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Shopper Blog: Groups focus on future of Sutherland Avenue

The Knoxville News-Sentinel logoThe Knoxville News-Sentinel 5/7/2021 Knoxville News Sentinel
a train is parked on the side of a building: A former United Methodist Church, pictured on April 28, 2021, has in recent years been converted into an architect’s office and the Golden Roast coffee shop. © John Shearer/Shopper News A former United Methodist Church, pictured on April 28, 2021, has in recent years been converted into an architect’s office and the Golden Roast coffee shop.

BEARDEN

Groups focus on future of Sutherland Avenue

John Shearer, Shopper News

Whether buzzing down Sutherland Avenue in an automobile or studying it from the side of the road or through a computer map, one can quickly deduce it is eclectic.

In fact, the local business association has called it the most eclectic street in Knoxville.

And for this linear community just west of downtown, that is a compliment highlighting its unique restaurants, the diverse locally owned small businesses, the variety of residences and other offerings.

As an opportunity to continue embracing the eclectic feel but encourage a sameness simply in terms of quality development over the next three decades, a community collaborative study was done under the coordination of the East Tennessee Community Design Center.

And it brought many ideas from those involved, from local design volunteers to community members or people who frequent the street.

“Mom and pop stores were top,” said Duane Grieve, executive director of the Design Center, which brings planning assistance to communities or organizations lacking adequate resources. “They were not interested in big box stores.

a sign in front of a brick building: Gus’s Fried Chicken, pictured on April 28, 2021, is one of a number of restaurants along Sutherland Avenue. © John Shearer/Shopper News Gus’s Fried Chicken, pictured on April 28, 2021, is one of a number of restaurants along Sutherland Avenue.

“And they wanted a makers’ space. And restaurants were really high.”

Added Leslie Fawaz, design studio director of the center, “Public art was also really important, as was the branding of the community.”

The study, which culminated with the unveiling of a recent video (at https://vimeo.com/535004534), had begun more than a year ago as part of the Design Center’s 50th anniversary. It was similar to a study done on the Burlington district of Knoxville the year before.

a large lawn in front of a house: This bungalow-style home on Sutherland Avenue, shown on April 28, 2021, is one of a number of modest-sized residences near commercial businesses on the eclectic street. © John Shearer/Shopper News This bungalow-style home on Sutherland Avenue, shown on April 28, 2021, is one of a number of modest-sized residences near commercial businesses on the eclectic street.

In February 2020 before the pandemic hit, more than 80 people attended a community gathering at the National Guard Armory by West High School for the Sutherland envisioning.

Among the responses of the multi-realm gathering was that the street lacked enough trees and landscaping, many of the buildings were in poor condition, the several larger industries affect the street negatively, and traffic was too fast.

To help with some of that, attendees suggested more sidewalks and landscaping, an expansion of the Third Creek Greenway system and more bike lanes.

Among the businesses, besides the locally owned businesses and restaurants, the participants also wanted a makers’ space, where artists and artisans can gather to create their products.

Some third-year architecture students at the University of Tennessee under Professor Marleen Davis were also solicited to offer input as a class project.

a castle on a train track with trees in the background: This nature center connecting with the Third Creek Greenway was one of the submissions by University of Tennessee architecture student A. Tate Hill as part of a recent envisioning project for Sutherland Avenue coordinated by the East Tennessee Community Design Center. April 2021 © Courtesy of East Tennessee Community Design Center This nature center connecting with the Third Creek Greenway was one of the submissions by University of Tennessee architecture student A. Tate Hill as part of a recent envisioning project for Sutherland Avenue coordinated by the East Tennessee Community Design Center. April 2021

Focusing on some of the themes of the community, they suggested such ideas as a heritage center that would bring together existing legacy businesses and others, and an affordable housing facility constructed in a way that encourages community.

Other student concepts included a West High parking garage with a garden and meeting space to replace the surface parking lot, a nature center by the greenway, an athletic center, an entrepreneur center, and even drone-like public transportation above Sutherland Avenue.

Davis said getting to lead the students in the project was rewarding.

