Kidz Kamp coming to Fiddlers Grove

Fiddlers Grove at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon will offer its fourth-annual Kidz Kamp for children. 

The classes will be June 20-21 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The cost is $35 per child, and lunch and snacks will be served both days. Children must be registered before a class to ensure the instructor has enough supplies to teach the class. Class sizes are limited so that each child may receive undivided attention. 

“Your child will learn how to use their hands to create beautiful things,” said Gwen Scott with Fiddlers Grove. 

On the first day, campers will learn about Wilson County and Tennessee history, stories about famous people from Tennessee and the hardships forefathers endured. There will be fun and games, competition and awards for achievements. 

On the second day, campers will choose two of the favorite crafts they want to learn how to do and will work on each one during the day. At the end of the second day, they will be able to show off their handiwork.

“This would be an excellent way for churches to support the kids they serve by sponsoring them,” Scott said. 

Parents may call 615-547-6111 to register a child by phone. For more information, follow Fiddlers Grove on Facebook.

Staff Reports

Fair to honor dairy farmers with theme, ‘mAGic Memories’

The 2018 Wilson County Fair will honor dairy farms and families as it celebrates “Year of Milk” as the agriculture commodity and making more mAGic memories.

A life of early mornings, long days of hard work and braving the elements day in and day out 365 days a year may not sound appealing to everyone, but for Wilson County’s dairy farmers, this is the lifestyle they have happily chosen.

Looking out over the farm, raising children and grandchildren to experience morning and afternoon milking, bottle feeding baby calves, harvesting crops, baling hay – the many chores involved with stewardship of the land and cattle bring families closer together.

“Watching three little boys grow up and have the whole farm experience – playing in the creek, showing calves, seeing the natural life and death experience and growing up to be good people” are the mAGic Memories for Roy Major, patriarch of Major Dairy Farm, where he and wife, Diane, raised sons Josh, Seth and Jared.  Grandchildren Carter and Addison experience the same mAGic. Major Dairy Farm was established in 1979.

“It’s a good way of life,” said Larry Eastes with Eastes Dairy Farm. “A dairy farm is a good place to raise a family, to get to be with them every day and see them grow.”

Eastes’ farm will reach century farm status in 2019 – with 100 years of continuous dairy operation. Established by his grandparents, Ernest and Allie Driver, the farm was then operated by his parents, John D. and Ernestine Eastes, before Larry Estes took the reins. His son, Kirk, helps daily on the farm, while daughter, Lora Eastes Stutts, is a fifth-grade teacher in Watertown. Both live on the farm with their own families, and Larry Estes’ grandchildren are growing up steeped in farm life just as their parents were.

Brothers Jeffrey, Justin and Jason Turner grew up milking cows, and Jeffrey and Justin Turner decided to open their own dairy on the family farm, milking their first Holsteins on Dec. 9, 2015. Their parents, Tommy and Jackie Turner, got out of the dairy business in the early 2000s, but Jeffrey Turner has fond memories of going to the barn with his dad to milk, or when he was too small to help, waiting for his dad to come in from milking so the family could sit down together for the evening meal.  It’s all about family. And even though Jason Turner isn’t a partner in the new dairy, he helps out, too.

Holsteins are the predominant dairy breed in Wilson County, and the Turners have 100-percent Holsteins; the Eastes family have about 80 percent Holstein plus Jersey and a few Brown Swiss; and Major Dairy Farm has 95 percent registered Holstein, plus a few Brown Swiss, Ayrshire and Jerseys – from acquiring additional breeds for the youngsters to show through 4-H.  Eastes milks about 80 cows a day, the Turners about 100 cows, and the Majors average 200-220 cows. That translates to tons of milk in a year, 8 million to 8.5 million pounds of milk annually, combined.

While dairy farming is a beloved way of life, it’s one that is more challenging than ever before. Volatile markets and only one buyer for the area leave the hard-working families at the mercy of whatever price they are given. Margins are slim to negative. Giant corporate dairy farms that load out full tankers of milk daily are tough for the family farms to compete against. Prohibitively high land costs make expansion nearly impossible. But the dairy farmers are accustomed to adversity and do their best to survive and thrive.

Roy Major said he hopes to see market corrections bring some stability in the future so his farm can continue to provide the dairy farming opportunity for his grandchildren. The Eastes family already has diversified by building up their herd of beef cattle. Larry Eastes’ dream is to at least keep operating the dairy through the 100-year anniversary in 2019, but without market changes, they may transition completely to beef. As the youngest dairy farm in Wilson County, the Turner Dairy Farm would like to expand and is exploring options to eliminate the market volatility they face.

Through it all, they pull together as strong families rooted to the land and cattle they care so deeply for, making more mAGic memories as the days pass.

Staff Reports

Long Hunter State Park to unveil story trail

In partnership with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation and La Vergne Public Library, Long Hunter State Park will unveil the third edition of the Reading Ranger Story Trail that combines the fun of outdoor exercise and a children’s book.

