Johnson County High School coach Randy Smith killed in crash

By Tim Chambers


Monday was a tragic day for Johnson County’s football team and its coaching staff after receiving news just before their junior varsity game with Hampton that assistant coach Randy Smith had been killed in an automobile accident while on his way home from work in Boone back to Johnson County. He was 52.

Randy began his Johnson County football coaching days with the youth league and later moved to the junior high football team helping head coach Matt Bray in 2014. He switched over to the high school three seasons ago where he has been since.

Randy grew up in Elizabethton loving sports and played football at Hampton High School. He was an outstanding quarterback on the team and a pretty good baseball player.

He spent nearly all of his life coaching and working with kids in the Carter and Johnson County area after graduating from high school.

I first met Randy while I was president of the Elizabethton Junior Babe Ruth League. He came to me wanting to coach, and I was glad to have him on board. He did an excellent job there, and it continued for many more years until his death yesterday.

Current assistant football coach Matt Bray praised Randy for the great job that he did.

“He taught me a lot about the defense when he first came and coached middle school,” said Bray. “They kids loved Randy, and he was very knowledgeable about the game.

Current head coach Don Kerley called me on Tuesday morning and told me of Randy’s passing.

“He was a good coach and fun to have around,” said Kerley. “Randy was a great guy and one of a kind.”

Smith had recently been hospitalized with double pneumonia at Ballad Hospital in Elizabethton two weeks ago but was back on the sidelines at Chuckey-Doak last Friday helping coach the defense.

He lived his life helping kids and will definitely be missed by the Johnson County football team. The current senior class is the first group of kids that Smith coached as seventh graders.

He leaves behind his wife Debbie and his children.

Let us all say a prayer for his family and “rest in peace,” Coach Randy. Your football family and I will definitely miss you at Johnson County High School.


End of Story


Pictures: Pic 1: Coach Randy Smith (far right) is pictured with assistant coaches Tom Kerley and Matt Bray after they defeated Unicoi County last year to win the conference championship.


Pic 2: Coach Randy Smith (left) is pictured with Matt Bray during their junior high coaching days at JCMS.


Future of Shady Valley on Johnson County School Board Agenda for Thursday, September 12 see agenda

Staff note: The September School Board meeting will be held in Heritage Hall Theatre at 6 PM due to expected turnout.The public is welcome to attend.
1. Call to Order
2. Roll Call
3. Election of Chairman and Vice-Chair
4. Recognition of Visitors or Delegations / Audience Participation
• Welcome Eddie Pless and Kelly Crain
5. Consent Agenda
Approval of Agenda
Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of August 8, 2019, and the Addendum to the Agenda Items with any additions/corrections necessary. Approve the following amendments:
Approve overnight field trips and trips over 150 miles for the following: Johnson County Middle School, Robotics travel to Brentwood, TN on 11/1/2019 through 3/2020
Approve Lease Agreement Johnson County Board of Education between East Tennessee State University located at 217 Donnelly Street, Mountain City, TN for a $1 from August 1, 2019 to July 31, 2020
Approve contract between Johnson County School System and Freeman Gas, propane pricing at $1.149 per gallon beginning on August 1, 2019 to August 1, 2020 Approve the following 2019-2020 DHA Committee Members:
• Paula Norton
• Dr. Emogene South
• Bridgette Lewis
• Lorie Plank
• Dr. Stephen Long
• Angie Wills
• Edna Miller
• Leon Henley
• Mechelle Arney
Approve the following Management Team for 2019-2020:
• Dr. Stephen Long
• Paula Norton
• Lorie Plank
• Angie Wills
• Dr. Emogene South
• Herbie Adams
• Edna Miller
6. Does Shady Valley Elementary continue to operate as an elementary school after the 2019-2020 school year with Board Members voting with a yes or no to continue operation of Shady Valley Elementary.
7. Any other matters which may duly come before the Board for official action.

City Council takes on list of public requests during monthly meeting

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

During its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the Mountain City TN council addressed a sizable list of requests relating to upcoming events.
One of such requests came from local Cub Scout Pack 9 that requested permission to use Ralph Stout Park for a campout and flag retirement ceremonies in honor of Veterans Day Weekend.
While permission was granted unanimously, the council mentioned that the Pack would be responsible for getting the necessary permits for the campfire, which was wholeheartedly agreed.
The council next faced representative of the Johnson County Trail Association regarding Goose Creek Trail. It was requested that the mowers back off from the creek by about 3-5 feet to allow native vegetation and wildflowers to return. The association also asked for permission to plant a pair of trees which would be donated by the Johnson County Trail Association. The city agreed to these requests and offered for the Public Works Department to help with planting.
Representatives from the newly formed Heritage Square Development Committee then took its turn to explain their request to make their driveway around the back of the area into a one-way direction. It was mentioned that there have been a number of “near misses” when it comes to pedestrians trying to navigate the sometimes hectic parking lot and driveway. It was unanimously decided that this would be a good idea going forward and that the Mountain City Police Department would assist
with proper signage and painting.
City Recorder Sheila Shaw mentioned that because of homeowner concerns and confusion, they are planning a Pre-Construction Meeting to clear up any lingering confusion about the sidewalk construction project along South Main St/Hwy67 near the Health Center.
The Board of Alderman also acknowledged a request from Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor to support a project called “Tennessee Music Pathways.” This project was described as being similar to Virginia’s “Crooked Road” project. It would require permission for two signs to go up in the downtown area to recognize the region’s musical heritage.
After motioning to support this project, Alderman Morrison stated, “Music is our heritage, and we need to preserve it.”

