Imagination Dinner celebrates literacy

By Matt Masters

Wilson County Books from Birth held its 13th-annual Imagination Dinner fundraiser Thursday night at the Wilson County Expo Center, and it featured a star-studded room of characters.

Wilson County Books from Birth is the local affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a literacy program that gives new age-appropriate books to children each month to every participating child less than 5 years old.

This year’s dinner featured a record-breaking 52 tables, which attendees bought and then created themes such as Where’s Waldo, the Titanic or the Wild West.

Wilson Books from Birth executive director Peggy Simpson said the growth and continued success of the program is due to the overwhelming support from the community.

“For 13 years, it’s grown,” Simpson said. “We started out over at the East-West Building, and we moved over here the year before last. We have 10 more tables this year, and every year we add more tables. They believe in us, and the school systems particularly put their arms around it, and the community does, too. They believe in Wilson Books from Birth and the Imagination Library, not only in Wilson County.”

Attendees raised money for the program through donations, participation in a silent auction and donations tied to unique challenges for other groups, such as making them do a silly dance in front of the crowd of several hundred attendees.

One of the groups, Leadership Wilson, offered up a unique challenge for everyone in attendance.

“We are challenging everyone in the room to do an act of kindness for someone tomorrow and then video it and put it on the WilCo Sparks of Kindness Facebook page,” said Dorie Mitchell, executive director of Leadership Wilson.

Prizes were also raffled off, and the imagination and detail of the team costumes and table themes were judged. The Carroll Oakland Elementary School team took home the best decorated trophy.

More information about Wilson County Books from Birth and the Imagination Library may be found at

Friendship drama students to present ‘Oklahoma!’

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Friendship Christian School thespians will present the classic musical, “Oklahoma!,” on April 25-27 at the school.

They will present the “Getting to Know You” version of the musical.

This is the 75th anniversary of the fan-favorite show’s appearance on Broadway, and Friendship director Key McKinney said she is excited to direct the show again.

“’Oklahoma!’ is one of my all-time favorites,” McKinney said. “’Oklahoma!’ has a near-and-dear place in my heart. This is my fifth time involved in ‘Oklahoma!.’ In high school, I was a dancer. Then, when I was a young mother, I played Ado Annie. Later, I got the opportunity to be Laurey, and this is my second time directing the show.”

The show, written by Broadway legends Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II, is based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, “Green Grow the Lilacs.”

The musical is about the lives of people who lived in the Oklahoma! Territory in 1903. As the characters interact with one another, well-known songs are sung.

Among them are “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,’” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “People Will Say We’re in Love” and “Oklahoma!.”

McKinney said the theme and meaning behind the show is important.

“You’ve got to be hardy,” she said. “You’ve got to be, to get by in this world. I think that is so important for us.”

McKinney said she cannot wait for the audience to experience the show.

“I’m excited for people to come and see what these young people have done and are continuing to do here at Friendship Christian School,” she said.  “We would love for you to come and see ‘Oklahoma!.’”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and students. They can be purchased at the door at 6 p.m. on show nights. The doors to the theatre will open at 6 p.m., and the show will start at 7 p.m. There will not be a matinee.

Friendship Christian School is at 5400 Coles Ferry Pike in Lebanon. For more information about the show, follow Friendship on Twitter at @FCSCommanders or visit the school’s Facebook page.

WilCo Sparks of Kindness to Stuff the Bus

The Leadership Wilson Kindness Team plans to begin its second phase of the kindness mission, Stuff the Bus.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash, Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty and Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings recently declared May 8 as Kindness Day throughout Wilson County, and WilCo Sparks of Kindness reached more than 11,000 people and had more than 4,000 post engagements since that time. 

Wilson County residents will continue to spark kindness with donations of food items for the summer backpack programs. 

“There are hundreds of students who face food insecurity and hunger in the summer when they do not have access to school meals. This program provides food that the students can eat with little to no prep,” said Betty Williams, a Leadership Wilson member. The Stuff The Bus program is designed to gather food and distribute it to qualified students who attend Lebanon Special School District and Wilson County Schools.”

CedarStone Bank’s Lebanon and Mt Juliet locations are drop-off points for food items to Stuff the Bus during Kindness Day on May 8. 

“We are so excited to be a part of this great kindness revolution in Wilson County,” said Bob McDonald, president of CedarStone Bank. “What better way to be kind than to make sure our students have access to food this summer. We look forward to seeing our community rise up once again to demonstrate great kindness.”

Foods items needed include pop-top ravioli and spaghetti, individual macaroni and cheese bowls and packets, beef jerky, cheese and crackers, chips, individual cookie packets, breakfast bars, Pop Tarts, fruit snacks, juice bars or similar items. 

“These are items we have found work best for our students,” Williams said. “Both school systems want to make sure children have food for the summer. Help us meet our goal. Prior to May 8, take your donation to CedarStone Bank. If you want to be part of the big celebration day, bring your food items to Don Fox Park on May 8, where we will literally stuff the bus.”

To join the kindness revolution, visit WilCo Sparks of Kindness on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Mt. Juliet Christian drama to present ‘Guys and Dolls’

The drama department students and faculty at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy will present the spring musical production of “Guys and Dolls” on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the school.

Mt. Juliet Christian drama teacher Kim Overstreet will direct a cast and crew of 26 high school students that is a musical theater favorite for an audience of all ages.