“I enjoy looking at something you don’t know a lot about,” she said. “I enjoy learning more and more and seeing that hidden potential. It’s always fascinating to take a deep dive into one location.”

a building that has a sign on the side of a road: New housing, such as this complex near Concord Street shown on April 28, 2021, has popped up in places along Sutherland Avenue in recent years. © John Shearer/Shopper News New housing, such as this complex near Concord Street shown on April 28, 2021, has popped up in places along Sutherland Avenue in recent years.

The East Tennessee Community Design Center also had six local architecture firms to offer theoretical development for a nearly 10-acre site near Sutherland and Victory Street, or another 8.4 acres at the AAA Cooper Transportation site at 3235 Sutherland Ave.

For the first one, BarberMcMurry Architects suggested prefabricated modular housing for families and young professionals with public walkways and public gardens, while Cope/DIA/Jonathan Miller Architects suggested a mix of residential, commercial and light industrial use.

Unique modular housing near Sutherland Avenue and Cary Street was a concept submitted by BarberMcMurry Architects as part of an East Tennessee Community Design Center-coordinated project looking at the future of Sutherland Avenue in West Knoxville. © Courtesy of East Tennessee Community Design Center Unique modular housing near Sutherland Avenue and Cary Street was a concept submitted by BarberMcMurry Architects as part of an East Tennessee Community Design Center-coordinated project looking at the future of Sutherland Avenue in West Knoxville.

Also for that site, McCarty Holsaple McCarty suggested mixed use and residences, with such amenities as green space, an outdoor climbing facility and an occupiable green roof. Smee + Busby’s design there included mixed-use development with a courtyard design, daycare and park/playground for the residences. And Sparkman & Associates Architects suggested mixed use with a public plaza, greenway and improved sidewalks at the location.

With the Cooper Transport site, Johnson Architecture Inc. suggested multi-use buildings with retail/restaurant, office and residential use, and row houses and single-family residence also dotting the lot.  

a sign in front of a building: Sutherland Flats, shown on April 28, 2021, is one of the diverse housing offerings on Sutherland Avenue. © John Shearer/Shopper News Sutherland Flats, shown on April 28, 2021, is one of the diverse housing offerings on Sutherland Avenue.

While all of this work is simply envisioning and dreaming about an even better Sutherland Avenue, Design Center officials hope it one day aids in any planned development.

“We would always hope that once they get any funding, they would take a look at this,” said Fawaz.

Added Grieve, “This is a vision for the future.”

KARNS

Community Bazaar brings homespun fun

Nancy Anderson, Shopper News

In spite of rain, the third annual Karns Community Bazaar was another great success for the Patrons of TN-932, the parent group for Karns JROTC, held April 24 at Karns High School.

More than 50 vendors saw a steady stream of visitors throughout the day.

Joshua Bolling, vice president elect of Karns Lions Club, channels his inner Ghost Buster collecting funds for repairs to the Karns Pool at the third annual Karns Community Bazaar held at Karns High School on April 24, 2021. © Nancy Anderson/Shopper News Joshua Bolling, vice president elect of Karns Lions Club, channels his inner Ghost Buster collecting funds for repairs to the Karns Pool at the third annual Karns Community Bazaar held at Karns High School on April 24, 2021.

Tonya Nichols, president of Patrons of TN-932, said the organization wanted to focus on a hometown feel, so the vast majority of vendors were handmade crafters featuring everything from housewares to gourmet mac and cheese.

The event was a fundraiser to benefit the JROTC cadets, which include Hardin Valley Academy, Karns and Powell High Schools.

“The money will help the cadets buy supplies that the Air Force does not cover,” Nichols said.

“Sometimes cadets may not have enough money for socks, or belts, or even personal care. It will also go toward field trips. Some cadets may not be able to afford the trip, but we leave no one behind. Everyone goes who wants to go. It even helps cover school supplies if that’s needed. We use this fundraiser to support the cadet in whatever way they need.”

a man and a woman standing in front of a cake: Greg and Jocelyn Weatherford have a popular booth featuring gourmet mac and cheese and award-winning banana pudding at the third annual Karns Community Bazaar held at Karns High School on April 24, 2021. © Nancy Anderson/Shopper News Greg and Jocelyn Weatherford have a popular booth featuring gourmet mac and cheese and award-winning banana pudding at the third annual Karns Community Bazaar held at Karns High School on April 24, 2021.