Arts, recreation breathe vitality into tourism success

Alicia Phelps, center, accepted the award on behalf of NETTA from TNHTA President and CEO Rob Mortensen and Chairman of the Board Wayne Tabor. Submited photo

By Tamas Mondovics
Content also contributed

The Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association recently named the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association (NETTA) the state’s Destination Marketing Organization of the Year.
NETTA is a nonprofit tourism agency that serves and supports Johnson, Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties, as well as portions of Southwest Virginia. The organization also serves as one of nine statewide, regional tourism organizations recognized by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
The honor took place during the Stars of the Industry Gala at the Music City Center in Nashville as part of the Tennessee Governors Conference on Hospitality and Tourism September 4-6, 2019.
Tourism is the second-largest economic driver in Tennessee, with Northeast Tennessee generating more than $877 million in direct tourist spending, more than $189 million in payroll while employing nearly 6,900 people, and generating more than $26 million in local sales tax receipts annually.
According to NETTA officials, Johnson County’s role in the association’s success is not without merit.
“This distinction means so much to the areas that Northeast Tennessee Tourism serves,” said NETTA Executive Director Alicia Phelps. “Just last year, Johnson County increased in economic impact due to tourist-related spending to more than $10 million.”
Phelps emphasized that with events such as Long Journey Home, and noted attractions including the Johnson County Center for the Arts and Doe Mountain Recreation Area, the association is “able to tell our story to both visitors and residents in a way that sets us apart from so many other destinations.”
Phelps accepted the award on behalf of NETTA.
“This is the first time we’ve received an award of this magnitude, and it speaks volumes about the story we tell and
the destination in which we live,” she said. “The Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association has had a really big year with several new endeavors that reach audiences across the globe, as plans are underway for additional projects and campaigns. Folks are starting to pay attention to tourism as a major economic engine, and we’re excited to be part of those regional efforts.”
Recently, NETTA orchestrated an Amazon Prime outdoor travel show that is now visible to more than 46 million people worldwide. The regional organization also annually produces a popular magazine and visitor guide, while encompassing a digital reach of 5.4 million people in local and out of market segments. NETTA recently partnered with East Tennessee State University to offer a new professional certification dedicated to hospitality and tourism-related workforce development.
Officials added that during the past three years, “NETTA has seen a 40 percent increase in memberships, a 176 percent increase in net assets, and has increased website visits ( by 1,803 percent. While operating with a minimal budget and one full-time employee, NETTA is the true sense of a resourceful and responsible nonprofit destination marketing organization that exhibits a major impact to the communities and state in which it serves.”

Joco Robos land $25,000 grant

State and local officials stand together to celebrate the monetary contribution to the robotics program.
The schools presented Hill and Lundberg plaques for their service. Left to right: Representative Timothy Hill,
Dr. Stephen Long, Susan Quave, Kasi Dishman, Dalton Sluder, Lauren Patterson, Jonathon Wilcox,
Mayor Mike Taylor, Mischelle Simcox, and Senator Lundberg. Photo by Meg Dickens

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

The Johnson County robotics program has flourished since its genesis in 2016. Both the JCMS and JCHS teams have won a plethora of awards and qualified for both state and world competitions. Their achievements attracted more enthusiasts and students to the program. The JCMS teams doubled in size for the 2019-2020 school year; JCHS added a team to its rosters as well.
It is no shock that these talented youths have garnered government support. State Representative Timothy Hill and State Senator Jon Lundberg bestowed a physical manifestation of this support with a $25,000 state grant, which they presented outside of Johnson County High School on Tuesday, September 3.
“In every conversation, Representative Hill was persistent in asking what we would need to keep this program going and how he could help. As the travel accommodations and competition fees are costly, State Representative Hill stated that he was working on something to help us keep the program going,” said Coach Quave. “He asked questions, he kept in touch, and he persisted. We are so appreciative of his friendship, support, and willingness to support our young engineers as they create and compete in such a challenging atmosphere and make their mark on the world stage of VEX robotics.”
According to Johnson County Schools Secondary Supervisor Dr. Stephen Long, the grant funds will be split evenly between the JCMS and JCHS programs. This money will help with program expenses, including equipment and competitions costs. The Joco Robos will have the materials and funding to continue flourishing.
“We see this as an investment,” Senator Lundberg explained. “Other students are following in their footsteps. These students raise the bar in robotics and are the future leaders in their field.”
JCMS Robotics Coach Susan Quave reports that Representative Hill and Senator Lundberg have been active supporters in the program since its beginning. Representative Hill frequently spoke at competitions and asked for updates every few weeks. Quave states that he passed Tennessee House Resolution 163 in the students’ honor. Representative Hill and Senator Lundberg hand-delivered sealed copies of the resolution to students. This resolution centers on recognizing student excellence.
“People know that it’s going on. People are paying attention,” said Representative Hill. “ Senator Lundberg and I want to make sure this program continues. I will never stop fighting for our students, teachers, and schools. I am proud to support our world-class robotics programs here in Johnson County.”