The public is invited for the unveiling and hands-on activities Saturday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the Couchville Lake area of the park. The event will be free and rain or shine. No RSVP is necessary.

This year’s book is “Miss Maple’s Seeds,” written and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. It’s the story of a tiny woman who fosters lost seeds and teaches them their value of being a seed. The story introduces young minds to ideas about seeds and their journey to become a plant as they walk along a beautiful quarter-mile trail. Children can enjoy the engaging artwork as each sign reveals the story.

Located beside the Couchville Lake parking lot, the Reading Ranger Story Trail will be accessible every day during regular park hours, from 7 a.m. until sunset, through next spring. The trail is an easy 1/4-mile wooded path.

On opening day, the trail dedication and ribbon cutting will take place at 11 a.m. Ongoing activities until 2 p.m. will include games, various booths, self-guided tours of the trail and registering children with “Books from Birth” with Imagination Library representatives.

Those who plan to attend should enter Long Hunter State Park at the main entrance at 2910 Hobson Pike in Hermitage, take the first left and proceed to the parking lot beside Couchville Lake. The Reading Ranger Story Trail is at the back of the parking lot.

For more information, contact Leslie Anne Rawlings at or call 615-770-6980.

Staff Reports

Local students take center stage with CAST

Photo courtesy of T.J. Jordan
Local students recently take the stage for the CAST production of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’

Students at the Collective Art School of Tennessee recently got their chance to shine as they took center stage for a musical production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

The students showcased their talents before packed audiences at New Heart Christian Church and Charlie Daniels’ amphitheater the weekend of May 19-20.

CAST executive director Hollie Hongosh, who referred to the cast as her little Ozians, said the students began to prepare for the production in January and were ready for their big night.

“The kids have worked so hard, and the audience finally gets to enjoy everything that this show has come to be,” said Hongosh. “I felt like every child grew throughout the rehearsal process, and that is my primary goal.”

Hongosh and co-director, Hannah Dias, brought CAST program to the greater Nashville area to provide classes, workshops and private lessons for children and adults of all ages who have an interest in classical and musical theater training, as well as dance, vocalization and instrumentation.

“We strive to foster personal relationships with our students so that we can better serve them in their journey through our program,” said Dias. “We strongly believe in the values of love, respect, open communication, acceptance, creativity and inclusion of all students.”

The CAST instructors further explained the skills developed throughout performing arts instruction go far beyond the limits of the stage.

“When the lights go down and the curtain closes, we want our performers to exhibit the qualities of confident, savvy lifelong learners with a zeal for trying new things,” said Hongosh. “We love getting to know each and every new child that we have the opportunity to teach. We hope that they learn lessons that they can take anywhere.”

The CAST crew will hold its production of “Annie” in the fall, and sign-ups for summer classes are open. For more information about CAST programs and productions, call 440-465-2377, email or visit

Staff Reports

Cordell Hull Lake to hold ‘Touch a Truck Day’

NASHVILLE – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District park rangers at Cordell Hull Lake will hold the first Touch a Truck Day on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. to coincide with National Get Outdoors Day.

The free community event will promote safety and services offered in the surrounding communities. Overall, it will be a career day on wheels for children and their families. Some agencies and businesses participating include North Central Fire Department, Smith County Emergency Management Services, Tennessee State Parks and Tennessee Kayak and Outdoor Co., to name a few.

The event will be at Cordell Hull Lake’s natural resource management office at 71 Corps Lane in Carthage in the lower field on the left past the office.

Parking for vehicles not part of the event will be available at the natural resource management office’s front and back parking lots and across the street at the Cordell Hull Dam Site Recreation Area on the right.

In the case of inclement weather, information on the event status will be updated on Cordell Hull Lake’s Facebook page. Businesses and agencies interested in participating in the Touch a Truck Day event are asked to contact Park Ranger Ashley Webster in the Cordell Hull Lake resource manager’s office at 615-735-1034.

Staff Reports

Symphony on the Lawn set for Friday

Kaitlin Vantrease • Mt. Juliet News
This year’s Symphony on the Lawn event will be Friday at 7 p.m. at Cumberland University’s Memorial Lawn.

The Nashville Symphony will perform Friday at 7 p.m. on Cumberland University’s Memorial Lawn at the annual Symphony on the Lawn.

Enrico Lopez-Yañez will conduct the family friendly concert. Pre-concert activities will include a performance by the Cumberland Arts Academy Suzuki Players, the Lebanon High School choir and the Nashville Symphony’s instrument petting zoo. Pre-concert activities will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Guests may bring food, however, food trucks featuring Two Fat Men Catering and Blue Moon Barbecue will be on hand. Guests are also encouraged to bring lawn chairs or a blanket. Admission to the event will be free.