New this year was live music provided by local singer/songwriter Eric Cox. Cox is the lead singer and guitarist for Steam Engine, a local band picking up momentum in the Knoxville area.

“We were fortunate enough to find Eric Cox, a local guitar player who really added to the festive atmosphere and took the event to the next level. We’ll definitely have live music again next year,” said Nichols.

The Bazaar was initially planned for January but was postponed due to the pandemic.

“We postponed the event so more people could get the vaccine and the cases of COVID-19 could come down, which they have. We initially planned to have the Bazaar outside because of the pandemic, but rain forced us inside and it seems to be going OK. We pushed the event as far as we could without interfering with exams and other events.

a group of people posing for a picture while holding an umbrella: Lt. Col. John O’Donnell, JROTC Patron Tonya Nichols and Knox County Commissioner Terry Hill are at the third annual Karns Community Bazaar held at Karns High School Saturday, April 24, 2021. © Nancy Anderson/shopper news Lt. Col. John O’Donnell, JROTC Patron Tonya Nichols and Knox County Commissioner Terry Hill are at the third annual Karns Community Bazaar held at Karns High School Saturday, April 24, 2021.

“We did have to cancel a few things because of the rain. The firetruck couldn’t come, several of the food trucks canceled, we canceled the helicopter, and an old-fashioned Hot Rod car show. Basically, all the outside entertainment was canceled.

“Hopefully next year we’ll get that car show back because we want to attract the men to come on out, too. We want this to be fun for the whole family.”

While many entertainment elements were canceled, one popular draw was recognizable characters such as Deadpool, The Cat in the Hat, Spider-Man and the Hulk wandering the area and delighting the kids. 

a group of people posing for the camera: Several JROTC cadets were on hand to help vendors unload their wares at the third annual Karns Community Bazaar held at Karns High School Saturday, April 24, 2021. From front left: Taylor McMeans, 17, Anna Dandy, 15, Elena Craddock, 16; back, Samuel Harness, 14, Trent Fadoll, 16, Matthew Rose, 16, Karigan Perry, 18, Shawna Ferguson, 15, Isaiah Collins, 17, Kayla Vantuyl, 17. © Nancy Anderson/Shopper News Several JROTC cadets were on hand to help vendors unload their wares at the third annual Karns Community Bazaar held at Karns High School Saturday, April 24, 2021. From front left: Taylor McMeans, 17, Anna Dandy, 15, Elena Craddock, 16; back, Samuel Harness, 14, Trent Fadoll, 16, Matthew Rose, 16, Karigan Perry, 18, Shawna Ferguson, 15, Isaiah Collins, 17, Kayla Vantuyl, 17.

Another popular draw for kids was a Mother’s Day card-making station.

“It’s so special,” Nichols said. “I think there’s nothing more sweet than a homemade Mother’s Day card. We have all the fixings for the kids to make cards to their heart’s content.

“That’s the theme of the whole thing really, old fashioned, hand crafted, homespun fun.”

BEARDEN

Climb to the top wasn't easy for Bearden's valedictorian

John Shearer, Shopper News

To say the sky is the limit for graduating Bearden High senior Nathanael Laing might be both literally and figuratively true.

Not only does he want to study aerospace engineering in college, but he has also shown limitless skill in multiple areas. He is a top local youth violinist who plays partly just for the emotional release, he has started his own business, and, oh yeah, he was recently named valedictorian at Bearden over dozens of other good students.

a man and a woman standing in front of a building: Nathanael Laing, left, is shown with assistant principal Rod Crockett after being named valedictorian at Bearden High this year. © Courtesy of Nathanael Laing Nathanael Laing, left, is shown with assistant principal Rod Crockett after being named valedictorian at Bearden High this year.

“It was really exciting,” he said of finding out several weeks ago he was the top student academically. “They took us back to one of the conference rooms and had all the top 10 students and said, ‘Congratulations on making the top 10.’ And then they said, ‘You are the valedictorian.’ ”

Like father, like son might be another way to describe Laing, as his father, radiologist Dr. Geoffrey Laing, was also the valedictorian at the academically acclaimed University High in Tucson, Arizona.

