"Now that the 'Balancing Nature and Commerce in Unicoi County [TN]' tourism workshop has wrapped, officials are looking into the next steps of marketing tourism in Unicoi County. Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch said last week’s workshop, which was funded with a $50,000 Gems of Appalachia grant, served as an 'eye opener' and was successful in strengthening the push for sustainable tourism.... Lynch would like to see Unicoi County’s more than 50,000 acres become a veritable playground for outdoor enthusiasts. However, before county’s assets can be marketed, officials say careful planning is necessary. 'We’ve got the rivers, we’ve got the mountains, we’ve got the beauty and everything like that, and it’s going to come,' said Unicoi County Economic Development Board Executive Director Doris Hensley. 'Eventually people are going to find out about it and they’re going to come. What we need to do is be proactive, be ready for them, and do it in a planned and managed manner instead of just letting it happen haphazardly.'... Lynch said the tourism push is not an attempt to 'shortchange' the industrial or retail sector of the county, but to develop another revenue stream. Lynch said because the county’s assets are already in place, the development of tourism can be done at little expense. Current tourism in the county saves each household around $126 annually in property taxes, but Lynch sees that figure being even greater if sustainable tourism is properly marketed.... 'We want something that will fit into our county and that our locals can live with and be proud of and that the people who come in here have a good experience,' he said." -- Brad Hicks, Johnson City Press, 1/21/10
"Many adults cannot recall the feeling of lying belly down on the earth, or harvesting plants as food. Many of us also feel disconnected from our basic right to experience joy in sexuality.... At the meeting place of these ideas is a profound insight on how we can shift into Gaian consciousness. Filmmaker Jo Carson traveled throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and the US, filming the sacred sites of ancient earth-centered religions.... We need new myths to live by, which include the experience of earth and our bodies as sacred. As Joan Marler says, 'As long as we conceive of divinity as outside or above us, there is no way we can change our course.' But by honoring our relations with each other, the earth and our own bodies, we can create a future of balance and beauty." -- Jo Carson in Dancing With Gaia
"On December 1 , ETSU's student-run Habitat for Humanity [handed] over the keys to a $35,000 house that the organization built for Angela Calhoun and her family. More than 300 volunteers worked together to build the house through Kingsport-affiliate Holston Habitat for Humanity. Even during the current economic downfall, students, faculty and staff have been eager to get involved with the program. 'We're probably in the worst recession that we've had in a long time, but there is as much, and maybe even more outpouring of volunteer effort, spirit and financial support for this project than we've had even in good times,' said Phyllis Thompson, assistant professor of English. 'People are helping in spite of the hard times they're having of their own.'... 'There is an entire ETSU community that has built this house with and for the Calhoun family,' Thompson said. 'It's a home that's been crafted by the love and labor of people. Without all the students out there every day working on the house, there wouldn't be a house.'" -- Jane Goodman in Easttennessean, 1/23/09
"CenturyLink employees recently collected nearly 2,400 pairs of socks in the Western North Carolina/Tennessee division. The Johnson City team donated socks to the Women's Abuse Center, the Boys & Girls Club, the United Way, for the elderly in nursing homes, and the Crumley House, a brain injury rehabilitation center. 'Our employees have a passion for helping others,' said the company's vice president and general manager, Lottie Ryans. 'CenturyLink was founded on guiding principles, one of those being the Golden Rule and all that it implies. With that, our values speak to being of service to each other as employees, to our customers and to others by supporting our communities.'..." [Publisher's note: CenturyLink is our area provider of broadband services now] -- Johnson City Press
Small Town America Lights Up
Graphic below: Photograph of musician/entrepreneur Philip Gant's Trading Post antique shop, Jonesborough TN
During the first week of December, the Jonesborough Area Ministerial Association presented their JAMA Christmas Music Celebration at Trinity Baptist Church just outside the historic district and a little bit off Route 11E. It included twelve fiddler/violinists between the ages of around 10 through 60 -- one very poetic-looking teen boy and another younger one, the rest females including the "conductor/violinist," a very positively encouraging, energetic and cheery woman. There were two pianos and one unusually excellent duet/hymn, called on the program "Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!," arranged by Wyrtzen. It was obviously, and successfully, challenging for the pianists particularly and well-appreciated by the full-house audience in our rows of padded folding chairs in the large auditorium basement room with its elevated stage. Large screens on either side of that showed holiday scenes and sometimes lyrics. Following the first three choirs from the Presbytery, First Baptist and United Methodist, a collection was taken up for the community food pantry. The African-American Bethel Christian Church choir had been decimated by flu but performed endearingly with the six or so still standing. For their finale, one woman walked forward to the podium and sang by herself the beautiful "I'll light a candle for you, and you light a candle for me" with the remaining choir joining in at the end. As they left the stage, one of their female members sat down at the piano to play a rousing kind of bebop jazzy version of "Go Tell It On The Mountain" while we all sang. The violinists accompanied all those occasions. The performances had begun with bell ringers and it all ended with the Trinity Baptist Choir -- even larger than as it appeared during Jonesborough Days -- finally joined in the festivities by the other five choirs in "Angels We Have Heard On High." Following a benediction by Dr. Mark Harrod, we then all sang the "Hallelujah Chorus" -- which is not as easy as it may seem for unprofessional and unprepared singers, even if the words are displayed for us. But we were earnest and well-intentioned, and it was fun.