The Cumberland Portrait Preservation Committee will have refreshments from 5-7 p.m. in Baird Chapel and Memorial Hall to allow people to preview the portraits of Cumberland’s early leaders on display.

In case of inclement weather, the concert will take place in the Dallas Floyd Gymnasium on Cumberland University’s campus.

By Jacob Smith

35th anniversary of Phoenix Ball deemed muy caliente

Kaitlyn Hungerford • Mt. Juliet News
The 35th anniversary of the Phoenix Ball black-tie gala fundraiser for Cumberland University attracted about 450 university supporters Saturday night.

The 35th anniversary of the Phoenix Ball transformed the Dallas Floyd Gymnasium into Havana Nights and lived up to its reputation in recent years as one hot event.

The annual black-tie gala Saturday night to raise money for Cumberland University featured various rum drinks, cigars for the crowd, a Cuban-inspired menu and ended with about 450 patrons dancing the night away to past-and-present top hits from the 12 South Band.

The evening started with the traditional pre-event cocktail party as guests arrived to find photo opportunities with both Cumberland photographer Al Ashworth and local media. Inside Memorial Hall, guests were treated to an open bar filled with rum drinks galore, as well as other traditional cocktails and Cuban-inspired heavy hors d’oeuvres.

A new addition to Saturday night’s Phoenix Ball, guests were given armbands sponsored by Parks Realty that changed colors to alert them to various transitions – from the start of dinner to the end of auctions – throughout the evening.

As guests gathered in the gym to start the main event, they found banana-leaf place settings and tropical fruit centerpieces with a large Havana lit sign above the stage. Cumberland president Paul Stumb and his wife, Crissy, welcomed guests prior to remarks from Phoenix Ball committee chairs Chris and Lauren Smith.

Wilson Bank & Trust president John McDearman led the invocation before guests dined on a five-course Cuban-inspired meal of shrimp asopao and grits, tiny white-bean soup, cucumber chili salad, Cuban vaca frita – shredded steak over black beans and rice served with plantains – and, of course, rum cake for dessert.

As guests dined, auctioneer Ray Hubner led the live auction that featured a live painting that encompassed the Phoenix Ball by artist Talon Bell; a New Year’s Eve private party for 100 guests at Venue 142 in Lebanon; a gold-and-diamond pendant necklace with a 72-carat Madeira Citrine centerpiece created by Shawn Smith, owner of the Jewelers; and a Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 shotgun.

Following closing remarks from the Stumbs, guests hit the dance floor, jammed to tunes from the 12 South Band and enjoyed late-night snacks courtesy of Zaxby’s.

By Jared Felkins

One weekend remains for Encore’s ‘Doublewide Texas’

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
The cast of Encore Theatre Co.’s ‘Doublewide Texas’ performs a scene during a recent performance. Pictured (from left) are Linda Patrick, Patrick Goedicke, Sarah McKay, Charles Stroud, Debbie Smith, Charles Stroud and Savanah White. Not pictured are Holly Smith and Karen Yates.

One weekend remains to see Encore Theatre Co.’s hilarious, fast-paced comedy, “Doublewide Texas” written by Jamie Wooten, Jessie Jones and Nicholas Hope.

Directed by Michael Rex, the show has three performances remaining Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The house will open 30 minutes before show time.

The inhabitants of one of the smallest trailer parks in Texas – four doublewides and a shed – are thrown for a loop when they realize the nearby town of Tugaloo is determined to annex them. The audience will meet Joveeta Crumpler, her alcohol-loving feisty mother, Caprice, and her good-ol’-boy brother, Baby Crumpler. Georgia Dean struggles to keep her diner and finances afloat; Big Ethel Satterwhite’s clients at Stairway To Heaven Retirement Village are making her crazy, and her mule-headed husband, O.C. shows far more affection for his BarcaLounger than he does for Big Ethel. Haywood Sloggett loathes their “trailer-trash” ways. But these friends, enemies and neighbors realize they’ll have to work together to defeat the encroaching annexation if they – and their way of life – have a snowball’s chance to survive getting swallowed up by “the big guys.”

Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 60 and older and youth 12 and younger and available at, or call 615-598-8950 for reservations.

Encore Theatre is at 6978 Lebanon Road, just west of Highway 109, in Holmes Crossing in Mt. Juliet. Now in its 12th year, Encore Theatre Co. is a nonprofit community theater that serves Wilson County and surrounding areas.

“Doublewide, Texas” was produced through special arrangements with Dramatists Play Service Inc.

Staff Reports

Jere’s Ride to be held Saturday

Mt. Juliet News File Photo
Jere’s Ride, a bicycle ride to benefit Empower Me Day Camp, will be held Saturday at 7 a.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.

A bicycle ride to benefit Empower Me Day Camp will be held Saturday at 7 a.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.

Lebanon attorney Jere McCulloch died in August 2013 while competing in a bicycle race, something he loved.