The younger Laing jokingly admitted he had actually not thought a whole lot about being the Bearden valedictorian, even though some friends kidded him about that because of how many Advanced Placement math and science classes he took. 

But as he said in a recent interview, his academic journey did not start so easily for him due to the obstacles of life. His parents had started him off as a homeschooled student, but when he was 7, his mother, Heather Laing, suffered a stroke. That left him to try to teach himself as well as help look after his siblings.

She has mostly recovered other than issues with migraine headaches, and he continued as a homeschooled student through the eighth grade. Because of the late start going to regular school and the fact parts of the last two school years were interrupted by the coronavirus, he feels a little disappointed in not getting to enjoy fully all the social interaction that comes with high school.

“I haven’t seen as much of my graduating class as I like, but I am looking forward to college,” he said.

To prepare for college, he has studied hard, he said. “People want to look smart but say they don’t study, but I know I have had to put in a huge amount of time repeating problems and getting them right,” he said.

He prefers subjects like physics, which allow for creative thinking. As he described it, “I love that it is problem solving and not just memorization.” 

a man wearing a suit and tie: Nathanael Laing © Courtesy of Nathanael Laing Nathanael Laing

While many students struggling to solve a problem or other challenge in school might take a break and put on some music, he actually plays some as a violinist with the Knoxville Youth Symphony Orchestra.

“It basically gives me a chance to wind down and relax,” he said. “If I am not getting a problem, I play the violin and it helps push the reset button.”

He is also having to regularly hit the reset button for the different aspects of his life. He started a bike repair business last year, and for a number of years has headed up the Pens for a Purpose charity that writes notes of encouragement to senior citizens and others and was profiled on WBIR-TV.

At Bearden, he is also a treasurer of the Student Government Association and has been involved in the Key Club, Model UN, the Robotics team and the Science Olympiad.

a man and a woman posing in a park: Bearden High valedictorian Nathanael Laing is shown with his mother, Heather Laing, during a visit to Georgia Tech, where he is weighing a scholarship offer. He wants to study aerospace engineering. © Courtesy of Nathanael Laing Bearden High valedictorian Nathanael Laing is shown with his mother, Heather Laing, during a visit to Georgia Tech, where he is weighing a scholarship offer. He wants to study aerospace engineering.

At the time of the interview, Laing was still weighing scholarship offers from both the University of Tennessee and Georgia Tech. But he knows he wants to study aerospace engineering and be on the engineering end rather than pursue being an astronaut, even though his grandfather inspired his interest by being an SR-71 high altitude aircraft pilot a number of years ago.

But Laing will have his own high-profile attention on June 1, when he has to speak to the large crowd that will be gathered at the Bearden High football stadium for graduation. While not quite as comfortable behind a podium as playing the violin or doing physics problems, he has already been working on trying to overcome that obstacle.

“That’s a lot of people to talk to, so I admit I’m a little nervous,” he said with a laugh. “But I am grateful that it is only three minutes.”

KARNS

Cakes, cookies, now ice cream help support school for autism

Nancy Anderson, Shopper News

Here they grow again. Everything Iced Bakery and Creamery saw a busy grand opening of its new ice cream shop addition April 24. About 650 people stopped by for a free scoop or upgrade to a creamy treat.

Owner Bobbie Mershon gave the grand opening a theme of autism awareness to celebrate her son, Koty Wyatt, who is on the autism spectrum. To raise autism awareness, Mershon designed a Koty’s Kolors Sundae featuring two scoops of vanilla ice cream colored red, yellow and blue, whipped cream, sprinkles, a cherry and two sugar cookies cut into puzzle pieces, the international symbol of autism.

a cake sitting on top of a table: Koty’s Kolors Sundae is designed to raise autism awareness. Everything Iced Bakery and Creamery saw a busy grand opening of its new ice cream shop addition April 24, 2021. Owner Bobbie Mershon gave the grand opening a theme of autism awareness to celebrate her son, Koty Wyatt, who is on the autism spectrum. © photo by Jeff Worthy Koty’s Kolors Sundae is designed to raise autism awareness. Everything Iced Bakery and Creamery saw a busy grand opening of its new ice cream shop addition April 24, 2021. Owner Bobbie Mershon gave the grand opening a theme of autism awareness to celebrate her son, Koty Wyatt, who is on the autism spectrum.