The following week, a packed and expectant crowd -- estimated at "quite a few" by a friendly neighboring bystander and father guarding two young sons and their mother -- lined sidewalks of Main Street for the annual lighted Christmas parade Saturday evening. In the lead, behind the obligatory flashing and honking police car and fire truck, were marching a good-sized troop of Daniel Boone High School Navy ROTC cadets followed by young costumed women twirling white batons shaped as rifles. Santa Claus waved from his multi-lit carriage drawn by one white horse. A later conveyance pulled by a pair of matched miniature ponies having way too much fun to pay complete attention to their direction passed similarly. There were Boy and Girl Scout assemblages, high school marching bands, lotsa miss thises and thats including tiny ones to teens and Miss Teen Tennessee International who had a lot of blonde hair waving and with a smile like the rest, Marine ROTCs, our inimitable Novelty Band, Jonesborough Repertory theatricals in creative costuming including The Mad Hatter, a float with three stuffed "Oo-La-La" baby chicks, The Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam, and purveyors of candies thrown and hand-delivered along with plastic bags with convenient storage for children from infant twins in a double stroller to ones astride their fathers' shoulders. As the last vehicle passed and Charlie Mauk put away his professional camera, I turned into the Jonesborough Art Glass Gallery for another trip through beauty and whimsy there. Co-owner Tava stood behind the back counter with a slightly jaundiced eye on some unsupervised children amidst one-of-a-kind handblown and shelved originals on display as adults lingered and paid. As the floor cleared, Tava began a wonderful regional country story from mid-20th century about an undertaker called out of town from Bristol to pick up a deceased body. On his return a few miles in, he hit a deer and returned to his client's home thinking the man would want to get and keep the unexpected venison for himself. Instead, the survivor offered to return to the site and help load the animal carcass into the back of the hearse. When the funeral director demurred that he didn't want to be disrespectful to the deceased, his client assured him that it was all right, that both the deer and his departed wife were equally dead. The street crowd has thinned, cars are passing again on Main Street, and the weather's cooperated nicely in being not too cold and not wet at all for this one of the season's many scheduled town occasions before the much-anticipated arrival finally of the real Saint Nick.
Click here for Charlie Mauk's Parade Photos from Jonesborough Herald & Tribune
In reflecting back on the year past and although there have been many high points in events, interactions and travel, perhaps my favorite recollections are of the entertainment, conversations and value of Jonesborough and Tri-Cities Flea Markets and a few vendors that stand out very pleasantly and fondly in my memory. There's a single father who buys merchandise in bulk variously and sells what are to me sometimes absolute treasures two or three for a dollar, and occasionally a box-full for ten. He's whimsical and witty in chats about interests, experiences and the world in general and once even takes a check for produce when I've run out of cash and just must have one of his offerings before it's snatched up by another discerning eye for bounty at a bargain. A youngish woman from England with her wonderful cockney accent and cheery disposition sells art, including her own, and signs a lion's head drawing for me with a personalized inscription of good wishes and blessing. Advised by a middle-aged woman vendor who's complimented me in passing on the good looks and obvious comfort of my coat, I purchase a bag of fresh tangerines at a special cost from one of her neighbors. A young woman with her husband's assistance sells handmade and unique beaded jewelry devised at home while watching over her toddlers. A few veterans of informal commerce mark down their already low prices while sharing stories of items and themselves. One offers me a chair for sitting when I complain once that my back and feet are ailing and we talk comfortably for awhile about happenings here and there. Perhaps the most outstanding, though, is Raven Heart. She is mid-fortyish, in a wheelchair from Parkinson's Disease and multiple schlerosis, part Apache and part Cherokee, small with very straight, thick and beautiful jet black hair to her waist. Her wares are Native American jewelry, dream catchers, belts, purses, and ceremonial objects of indigenous materials, some of them rare. The beauty and strength of her spirit, her soul shine out from bright eyes and a sweet smile despite the inclemencies of physical dishabille. She's raised four children of her own on her own, and one adopted son also, through good times and bad. In parting, she advises that hair should only be cut on the full moon to enhance its health and luxurience, and I share that later with friends who also might find that wisdom useful. On my most recent visit, laden with three full bags of wondrously interesting objet d'arts at bargain cost, I stop at a final table for picking up a small bouquet of pink silk roses and white forget-me-nots priced at a dollar to go in a found, tall and well-aged brass mug. But Herman, as he later introduces himself on request, an older country gentleman with longish white hair, insists instead that I have them for free and, smiling, stuffs the posies intently into one of my bags. How much better and more pleasant can an informal event be than one that ends with free flowers from a stranger in passing? The Flea Markets have been, in part, my way of checking in with the world as it really is beyond the headlines, full of heart-warming encounters and wondrous delights in enlightenment and merchandise. I very much recommend them in this new year.