“A Historic Tour through Cherokee Lands” at Red Clay State Historic Park
June 19th, 2014

(Red Clay is the site of the last seat of the Cherokee Nation before the removal in 1838. Park Manager Erin Medley says the park is to the Cherokee Nation what Washington D.C. is to Americans.)

The other day Jenni and I had the great honor of visiting Red Clay State Historic Park in Cleveland as an exhibitor for its first teacher workshop, “A Historic Tour through Cherokee Lands.” Having grown up in Chattanooga, an area saturated in Cherokee history, I can honestly say that my education on the topic was seriously lacking. Naturally, I was excited to get out of the office and play at the park, but I was even more excited to see Red Clay taking initiative on instructing local teachers in a topic so unrecognized in our school systems.

(We got to be "table neighbors" with our good friend Gerald Hodge, the executive director of the Tennessee Overhill. Great display, Gerald!)

The moment we drove into the park, I knew it was going to be a great day—the sun was shining and, unlike the week of Riverbend, there was no sign of rain in sight. With beautiful weather and a great view of the park from our porch-side table, Jenni and I were ready to begin a day of learning.

The morning portion of the workshop featured two outstanding lectures about Cherokee culture. The first, given by Dr. Michael Toomey of Lincoln Memorial University, discussed the three major impacts of the European invasion into Cherokee lands. As an associate professor of history and the chair of the Department of Humanities and Fine Arts at Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Toomey was a joy to listen to and his lesson had a lot of great information that I was completely unaware of. For example, did you know that in order to remain on Cherokee lands the European settlers had to . . . oh, wait . . . spoilers. :)

The second session was given by genealogist and researcher for Cherokee Genealogy Services Anita Finger-Smith. Her lecture, “A Walk through Our Historic Landscape,” was a perfect lesson on significant Cherokee sites in our region that teachers can take their students to for field trips. With suggestions such as the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park in Birchwood and the Sequoya Birthplace Museum (one of our fellow exhibitors) in Vonore, Anita had some great tips on fun and educational places to take students.

(On our tour we learned that sleepy huts were built by the Cherokee, but not for them. The tribe would rent these out to travelers passing through. The logs were placed with large spaces between them so the Cherokee could spy on the visitors and make sure they weren't tricking them. Sadly, many did.)

After the morning sessions, teachers were invited to eat a catered lunch and peruse the many exhibitor tables for reading material on Cherokee culture. Along with ourselves, some of our fellow exhibitors were the Tennessee Trail of Tears Association and Tennessee Overhill. Teachers were also treated to a special sampling of authentic Native Cherokee cuisine that was prepared by the Native American Services of Tennessee. Although I wasn’t able to try them personally, I heard fantastic things about the traditional treats.

As much as I loved the lectures, I have to say my absolute favorite part of the workshop was the guided tour of the grounds by Park Manager Erin Medley. Not only was it great to get out on the hollowed lands of the former Cherokee Nation’s capital, but getting the chance to listen to Erin talk about the history behind the land was phenomenal. If you ever come to Red Clay, make a point to talk with Erin or Jane Switzer, Erin’s right-hand park ranger. Their passion for their job is apparent in everything they do and say about the park and will definitely make you excited about Cherokee history. Here are some pictures from the tour:

(This is Blue Hole Spring, an underwater spring that was used by the Cherokee as the main water source for council meetings. Though it may look small, the spring measures up to 14 feet deep!)

(After having to cut down this 7-part tree because of safety precautions, Red Clay brought in Cherokee artist John Grant to carve the masks representing the seven clans of the Cherokee tribe. The clans are [in no particular order]: Wolf, Deer, Bird, Paint, Long Hair, Wild Potato, and Blue.)

(Seasonal Interpretive Ranger Thomas Anderson and Park Ranger Jane Switzer demonstrated how to prepare and shoot flintlock rifles. It was a blast. . . literally.)

(Thomas also demonstrated how to shoot a blow dart. Man, is he a great shot! I got to try my hand at it and, though I hit my target, I cannot imagine hunting with one of these things.)

The workshop wrapped up with a final lecture from Kathi Littlejohn on Cherokee myths and legends. Kathi used her experience as a Cherokee Legend Teller to instruct teachers on different ways to incorporate traditional Cherokee stories into the classroom. Though she will not be present for the second workshop in July, Freeman Owle, another esteemed Cherokee story teller, will take her place to teach on this important topic.