For each Koty’s Kolors Sundae sold, Mershon will donate $1 to PEER Academy, a nonprofit school for children with autism and other developmental delays.

For cupcakes lovers, she also developed Koty’s Kolors cupcakes, which will bring a $2 donation to PEER Academy.

a group of people standing around a table: Jessica Tipton, owner Bobbie Mershon, Kayla Kinkead and Elizabeth Tipton are at the ready at the grand opening of the ice cream addition at Everything Iced Cakes and Creamery on Saturday, April 24, 2021. © Photo by Nancy Anderson Jessica Tipton, owner Bobbie Mershon, Kayla Kinkead and Elizabeth Tipton are at the ready at the grand opening of the ice cream addition at Everything Iced Cakes and Creamery on Saturday, April 24, 2021.

Mershon opened the 2,000-square-foot bakery in 2019, but she’s been baking decadent gourmet cupcakes and custom design celebration and wedding cakes for more than 12 years.

“I started making cakes for something to do as a stay-at-home mom,” she said. “It grew by word of mouth until it grew into a full-fledged business. I opened my first shop four years ago and we’ve been growing ever since.”


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Mershon said it’s not about the baking, it’s about the people.

a little boy sitting at a table: Mia Schenkman, 3, seems to be wearing her Koty’s Kolors blue ice cream at the grand opening of the ice cream addition at Everything Iced Cakes and Creamery Saturday, April 24, 2021. © Photo by Nancy Anderson Mia Schenkman, 3, seems to be wearing her Koty’s Kolors blue ice cream at the grand opening of the ice cream addition at Everything Iced Cakes and Creamery Saturday, April 24, 2021.

“I’ve got a job that makes everybody happy. People come in for a cake to celebrate something whether it be a wedding, birthday, anniversary or graduation. An awesome cake makes the occasion just that much more special. I love making people happy.

“We added the ice cream because that makes people happy, too, and there aren’t many options for hand dipped ice cream around us.”

a person standing in a kitchen preparing food: Everything Iced Bakery and Creamery owner Bobbie Mershon with partner Jeff Worthy at the grand opening of the ice cream shop addition April 24, 2021. © Photo by Nancy Anderson Everything Iced Bakery and Creamery owner Bobbie Mershon with partner Jeff Worthy at the grand opening of the ice cream shop addition April 24, 2021.

Like the bakery, the creamery offers options to those with allergies.

The new creamery offers 12 flavors of Blue Bell Ice Cream, including Birthday Cake and Butter Pecan, and two flavors of Breyers nondairy for those with dairy allergies. Nine of the twelve Blue Bell flavors are gluten free. The shop also has gluten free cones.

“We don’t want anyone left out of a celebration because of allergies, so we have options on both the creamery and the bakery side,” Mershon said. “We can accommodate just about any kind of allergy — from gluten, to soy, to eggs, to nuts, to food coloring on the bakery side.

“We wanted to offer some dairy-free and gluten free options on the creamery side because we have a lot of customers with allergies. It’s sad to me to see a child excluded because they have allergies.”

a piece of cake and ice cream on a plate: Introducing “The Mick,” a customizable cookie sundae (two sugar cookies, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, real strawberry compote and a cherry). Everything Iced Bakery and Creamery saw a busy grand opening of its new ice cream shop addition April 24, 2021. © Photo by Jeff Worthy Introducing “The Mick,” a customizable cookie sundae (two sugar cookies, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, whipped cream, real strawberry compote and a cherry). Everything Iced Bakery and Creamery saw a busy grand opening of its new ice cream shop addition April 24, 2021.

Mershon has regular baked goodies on hand for those who drop in for a treat. There are always cookies, cupcakes, muffins, fritters, brownies and cinnamon rolls to quell a sweet tooth.

The shop, at 5306 North Middlebrook Pike, is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday.