Art center continues to grow after two years

Government officials along with art enthusiasts, cut the ribbon 2 years ago on the Johnson County Center for the Arts. The art center celebrated its anniversary on August 29 and continues to grow. File photo

By Meg Dickens

August 29 marked two years since the Johnson County Center for the Arts opened its doors. The building transformed from a simple storage area to a cultural town attraction with more than 30 juried artists. The center continually grows in prestige.
Nationally esteemed guest speakers and Executive Director Cristy Dunn’s IGOR acceptance are distinct signs.
The patrons and volunteers welcome the community with the slogan “Art is for everyone!” The center offers classes on painting, drawing, cyanotype printing, filmmaking, robotics, photography, marketing and more.
Classes are on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the spaces fill up quickly. One example is the recent mural group. Locals of all skill levels joined forces to create murals to beautify the area during the Long Journey Home festival, which has its home base at the art center.
“It was the best yet! The weather was perfect, and we got a lot of positive feedback. The mural artists worked so hard, and their murals turned out amazing,” said Executive Director Cristy Dunn about the 2019 Long Journey Home. “Thank you to all the patrons, volunteers, and artists who are part of our community. We invite anyone who hasn’t visited to come by.”
At the Long Journey Home, the center released an extended trailer for its upcoming film project Short Life of Trouble: The Legend of G.B. Grayson with Germain Media in association with Appalachian Memory Keepers. This project is possible through funding from the Tennessee Arts Commission, the East Tennessee Foundation’s Arts Fund, The Johnson County Center for the Arts, Germain Media, Appalachian Memory Keepers, the Rural Arts Project Support Grant, and private donors.
Famous musicians have performed Laurel Bloomery native G.B. Grayson’s music throughout the years. These artists include Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Doc Watson, and the Kingston Trio. Grayson’s music plays all around the world, yet he is relatively unknown. Appalachian music fans may recognize some of his most popular titles which include “Tom Dooley,” “Train 45,” “Handsome Molly,” “Short Life of Trouble,” “Going down the Lee Highway,” “Omie Wise,” “Rose Conley,” “Banks of the Ohio,” and “Little Maggie.”
“Kelley St. Germain, Tristan, Anita, Steve, thank you for your hard work,” said Dunn regarding the film
project. “This is such an important story, and you are presenting it with outstanding artistry and skill. We are amazed!”
The film is part of a project that includes a filmmaking camp, producing this film, and a storytelling tent to film local elders’ stories. The complete film Short Life of Trouble: The Legend of G.B. Grayson is set to premiere in December. Keep an eye on progress and learn more at

Package store building inspection to come first

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

Following the usual opening with prayer and pledge of allegiance, this week’s City Council meeting quickly turned into a confusing quarrel between the legal representation of the proposed ‘2 Sisters” package store and the city attorney.
Although permits were granted at the previous meeting, conditions were placed on those permits, which included having the buildings inspected and passed for occupation resulting in some contention.
Because the wording, the original ordinance “did not specify the need for such inspections.”
To start to the dialog, Alderman Bob Morrison clarified, “Our concern is that our building inspector is not certified in the state of Tennessee.” He added, “Any structural changes need to be made an inspected before we can approve it.”
The attorney representing “2 Sisters” said, “as a part of this process, we have to have that permit to apply to the state ABC. It’s a cart before the hose situation were we need that certificate to move forward.”
Mayor Kevin Parsons commented, “This is all new to us, so if we need to modify that, we may have to.”
In reply, City Attorney George Wright disagreed and said, “We need to have that inspection to move forward.”
City Recorder Sheila Shaw took a turn to add that she spoke to the inspector from Rogersville and “he said he can be here Thursday.”
Vice Mayor Bud Crosswhite cautioned, “I don’t think it’ll all happen on the same day.” He also added, “Don’t be surprised if you have to wait a few days.”
As the back and forth continued the applicant from “2 Sisters” stood up to address the Board of Alderman and said, “I have a question: The city attorney is giving his opinion, and you all are choosing to ignore it?”
She was then quickly asked by her attorney to quiet down and take her seat, which she did.
At the end, not much has changed, including the need for a package store building inspection before permit is given.
The meeting closed with a reminder that the next “Beer Board” Meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 10 at City Hall starting at 5pm.

Welcome Long Journey Home again

Kenny Price, left and Jerry Moses, entertain visitors and participants of the 2019 Long Journey Home tour and festival held last weekend in Mountain City. The four-day musical celebration drew a crowd, while it honored the iconic old-time mountain music style that shaped country music. See more photos on B-6. Photo by Tia Thomas

Family fun for all at the annual Imagination Library Carnival

B.C. Stout and his train are a crowd favorite at the annual Johnson County Imagination Library Carnival in Mountain City. Photo by Bethany Anderson

By Bethany Anderson
Freeleance Writer

The Friends of the Johnson County Library held their annual Imagination Library Carnival this Tuesday evening at the local Methodist Church. The event is popular amongst local preschool and elementary-aged children. This year’s crowd was as big as ever, and all were there looking forward to having a fun time at the annual family-friendly event.
Vendors and volunteers included the Johnson County High School Marching Band Boosters, Hux-Lipford, and other community organizations and businesses. The game tickets were all affordably priced at 25 cents each to encourage attendance and participation, and free drink tickets were provided as well.
Volunteers were eager to welcome all to the carnival and were excited to share in their love of reading. Free books were given out along with other carnival prizes. The outdoor space was all about games, rides, and snacks, while the indoor area was all about the silent auction and raffle.
The inflatables, including a bounce house and an obstacle course, were a big hit with all ages as was the mini train. Smiling faces were seen all around as parents and kids alike had fun playing games, eating snacks, and enjoying the fun community event.
The Imagination Library was founded by East Tennessee native Dolly Parton to promote literacy for young children throughout the state. The foundation provides free books for children from birth to age 5.
The Friends of the Johnson County Library’s goal is to get 100 percent of Johnson County’s children in that age bracket registered to receive these books in the hopes of promoting “the joy of reading.” According to Event organizer Leni Smith, so far this year, 80 percent are registered with an additional 15 children registered at this year’s carnival.
The annual carnival is the organization’s biggest fundraiser, but Smith made clear that the purpose of the event is to promote literacy in Johnson County. “We want kids to associate libraries and reading with fun,” Smith enthusiastically said.
For more information about the Imagination Library or the Friends of the Johnson County Library organization, contact the Johnson County Library at (423) 727-6544.