Set in New York City during the 1950s, “Guys and Dolls” will feature hilarious dialogue, romance, a glorious Frank Loesser musical score and choreography that is dynamic and story driven. The primary theme that runs through the show is the differences between guys and dolls, what they want and their hopes and dreams, as well as their differing views of each other. The guys believe dolls are out to trap them and make them settle down, while the dolls despair the men they love will never change and finally give them the security and love they crave. The theme provides both humor in the relationship between Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide played by sophomore Christian Link and senior Abigail Wilson, respectively, and tension in the relationship between Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown played by senior Abe Gibson and junior Anna Wise, respectively, which is ultimately resolved at the end of the show.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and will be available at the door. Doors will open Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

The performances will in the gymnasium at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy at 735 N. Mt. Juliet Road.

New TWRA official spreads the word

New Mt. Juliet resident Jenifer Wisniewski has a complicated title, but a simple goal, as the new Communications & Outreach Chief with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Getting the positive messages, latest news, and other information distributed to the state’s hundreds of thousands of outdoors-persons.

The best story in the world is lost if nobody knows about it, and Wisniewski’s mission is to spread the word.

“Tennessee has so many great outdoors opportunities,” Wisniewski says, “and we want to make everyone aware of them and how to be able to enjoy them. Our effort is part of a nation-wide movement to recruit and retain hunters, fishermen, boaters, campers and others to the outdoors.”

Wisniewski, a native of Anniston, Ala., and graduate of the University Alabama, joined the TWRA after gaining widespread recognition for her work with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

During her six years in the communications department, Georgia was one of only a few states in which the sale of hunting and fishing licenses increased. That success attracted the attention of the TWRA, which lured Wisniewski away from the Peach State.

“I was poached,” she says with a laugh.

The TWRA over the years has enjoyed excellent public relations, thanks to some of the best in the business, including recently-retired Doug Markham, Agency veteran Don King, Lee Wilmont, Barry Cross and Tennessee Wildlife Magazine editor Austin Bornheim. All are media-friendly, efficient and accommodating.

Therefore, Wisniewski doesn’t see her task as re-inventing the Agency’s various communications outlets, but more a matter of enhancing them and expanding them to serve a constantly-changing landscape.

She plans to emphasize up-to-date news and features on the TWRA’s website, pod-casts, e-mailings and TV programs, and utilize social media to its fullest.

While enhancing the various “new media” components, Wisniewski says she will not abandon the TWRA’s traditional print outlets, such as the popular Tennessee Wildlife Magazine and the Tennessee Fishing Guide and Hunting & Trapping Guide. Many Tennessean outdoorsmen – especially those of an advanced generation – are not internet-connected or social-media savvy.

Wisniewski promises they will not be left out.

“We don’t have to sacrifice one outlet for another,” she says. “We will utilize them all.”

Wisniewski grew up hunting and fishing in Alabama with her dad. As a little girl she went with him on dove shoots, and one of her duties was to collect the birds.

“I was the retriever,” she says, again with a laugh.

Wisniewski and husband Jason – who joined his wife on the TWRA staff as a fisheries biologist stationed in Gallatin – selected a home in Mt. Juliet because of its quality of life.

“It’s a great area, we love our new home, and we both have jobs we thoroughly enjoy,” she says. “We couldn’t be happier.”

Larry Woody is The Mt. Juliet News’ outdoors writer. Email him at

Earnhardt’s tennis journey takes her from Mt. Juliet to Cumberland

It didn’t take Carly Earnhardt long to commit to her college of choice once she took her official visit to Cumberland last October.

It was an easy decision for her, and one the Mt. Juliet High senior wanted to make quickly.

“To have the opportunity to go to school on scholarship and play college tennis so close to home is awesome and a dream come true,” said Earnhardt.

Although Earnhardt only started playing competitive tennis just three years ago, she entered her final season at Mt. Juliet as one of the top senior players in Tennessee and one of the winningest girls in MJHS history with a combined overall 53-7 singles and doubles record. Much of Carly’s success comes from the instruction of high school coach Mike Hurley, who was just recently inducted to the Tennessee Tennis Hall of Fame.

“I’m so thankful to have Coach Hurley as my coach. He constantly pushes me to be my best. I would not be where I am today without his guidance and support…..He is an awesome coach,” says Earnhardt.

Hurley has been with the Mt. Juliet program for 21 years and has had the opportunity to coach many great players including his sons Matt and Kevin.

“I’ve been fortunate that the faculty at MJHS starting with Linda McDearman, then Derek Elwell and now Mackenzie Underwood have allowed me to participate with the school tennis program for so many years,” Hurley said. “Mt. Juliet has been blessed with many fine tennis players but truly what draws one to work with these kids is how terrific they are as individuals on and especially off the court. Just great people – like Carly.

It’s no surprise Earnhardt has been so successful on the court in just three short years.

“I’m blessed to have such athletic parents and brothers,” says Earnhardt. “My mom & dad actually workout with me on a regular basis, and my oldest brother Collin is my personal trainer at our gym.” Collin and Brady were football and track standouts at Mt. Juliet, and like their dad, went on to play collegiately. Hurley pointed out several reasons for Carly’s success.