Info: www.everythingicedbakery.com

NORTH KNOXVILLE

Orchestra, health department offer music as a 'shot in the arm'

Carol Z. Shane, Shopper News

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is its own reward. But lately some folks have been treated to another perk while showing up for their shots.  

a person sitting on a chair: Alicia Keener performs with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra during a Knox County Health Department coronavirus vaccine clinic on North Broadway in Knoxville, Tenn. on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. © Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel Alicia Keener performs with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra during a Knox County Health Department coronavirus vaccine clinic on North Broadway in Knoxville, Tenn. on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Knox County Health Department are partnering to bring live music to the health department’s vaccine clinic in at 4216 N. Broadway. 

“I love it. It’s beautiful,” said Denise Rodgers, who’d just gotten her second shot. “What a great way to spend 15 minutes!”  

a man and a woman standing in a room: Denise Rodgers not only got her COVID-19 vaccination, she got an earful of great music from a Knoxville Symphony Orchestra string quartet at the Knox County Health Department’s North Knoxville clinic. “What a great way to spend 15 minutes!” she said. April 27, 2021. © Carol Z. Shane/Shopper News Denise Rodgers not only got her COVID-19 vaccination, she got an earful of great music from a Knoxville Symphony Orchestra string quartet at the Knox County Health Department’s North Knoxville clinic. “What a great way to spend 15 minutes!” she said. April 27, 2021.

Burak Er, CEO at Corporate Clothing USA, agreed. “It’s so peaceful. What a great idea!” 

The performances featuring the masked, socially distanced musicians are presented on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. through May 21, and serve as an extension of the KSO’s award-winning Music & Wellness program. 

a person standing in a room: Burak Er, who was receiving his vaccine, stopped to listen to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra perform during a Knox County Health Department coronavirus vaccine clinic on North Broadway in Knoxville, Tenn. on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. © Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel Burak Er, who was receiving his vaccine, stopped to listen to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra perform during a Knox County Health Department coronavirus vaccine clinic on North Broadway in Knoxville, Tenn. on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

At the kickoff concert on April 27, violinists Jeff Brannen and Bing Kuang Fang, violist Alicia Keener and cellist Alice Stuart played musical favorites including “Spring” from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” "The Tennessee Waltz” and “Eleanor Rigby.”  

“What a great opportunity for the symphony to participate in getting folks vaccinated so that we can get beyond this pandemic,” said Dena Mashburn, KCHD director of nursing. “When you’ve got to sit down for 15 minutes, you get to take a breath and listen. It’s so calming and relaxing.” 

Stuart, who is also a nurse practitioner with Covenant Health at Parkwest Hospital, was particularly happy to see her fellow Knoxvillians rolling up their sleeves. 

a man holding a guitar: Jeffrey Brannan plays the violin with other members of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra at the Knox County Health Department coronavirus vaccine clinic on North Broadway in Knoxville, Tenn. on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. © Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel Jeffrey Brannan plays the violin with other members of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra at the Knox County Health Department coronavirus vaccine clinic on North Broadway in Knoxville, Tenn. on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

 “It has been 100 years since we have faced anything like this on such a global scale,” she said. “If everyone who is medically able would get the vaccine, then we would stop this virus in its tracks.” 

With her hospital at times overrun with cases during the past year, Stuart said she has seen much misery and devastation. For those reluctant to get vaccinated, she said, “the illness and lingering side effects are much worse than the side effects from the shot.”

She hopes for a day when there is no host available to infect because of vaccinations. “Otherwise it will just keep chugging along mutating as it goes from person to person.” 

Dawn Clark, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, called ahead of her appointment for help getting in and out.

a person sitting in a car: Dawn Clark keeps her vaccine stickers on her purse in order to encourage others. “Reach one, teach one,” she says. She enjoyed live music from a Knoxville Symphony Orchestra string quartet at the Knox County Health Department’s North Knoxville clinic recently. April 27, 2021. © Carol Z. Shane/Shopper News Dawn Clark keeps her vaccine stickers on her purse in order to encourage others. “Reach one, teach one,” she says. She enjoyed live music from a Knoxville Symphony Orchestra string quartet at the Knox County Health Department’s North Knoxville clinic recently. April 27, 2021.