If there is one thing I learned from our trip to Red Clay it’s that Cherokee culture is deserving of more than the one Native American day I had in second grade. Though sitting in teepees while wearing feather headbands is fun, our Cherokee roots in southeast Tennessee go so much farther than that, and I’m so glad that Red Clay is finally stepping out to lead in this cultural awareness.

The next workshop at Red Clay will be July 15. The workshop is open to public, private, and home school teachers of grades K-12 and is only $30 to attend, which goes toward activities, lunch, and training materials. Registration information can be found at http://friendsofredclay.org/.

Also be sure to out Red Clay State Historic Park on Facebook to keep up with special events, such as the Cherokee Heritage Festival going on the first weekend in August. This year Michelle Hicks, principal Chief of the Eastern Band, will be present so it’s definitely something you don’t want to miss!


Red Clay State Historic Park

1140 Red Clay Park Road SW

Cleveland, Tenn. 37311







Posted by Gianetta Reno   |  0 Comment(s)  |  Leave a Comment

Southeast Tennessee: Chilhowee Gliderport
June 16th, 2014

This weekend I went on an adventure above the clouds and the scenic landscape of Polk County in a glider plane with the Chilhowee Gliderport. After passing the gliderport a number of times while driving on Hwy 411, I finally decided it was time to give it a try. While soaring in a motorless plane seemed to go against my better judgment, it is a safe and breathtaking thrill that everyone should experience. The Chilhowee Gliderport is located n Benton, Tennessee and sets the perfect backdrop for glider rides. Sarah Kelly Arnold took over the gliderport around ten years ago, but it has been in operation since the 1970s. After speaking with Sarah, we found that she has flown for Team USA and has even taken home a bronze metal. I was feeling safer already.

It was then time to strap in and hit the sky. Naturally, I brought my sister along to keep me safe, so we squeezed in the back of the glider and were ready for action.

Once the hatch was closed we were towed by a Pawnee towplane up to 5,000 feet into the sky. When we hit the sweet spot I pulled the lever and released us from the towplane.

After releasing from the tow plane we glided around the sky for around 20 more minutes. I'll let the photos do the talking..

Coming in for a landing....


Overall, the experience was amazing! A big thanks goes out to the friendly staff at Chilhowee Gliderport and Jim Caldwell for setting up the ride. For more information on the Chilhowee Gliderport visit http://chilhowee.com/rides_about.html or check out the Travel Southeast Tennessee mobile app!



Posted by Melissa Mortimer   |  0 Comment(s)  |  Leave a Comment

Southeast Tennessee: Farm & Barn Wedding Venues in Southeast Tennessee
May 5th, 2014

Farm-themed weddings are at the top of today’s wedding trends, featuring rustic charms such as hay bales covered in burlap and mason jars wrapped in twine. Even couples who didn’t grow up in the country are jumping on the hay-wagon and adding a bit of Southern charm to their “I Do’s.”

Gone away are the days of cookie-cutter glitz and glamor. Instead, more couples are opting for a more casual way to celebrate their union. According to the Bridal Association of America, 35 percent of all weddings in 2012 were held outdoors.

Kelly Brown, co-owner of Homespun Parties and Events in Chattanooga, said she is excited to see the rustic-style trend getting more recognition and growing in popularity.

“Rustic weddings appeal to a broad age range,” Brown says. “They appeal to anyone who wants to step outside the norm.”

The average wedding, according to the Agricultural Marketing Research Center, costs up to $24,000. Couples that choose outdoor venues can cut costs considerably.

Farm weddings showcase a type of simplicity that can only be found in the country. The barn atmosphere allows guests to disconnect from their busy lives and focus on the natural beauty around them.

“I think couples are looking for something that lends itself to a more fun, party atmosphere rather than a reception hall,” Brown says.

What better place to create this fun, unplugged atmosphere than in the beautiful countryside surrounding Chattanooga. This region is home to a variety of farm and barn wedding venues:


(Photo: Black Fox Farms)
Black Fox Farms
2724 Varnell Road
Cleveland, TN 37311

Black Fox Farms in Cleveland offers a 130’ by 33’ barn that seats up to 250 people. The barn, situated on the grounds of a nursery, can be decorated by the bride the week of the wedding with fresh handpicked flowers and shrubs. Services include setup and take down of all seating, and a shuttle is provided to take guests from the designated parking lot to the ceremony area. Pricing for this venue varies between $2,500 and $3,500 depending on the time of year.