Chopped, lopped and dropped; Vegetation mutilated in nearby National Forest

By Katie Lamb,
Freelance Writer

“It looks like a tornado came through here,” said Brenda Rowlette, Backbone Rock Camp Hostess when asked her thoughts on recently downed vegetation lining Shady Avenue through Cherokee National Forest.
Backbone Rock Campground is a small campground situated along the beautiful Beaver Dam Creek at an elevation of 2,100 feet in northern Johnson County. The campground is popular with those visiting Backbone Rock, a tunnel originally blasted through the rock ridge for the railway. The creek side location with popular swim area and lush forest surroundings make Backbone Rock Campground particularly desirable during hot summer months.
Rowlette said Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) was responsible for the mess. “Splinters were flying everywhere,” she adds.
Various Johnson County roads and highways have been massively littered with severed plant life including trees, trunks, stumps, and debris. A representative from Johnson County TDOT, who asked not to be identified, confirmed Rowlette in saying, “Yep, that was us. That’s what the machine does. There’s nothing else we can do.”
While trying to improve roadways and shoulders adjacent to roads, TDOT has created an aesthetic monstrosity. A pleasurable, peaceful drive through National Forest, and other parts of the county have become an experience that makes visitors and residents gasp.
Mike Taylor, Johnson County Mayor, said, “They have done the same thing around Watauga Lake, chopping down beautiful Red Buds. It looks awful. I think they will regret that.”
Local resident, Matthew Newman expressed, “It looks like a bomb went off.” Brian Zier, a local and frequent motorist through Backbone Rock, says, “It is horrific. It’s like a natural disaster came through here. If I were responsible, I would be embarrassed.”
When asked if the devastating eyesore were to be cleaned up, the unidentified TDOT representative said, “No. We are leaving it there to go back to nature.”
Brian Ramsey, TDOT District Supervisor said he was unaware of the situation at Backbone Rock and stated, “For safety issues, we remove encroaching vegetation near highways.” Ramsey is now looking into the matter.
Information about Backbone Rock campground for retreats and other events, go to

Johnson Co. awarded emergency food and shelter funds

Press Release

Johnson County has been awarded State Set-Aside Funds made available through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program.
Johnson County has been chosen to receive $3,683.00 to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the county.
The selection was made by National Board that is chaired by the U.S Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and consist of representatives from American Red Cross; Catholic Charities, USA; National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; The Jewish Federations of North America; The Salvation Army; and United Way Worldwide. The Local Board was charged to distribute funds appropriated by Congress to help expand the capacity of food and shelter programs in high-need areas around the country.
A Local Board made up of local representatives will determine how the funds awarded to Johnson County are to be distributed among the emergency food and shelter program run by local service agencies in the area. The Local Board is responsible for recommending agencies to receive these funds and any additional funds made available under this phase of the program.
Under the terms of the grant from the National Board, local agencies chosen to receive funds must: 1) be private voluntary non-profits or units of government, 2) be eligible to receive Federal Funds, 3) have an accounting system, 4) practice nondiscrimination, 5) have demonstrated the capability to deliver emergency food and/or shelter programs, and 6) if they are a private voluntary organization, have a voluntary board. Qualifying agencies are urged to apply.
Public or private agencies interested in applying for Emergency Food and Shelter Program funds must submit a written application that includes the amount of EFSP funding requested by program area (food, rent, utilities, etc.) to Local EFSP Board, P.O. Box 46, Kingsport, TN 37662. The deadline for applications to be received is September 13, 2019.

September School board meeting to center on Shady

By Meg Dickens

The Johnson County School Board is now set to discuss Shady’s future, hear from the public, and discuss possible steps to save the school at its September meeting.
Expected numbers are above the meeting room’s capacity so the conference will be held at Heritage Hall Theatre on Thursday, September 12 at 6 pm. The School Board is staying relatively silent about the upcoming meeting.
“All I can tell you is that it’s a board decision,” said Director of School Mischelle Simcox when asked for a comment. “The meeting will be held at Heritage Hall at 6:00 pm and Shady is on the agenda.
The region has been abuzz since the Johnson County School Board’s called meeting on Thursday, June 13, which led to Shady Valley Elementary becoming a K-5 institution for the 2019-2020 school year and public outrage.
Advocate Ashley Worlock called a meeting of her own at Shady Valley on Friday, July 26 to garner community support to fight against the Board’s decision. Public outcry has caught the attention of multiple news outlets and possibly the state of Tennessee; currently, there has been no contact from the state. Now Shady Valley Elementary is facing possible closure.
“The state can easily come along and say Johnson County you have no choice,” said School Board Chairman Howard Carlton at the
August board meeting. “The more public this becomes, the more pressure that is coming down on us to make a decision.”
Concerned parents met at Raceway Restaurant on Monday, August 26 to discuss strategy. They plan to petition the Johnson County School Board to form an exploratory committee, which will pursue options that they believe would be beneficial.
Stay updated on community actions on the Shady Valley Community Watch Facebook page @ShadyValley421.
All concerned parties are welcome to attend the Johnson County School Board meeting. Any media coverage must be approved by Heritage Hall Theatre Director of Risk Management Chase McGlamery. Keep an eye out for more details in the Wednesday, September 18, edition of The Tomahawk.