“The secret to Carly’s success is really no secret, it’s a supportive family, supportive coaches and personal passion,” Hurley said. “Without family (Jay, Cheri, and Carly’s brothers) these results just would not happen. As a player I have rarely seen her fatigue.  She is amazing at recovering and being refreshed and ready to go even after a tough three-set match in 90-plus-degree weather.  This is a true compliment to her dedication to off court training so necessary to be able to get to the next level. As a student of the game she is again at the top.  Very willing to put in the time to acquire new skills and more importantly not shy to ask questions when unsure of something. In competition you would be foolish to underestimate Carly by just her appearance.  Though she is just above the 5-foot line the competitive fire within her has taken down some very good players to date. “

Earnhardt was the first commitment to the 2019 Cumberland class and shut down her recruiting quite early in the process just after coach Karen Martinez offered.

“It was so important to me to remain close to my family,” Earnhardt said. “I knew after meeting Coach Martinez, her husband Thiago and most of the current players, Cumberland was the best place for me.”

Earnhardt will enter Cumberland in the summer after graduating with a 4.0 grade-point average and 18 dual enrollment hours to her credit.

This summer, she will be playing in several USTA and UTR tournaments, including the Tennessee and Georgia State Championships. In July, she will again play in the Adidas All-American tournament and combine in Orlando, Fla., where last year she was 2-1 in tournament play and placed 15th out of 64 in the collegiate combine event. She has been training with her mom, dad, Collin, and Curtis Grah (strength coach MJHS football) to win the 2019 event.

Mt. Juliet sweeps Central in 9-AAA series

Fitzgibbons pitches 1-0 gem

MT. JULIET — Jake Fitzgibbons pitched a complete-game three-hitter and Mt. Juliet scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the sixth inning Wednesday night as the Golden Bears completed the two-game District 9-AAA series sweep of Wilson Central.

The junior left-hander walked four and struck out 10 in seven innings to improve his record to 2-0 and Mt. Juliet’s to 9-4 for the season, 4-0 in the district.

Grayson Cole doubled in the sixth and scored on Matt Johnston’s double against Hayden Baker, who allowed four hits in two innings of relief of starter Nick Baker, who surrendered five hits and three walks while striking out four in four frames of work.

Johnston had two doubles for Mt. Juliet while Dylan Kasper and Corey Settle each singled twice.

Gabe Jennings doubled for the Wildcats, who fell to 7-5 for the season and 2-2 in the district.

Bears beat Wildcats 5-3

GLADEVILLE — Dylan Kasper drove in two runs to back Grayson Cole in Mt. Juliet’s 5-3 win at arch-rival Wilson Central on a chilly Tuesday night.

Kasper singled twice and doubled as Mt. Juliet scored three times in the top of the second inning after falling behind 1-0 in the first. The Golden Bears tacked on single scores in the third and fourth which proved to be the difference after Wilson Central scored twice in the sixth.

Cole pitched five innings, allowing a run on two hits and four walks while striking out 10 as he improved to 2-0 and Mt. Juliet to 8-4 for the season, 3-0 in District 9-AAA pending the teams’ rematch at Mt. Juliet at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Colton Regan gave up the Wildcat runs in the sixth before Warren Lee struck out four over the final two frames for his first save.

Thomas Fullerton singled twice and Steven Jarrell once as each drove in a Mt. Juliet run. Nelson Buckland blasted a triple to deep right field in the fourth.

Matthew Jenkinson gave up nine of Mt. Juliet’s 10 hits and all five runs in four innings of work to take the loss. Gary Denton tossed two innings and Blaine Mabry one.

Gabe Jennings doubled and singled to lead Central’s six-hit attack.

Encore Theatre to present ‘Bedtime Stories’

The Encore Theatre Co. production of “Bedtime Stories (As Told by Our Dad)(Who Messed Them Up)” by Ed Monk will take the stage this weekend.

Directed by Erica Jo Lloyd, the show will open Friday and runs weekends through April 14. Friday and Saturday shows will start at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees will start at 2:30 p.m. Doors will open 30 minutes before show time.

It’s dad’s turn to tell his three rambunctious children their bedtime stories, but when he gets fuzzy on the details, the classics get creative. A prince with a snoring problem spices up “The Princess and The Pea,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” cries dinosaur instead, and “Rumpelstiltskin” helps turn all that pesky gold into straw. The fairy tales may be well known but not the way dad tells them.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $13 for youth and seniors. For tickets, visit To reserve seats and pay at the door, call 615-598-8950.

Encore Theatre Co. is at 6978 Lebanon Road, just west of State Rout 109, in Mt. Juliet. For information on auditions and upcoming productions, visit

“Bedtime Stories” is produced by a special arrangement with Playscripts Inc.

Kenny Martin: Slick-talking, jive-walking con artists and crooks

Now that spring is here and summer is just around the corner, there is no time like the present to take preventive steps and measures against thefts, scams and fraud.

Our crooks, thieves and con-artist population views the changing seasons as new job opportunities for themselves. They look for the perfect opportunity to steal, deceive and downright lie to make a quick buck the easy and lazy way. These criminally minded people have no shame and love to target our citizens for their trusting nature and good spirit.

These evil individuals also apparently have no shame or problem taking property that doesn’t belong to them. They often drain citizens’ bank accounts by offering a job or service they never deliver, even after they were paid for their service ahead of time. Most of the time, the unsuspecting citizen doesn’t even realize they don’t need the service offered because of their own trusting nature and the skill of the con artists. But these slick-talking and jive-walking crooks sell the victims these scary, the-sky-is-falling stories and con them into repairs they don’t need or ever receive.