Empower Me Day Camp is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 by a group of pediatric therapists. The goal of the organization is to empower special needs children through creating new opportunities to enhance the quality of their lives.

McCulloch was an avid supporter of Empower Me Day Camp, and a yearly event was established to benefit the nonprofit organization the year after he died.

Leadership Wilson, a group McCulloch helped found, along with the Rochelle, McCulloch & Aulds law firm and several local businesses came together a year after McCulloch’s death to create the type of event that McCulloch loved to participate.

The money raised at this year’s event will go toward building a Miracle Baseball Field, which has specialized turf that allows children in walkers or wheelchairs to move smoothly over the surface.

The event will feature three different rides for riders of various skill level and ages. There will be the 15-mile Elizabeth’s Ride, the 30-mile Brayden’s Ride and the 50-Mile Jere’s Ride.

On-site registration for the even will begin Saturday at 6:30 a.m. The rides will begin at 7 a.m.

Registration for the event is currently $40 and will include a T-shirt and meal.

To register or for more information, visit

By Jacob Smith

Encore Theatre to present ‘Doublewide Texas’

Encore Theatre Co. will present the hilarious, fast-paced comedy, “Doublewide Texas,” written by Jamie Wooten, Jessie Jones and Nicholas Hope.

Directed by Michael Rex, the show will take the stage June 1-2 and June 8-9 at 7:30 p.m. with matinees June 3 and June 10 at 2:30 p.m. at the theater. The house will open 30 minutes before show time.

The inhabitants of one of the smallest trailer parks in Texas – four doublewides and a shed – are thrown for a loop when they realize the nearby town of Tugaloo is determined to annex them. The audience will meet Joveeta Crumpler, her alcohol-loving feisty mother, Caprice, and her good-ol’-boy brother, Baby Crumpler. Georgia Dean is struggling to keep her diner and finances afloat; Big Ethel Satterwhite’s clients at Stairway To Heaven Retirement Village are making her crazy, and her mule-headed husband, O.C., shows far more affection for his BarcaLounger than he does for Big Ethel. Haywood Sloggett loathes their “trailer-trash” ways. But these friends, enemies and neighbors realize they’ll have to work together to defeat the encroaching annexation if they – and their way of life –have a snowball’s chance to survive getting swallowed up by “the big guys.”

Tickets are on sale for $15 for adults and $12 for seniors 60 and older and youth 12 and younger. Visit, or call 615-598-8950 for reservations.

Encore Theatre is at 6978 Lebanon Road, just west of Highway 109 in Holmes Crossing in Mt. Juliet.

Now in its 12th year, Encore Theatre Co. is a non-profit community theater that serves Wilson County and surrounding areas.

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy drama receives Spotlight Awards

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet Christian Academy students and faculty received honors at the May 13 Spotlight Awards at TPAC. Pictured (from left) are Abigail Wilson, Markie Scott, theater director Kimberly Overstreet, Olivia McMurtry, Mason Tabor and Braeden Mahabir.

The Mt. Juliet Christian Academy drama department received top honors May 13 at Nashville’s prestigious Spotlight Awards.

The Spotlight Awards is a statewide competition presented by the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and Lipscomb University to encourage high school theater students and inspire educators in the pursuit of excellence in theater. The Spotlight Awards is a branch of the National High School Musical Theater Awards – the Jimmy Awards – and the qualifying best actor and best actress are sent to New York City to compete at the national level. A panel of professional theatrical adjudicators and top performances evaluate high school musicals entered into the program, and winners are recognized on the TPAC stage.

Out of the top Tennessee high schools participating in the program, Mt. Juliet Christian Academy was awarded one of the highest honors of the night when theater director Kimberly Overstreet was awarded best direction for her work as the director, choreographer and music director for the school’s recent production of “Singin’ in the Rain.” Overstreet developed a high-profile program at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy with award-winning theatrical productions, show choir and choral ensembles.

“I am so proud of the cast and crew for their hard work and the dedication they have shown this year to the program. This award would not have been possible without them,” Overstreet said.

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet Christian Academy theater director Kimberly Overstreet received the best direction Spotlight Award for her work as the director, choreographer and music director for the school’s recent production of ‘Singin’ in the Rain.’

MJCA received additional Spotlight Award wins for best costume design; standout dramatic actress went to junior Abigail Wilson for her role as Kathy Selden in “Singin’ in the Rain;” all-star cast honors went to Wilson and sophomore Olivia McMurtry; and all-star crew honors went to “Singin’ in the Rain” assistant technical director Kensela Rose and stage manager Markie Scott, both juniors at Mt. Juliet Christian.

“Singin’ in the Rain” also received top five nominations in additional categories, including best overall design, best choreography, best overall tech, standout dramatic actor senior Braeden Mahabir, standout comedic actress McMurtry and standout comedic actor junior Mason Tabor. 

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy is at 735 N. Mt. Juliet Road.