City parks to see some upgrades

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Families and children may notice extensive upgrades at the city’s parks in the near future thanks to a Parks and Recreation Department initiative aimed at providing the best possible structures.
According to Gary Phillips, new equipment has been ordered to be installed at Cunningham Park and Ralph Stout Park. The price tag would shock people who are used to buying relatively affordable backyard equipment at big-box stores, but the city’s equipment has to be industrial strength since hundreds of children will use it for years to come, and it also has to adhere to rigorous safety standards.
“Playground equipment is unbelievably expensive,” said Phillips. “We have tried to purchase pieces to get the most bang for our buck to replace aging playground structures at the city’s most popular parks.” The city has ordered four pieces including a silo climber and some new see-saws. “The playground equipment process began a couple of years back when we determined some of our playground structures were out of date by today’s standards,” Phillips said.
Another anticipated upgrade will make the restrooms at the municipal pool more usable. While there are working showers available in the restrooms, it has been several years since there was hot water at the pool. Several local leaders were able to secure a grant through the department of health with the support of the County Mayor’s office, to purchase non-skid flooring for the pool areas and bathroom, install hot water to the bathroom’s shower area, and install new ventilation fans in the changing area.
“The public pool in Mountain City is one of the most heavily utilized community assets in the county during the summer months,” said Ashley Davies, MPH, CHES, Healthy Development Coordinator, Tennessee Department of Health, Northeast Regional Health Office, “and the surrounding amenities at the park are used consistently throughout the year. The new playground equipment and updated pool flooring and shower areas will encourage increased physical activity at the pool and playground facility and will also enhance safety and hygiene practices.” According to Angie Stout, Public Health Educator at the Johnson County Health Department, this funding will be a catalyst for future improvements and will open up other city and county funds to be spent on improvements. “Along with the rest of Tennessee, Johnson County deals with high levels of obesity, poverty, and lack of physical activity,” said Stout. “The city pool is a hub for youth recreation and is also the site of water aerobics classes for adults/seniors.” Conversations with the county mayor, the county health educator, and the county health department director determined this location for the project.
“Having a strong Parks and Recreation system in a town the size of Mountain City is vital,” Phillips said. “A strong Parks and Recreation system appeals to families interested in moving to town, and plays a role in the retention of existing residents.”
The natural beauty of the area is a significant draw, and when families ask what there is to do, Mountain City is continuing to meet that need by providing new and improved recreational opportunities.
Many families enjoy the pool and playground equipment at Cunningham Park and Ralph Stout Park in Mountain City. Several local leaders were able to secure a grant through the state department of health with the support of the County Mayor’s office, are planning to purchase some new playground equipment and update the restrooms at the municipal pool.

Annual Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention draws large crowd

Musicians swap songs and stories Saturday as they enjoy the 94th Annual Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention in Laurel Bloomery TN. East Tennessee has long been a land of deep musical traditions. Nearly 100 years ago, in 1925, the famous Mountain City Fiddler’s Convention attracted an enormous crowd including dozens of musicians skilled in southern Appalachian fiddling. Submitted photo

By Tamas Mondovics

The anticipation of a great turnout for the 94th Annual Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention was not without merit as organizers prepared to welcome music lovers from near and far.
While the weather threatened to put a dent into the plans, it was not enough to deter the crowd of over 500 festival attendees that filled the campground at the Old Mill Music Park in Laurel Bloomery, TN, last weekend.
“This year was once again a success,” said Amanda Poteat about the event scheduled Friday, August 23 and Saturday, 24, 2019.
Competition categories again included Band, Fiddle, Twin Fiddle, Banjo, Autoharp, Mandolin, Bass Fiddle, Dulcimer, Guitar, Folk Song, Vocal Duet, Harmonica, Adult Dance, Youth Dance, Youth Band, Youth Fiddle, Youth Banjo, and Youth Guitar.
Poteat thanked the members of the 2nd District Fire Department Explorers Program for provided food during the two-day event.

1st Place: Ole Time Serenaders
2nd Place: Gap Civil
3rd Place: Slate Mountain Ramblers

1st Place: Adrian Shepherd-Powell
2nd Place: Emily Schaad
3rd Place: Asa Nelson

Twin Fiddle
1st Place: Joe McDuff and
Willow Dillon
2nd Place: Cody Bauer and
Deb Shebish
3rd Place: Chloe Pennington and Peyton Gentry

1st Place: Hanna Traynham
2nd Place: Trish Fore
3rd Place: Marsha Todd

1st Place: Steve Lewis
2nd Place: Wayne Dye
3rd Place: Brandon Graybeal

1st Place: Josh Bearman
2nd Place: Molly Yates
3rd Place: Wayne Dye

Bass Fiddle
1st Place: Sadie Yates
2nd Place: Stacy Boyd

1st Place: Penny Kilby
2nd Place: Art Lang
3rd Place: Vickie Boyd

Folk Song
1st Place: Elsa Howell
2nd Place: Nora Weatherby
3rd Place: Susan Pepper