I wonder if these crooks would feel the same about their so-called profession if they or someone they love were to be bilked, swindled, cheated, ripped off or just downright lied to. I seriously doubt it. What these crooks need to do is get a job and quit making excuses for their laziness and evil ways. It’s time to stop making excuses to make yourselves feel better and straighten your act up. There’s no excuse or justification for thievery, plain and simple.

Honest citizens work hard for what they have and don’t need thieves deciding if they earned or deserve it. With all that in mind, I would like to encourage all citizens to get second opinions on work needed, both requested and solicited. Ask all business and sales companies for references, credentials, licenses and bonds and document everything. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask questions. We have to look out for one another to combat this problem. And don’t be the least bit embarrassed about saying, “No, I’m not interested.”

It is also important to look out for our senior citizens and their welfare. Our seniors are often targeted by these slick-talking and walking crooks and con-artists because of their trusting nature. Our seniors were born in an era when a handshake and person’s word was often all that was needed to seal a deal. So let’s please look out for one another and send these crooks and con artists packing.

Kenny Martin is city manager in Mt. Juliet.  

Congressman John Rose announces art competition

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Sixth District Congressman John Rose announced an art competition Friday morning at Mt. Juliet High School for high school students within his district.

Students are urged to paint, draw or take photos for their entry. One entry will be allowed per student. The deadline for entries is April 22. That is the date the entry must be in Rose’s office. Art department members from Tennessee Tech University and Volunteer State Community College will judge the entries and select a winner. The winning entry will be announced on April 24.

The winning student will receive two tickets on Southwest Airlines and will be honored at an awards banquet, along with the other 434 winning artists from across the country. All winning entries will be displayed for one year in Cannon Hall at the U.S. Capitol, Rose said.

All high school students are encouraged to enter the competition, whether they have taken art classes at their respective schools. To enter, the item must adhere to competition requirements, which include the artwork must be two dimensional, and the artwork must be no larger than 26 inches high and 26 inches wide. The entry must also be no more than 4 inches deep.

Winning entries must be framed, and no framed piece should weight more than 15 pounds. Frames must be made of wood or metal. No plastic “snap on” or metal frames, which can easily come apart, are to be used. All entries, except for oil or acrylic on canvas, must be protected by plexiglass or glass.

Accepted materials for the artwork can be oil, acrylic, watercolor or other paintings; drawings with colored pencil, pencil, ink, marker, pastels or charcoal. The pastels and charcoal drawings must be fixed. Also, they may be two-dimensional collages; prints in the golf of lithographs, silkscreen or block prints; mixed media in which two or more mediums such as pencil, ink or watercolor; computer-generated art; or photographs.

All artwork must be original in concept, design and execution and may not violate U.S. copyright laws. Any image that is copied from an existing photo or image, including painting, graphic or advertisements, that were created by someone other than the student is a violation of the competition rules and will not be accepted.

Each entrant must submit a typed student information and release form, which is available through Rose’s Cookeville or Gallatin offices.  The Cookeville office is at 321 E. Spring St., Suite 301, in Cookeville, and the phone number is 931-854-9430.

The Gallatin office is at 355 N. Belvedere Drive, Suite 308, in Gallatin, and the phone number is 615-206-8204.

Seven take part in drug court graduation

The 15th Judicial District Drug Court held its spring graduation March 22. 

The program, established in 2002, recognized seven participants for their work to achieve and maintain a positive lifestyle change. Each participant made a minimum two-year commitment to drug court that combines treatment and community-based intensive supervision.   

Also recognized were two drug court team members, Logan Rosson, a former graduate of the program who is currently an active team member, and Jimmy Lea Jr., assistant district attorney with the 15th Judicial District attorney general’s office.  Both men received J.O. Bond memorial achievement awards for their continued commitment to help others.

Judge John D. Wootten Jr., drug court judge, said drug court is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Wootten said this year’s graduates demonstrated compliance not only with program structure and accountability, but also they each noted a new self with direction in life.

Drug court members include Wootten, Lea, Public Defender Shelley Thompson Gardner, Cumberland Mental Health director Nathan Miller, Board of Probation and Parole state probation Officer Jeremiah Smith, Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program veterans representative Peter Pritchard with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Rosson, drug court coordinator Jeff E. Dickson Sr., and case managers Paula Langford and Shelly Allison.

The 15th Judicial District Drug Court program serves Wilson, Trousdale, Macon, Jackson and Smith counties and has been in existence for nearly 17 years.

Wilson County students celebrate diversity

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Students, teachers, advisers and parents from Wilson County Schools gathered at Mt. Juliet Elementary School on Thursday evening to celebrate the various nations English as a second language students claim as their native land.

From Mexico to Africa, France to Japan, the students demonstrated the culture from the various nations. They showcased art, displayed storyboards, sang, played instruments and featured native foods.

Tracy Thompson with Carroll-Oakland School, Jo Thacker with Springdale Elementary School, Chelsea Howard with West Elementary School, Sarai Lewis with Stoner Creek Elementary School and other teachers brought items to display or helped students showcase their displays.

Mt. Juliet Elementary School students sang songs; Prisha Bangena played her violin; Shweta Arura, Nidhi Gupta and Simran Batra cooked and served food from India; and the Futuro Organization, an all-inclusive professional Hispanic student organization at Cumberland University, showcased the Phoenix, which is a wooden bird student organizations paint for display at events.

