organizers, the goal is to be open each night, but sometimes Chad’s Winter Wonderland will close due to weather. Closings are announced on the Facebook page

The cost to view the light show is $15 per carload or $20 for multi-passenger vans. Vehicles up to 9 feet tall may pass through. Credit/debit cards are not accepted. For more information call 615-758-8300 or email

ChristmasLand, located at 1130 Trousdale Ferry Pike in Lebanon, features a light display that is in its 22nd year. Lights are on display each night from 5-9 p.m.

A nightly light display at 912 Koble Drive in Lebanon features 15,000-plus lights set to music.

The Festival of Lights in Lebanon, located at the Wilson County Fairgrounds, features a drive-through tour with animation throughout the fairgrounds, lighted nativity scenes, a fountain of life and the main attraction, the Grinch in the jail.

More than 1 million lights will be on display, and letters to Santa Claus may also be dropped off at the Fiddlers Grove post office. The Festival of Lights is open Friday-Sunday in December from 5-9 p.m.

By Jake Old

Time running out to nominate top volunteers

Wilson County will accept nominations for the 2016 Governor’s Volunteer Star Awards through Friday.

The annual award recognizes “outstanding volunteers from each of Tennessee’s 95 counties,” according to the Volunteer Tennessee website.

“We know the value of calling attention to someone’s service and sacrifice; the military does this extremely well, but even in the military, someone has to submit the proper paperwork in order to recognize that special someone,” said Wilson County committee member John McMillin. “Honestly, nominating someone for outstanding volunteer service isn’t a lot of work to reward someone’s dedication, hard work and creativity.”

Nominations for youth and adults may be made. Nominations for Wilson County honorees will be accepted through Dec. 16. At that time, a committee will go through the nominees and select one youth and one adult to send on to the state level.

“The deadline to get them into the state is Dec. 30,” he said.

McMillin, who is executive director of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland, said, “from my standpoint I’m thankful for a volunteer no matter what level.

“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with volunteers in this county who are simply amazing.

Staff Reports

Encore Theatre Co. set to present ‘Sorry Wrong Chimney’


Encore Theatre Co.’s production of “Sorry Wrong Chimney,” written by Jack Sharkey and Leo W. Sears, will complete its 10th anniversary season.

Directed by James Bealor with assistant director Holly Smith, the laugh-out-loud Christmas comedy will open Dec. 9 and runs weekends through Dec. 18. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday afternoon matinees will start at 2:30 p.m. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to show time.

David Tuttle is moonlighting as a department store Santa so he can buy his wife a fur for Christmas. He tells her he’s working late at the office, but she finds out he isn’t at the office. A suspected other woman, hypnotism, the notorious Santa burglar Kris Kreigle and his gun-toting fiancée and a confused policeman add up to a rollicking tale that is hilarious Christmas or anytime entertainment.

The play will feature Austin Kemp as David, Corinne Cook as Samantha, Sarah Parker McKay as Natalie, Dan Eaglin as William, Emma Brown as Sheila, Tristan Penn as Kris Kreigle and J.D. Young as Policeman.

Tickets are on sale at, 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 serving Wilson County and surrounding areas since 2006. Now in its 10th year, shows continue to draw audiences of all ages from across Middle Tennessee.

Staff Reports

Online voting continues for Zaxby’s Fan of the Year


Voting online at continues, but time is running out, for the fourth annual Zaxby’s Fan of the Year.

A dozen lucky fans are in the running for the coveted prize after they were selected fans of the week by The Lebanon Democrat staff during high school football games in Wilson County this season.

Voters may pick their favorite fan from Joe Driskol, of Mt. Juliet; Kelly Meadors, of Lebanon; Judy Jordan, of Lebanon; Dawna Guterriez, of Watertown; Danette Baskin, of Mt. Juliet; Kristi Dunn, of Mt. Juliet; Bob Edwards, of Lebanon; T.A. Bryan, of Lebanon; Jim Creswell, of Watertown; Kay Jordan-Ralph, of Mt. Juliet; Connie Kerley, of Lebanon; and Sarah Moore, of Lebanon.