Vocal Duet
1st Place: Molly Stouten and Alan Teichman
2nd Place: Matt Kinman and Kenneth Johnson
3rd Place: Molly Yates and
Sadie Yates

1st Place: Eddie Ogle
2nd Place: William Bird
3rd Place: Glen Zuhlke

Adult Flatfoot
1st Place: Michael Motley
2nd Place: Becky Boyd
3rd Place: Brett Morris

Youth Flatfoot
1st Place: Lindy Gladson
2nd Place: Hawk
3rd Place: Nora Shepherd-Powell

Youth Band
1st Place: The Thrown Togethers

Youth Folk Song
1st Place: McGuire Sisters

Youth Banjo
1st Place: Nicholas Wingo
2nd Place: Logan Thompson
3rd Place: Hazel Pasley

Youth Guitar
1st Place: Karlee Hamm
2nd Place: Nicholas Wingo
3rd Place: Hawk

Local scouts to honor veterans

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

Mountain City’s local Pack 9 is planning an event for Veterans Day weekend to honor veterans and to invite others to join scouts.
They are planning a local overnight campout to take place Saturday, November 9 through Sunday morning, November 10.

During the evening and throughout the night, scouts will be conducting flag retirement ceremonies to retire tattered or damaged flags properly.

Also planned is an outdoor church service for the morning of the 10th, to close out the event.
The scouts are meeting with the town of Mountain City Board of Alderman at their next meeting to settle on an appropriate location.

They will be requesting their first location choice, which is the area near the Veterans Memorial at Ralph Stout Park, but they have an alternate location in mind in case that is not deemed suitable.

That meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 3 at 6:30 pm at City Hall.
The scouts are working with local veterans organizations to make the event both appropriate and memorable for all.

They hope to honor our nation’s flag and our veterans while teaching our local youth to do the same. The event will be open to the public, and all are welcome to attend.

Registration is open for Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, so the event is also meant to be a “taste of scouting” for those who may be interested.
If you have a flag you’d like to retire properly, please bring it to the event or contact Pack 9. For those who want to join in but do not have camping equipment, simply request use and the scouts may be able to provide it for the event.
More information and updates will follow soon.

Future of Doe Mountain Rec. Authority in question

By Katie Lamb,
Freelance Writer

A Sunset hearing has been scheduled before the Joint Government Operations Committee in Nashville, for the Tennessee Legislature to review the performance of the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority (DMRA).
Scheduled for Tuesday, September 17, 2019, the Committee will in part decide whether to continue the Authority beyond June 30, 2020.
“The mission of the DMRA is to transform Doe Mountain into a safe, fun, family-oriented outdoor recreational destination that promotes local economic development while conserving and preserving its beauty, woods, water, and wildlife,” said Tate Davis, Executive Director for DMRA. “As DMRA Executive Director, I personally believe the Authority is fulfilling its mission.”
Doe Mountain is an 8,600-acre, densely forested mountain located just southwest of Mountain City, Tennessee. The Nature Conservancy and the state of Tennessee collaborated to purchase the mountain to be parkland open to the public. The acquisition helps to conserve one of the largest remaining blocks of forest in private ownership in the Southern Blue Ridge region.
The mountain forests and its environs harbor some 40 rare species of plants and animals as well as plentiful species such as deer, turkey, and black bear. The summit of Doe Mountain is approximately 3,900 feet above sea level. Doe Mountain now accommodates hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and low-impact ATV use. The state of Tennessee manages the land under the direction of the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority board. The Nature Conservancy has a seat on the board,”
The Sunset review process evaluates whether or not a state agency should be abolished. The idea is to cut excess government spending by holding state agencies accountable. Recommendations by Sunset typically aim to eliminate wasteful programs or programs that serve similar functions in multiple agencies.
“The State gave DMRA $300K to be used in three years, $100K per year, for 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, but the State held back the final $100K for this season,” Davis said. “I do not see any benefits of closing the facility down.”
Johnson County Mayor, Mike Taylor, agreed when he said, “It troubles me immensely when I hear that a positive future for Doe Mountain may not be the case. It is paramount to the economic future of this county, and region that Doe Mountain is able to continue to thrive. We currently are experiencing steady growth in the number of visitors to our county, many of those participating in our local economy.”
Taylor emphasized his belief in the evidence that growth was a factor in our county’s recent ability to balance a budget this year, without a tax increase and that as a member of the Doe Mountain Board, he has seen the staff go above and beyond what I thought possible, to overcome the challenges faced daily.
“We are now beginning to see the fruits of such efforts,” he said. “My plea for this Mountain, County, Region, and State is that we don’t turn back, but that we follow the lead and vision of our new Governor Lee, and push forward with Rural Tourism.”
DMRA has received grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to rehabilitate existing trails, to construct new trails, and to restore the historic Kettlefoot Fire Lookout Tower and it also works with the Regional Trails Program (RTP) for trail improvements, Phase 1.
The Authority completed an application for a Phase 2 RTP grant requesting up to $1 Million in funds for additional improvements, which has been accepted by the Tennessee Department
of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and is currently pending before the Federal Highway Administration.
The Authority completed the Fiscal Year 2019 Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (TDTD) marketing grant at the end of June. The grant assisted with social media marketing and undoubtedly helped boost visitors to Doe Mountain.
The Authority now plans to participate in another marketing grant for the Fiscal Year 2020 recently awarded to the Johnson County government.
“This month will already fall in our top 10 best ever,” Davis said. “I am excited about our future, and I am amazed at the outpouring of support from our people, our businesses, our volunteers, and our visitors. I want to thank everyone for the
hard work, and all of the stress endured the past few weeks.”
Davis believes that the project will emerge from a crucible of adversity to find new strength and set new goals along a journey to truly become “one of the most spectacular parks anywhere in Tennessee, Appalachia and eventually America.”
For more information about Doe Mountain Recreation Authority contact the office at 423-291-1598 or email

