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VOL. 45 | NO. 18 | Friday, April 30, 2021

Spring festival return to Townsend May 7-8

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The Townsend in the Smokies Spring Festival is scheduled for May 7-8 at the Smoky Mountain Visitor Center (7906 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy.)

The festival features bluegrass music, arts and crafts, time-honored traditions and Appalachian cooking. It is sponsored by Wild Laurel Golf Course, Townsend Great Smokies KOA, The Lily Barn, Townsend Abbey and Little Arrow Outdoor Resort.

The event is free but parking is $10 per day with proceeds benefiting the Townsend Volunteer Fire Department.

“The spring festival provides an opportunity for our community to share the area’s history and heritage with families, friends and visitors,’’ says Jim McBride, festival chair. “We all cherish our traditions, and there is no better way to celebrate them than to showcase them during the beautiful spring weather at the festival.’’

For convenience, a free shuttle service provides transportation to and from the different Townsend sites participating in the weekend’s festivities from 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. both days.

The festival includes traditional and contemporary bluegrass and mountain music, clogging and square dancing, art and craft booths, numerous Appalachian demonstrations, old-fashioned children’s games and Southern food.

In addition, the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, 123 Cromwell Dr., is playing host to the Tennessee Pottery Festival May 8.

Festival goers can also take the opportunity to enjoy an interactive walking tour featuring a full-sized engine, coal and water tank at the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum and shopping in downtown Townsend.

Market Square lights up at night

Downtown Knoxville has opened Firefly Nights, a new light installation that adds a bit of sparkle to the trees of Market Square.

Inspired by the synchronous fireflies that attract thousands of visitors to Elkmont and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park every spring, Firefly Nights includes more than 12,000 lights that “flash” from sunset to sunrise through the end of June.

“With warm weather and longer days, Downtown Knoxville is the perfect place to find spontaneous fun for the entire family,” says Michele Hummel, executive director of the Downtown Knoxville Alliance. “People are excited to be getting safely out and about again, and we hope the creation of Firefly Nights can make being downtown even more special for them.”

Firefly Nights, which is sponsored by the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, Christmas Décor of Knoxville, Dogwood Arts and the City of Knoxville, uses the hashtag #fireflynights so photos can be shared and found on social media.

The Downtown Knoxville Alliance also invites the community to “love local, support small” and explore downtown this spring.

Ocoee Scenic Byway wins national honor

The Ocoee Scenic Byway has won the 2021 National Scenic Byway Foundation’s Byway Community Award for its cleanup events series, “Nobody Trashes Tennessee” and “Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful.”

The Byway Community Award recognizes multiple nonprofit groups, the U.S. Forest Service, and byway volunteers for this work. The USDA Forest Service conducted a pair of successful cleanups of the Ocoee Scenic Byway located in Cherokee National Forest, near Benton, Tennessee. The cleanup series included a Nobody Trashes Tennessee cleanup of the byway route Nov. 6-7, and a Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful water cleanup of adjacent Parksville Lake Feb. 27-28, 2021.

The Nobody Trashes Tennessee and Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful cleanup series physically removed litter from the roadside facilities and adjacent waterway access points of the Ocoee Scenic Byway. Facilities and access points were serviced that experienced limited cleaning and litter pickup in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The Ocoee Scenic Byway is famed for its rapids (including hosting games of the 1996 Olympics) and the gorge and surrounding forest scenic views. This cleanup series removed litter from trailheads, beaches, picnic areas, overlooks and canoe launches. The volunteers who conducted the cleanups were from surrounding communities and furthered their love of the route. Area campgrounds, marinas, restaurants and water-keeper groups all supplied volunteers for the cleanup series.

RIVR Media to launch studio

Leading independent producer RIVR Media has announced the upcoming launch of RIVR Studios, multiple full-service, COVID-compliant studio spaces in Knoxville, a fastest-growing hub for TV and film production.

Opening this summer, RIVR Studios will diversify RIVR Media’s business as a long-established producer of popular series for leading U.S. cable networks. Located among the Southeast’s largest media markets, the fully equipped studios will be a new resource for producers of content, including unscripted and scripted series, films, branded content and advertising.