Staff Reports

Del Webb 5K raises money for Empower Me

More than 250 participants take part in inaugural event

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
Participants begin Saturday’s Del Webb at Lake Providence 5K. The event, which also included a one-mile walk, was a fundraiser for Empower Me.

More than 250 runners, joggers and walkers took part in Saturday’s Del Webb at Lake Providence 5K and one-mile walk, a fundraiser for Empower Me, a local nonprofit organization that provides programs for children and adults with special needs.

“We were hoping for about 30 people to sign up,” said Erin Brown, lifestyles director for Del Webb at Lake Providence. “We were so excited and so thrilled with the participation. We had a couple who was 82, and they ran in the 5K. It was pretty amazing. I was happy to see the participation. It really shocked me. Next year, we want to open it up to the community of Mt. Juliet and have an even larger event.”

The 5K run and walk was the brainchild of Brown, who said she came up with the idea for the run-walk last fall and worked with others toward the finish line since then.

The event was originally scheduled for May 5, but it was postponed due to weather.

Empower Me Center is currently raising funds to build a new facility and outdoor center. They recently closed on 25.45 acres on South Hartmann Drive in Lebanon. Empower Me raised more than $2 million through cash contributions and in-kind gifts toward phase 1 of its campaign.

“We’re really happy to help Empower Me Center with the goal of building that facility,” Brown said. “We’re starting small and trying to raise $1,500 today. I think we will exceed that, and our residents will give even more.”

The total amount wasn’t available as of press time, but Brown reported Sunday morning at least $1,650 was raised.

She said there were a group of people who helped her plan the event, but Teresa Gunderson with the lifestyle advisory committee, Scott Gunderson with the neighborhood watch and safety committee and Krista DuGosh, owner of Fleet Feet in Mt. Juliet, were key to help make the event a success.

“I could not have done this race without Krista’s help,” Brown said. “She was amazing.”

What started in 1999 as a summer day camp for children with disabilities at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon has grown into a vision of Empower Me’s to have its own home. “Daring to Dream” is its campaign focus. As the needs of the Empower Me’s families have changed, the nonprofit organization has adapted and changed its services. Having a home of its own in Wilson County will allow the group to work toward meeting the current, as well as future, needs of its families. For example, last year it turned away 150 families who wanted to participate in a summer camp program due to a lack of space.

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

‘Honoring Flag’ event to return Memorial Day weekend

The annual Honoring America’s Flag event will return to Mt. Juliet for Memorial Day weekend.

The event is a joint effort between the West Wilson Exchange Club and the Tyler Cates American Legion Post 281.

About 400 flags will be installed at the corner of North Mt. Juliet Road and Division Street, next to the train station. The purpose of the display, “standing amid the flags, we honor and reflect and salute those who have influenced our lives, serve, defend and sacrifice to preserve our nation and way of life,” according to the event website.

Flags will be sent out May 25 and displayed until May 28 when a closing ceremony will take place.

The public is invited to attend and participate in the opportunity to show their support and love for the flag. People can also buy and dedicate a flag in memory of or in honor of someone.

All funds raised from flag sales will be used to support charities in Mt. Juliet and Wilson County.

For more information or to purchase a flag, contact Nancy Britt at 615-289-7623 or Pat Unger at 615-210-6156.

Staff Reports

City officials call Ride Mt. Juliet a success

Families take part in bicycle ride led by fire truck and more

George Page • Mt. Juliet News
Families from across Wilson County came out Sunday to participate in Ride Mt. Juliet, presented by the Mt. Juliet Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee.

Families from across Wilson County came out to the fourth-annual Ride Mt. Juliet event, and followed Mt. Juliet fire Chief Jamie Luffman who drive a ladder truck on a 5.8-mile bike ride.

The event, presented by the Mt. Juliet Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, lasted from 2-4 p.m. at the Music City Star terminal parking lot at the intersection of Mt. Juliet Road and Division Street.

“It was perfect weather for this fun, community event that promotes the mission of Mt. Juliet’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which is creating better, safer options for bicyclists and pedestrians,” said Mt. Juliet police Capt. Tyler Chandler.

Mt. Juliet police officers on bikes participated in the ride, and other officers helped with traffic control.

“I enjoyed helping with the event, and it was nice to see a good crowd come out to enjoy the weather with their friends and family on two wheels,” said Chandler.

Mt. Juliet Commissioner Art Giles, who is also a member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, called it a successful, family friendly event.

“The event was again successful this year with all ages enjoying it,” said Giles.

By Jacob Smith

Encore Theatre announces auditions for ‘The Foreigner’

Encore Theatre Co. announced auditions will be next week for its upcoming July production of the award-winning play, “The Foreigner,” written by Larry Shue. 

Auditions will be Sunday and Monday from 6-8 p.m. Those auditioning should arrive no later than 7:45 p.m. Production dates are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from July 13-22. 

The auditions will take place at the theatre at 6978 Lebanon Road in Mt. Juliet.