The Zaxby’s Fan of the Year will receive enough food to feed 25 people at a tailgate or party event of their choosing.

“This is the perfect opportunity for one of our fans to get outfitted for bowl season or even a Super Bowl party, both of which are right around the corner,” said Democrat editor Jared Felkins. “We want give a big thank you to Zaxby’s for teaming up with us to sponsor this opportunity. It has been a great time selecting and showcasing the fans each week in Sports Extra, and we can’t wait to do it again next year.”

In addition, The Democrat will also give away a Zaxby’s chicken finger platter, and all fans have to do is like the newspaper on Facebook. Those who like The Democrat’s Facebook page through Dec. 2 will be entered into a drawing for the platter, along with a Zaxby’s Fan of the Week T-shirt.

“We didn’t want to let these dozen fans have all the fun, so we opened a portion of the contest up for everyone to get involved,” Felkins said.

Voting online for the Zaxby’s Fan of the Year ends Dec. 2 at noon. Anyone can cast a vote now for their favorite fan at or visit The Democrat’s homepage and click on the Zaxby’s Fan of the Year alert link at the top of the page.

The Democrat can also be found on Facebook @lebanondemocrat.

Staff Reports

Turkey Trot set for seventh year

Two Rivers Ford will hold its seventh annual Turkey Trot 5K and Family Fun Run on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24.

The 5K Run/Walk starts at 8 a.m. and the 1-Mile Family Fun Run begins 8:30 a.m. and will start at Two Rivers Ford at 76 Belinda Pkwy. in Mt. Juliet. Registration for the 5K Run/Walk is $35 and the 1-Mile Fun Run is $20.

The 5K course is a USA Track and Field certified road course through the Providence area that will begin and end at Two Rivers Ford. Friendly and well-socialized leashed dogs and strollers are welcome at the back of the pack. The event will benefit Compassion in Action of Tennessee.

The first 200 dogs present will receive a special race-day bandana. Attendees are encouraged to wear their best “turkey” get-ups, if they dare.

Runners and walkers may pre-register online at through Monday at midnight. Race day registration will open onsite at 6:30 a.m., but pre-registration is recommended and encouraged.

More information is available at Prizes will be awarded to the top three male and female winners in each five-year age group, as well as overall awards to the top male and female winners.

“This event is always a great way to start the holiday season. Come on out, spend a little time with the family, work off a few pre-holiday-meal calories and celebrate the start of the season of giving by doing something that will bring your family together and help raise funds for animals in need,” event organizer Amy Haverstick said.

Compassion in Action of Tennessee is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the welfare of animals in communities .

Staff Reports

‘Little Stage’ to welcome Mt. Juliet’s Jolly String Quartet

The historic “Little Stage” at the Storytellers Museum in Bon Aqua will play host to a special Thanksgiving weekend concert performance of Mt. Juliet’s Jolly String Quartet on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The four classically trained teens have both strong Middle Tennessee ties and a remarkable story of life that began for them in a Russian orphanage.

Performing since they were 7 years old, the Jolly String Quartet is now recognized nationally for their expressive and rich musical performances that encompass a broad range of music – from classical to pop, from jazz and folk to gospel and newgrass.

The group – comprised of Viktor, Yara and Kristina, all 16, and Gorsha, 15, are the oldest children of Jeff and Elaine Jolly, of Mt. Juliet. All four were adopted from Russia.

They began musical studies at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music with further fine tuning of their gifts taking them to studies at Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. The young prodigies have expanded the vision of their music to include influences as diverse as the Annie Moses Band and jazz master Billy Contreras.

The Jolly String Quartet has received applause and accolades from stages that have taken them from Carnegie Hall to The Grand Ole Opry in the past several years. The family often makes public appearances to tell their story of adoption and raise awareness of the plight of orphans worldwide.

Audiences will have a chance to hear their remarkable music and story onstage Thanksgiving weekend as part of “the Saturday Night At Hickman County” series. The concert will also feature fellow artist Roger Anderson.