Package Store permits approved

By Bethany Anderson
Freelance Writer

The Town of Mountain City Board of Alderman held a public Work Session, during which the board unanimously approved two package store applications.
Alderman, Bob Morrison at their previous meeting on August 6, requested the work session so that the board may more thoroughly review the applications and proposed locations.
The two applications considered were from Johnson County local, Tom Stanley, and Florida native Robert Blackwell.
Stanley’s proposed location is a building on South Shady Street in Mountain City that formerly housed a skating rink.
Blackwell’s proposed location is in the Pioneer Shopping Center between Pablano’s Restaurant and Fred’s.
Both applications were granted with a unanimous vote, with the stipulation that they pass their upcoming building inspections and are deemed “insurable.”
Before starting, the board acknowledging that City Attorney George Write was momentarily absent and would be joining the meeting later. Then the meeting officially started with Mayor Kevin Parsons explaining to those present that this was a “Work Session” requested at the previous City Council meeting to go over the package store applicants.
Morrison spoke first asking, “Is there any problem with the applications submitted?”
Parsons replied, “I think we just need to make sure that they both meet the qualifications.”
Alderman Jerry Jordon added, “I know that one of them didn’t meet the set-back requirement.”
City Recorder Sheila Shaw replied, “That was discussed at the Planning Commission meeting, and it was decided that it would be ‘grandfathered’ in.”
There was more discussion about the fact that existing buildings are considered “grandfathered” in to be exempt from the town’s regulations as to how far from the road buildings are to be set back. Then conversation quickly shifted to the inspection status of the building that formerly housed a skating rink and is now owned by Tom Stanley.
Vice-Mayor Bud Crosswhite stated, “We had that building inspected, and it wasn’t structurally sound.”
Stanley replied, “Since we’ve owned the property for the last eight months, we’ve addressed those issues.” He also added, “The issues reported either have been corrected or are in the process of being corrected.”
After brief discussions among the board as to if anyone else had any concerns or questions, Mayor Parsons called an end to the Work-Study. He then called to order and reconvened their previous City Council meeting from August 6, to make the final decision as to whether or not to grant the submitted permits for package stores.
There was then the mention of previous discussions as to whether or not both permits would be granted or just one. To which Alderman Lawrence Keeble stated, “I think that we have two permits to give, and competition is good for the soul.”
Alderman Morrison said, “I agree and would make a motion to pass this.”
After some brief discussions about the fact that the City Attorney was not yet present, the board moved forward, and both applications were granted with a unanimous vote.
Mayor Parsons then acknowledged that most present to observe the meeting was probably there to hear that decision, so he explained that since a decision had been made, they might feel free to go at that time if they wished. Most present, including the applicants and their attorneys and supporters, chose to step outside.
City Attorney George Wright then entered and joined the meeting in progress. At that time, the applicants hurriedly re-entered the building and took their seats to listen in.
Wright took his place with the board and joined the meeting in progress. He then said, “2 Sisters is ready to go, but Mr. Stanley has that building that I was told was uninsurable.”
Vice-Mayor Crosswhite then explained, “Well, we’ve already issued it to him.”
Wright replied, “Well, so long as he brings everything up to code then.” Adding, “The city doesn’t have a licensed inspector though, so you’ll have to get someone in here to do that.”
Blackwell (applicant of the proposed “2 Sisters” package store) then asked, “So we aren’t going to get our permit until we’re inspected?”
Shaw replied, “According to the ordinance, no.”
There was much discussion as to whether that would require a city inspector to approve any changes. But it was mentioned that Jesse Compton (who is listed as “Building Inspector” on the town government’s website) is not yet a licensed inspector, so the town would need to bring in an outside inspector who is licensed.
Blackwell then asked, “So, I can’t just have Jesse do it?”
Crosswhite stated, “I’d rather not use Jesse,” adding, “Someone might make a claim that we passed or failed someone for personal reasons.”
Wright then said, “We don’t have a certified inspector in town, so we’d have
to bring someone from
Carter County or someplace else.”
The issue was discussed further, and Wright then clarified that the permits were granted, but with the stipulation that they pass their
upcoming building inspections and are deemed “insurable.”
Blackwell stated, “We’re just very happy to move forward and very grateful to the city.”

Package Store Permits Approved

By Bethany Anderson

Freelance Writer


The Town of Mountain City Board of Alderman held a public Work Session, during which the board unanimously approved two package store applications.

The work session was requested by Bob Morrison at their previous meeting on August 6, so that the board may more  have time to thoroughly review the applications and proposed locations.

The two applications considered were from Johnson County local, Tom Stanley and from Florida native Robert Blackwell. 

Stanley’s proposed location is a building on south Shady Street in Mountain City that formerly housed a skating rink.