The cast will consist of five men and two women.

The characters are:

• “Froggy” LeSueur, who is in his 40s, perhaps. He seems well-fed, flushed with the spirit of adventure and right at home. He is a British Army explosives instructor, visiting the nearby Army base. He has a definite Cockney accent.

• Charlie Baker, who is Froggy’s best friend. He’s in his 40s, however, he’s completely different in personality. According to the script, “The other, standing in his forlorn trenchcoat, seems quietly, somehow permanently, lost.” Charlie has a British accent, but not the Cockney of Froggy.

• Betty Meeks, who owns Betty Meeks’ Fishing Lodge Resort in Tilghman County, Georgia. She’s somewhere between 50-70 years old and a native of the South. She’s good hearted, used to hard work, is wise in some ways and not so quick in others.

• The Rev. David Marshall Lee, who is  in his mid to late 20s. He has a friendly open face. David is neither the stereotypically pallid, remote young divinity student, nor the hearty, backslapping evangelist. He seems, rather, to be a regular fella –humorous and open, and it would appear he’s a good young man to have on someone’s side. 

• Catherine Simms, who is David’s fiancée in his mid to late 20s. She’s kind of a general all-around “good ol’ gal.” She has her opinions and is not afraid to tell them.

• Owen Musser, who is in his mid to late 30s and is a friend of David’s. “Smarmy” is a good word for him. According to the script, “Psychologists tell us to beware of a man with two tattoos. One, he may have gotten on a drunk or a dare, but two means he went back. Owen is a two-tattoo man.” He’s a redneck, obviously.

• Ellard Simms, who is in his early 20s to early 30s and is Catherine’s younger brother. He’s not the brightest porch light on the block. “There doesn’t, we must admit, seem to be much to Ellard. He is a lumpy, overgrown, backward youth. 

The scene is a fishing lodge in rural Georgia often visited by “Froggy” LeSeuer, a British demolition expert who occasionally runs training sessions at a nearby army base. This time, “Froggy” has brought along a friend, a pathologically shy young man named Charlie who is overcome with fear at the thought of making conversation with strangers.

So, “Froggy,” before departing, tells all assembled that Charlie is from an exotic foreign country and speaks no English. Once alone, the fun really begins, as Charlie overhears more than he should – the evil plans of a sinister, two-faced minister and his redneck associate; the fact that the minister’s pretty fiancée is pregnant and many other damaging revelations made with the thought that Charlie doesn’t understand a word that’s said.

That he does fuels the nonstop hilarity of the play and sets up the wildly funny climax in which things go uproariously awry for the “bad guys,” and the “good guys” emerge triumphant.

Questions about the production, the auditions, as well as volunteering for backstage or technical work, may be sent to director Don Breedwell at or by leaving a message at 615-414-8312.

Encore Theatre to present ‘Peter Pan’

A story for all ages, performed by all ages, Encore Theatre Co. will present “Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie for one weekend only.

Adapted by Don Breedwell and directed by Mary Gingold, the reader’s theater production is adapted from the Lux Radio Theater production presented Dec. 21, 1953.

The show will star Stephen Lazenby as Peter Pan, Steven Stroud as Captain Hook and Anna Grace Vaught as Wendy Darling, with Claire York as Tinker Bell.

Shows will be Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Encore Theatre in Mt. Juliet.

Tickets will be $10 cash only at the door. Doors will open 30 minutes before show time. Reservations will be accepted by calling 615-598-8950.

Staff Reports

Leeville Family Fun Day upcoming Saturday

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Leeville Family Fun Day will offer free activities for all ages April 28 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Wilson Bank & Trust’s Highway 109 office in Lebanon

Wilson Bank & Trust will hold its 11th annual Leeville Family Fun Day on April 28 at the bank’s office on Highway 109 North.

The festivities will include live music, vendor booths, free inflatables, a petting zoo, an emergency vehicle display and concessions from Hoite’s Barbecue and Kona Shaved Ice.

Local business sponsors helped make Family Fun Day possible. Gold sponsors this year include Manheim Nashville and Wilson Farms; silver sponsors include Advanced Propane, B.J.’s trailers, and Sleep-In and Suites; and bronze sponsors include, Active Life Chiropractic, Aqua Sports Marine, Big and Small Storage, Burdines, Coach’s Eastgate Grill, Nutrishop, Permobil, Remar Inc., Subway and Wendy’s.

Event hours will be from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., and admission will be free. All activities will take place at the bank at 440 Hwy. 109 N. in Lebanon.

Staff Reports

Mt. Juliet trio advances to Path of Fame talent finals

More than 150 register for open-call auditions in Nashville

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet trio Sheridan Hill – Lance Beavers, Dakota Beavers and Dylan Beavers – advanced in last Saturday’s Path to Fame Nashville auditions and are semifinalists for the top prize in the final competition that will take place June 16 in Pigeon Forge.