“They offered me a wheelchair,” she said, “but I wanted to walk it so I can tell my neighbors!” She put her yellow vaccine stickers on her purse for all to see. “Reach one, teach one,” she said.  

Clark was pleasantly surprised by her other “shot in the arm.”

“Oh, I just loved the music. That made my day.”   

a person holding a violin: Alicia Keener plays the viola with other members of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra at the Knox County Health Department coronavirus vaccine clinic on North Broadway April 27, 2021. © Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel Alicia Keener plays the viola with other members of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra at the Knox County Health Department coronavirus vaccine clinic on North Broadway April 27, 2021.

“We are delighted to work with the KCHD to bring live music to the vaccine clinic,” KSO executive director Rachel Ford said. “After a long, strenuous year of dealing with a pandemic, we want to both support the local vaccination efforts of our community and return to providing soothing music in different settings for audiences.” 

For more information, visit knoxvillesymphony.com and knoxcounty.org/health. 

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SOUTH KNOXVILLE

$1 million plan to enhance Augusta Quarry recreation

Ali James, Shopper News

It may not officially be swimming season, but a handful of Augusta Quarry visitors were making the most of the warmer temperatures recently.

When Sheryl Ely, Knoxville Parks and Recreation director, asked two of them how they enjoyed their swim, they laughed and admitted to lasting barely a minute in the icy, deep water. Others were not deterred as they floated in their inflatable rings before the thunderstorms rolled in.

a woman standing in front of a lake: Sheryl Ely, City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation director, indicates where the boardwalk will be integrated into the beachfront at Fort Dickerson's Augusta Quarry. © Ali James/Shopper News Sheryl Ely, City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation director, indicates where the boardwalk will be integrated into the beachfront at Fort Dickerson's Augusta Quarry.

“I was here the other day and I saw lots of out-of-state license plates in the parking lot, including a family from Florida, and someone had strung up a hammock between the trees,” said Ely.

$1 million for Urban Wilderness site   

On April 27, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon proposed her 2021-22 budget, and there was one line item that was exciting news for Urban Wilderness enthusiasts. One million dollars has been allocated for phase two of the Augusta Quarry project .

Funding will be used for improving accessibility and safety to the quarry, as well as adding a vendor area and restrooms.

a small island in the middle of a body of water: Augusta Quarry, shown April 27, 2021, is part of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness. © Ali James/Shopper News Augusta Quarry, shown April 27, 2021, is part of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness.

Ely and city Greenways Coordinator Tim Hester met the Shopper News in the parking lot, completed as part of phase one in the fall of 2019.

“People probably won’t see the beginning as it is the infrastructure — water and electricity improvements,” said Ely. “We will also be finding contractors, arranging purchasing and figuring out how we will finalize our plans.”

a sign on the side of a river: The City of Knoxville has added fencing and signage at Augusta Quarry to discourage diving. Aug. 27, 2021 © Ali James/Shopper News The City of Knoxville has added fencing and signage at Augusta Quarry to discourage diving. Aug. 27, 2021

While Ely did not want to promise a firm start date for the project, she and Hester agreed that design work will really start later in the year.

Kayaks, boardwalk and swimming area    

With mostly native landscaping and a formalized park entry and parking area established during phase one, most of the attention will now focus on the water’s edge in this next phase.

PORT and Sanders Pace Architecture worked with the City of Knoxville and Aslan Foundation to design phase one, and Ely pointed out how the design for Phase 2 will fit into the natural surroundings.

“We will not have the dock, but a boardwalk for people wanting to get closer to the water,” she said.