“This is our Wilson County Schools’ multi-cultural celebration,” said Mt. Juliet Elementary School English as a second language teacher Tracy Brown. “We open up to our entire county. Schools come to share our great diversity in Wilson County. [Middle Tennessee State University] is planning to be here, elementary schools, artwork projects, games, Cumberland University is coming, [Lebanon High School] HOSA. We’ve invited everyone to come and share their culture, their diversity, and gain knowledge and understanding from everyone.”

Brown has about 20 students in her ESL classes, but there are about 45 overall, she said.

“There are schools who have as few as 10 and those with almost 100,” said Wilson County Schools ESL coordinator Julie Harrison.

What started out as a day event for MJES students has turned into to the night event for everyone to celebrate “our wonderful ethnicities and differences in our schools,” Brown said. “We need to share that and acknowledge that.”

Teacher Glenda McKinney with Tuckers Crossroads School, said her students studied Native Americans and wanted to expand to other countries such as Peru.

“We decided to expand to indigenous people in Spanish-speaking countries,” she said. “I had read them [a Peruvian folktale]. They rewrote some Peruvian folktales.”

Ashlee Hargrove works at Rutland Elementary School and said, “We have students from all different cultures. We have a lot of students from Uzbekistan. We have students from Egypt and students from all over the world. We have students from Madagascar, the Philippines, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. We have a very diverse population at Rutland Elementary [School].”

Bears hand Purvis 500th coaching win

MT. JULIET — Mt. Juliet breezed to coach Mark Purvis’ 500th career Friday night 15-0 over Trousdale County in the Wilson County Invitational.

The Golden Bears took any suspense out of the game early with five runs in the first inning and tacked on six more in the third and seventh in the fourth of the five-inning game as Mt. Juliet improved to 7-2 for 2019.

Purvis was a Mt. Juliet second baseman for coach Jerry Flatt before graduating in 1989. He played the same position for Woody Hunt at Cumberland and broke into coaching under the CU legend. With the exception of two seasons, he has coached his alma mater since 2000, taking the Golden Bears to six state tournaments, including a state runner-up in 2009.

Jake Fitzgibbons pitched the first three innings for the win, followed by Warren Lee and Grayson Cole for an inning each. The trio allowed three hits.

Corey Settle drove in six runs on a 4-for-4 night, including a double. Ryan Godwin and Dylan Kasper also collected a pair of hits each as Mt. Juliet finished with 13 hits.

Bears Settle for 7-6 walk-off win over Page

MT. JULIET — Corey Settle’s two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday night enabled Mt. Juliet to walk off Page 7-6 in the opening game of the Wilson County Invitational.

The Golden Bears jumped to a 3-0 led in the bottom of the second. But Page scored twice in the third and three times in the fifth to go up 5-3. The teams traded single scores in the fifth and sixth before Mt. Juliet won in the seventh to improve to 6-2 for the season.

Parker Van Avery pitched the top of the seventh to win his first decision, striking out two.

Settle singled twice in addition to his double. Christian Stover also had three hits and drove in three runs while Michael Hardy doubled for the Bears, who outhit Page 10-7.

Audience of One to be spotlighted in three April shows

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

Audience of One will present three different shows in April, and it all kicks off April 5 with “A Night on Broadway.”

“It’s a review of all of our past shows and a look at what’s coming up in the future,” said Audience of One director Angie Dee. “People have requested a Broadway review, and someone said, ‘Hey, why don’t we make it a dinner theatre? [Let’s] make it a giant show and just have fun for everyone.’”

Dee said she’s “had some generous people come forward and say, ‘Let us do this for you.’ We’re making it a fundraiser for Audience of One to try to recoup our new stage floor costs and things like that.”

She said musical numbers from all of Audience of One’s past shows, “are up for grabs. Anything from ‘Into the Woods,’ ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ ‘Little Women, the Broadway musical,’ ‘She Loves Me’ and, of course, ‘West Side Story.’”

Dee said because Audience of One doesn’t do “A Night on Broadway” every year, she hopes people will come and enjoy the show.

“You can have dinner, or you can sit in the regular theatre seating,” she said.

Doors will open for “A Night on Broadway,” at 5:30 p.m. for dinner and 6:30 p.m. for people who just want to see the show. The show starts at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $35 for adults with dinner, $25 for children 3-11 years old and seniors with dinner and $17 for regular theater seats. Tickets may be purchased at

On April 6, the troupe will perform during “A Chocolate Affair,” the annual fundraiser for the Child Advocacy Center.

“We had the opportunity to do their fundraiser last year, and we were asked back,” Dee said. “Abused children are near and dear to my heart. It’s a subject that I definitely want to give back to. [The CAC] came to me and asked, and I gladly accepted.

“It’s just a wonderful fundraiser. They need funding. They need help. They need support from the community, and it’s a great cause. We’re happy to be there.”

Single tickets are $50 and may be purchased at

On April 7, the company will perform during a fundraiser to support the Beard family, as plan to they adopt two or three children.

“The Beard family is an incredible family,” Dee said. “This entire family has been close to Audience of One. From website development to graphic design to choreography. Tara, Richard and Hope all do shows.

“It’s kind of a family affair. They are very instrumental in my board. I love their heart. Tara’s one of my best friends in the whole world. When God led her to do this adoption, I said, ‘How can I help?’ This is how I know how to help. We’re standing behind them and helping them raise funds for this amazing adoption.”