For ticket information, call 931-996-4336 or visit

Housed within the newly opened “Storytellers Museum” in Bon Aqua the new home of the historic “Little Stage” was originally the landmark general store in Bon Aqua – converted later into a recording studio and often used by Johnny Cash as the stage of choice for regular “guitar pulls” that often included Cash family members – June, the Carter Family – and friends like Waylon Jennings and Carl Perkins. The “Little Stage” would become the regular home of the “Saturday Night In Hickman County” performances by local musicians. The old general store is now restored as “the Storytellers Museum” – and the welcome mat is out to a new generation of music – and storytellers. The Little Stage is currently open daily, featuring live music.

Both the Storytellers Museum and The Hideaway Farm are open to the public and becoming the new “must see” tourist destination for music lovers. They are located off Interstate 40 west at exit 46 in Bon Aqua, a short drive west of Nashville.

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy students honor men, women in uniform on Veterans Day

Colleen Creamer • Mt. Juliet News Mt. Juliet Christian Academy students perform a medley of Armed Forces tunes Friday during the school’s Veterans Day Celebration.

Colleen Creamer • Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet Christian Academy students perform a medley of Armed Forces tunes Friday during the school’s Veterans Day Celebration.

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy pulled out all the stops Friday for the country’s men and women who served, and who still serve, in the military both foreign and domestic.

Just prior to newspaperman and author Sam Hatcher, a retired US Army colonel, taking the podium, the MJCA band and choir performed a choreographed medley of patriotic songs that compelled the entire auditorium to its feet.

For more than 45 years, Hatcher was a newspaper publisher and journalist in Wilson County. During the majority of that time, he also served with the Tennessee National Guard. He is a past president of the Tennessee Press Association, as well as a past member of the Associated Press board of directors for Tennessee.

Hatcher was a U.S. Army National Guard public affairs officer from 1971-2005 working out of Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. He also served as chair of the U.S. Army National Guard Communications Board before retiring with the rank of full colonel in 2005.

He reminded the crowd there was a spiritual umbrella eclipsing the pettiness of current-day politics.

“I think today is a special Veterans Day for our nation,” Hatcher told the packed auditorium at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. “Our nation has been so divided in the last several months over this crazy election. I think Veterans Day is a reminder to all of us that we are indeed one nation under God.”

What was formerly known as “Armistice Day” and meant to celebrate veterans from World War I, Hatcher told the crowd it turned into Veterans Day after World War II when it became clear that one day a year would be needed to honor all veterans in all wars.

The retired colonel referenced the now-famous “Christmas Truce” during World War I when British and German soldiers stepped out of the trenches on Christmas Eve in 1914 and exchanged small gifts, ultimately ending in both sides singing Christmas carols.

“This story fascinates me, and I will tell you what fascinates me about it is, if this could happen in war, why can’t this happen all the time?” Hatcher asked. “They did this from a period from Christmas Eve all the way to New Year’s Day.”

The irony, said Hatcher, is not lost on anyone who reads about the historic and unofficial truce that ultimately would have to come to an end.

For the life of me, I cannot understand how on Jan. 2, they went right back to shooting each other and killing each other.” Hatcher said. “How can we go and fight in battle and be at war when really we all want to be is at peace in our own hearts.”

Hatcher is the author of “Heisman’s First Trophy” an homage to the 100th anniversary of Cumberland University’s astounding 222-0 loss to legendary coach John Heisman’s Georgia Tech team. That game in 1916 would be known as the game that launched football in the South. The anniversary was Oct. 7.

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy brought in Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Rhett Walker with the Rhett Walker Band to wrap up the day’s events. The band, a blend of Southern rock and country, has become known for writing about faith, family and country.

“Right now while we are here, there are men and women laying their lives on the line so we can have the freedom to have this Veterans Day celebration here in America,” Walker told the crowd.

“I think one of the amazing things is to celebrate and then to bring it full circle back to the one who laid his life down for us so we could have eternal life and so we could have peace.”

By Colleen Creamer

Special to Mt. Juliet News