Blackwell’s proposed location is in the Pioneer Shopping Center between Pablano’s Restaurant and Fred’s.

Both applications were granted with a unanimous vote, with the stipulation that they pass their upcoming building inspections and are deemed “insurable”.

Blackwell stated, “We’re just very happy to move forward and very grateful to the city.”

Full story to follow in the next print edition of the Tomahawk newspaper on Wednesday, August 28.

Community to celebrate “Legacies” Long Journey Home

Members of the Johnson County 2019 Mural Workshops are hard at work creating a series of murals to be unveiled during the 2019 Long Journey Home music festival held annually on Labor Day weekend in Mountain City, TN. The project is led by Cristy Dunn and is funded by the Arts Fund of the Tennessee Arts Commission. Submitted photos

By Tamas Mondovics

Another year has gone by circling back to one of the community’s most enjoyable annual festivals, Long Journey Home.
According to event organizer Cristy Dunn, “just about as far northeast in Tennessee as you can get, you’ll find a county that is half Cherokee National Forest and half Watauga Lake. Nestled within those hills, lies Mountain City (appropriately named), and each year a celebration takes place honoring the iconic Old-Time mountain music style that shaped country music as we know it.”
Under the appropriate theme “Legacies” the four-day Long Journey Home Tour and Festival spans over Labor Day weekend, August 29, through September 1.
A whole lot of fun is promised to begin on Thursday with a kickoff dinner and square dance with authentic Old Time fiddling.
On Friday evening, the much-anticipated and loved Buskin’ on Main Street brings the small town to life with music, friends, and good eating.
The newest Appalachian Memory Keepers Film, Short Life of Trouble: The Legend of G.B. Grayson, will premiere Friday at dusk. Grayson, whose short career produced The Ballad of Tom Dooley, Train 45, Handsome Molly, and about 40 other songs that became the standards of Bluegrass and early country music.
On Saturday, August 31, the Musical Heritage Homecoming Tour begins at The Old Mill Music Park, where the Kody Norris Show will perform more music from G.B. Grayson.
The next stop is in downtown Mountain City, where the new mural series, “Legacies” will be unveiled.
“This new mural is the sixth in a series that honors the musical heritage of Johnson County,” Dunn said.
Dunn explained that seven teams, all part of the 2019 Mural Workshops, are currently creating the seven murals. The murals will be installed on the side of
Farmers State Bank and unveiled during Long Journey Home on Labor Day weekend.
“Each of the seven murals represents an influential album recorded by a Johnson County Musician, including House of the Rising Sun, Handsome Molly, Train 45, Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s, and The Ballad of Finley Preston. The project is funded by the Arts Fund of the Tennessee Arts Commission,” she said.
Guests are encouraged to bring a quilt or lawn chair and be ready to take a trip back in time as you experience Clarence “Tom” Ashley’s signature clawhammer banjo style played right on his front porch by Kenny Price, who learned from Tom himself.
Saturday’s tour concludes, as always, at the Fred Price Homeplace, nestled high in the mountains. The Piney Woods Boys will perform selections from the album, Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s, Doc Watson’s first album, now on the National Recording Registry, followed by an open community jam.
Long Journey Home closes with a traditional gospel Sunday Singin’ at historic Heritage Hall in downtown Mountain City on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“It’s about as real as it gets,” Dunn said adding, “If you were wondering whether authentic Appalachia still exists, look no further.”
For more information, please contact Cristy Dunn at 423-957-6346 or Evelyn Cook at 423-727-8700 or visit

Hess takes what others no longer need and shares with those that do

Ronnie Hess gets help from wife, Guyla, and Molly each week. For the past several years, Hess has helped the Tri-State Children’s Home and the Haven of Rest Rescue Mission, both in Bristol, Tennessee, by volunteering and donating money he makes from selling various items donated Photo by Jill Penley

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writers

When Ronnie Hess moved to Johnson County, he brought his sense of volunteerism and compassion along, and after being here some time, he has not only recognized some glaring needs in the communities that make up the county, but also the lack of coordination of available services and resources.
“There are generous folks all around,” said Hess. “They just don’t know who needs help and how to go about doing it.” That’s where Hess comes in. Hess, who once drove a truck hauling explosives and chemicals, now considers himself a “picker” who now spends most days either accepting donations for auctions and flea markets or selling his treasures to donate the proceeds to local charities and families in need.
“The Lord has blessed me,” said Hess, “and I love trying to be a blessing to others.” The process, as he explains it, is simple. “People donate items, and I set up at auctions, flea markets, and sales so I can share the rewards and meet new
For the past several years, Hess has helped the Tri-State Children’s Home and the Haven of Rest Rescue Mission, both in Bristol, Tennessee, by volunteering and donating the money he makes from selling various items donated. “When it comes to helping people,” explains Hess, “it is really true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Hess, who has always enjoyed talking to people, has an eye for spotting something of value. He once purchased a storage locker that contained a chest stuffed with audiotapes belonging to a Capt. J.H. Caldwell. Hess made it his personal mission to locate the family that the chest belonged to, in case the tapes contained sentimental value.
He has accepted appliances, auto parts, pool tables, furniture, electronics, and even an electric wheelchair. “If I have an item that would be helpful to someone,” said Hess, “I just give it to them and explain it was made possible by the generosity of loving neighbors; otherwise, I sell what I can and use the proceeds to help who and where I can.”
The spirit of benevolence will remain alive and well in Johnson County as long as “Ronnie Dale” is here.