NASHVILLE – Mt. Juliet trio Sheridan Hill advanced in last Saturday’s Path to Fame Nashville auditions at Skyville Live where more than 150 people registered for a chance to advance their entertainment careers.

Sheridan Hill is made up of two brothers, Dakota and Dylan Beavers, and their father, Lance Beavers, who were actively pursuing his own musical career when he discovered his two sons’ talent. The group performs original music and a variety of covers from Americana to R&B genres. Sheridan Hill brought its own spin of acoustic instruments and harmonizing vocals to the stage during its performance of an original song, “Long Way Down.”

Four performers advanced one step closer to realizing a lifetime dream of an entertainment career. Nashville-based talent executive John Alexander will focus on artist development with the grand champion, including career development consultations with Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling country star Kelsea Ballerini and other entertainment executives representing all aspects of the entertainment industry. Alexander discovered Ballerini, spent more than a decade at Great American Country television network, managed artists such as Patty Loveless and is co-founder of the Nashville-based artist development company Bandtwango.

“The incredible talent Music City is known for was well represented at the auditions on Saturday. Our semi-finalists possess that hard-to-define ‘it’ factor and are actively pursuing ways to pursue their path to fame,” Alexander said. “This group is one step closer to achieving that dream with the proper connections and opportunities that winning this competition would provide.”

The final competition will take place June 16 in Pigeon Forge, where one grand champion will be selected from 12 competing performers.

Performers have one more opportunity to audition May 12 for the Path to Fame talent competition in Atlanta.

More information for the Path to Fame Talent Competition may be found at More information about visiting Pigeon Forge is available at

Staff Reports

Encore Theatre to present ‘Death by Design’

Angie Mayes • Mt. Juliet News
(Seated) James Laxton, who plays Edward Bennett, Corinne Cook, who plays Sorel Bennett, (back row) Tamasin Platt, who plays Victoria Van Roth, Jeff Lay, who plays Walter Pearce, and Tammy Sutherland, who plays Bridgit, act out a scene during practice for the April 20 opening of ‘Death by Design’ at Encore Theatre Co.

Encore Theatre Co.’s live theatre group will present “Death by Design,” a murder-mystery comedy by Ron Urbinati, which opens Friday.

Show co-director James Bealor, who also serves as Encore’s creative director, said the play is “quite a funny show. You have interesting characters. There’s a murder at the end of act one, and we spend act two trying to figure out who did it. It’s quite a surprise ending.”

The play, which combines the mystery elements of Agatha Christie and the comedy of Noel Coward, is set in an English countryside manor in 1932.

Don Breedwell, the theatre’s technical director and facilities manager, is also a co-director of the show. He said Encore chose the play because “we like mysteries, and we like comedy. Both of those elements are contained in this play. It’s a nice period piece, and I think it will meet the requirements of the dynamics of our audience.”

With the show set in England, the actors bring their best accents to the table in the show.

“It is hard doing the British accent,” said Corinne Cook, who plays Sorel Bennett. “I’m from California, so it’s not cutting the Southern accent out of it. It’s just getting the right take on it and keeping it the whole play.”

Tammy Sutherland plays household maid Bridgit, who is Irish.

“I like to do accents,” she said. “I’ve done a number of accents. I haven’t done Irish in a long time, so I wanted to do Irish again.”

Bringing a Cockney accent to the show is Evan Grabenstein, who plays Jack. He said he wanted the role as a “challenge. I’ve done a Cockney accent before, but I haven’t really refined it. This gave me the chance to play a role as elongated as this.”

He said after a while, it’s hard to continue the accent, “but it comes down to knowing the lines and knowing exactly how to say it. There’s one particular line where I took four hours trying figure out how to say each individual word.”

Cook said she likes the fact that her character “is oblivious to anyone else. She’s very narcissistic and it’s all about ‘me.’ Nothing else matters and it’s fun to be in that headset for a while.”

Sutherland is fond of Bridgit, who she describes as a “curmudgeon-type personality and I can bring that forth, so to speak. I like the fact that she is kind of fiery and doesn’t pay attention to her employers. She does what she wants to do. She’s very lively in that sense so I enjoy that.”

Grabenstein said he likes the character because Jack and Bridgit are the “comic relief” of the show, and that gives him a chance to perform comedy.

“He’s kind of a happy-go-lucky, free-flowing kind of guy,” Grabenstein said. “He doesn’t let anything get to him. He knows he’s got orders and has things to do. The less he complains about it, the sooner he’ll be done.”

The show runs Friday and Saturday and April 27-28 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday and April 29 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling 615-598-8950. The theatre is at 6978 Lebanon Road, just west of Highway 109, in Mt. Juliet.

For more information about Encore Theatre Co., visit

By Angie Mayes

Special to the Democrat

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy to present ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

Submitted to Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet Christian Academy drama students Braeden Mahabir as Don Lockwood, Abigail Wilson as Kathy Seldon and Mason Tabor as Cosmo Brown prepare for the April 20-22 production of ‘Singin’ in the Rain.’

