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 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.


Gianetta Reno is an intern with the Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association, which works to promote the historical, cultural heritage and natural areas within the ten counties of the region.



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Events: Sandhill Crane Festival in Birchwood Celebrates Winter Crane Spectacle
January 7th, 2014

Sandhill Crane Festival:  January 18-19, 2014

Each winter, an estimated 20,000 redheaded, long-legged sandhill cranes descend upon the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Birchwood, Tenn., as part of a migration pattern that originates in Indiana. For 23 years, birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts from across the country have gathered to celebrate this winter spectacle at the Sandhill Crane Festival, which will take place January 18-19 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The annual festival offers visitors the opportunity to view the cranes and learn about the rich historical and cultural heritage of Southeast Tennessee. For two days, the rural community of Birchwood transforms into a premier ecotourism destination, offering free shuttle service between three festival sites: the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, located at the confluence of the Tennessee and Hiwassee rivers; Birchwood Community Center, 3 miles from the wildlife viewing site; and the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, located at historic Blythe Ferry along the Tennessee River.

Sandhill Crane Viewing

The sandhill crane stands more than 4 feet tall with a wingspan stretching more than 6 feet, making it one of the largest birds found in Tennessee. Of all 15 crane species in the world, sandhill cranes are the most numerous and wide-ranging, although that was not always the case. In the 1800s, the sandhill crane was nearly decimated in the eastern U.S. by overhunting and habitat loss.

Today, the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge has one of the largest wintering flocks of sandhill cranes in the southeastern United States—more than 20,000 cranes winter there from November through February. The 6,000-acre refuge offers ideal conditions for the cranes: 450 acres of corn, millet and milo, along with shallow water and mudflats. The area is also home to other waterfowl, bald eagles and the occasional federally endangered whooping crane.

In an effort to help visitors get an up-close look at the cranes and other wildlife, guides from the Tennessee Ornithological Society and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will be on hand with viewing scopes at the refuge. Crane viewing is best in the morning; the birds tend to fly in the afternoon and return to the refuge near 3 p.m.

"So far this year, we have seen typical movement of the cranes," said TWRA public information officer and event organizer Dan Hicks. "Last year, there were fewer cranes in the area because the water was so high. This year, however, we have already seen several thousand cranes at the refuge."

Earlier this year, the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a sandhill crane hunting season from Nov. 28 to Jan. 1 in Southeast Tennessee. Hunting grounds include areas south of Interstate 40 and east of Highway 56 but exclude the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge and other wildlife refuges, as well as areas where hunting is prohibited.

Birchwood Festivities

Along with the opportunity to view the cranes during the festival, a full schedule of programs and activities will take place at Birchwood Community Center (formerly Birchwood Elementary School). Visitors can enjoy nature and history-themed programs, regional music, food, vendors and children’s activities on both days.

On Saturday at 1 p.m., TWRA state ornithologist Scott Somershoe will discuss Tennessee’s golden eagle population; and on Sunday at 1 p.m., TWRA Region III biodiversity coordinator Chris Simpson will provide a research update about bats in Tennessee.

The American Eagle Foundation from Pigeon Forge, Tenn., will present their renowned raptor show at 2 p.m. on both days. Blue Moon Cruises will offer eco-cruises on the Hiwassee River during the festival (reservations required).

Breakfast and lunch will be available at the community center on Saturday and Sunday.

Cherokee History

The Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, an official Trail of Tears site located within the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, will highlight the history of the Cherokee people in Meigs County during the festival. The 29-acre park overlooks Blythe Ferry, where approximately 9,000 Cherokees, 500 Creeks and 127 slaves crossed the river during the Cherokee Removal in 1838.

This year, the park will showcase its Cherokee Removal Memorial Wall, unveiled in 2013 in memory of the Cherokee people who were forcibly removed from their native homeland in the Southeast. The memorial features the names of 2,535 heads of households, as well as the number of persons in each household, based on the 1835 Henderson Roll, a census of Cherokee people east of the Mississippi River.

The park also features a visitors center and short trail to an overlook of Blythe Ferry.

Visit the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival website or more information.



Posted by Jenni Frankenberg Veal   |  0 Comment(s)  |  Leave a Comment