Tickets are $35 for adults, and the show will start at 6 p.m.

“We’re super excited about getting behind all three of those events,” Dee said. “Come support Audience of One productions. We do great work, and we are excited to be at the Capitol Theatre.”

Papa Joe’s House to help advanced heart-failure patients, families

By Angie Mayes

Special to The Democrat

To help advanced heart-failure patients and their families, the Joe Beretta Foundation, a nonprofit in Mt. Juliet, plans to build a 10-bedroom home known as Papa Joe’s House.

The building will be a place for patients and their families to stay long-term while the patient receives the treatment they need in Nashville hospitals, such as Centennial, Saint Thomas and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The home is the brainchild of Mt. Juliet residents Davey Shepherd and his mother-in-law, Lillian Beretta, who lost her husband, Joe, to advanced heart failure in 2016.

“Our story is that my husband started feeling ill,” Lillian Beretta said. “He started having water in his legs and shortness of breath. He was a very healthy guy, a very good eater, really healthy. These symptoms started to get worse, and before we knew it, we were in big trouble.”

Joe Beretta was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure, she said.

“His heart was in really big trouble,” Lillian Beretta said. “It was a very big surprise to us that he was that sick.”

They first went to Centennial Hospital, where the doctors gave him different medications. The medications didn’t work, and the doctors told the family about a procedure to insert a ventricular assist device.

“My husband’s left ventricle wasn’t working properly,” she said. “He ended up needing the VAD. We ended up at Vanderbilt hospital for the VAD procedure.”

Joe Beretta had more procedures to try to help his heart, Lillian Beretta said.

“He was a strong guy who was really, really sick,” she said. “He passed in 2016 from complications from everything.”

Joe Beretta had long stays in the hospital. Traveling wasn’t a problem for Joe Beretta’s family because of their proximity to Nashville.

“We were seeing other families who were really struggling,” she said. “Our room had family and food, and you’d go by another room, and they were all alone, maybe one person or two. We started asking questions. That’s when we found out our experience was so unique, because we live here. Most people have to come one, two, three hours to get here. They come all over the South to Vanderbilt.

“Because of that, they didn’t have the family, friends and support they needed close to them because there was no opportunity to do that. When Joe passed, we decided to do something as a family that would help [the others].”

Within a short amount of time, the family created the Joe Beretta Foundation.

“We are giving housing; we’re paying back bills; we’re providing gas and money cards so they have the transportation to get to the hospital and all of the help they need,” Lillian Beretta said. “From that was the birth of the Papa Joe’s House. We’re finding that in Nashville, the biggest need is housing. It’s very expensive to have to come here for 35 days in a row.”

She said the family wants to build the Papa Joe’s House in Mt. Juliet because of the community support they’ve received.

“Most of the caregivers are women, and they’re not used to a city. They’re not comfortable in a city and would much rather be in a community like Mt Juliet,” she said.

The principal goal of the foundation is to meet the needs of advanced heart-failure patients, Shepherd said.  Papa Joe’s House would be a hospitality house for heart failure patients and families, he said.

Those who can stay in the house range from caregivers to those who come in for check-ups, those who have surgery and those who are post-surgery.

Post-surgery patients who have to do cardiac rehab would require them to go back and forth to the hospital several times a week, and they would have to stay for several weeks before they went home, could stay in the house.

The cost of a hotel in Nashville can be upwards of $1,000 a week, versus the cost of the Papa Joe’s House. The cost would be between $25 a night for a family.

Shepherd said 6 million people in the U.S. have heart failure. A quarter of those have advanced heart failure, but the others head down that path.

“Our goal is to make sure they get the life-saving treatment that they need,” Shepherd said. [To] receive the life-saving remedies and follow-ups that those surgeries require, and to make sure that overall the heart failure population is getting as healthy as they need as fast as they can. Right now, people are turning down the surgery because of money.”

He said the travel, housing and food costs “take its toll over several years. If we can have this option to help people get healthier sooner, they won’t go into as much debt, [and] their families recover sooner. That’s just better for everybody.”

Lillian Beretta said, “For us, it came down to the family because we lived it. We know what it’s like. Heart failure doesn’t just affect the patient. It impacts the family and generations of families.”

Shepherd said there were people they worked with who died because they couldn’t receive the treatment they needed because of money.

“It should never be that way,” he said.

The house will be built on land next to the Church at Pleasant Grove, Shepherd said. The church donated the land. The Joe Beretta Foundation also seeks assistance to build the home such as materials and labor.

When construction begins, they will need items such as linens, toiletries and other practical items. They can be dropped off at the church at 555 Pleasant Grove Road in Mt. Juliet.

To build the house, the Joe Beretta Foundation has three main ways for people to get involved.

One is for people who want to volunteer and have boots on the ground. That’s called Adopt a Waiting Room. Lillian Beretta is in charge of that.

“We go to the hospital on heavy surgical days when the family will be there and know where’s something’s located in the hospital, know which restaurants deliver, where laundry can be done, just very practical things that can help people in a crisis,” she said.

There’s also the Twenty-Five Club, where donors pay $25 a month for a year, which goes directly to the patient, Shepherd said.

The third is “Dinner in the Vines,” which is a fundraiser that will take place June 22 at 6 p.m. at Lillian Beretta’s home. She has a small vineyard on her property, and attendees will be able to taste the family’s wine.