(Photo: Fillauer Lake House)
Fillauer Lake House
Fillauer Lake House Road
Cleveland, TN 37312

The Fillauer Lake House of Cleveland features a gorgeous country property that includes a large white mansion and a traditional red barn where couples can tie the knot. The 1888 colonial-style house is surrounded by a spacious lawn, with a gazebo, patio, water fountain and stone bridge. The barn has plank floors and classic brass chandeliers. Pricing for this venue ranges between $1,200 and $2,800.


(Photo: Kenney Photography)
The Barn at Drewia Hill
16703 Andy Thomas Road
Sale Creek, Tennessee 37373

The Barn at Drewia Hill in Sale Creek can seat up to 250 people inside a luxurious vintage barn, which sits in the middle of an open field atop a hill overlooking the rural Sale Creek landscape. Across from the barn is a beautiful peach orchard that couples can use for outdoor photos when the trees bloom in the spring. Pricing for this facility begins at $1,300 and includes many decoration options.


(Photo: Hidden View at Lee Family Farm)
Hidden View at Lee Family Farm
16868 Downey View Drive
Sale Creek, TN 37373

Hidden View at Lee Family Farm in Sale Creek features a large customizable barn for couples looking for an elegant, yet comfortable wedding location. The barn is surrounded by gardens and offers a secret view of the gorgeous Tennessee landscape. Rental pricing for Hidden View starts at $2,500.


(Photo: Laurelwood)
657 Kell Ridge Road
Signal Mountain, TN 37377

Laurelwood on Signal Mountain offers views of a pasture containing a small herd of llamas. The perennial gardens surrounding the venue are perfect for outdoor photographs, and a stunning pipe organ provides an elegant gothic-inspired aura to the ceremony space. Pricing for this facility starts at $4,000, which includes the use of the property from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.


(Photo: Jonah Enfinger)
A & J Farm
994 Choctaw Trail
Chattanooga, TN 37405

A & J Farm in Chattanooga offers a wedding package that includes use of the stunning barn-wood pavilion and cottage for the entire day. The traditional red pavilion sits in the middle of an open field with a rose garden and oak grove, giving guests a truly organic experience. An off-site parking lot is provided so the couple’s wedding pictures accurately represent the country atmosphere. The package price for this facility is $1,500, which includes tables, chairs and hay bales for guest seating.


(Photo: The Ocoee River Barn)
The Ocoee River Barn
1889 Hwy 69, Old Copper Road
Benton, TN 37307

The Ocoee River Barn in Benton features cobblestone siding on each side of the barn that contrasts perfectly against the red exterior, giving this location a unique appearance. Inside the barn is a dance floor, kitchen area for catering, and stage for live entertainment. Pricing for this facility starts at $600 and includes the use of the space for the rehearsal and wedding festivities.


(Photo: Braska Jennea)
Mayfield Farm & Nursery
257 Hwy. 307 East
Athens, TN 37303

Mayfield Farm & Nursery in Athens offers several options for a beautiful farm wedding and reception, with covered options in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. Two barns are available, and both are original Mayfield family dairy milking barns built in the 1930s. Handmade pews seat up to 140 people in the 3,200 square foot white barn with a red roof. Pricing for this location ranges from $2,300 to $5,000 depending on the wedding package.



(Photo: Grandview Mountain Cottages & Farm)
Grandview Mountain Cottages & Farm
2392 Possum Trot Road
Grandview, TN 37337

Grandview Mountain Cottages and Farm in Grandview features a large farmhouse from the 1800s located on a 145-acre property with a spring-fed pond and open pastures full of wildflowers. Surrounding forests and mountain vistas offer a gorgeous backdrop for wedding pictures. Pricing for this location begins at $300, depending on the number of guests.


(Photo: Gardens of Sunshine Hollow)
Gardens of Sunshine Hollow
198 County Road 52
Athens, TN 37303

Gardens of Sunshine Hollow in Athens offers couples the choice between a 5,000 square-foot Kentucky horse barn with a high ceiling and ballroom floor or a stunning outside arbor, which gives guests a view of the countryside in Athens. Each location can seat up to 225 guests, and a ballroom is available if the outdoor ceremony is rained out. Venue rental, which includes tables, chairs and linens, starts at $1,495 for five hours. Catering is also available.


(Photo: South Branch Stables)
South Branch Stables
9316 Birchwood Pike
Harrison, TN 37341

Tucked away in Harrison, South Branch Stables offers a serene environment and relaxing, country experience. The facility is pre-decorated in rustic and vintage-style décor, allowing couples to expand on their country or western-inspired theme. This family-owned venue offers overnight services with a continental breakfast included each morning. Flowers and cake can also be provided upon the request of the couple.



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