RIVR Media is jointly led by veteran producer and entrepreneur Dee Haslam, managing partner of the Cleveland Browns, investor operator of the Columbus Crew, and CEO of Haslam Sports Group; and Emmy-nominated Showrunner and CEO Lori Golden-Stryer. The two executives first joined forces 20 years ago and continue their working partnership at RIVR Media. Following Haslam’s appointment of Golden-Stryer as CEO in 2019, they have together been accelerating the growth of a business that has become a female-led success story.

Cocke Co. church added to Historic Places list

Laurel Springs Primitive Baptist Church in Cocke County has been added to the National Register of Historic Places by the Tennessee Historical Commission, the state agency that is designated as the State Historic Preservation Office.

“Tennessee has a tremendous inheritance of important historic places that are highlighted by the diversity of these recent National Register listings.” says State Historic Preservation Officer and Executive Director Patrick McIntyre.

The 1914 Laurel Springs Primitive Baptist Church is located on the north side of Laurel Springs Road about 3 miles south of the community of Cosby in southwestern Cocke County. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located directly across the road from the church building and borders the south side of Laurel Springs Road for almost its entire length.

Situated on a quarter-acre of land, the one-story, one-room frame church building is covered in board and batten wood siding and retains historic two-over-two double-hung wood windows. The interior walls, ceilings and floors are yellow pine. The church is no longer used for services and is privately owned.

Pellissippi Parkway expansion under review

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has been working with the public to gather input on the proposed Pellissippi Parkway (SR-162) project from SR-33 to SR-73 (US-321).

The project consists of developing a new controlled-access four-lane highway with a concrete median barrier wall and grade-separated interchanges.

The proposal includes construction of a new transportation corridor, extending Pellissippi Parkway from its current location at SR 33 (Old Knoxville Highway) to SR 73 (US 321/Lamar Alexander Highway) in Blount County. The length of the proposed extension would be approximately 4.4 miles.

The proposed project would be constructed in part with federal funding, and is therefore subject to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. An Environmental Impact Statement has been prepared to meet NEPA requirements.

Currently, the roadway has several deficiencies:

• Limited mobility options in Blount County and Maryville due to the primarily radial roadway network that now exists

• Poor local road network with substandard cross sections.

Lack of northwest/east connection of Alcoa and Maryville to help serve:

• Expanding residential development occurring in eastern Alcoa and the Knoxville area to the north

• Increasing demand for trips between Maryville and Alcoa, and the Knoxville area to the north

• Safety issues on roadways in the area, including roads in the Maryville core that through-travelers between northern and western portions of the county and the eastern portions of the county must pass and numerous rear-end crashes and angle crashes have been reported due to high volumes of traffic and lack of access management along the roadways

• Traffic congestion and poor levels of service on the major arterial roads in the study area (US 129, SR 33, US 411 and US 321)

The purpose of the project is to improve safety and mobility, enhancing regional transportation system linkages, improving circumferential mobility by providing travel options to the existing radial roadway network in Blount County, Maryville and Alcoa, improving roadway safety on the existing roadway network, including the Maryville core and achieving acceptable traffic flows.

Masks still required in Knoxville area hospitals

As mask mandates are being lifted, the Knoxville-area’s five local hospital systems say masks and other facial coverings are still required while at their facilities for all visitors and employees.

Officials from Blount Memorial Hospital, Covenant Health, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Tennova Healthcare and The University of Tennessee Medical Center say they are continuing to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and their facial covering protocols will remain in place.

Throughout the East Tennessee region COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped significantly since reaching peak levels in December and January. New cases, however, continue to be diagnosed daily in East Tennessee counties.

To best minimize further spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of the community, the health systems continue to urge individuals to wear their facial coverings in public and to adhere to the remaining recommendations of the 5 Core Actions agreed to by local health leaders. The actions include washing hands frequently, practicing social distancing, cleaning frequently touched surfaces regularly and staying home if you are sick.

In addition, the health systems recommend that everyone over the age of 16 receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines currently widely available to the public at no charge throughout the region. For more information about the vaccines or to make an appointment, interested individuals can check the social media and websites of each health system and of local health departments.

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