“It’s a private vineyard,” Shepherd said. “We don’t sell the wine, but we open it up once a year for a very fun evening. There’s live music. There’s a silent auction. We’re going to do a wine pull this year. We’ll have yard games and wonderful food.”

Early-bird tickets are $125 and covers all of the wine and food for the evening, Shepherd said. It will increase to $150 a ticket May 2. A second option is a VIP ticket, which will provide food, wine and a private wine tasting with a reputable wine expert. All of the money raised goes to the Joe Beretta Foundation.

Information about the foundation, to donate or buy tickets and how to get involved, may be found at

Mt. Juliet chamber hears about autonomous vehicles, traffic

By Matt Masters

The Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce held its March chamber connection luncheon last Wednesday at Rutland Place, where Dan Work, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, electrical engineering and computer science and the institute for software integrated systems at Vanderbilt University, spoke about the future of autonomous vehicles and traffic.

Work’s presentation entitled “Autonomous Vehicles: The End of Traffic?” detailed the future adaptations and challenges that face the increased move toward vehicle automation.

“If it’s easy to travel, then we’re going to travel more,” Work told the crowd of more than 50 people.

While the idea of people each having their own autonomous vehicle to travel in seems like the next step in America transportation, Work said it will take more than just a few autonomous vehicles to help change traffic issues.

Work said a few autonomous vehicles on the road and those with adaptive cruise controls, which automatically slow down with traffic when cruise control is enabled, can help to elevate phantom traffic jams.

Work showed several videos of his work on analyzing traffic patterns. One of those videos was collaboration between Ford and Vanderbilt University that studied the effects of adaptive cruise control in reducing and eliminating phantom traffic jams.

“The thing that is most apparent to me is that the technologies that go into freight are the ones that are going to be the most beneficial up front – the stuff in the trucking world,” Work said. “Anything that you can do to reduce the labor or reduce the fuel costs of operating those vehicles is direct money that makes your system more profitable. You can offer more services and so on. It’s probably not as attractive. You’re not going to see it in the national news everyday, but it’s definitely where I think a lot of the smarter companies are betting on the technology development. Because the business proposition there is much more straight forward than convincing everybody in this room to basically buy a car that has an $80,000 sensor on top of it.”

Work also said he believes the best opportunity for autonomous vehicles in traffic reduction will be in the shipping industry with autonomous tractor-trailers.

Cedar Creek Community Band prepares for 10-year anniversary show

By Matt Masters

As the Cedar Creek Community Band prepares for its first performance of 2019, it’s a year that marks its 10th anniversary of musical performances in Wilson County.

Band founder and conductor Sherie Grossman said the band was started as a way to continue to play music locally. But even she admits she wasn’t sure how long it would last.

“My daughter was 2, and I didn’t want to have to drive all the way to Nashville to be in a community band, so I decided that I would try to make my own. And now after 10 years, she’s playing in the group. She’s 11, and it’s great to have her playing in the band.” Grossman said. “At our first rehearsal in January 2009, we had 30 people, and six of them are still here.

“We just want to keep going. We play some old standard music; we play some new stuff that comes out. We take suggestions from the membership, and this concert we are premiering a piece that Ben [Channell, associate conductor] actually wrote for the Cedar Creek Community Band anniversary, a sort of tribute piece, which is fantastic. We have a variation of ages and levels. People who have put their instruments away for years and then brought it back out, people who play professionally or teach, things like that, so it’s a wide variety of things.”

Grossman is also the Mt. Juliet High School assistant band and orchestra director and recently received a Music Teacher of Excellence award from the Country Music Association Foundation.

One of the six original band members is Debra Martin who said the band has become a community that helps her and others to stay sharp in their talents.

“This is an opportunity to play that we don’t get anywhere else,” Martin said. “It’s kind of like we’re in high school again in the sense of camaraderie, and I just think about the great band that I was in in high school, and I get to experience being with musicians again who want to play. It makes me practice, because if you don’t have anything to practice for, it’s hard to get motivated. We like it so much that the trumpets get together in the summer when we don’t have band practice just so we can practice and play.”

Another original member Andrew Smith clutched his tuba and recounted his return to music after he played in college.

“I stopped playing after college. I really missed it, and I was hoping that there would be some opportunities like this, and I’m really grateful to Sherie to start it up. It’s a big task, and a lot of times I know it’s a thankless task. Yeah, I’d picked my horn up again, and I thought my horn was broken. It was actually my lips,” Smith said.

The band’s next performance will be April 1 at Lebanon High School at 7 p.m., alongside the Nashville Community Band. The concert is free, however, donations are encouraged and will be accepted.

The Cedar Creek Community Band will also perform twice on Memorial Day, once in the morning at Old Hickory Veterans Park and again at 2 p.m. at Charlie Daniels Park in Mt. Juliet.  

Golden retriever calms patients at dental office

By Angie Mayes

Special to Mt. Juliet News

A dental office in Mt. Juliet offers more than just procedures; it offers a golden retriever therapy dog that helps children and adults relax and get through the procedure without much stress.

Generations Dental Arts at 2031 N. Mt Juliet Road, Suite 100, in Mt Juliet, features Mack, a trained therapy dog to visit the patients on a regular basis.

Office coordinator Rebekah Glasmeier touted Mack and his benefits to the patients.