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s high school drama students will perform “Singin’ in the Rain,” often referred to as “the greatest movie musical of all time,” next weekend for public audiences.

“Singin’ in the Rain” will be performed Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to each performance. Tickets will be available at the door for $10 per adult and $7 per student. Cash and checks will be accepted. Also, concessions will be available before the show and during intermission.

Directed and choreographed by Mt. Juliet Christian Academy theater and choral director Kimberly Overstreet, the play will feature senior Braeden Mahabir as Don Lockwood, junior Abigail Wilson as Kathy Seldon and junior Mason Tabor as Cosmo Brown, as well as many other middle and high school drama students.

Previously, Mahabir starred as Billy Crocker and Wilson starred as Hope Harcourt in “Anything Goes” in 2017. Wilson also played Maria during the 2016 school production of “The Sound of Music.” Tabor was seen last year as Horace Vandergelder in the school’s production of “The Matchmaker.”

Entertainment for any fan of musicals from Hollywood’s golden age, “Singin’ in the Rain” was adapted for the stage by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and features unforgettable songs, situations, moving tap routines and snappy dialogue. Set during the 1920s when Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are Hollywood’s favorite silver screen stars, “Singin’ in the Rain” has all the makings of a Hollywood headline – from the beautiful starlet, the dashing leading man and a boy-meets-girl romance that features some of the best dance numbers, comedy routines and romantic ballads ever written.

Mt. Juliet Christian Academy is at 735 N. Mt. Juliet Road. The performance will be in the gymnasium.

Staff Reports

Local author holds autism presentation at library

Jacob Smith • Mt. Juliet News
Mt. Juliet author D.G. Driver presents her book, ‘No One Needed to Know,’ and talks about autism Thursday afternoon at the Lebanon Public Library.

Mt. Juliet author D.G. Driver held a presentation on autism Thursday afternoon at the Lebanon Public Library.

Driver’s new book, “No One Needed to Know” is aimed at readers 8-13 years old and focuses on an 11-year-old girl named Heidi who deals with the pressures and responsibilities of having an older autistic brother.

Heidi sees her brother bullied by children in the neighborhood and worries if her friends find out about him she will get bullied, too. She’s often impatient with her brother and blames him for when things go so badly for her at school.

But, Heidi also needs to learn more about her brother’s condition and ultimately teach others why he’s special and how to be kind to all people with special needs.

In her presentation, Driver said that while it’s often hard to pinpoint the inspiration from her books, this one comes directly from her personal experience.

“When I’m writing books that are about mermaids and shape shifting orcas, it’s a little bit harder to say,” said Driver. “But, for this book, it’s not. This book came straight out of my life. My brother, Joe, is four years older than me, and he is autistic. So, I looked back at the time when I was 11 or 12 years old and the feelings that I had and the experiences that I was having, and I pulled from that to create this story.”

Driver stressed that it’s not an autobiography, and a lot of the events in the book are made up, nevertheless, some of it did happen to her. Outside of writing, Driver currently works as a special education teacher.

“I, my whole career, have worked with special needs kids,” said Driver.

In her presentation, Driver explained what autism is and how it can affect people who are diagnosed with it.

“Autism is a neurological disorder, which means it affects the brain and the way the brain works,” said Driver. “It is not an illness. It is not something you can catch, like the flu. There’s not a cure for it. Autism usually causes difficulty with social interactions. So, people who are autistic have a hard time relating to other people. They may not be able to read your emotions. They might not be able to read things like sarcasm. They might not be able to look at your face and understand things you’re trying to say to them. They’re very literal.”

Driver went on to talk about bullying and how it can affect not just those with autism, but everyone.

“My brother was bullied,” said Driver. “We used to have the same bus stop. He went to a different school than I did because he was older, but our bus stop was the same. So, we would walk there, it was a good four blocks away, and we always had to pass by this boy’s house and every day he would call my brother a really bad name. It was hurtful, and I didn’t like it. I knew that guy later in high school and he tried to be my friend and he tried to be my friend on Facebook and I won’t let him, even to this day.”

Books about teaching empathy and kindness to children are gaining in popularity. For that reason, “No One Needed to Know” won the 2017 Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Silver Medal for Best Preteen Fiction. The novel also won the 2017 Purple Dragonfly Children’s Book Award and the 2017 Human Relations Indie Book Gold Medal Award for Special Needs Awareness in Children’s Fiction.

Driver is a familiar face in Lebanon. She performed in the Centerstage Theatre Co. productions of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Father of the Bride” last year and she directed “Miracle on 34th Street,” which was performed at Winfree Bryant Middle School.

She has been a published author for more than 20 years, and she is a teacher at an inclusive child development center in Nashville. To learn more about Driver and her books, visit

By Jacob Smith