“Dr. Glasmeier and I have two children with autism,” she said. “A long time ago, I had seen that service dogs can help children with severe autism, especially those who run. I looked into it then and very quickly saw a price tag that I couldn’t afford. Most people have to fundraise for these dogs.”

As their son needed more therapy, the counselors were volunteers at a place called Retrieving Independence in Brentwood.

“They have service dogs that go through their program that the dogs go through,” she said. “It’s an 18-month program from birth. They’re bred into it. Their parents are both service dogs. At 13 weeks, they go into the prison system, and they work with prisoners one-on-one until they are 12 months old.”

While training, they come home on weekends and go with their volunteers to the communities.

“They’ll go to restaurants and sporting events, just to get them out there and used to people, while servicing at the same time,” she said.

After a year, the dogs go with their trainers into hospitals, Glesmeier said. That is when they decide which dogs will be bred and which would be service dogs, as well as which type of service dog they become. Once the dog graduates, potential owners come in and interact with the dogs to determine the right fit.

“Dogs match you with them,” she said. “You don’t get to match with the dog you want.”

She said her son’s therapist would bring the dogs in for therapy during counseling.

“I thought this is amazing,” she said. “All of the interaction between the kids, the counselors and the dogs were amazing.”

She said she started the process to get a dog for the dental office. Retrieving Independence had never had a dog go into a medical facility, Glasmeier said.

Mack’s original owner wasn’t happy with him because, although he was the ideal service dog, he was too loving, Glasmeier said. She said service dogs are usually not as loving.

When Mack was brought into the dental office, the trainers wanted to see how he would react. He wasn’t phased by the activity in the office, she said. He was calm and worked as a service dog. They even had some special needs patients come in, and Mack was calm and collected around them, as well.

“This came about because of our kids and having a need as a parent,” she said.

Glasmeier said, “every single patient who comes in here, young and old, the first words out of their mouth is, ‘Where’s Mack?’ He makes them smile; he makes them forget about where they are; he takes the unknown out of dentistry. Everyone fears dentistry a lot, because it’s the fear of the unknown.”

Mack often goes into the room with the patients and sits with them, no matter how long it takes, she said.

Glasmeier said, “Mack knows when a patient doesn’t like him. Mack knows when he’s not wanted. They’re taught to know when they’re not needed, wanted or tolerated. He will walk away.”

Cedars of Lebanon pool to be removed, splash pad planned

By Matt Masters

The swimming pool at Cedars of Lebanon State Park will be replaced with a splash pad, a summer attraction that will feature multiple lines of spraying water.

Construction is expected to start in the fall.

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy communications director Kimberly Schofinski said the deteriorating condition and cost required to repair and maintain the pool are significant factors in the decision to replace it with a splash pad.

“The state has determined that the swimming pool at Cedars of Lebanon State Park has effectively reached the end of its lifespan from a safety, cost and long-term maintenance standpoint,” Schofinski said. “Following an inspection this month, the Tennessee Department of Health found that the pool does not currently meet public health and safety standards. In order to open to the public, a series of costly and time-intensive repairs would need to be made.

“The decision to install a splash pad was made to provide a safe water-based recreational activity while responsibly managing park resources. Tennessee state parks has a duty to the taxpaying public to provide recreational facilities in the most fiscally responsible manner that also meet hospitality expectations and provide a safe experience. The splash pad will be able to accommodate a large number of visitors for an extended season at about half the operating cost.”

Schofinski said the project is currently in the design phase with construction expected to begin in the fall. But some citizens who see the pool as a staple of summers in Wilson County do not like the plan.

Brandy Warden started a petition that has gathered more than 700 signatures with the goal to persuade the state to keep the existing pool. Warden said the pool is a community landmark, something she said is needed to give teenagers a place to stay out of trouble and a place for family gatherings.

“I really believe that people would be OK with paying a little more,” Warden said. “We won’t go if the pool is gone. We have played Frisbee golf once and used to play softball, but they took the field out, as well, so no, we wouldn’t use it. This is a landmark. I started going to this pool 30 years ago as a teenager. Then, I took my children, and now, I take my grandchildren.”

Schofinski did not respond to questions about the petition, but she said the state looks forward to the new summer addition.

“While we are saddened to say goodbye to what has been a special part of summer fun at Cedars of Lebanon for many years, we are excited for visitors to enjoy a new water feature for the years to come,” Schofinski said.

10th-annual Chocolate Affair set for April

By Matt Masters

The 10th-annual Chocolate Affair will take place April 6 at the Capitol Theatre in Lebanon to raise money for the 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center.

Entertainment will be provided by Audience of One Productions, which will perform “One Enchanted Evening.” Two Fat Men Catering will provide the food.

Silent and live auctions will take place, along with a variety of chocolate desserts at the chocolate buffet, including a chocolate fountain. The festivities will be from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Individual tickets are $50 with tables that seat eight for $500. Tickets must be bought by March 30. Tickets may be bought at or call 615-449-7975.

Sponsors include Systems Integrations, Vance Law, Bank of Tennessee, Signature Behaviors, Vanderbilt University and Wilson Bank & Trust.

The 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center is an organization that aims to reduce the trauma of child abuse and help with the healing process. The Child Advocacy Center’s work and interviews are often used by law enforcement in criminal cases against abusers.

The Child Advocacy Center serves Wilson, Smith, Macon, Jackson and Trousdale counties. Funds raised will help the Child Advocacy Center with its expanding operations and staff.

For more information about the Child Advocacy Center, visit