A more defined swimming area will be addressed this summer, including buoys, boulders and clear, consistent signage. Since the limestone quarry closed 30-40 years ago, the city has taken steps to deter people from diving off the 100-foot-high rocks by adding signage and fencing. Ely and Hester hope a better defined swimming area will further promote safety.

a hand holding a book: A boardwalk and launch area designed as part of Phase 2 of the Augusta Quarry project. PORT and Sanders Pace Architecture worked with the City of Knoxville and Aslan Foundation to design phase one, and Sheryl Ely, City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation director, pointed out how the design for Phase 2 will fit into the natural surroundings. “We will not have the dock, but a boardwalk for people wanting to get closer to the water,” she said April 27, 2021. © Ali James/Shopper News A boardwalk and launch area designed as part of Phase 2 of the Augusta Quarry project. PORT and Sanders Pace Architecture worked with the City of Knoxville and Aslan Foundation to design phase one, and Sheryl Ely, City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation director, pointed out how the design for Phase 2 will fit into the natural surroundings. “We will not have the dock, but a boardwalk for people wanting to get closer to the water,” she said April 27, 2021.

Ely gestured to the space between the gravel road leading to the water and the craggy rocks that have been designated for a vendor.

“We want them to set up here where it’s easy access to the water for rental equipment," she said. “We are looking at different kinds of vendors, similar to what Mead’s Quarry has.”

Hester said they are looking for a business to hire out kayaks and tubes, and not a food truck or T-shirt vendor, and they hope to have that vendor in place for the summer. That season will officially kick off on Memorial Day and run through Labor Day.

“Parks and recreation staff will be here regularly over the summer, as well as KPD officers to make sure everyone is being safe,” said Ely. “We still recommend people use personal protective devices for swimming — it is open water, like the Tennessee River, and we want them to remain mindful of that.”

a bicycle parked on the side of the road: “Over the years we have expanded the recreational opportunities for mountain bikers, hikers, and birdwatchers,” said Tim Hester, City of Knoxville Parks and Greenways Coordinator. “That activity and the upgrades — the new entrance and trail — tend to keep other (destructive) activity away.” April 27, 2021 © Ali James/Shopper News “Over the years we have expanded the recreational opportunities for mountain bikers, hikers, and birdwatchers,” said Tim Hester, City of Knoxville Parks and Greenways Coordinator. “That activity and the upgrades — the new entrance and trail — tend to keep other (destructive) activity away.” April 27, 2021

“Over the years we have expanded the recreational opportunities for mountain bikers, hikers, and birdwatchers,” said Hester. “That activity and the upgrades — the new entrance and trail — tend to keep other (destructive) activity away.”

“The Aslan Foundation played a big part in partnering with us in phase one; they love this design for phase two,” added Ely.

FARRAGUT

From his view in the majors, McKenry treasures FHS years

Holly Gary, Shopper News

Before Michael McKenry was a professional athlete or a TV analyst, he was a student and baseball player at Farragut High School with dreams of making it to the state championship.

He got that chance in 2003, his senior year.

“My entire senior year was probably my favorite year in baseball, ever,” he said. In the championship, “Craig Cobb pitched an absolute gem of a game. It felt like a long time coming for us to win a state championship,” he said, after they hadn’t been able to in previous years.

He also recalled that “We got to win with our [boys’] soccer team, there in Memphis, and we all celebrated together.”

Ten years later, he was in the Major League Baseball playoffs with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Their wild card game against the Cincinnati Reds, on Oct. 1, 2013, at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, became one of the most memorable games of his professional career.

“It was the first winning season for the Pirates in 20 years,” he said. “It was so cool to be a part of that. We got the stadium to black out” — for all the fans to wear black, something he says doesn’t happen often in professional sports. “The fans stepped up” and were more engaged than usual, making noise and helping propel them to victory.

Michael McKenry in a baseball game: Memphis Redbirds catcher Michael McKenry, a former MTSU player, in the dugout at First Tennessee Park in Nashville on June 16, 2016. © Nashville Sounds Memphis Redbirds catcher Michael McKenry, a former MTSU player, in the dugout at First Tennessee Park in Nashville on June 16, 2016.

Another favorite memory: his first Major League home run against the Chicago Cubs in 2011. “We took the lead. I got a standing ovation,” he remembered.

He was known in Pittsburgh — and everywhere since then — as “the Fort” (after Fort McHenry in Maryland). Two game announcers came up with the nickname because, as a catcher, nothing got past him.

“I took a lot of pride in keeping the ball in front of me at all times,” he said.

calendar: Former MTSU baseball catcher and current Texas Ranger baseball player Michael McKenry, speaks during the MTSU Baseball Groundhog Day lunch and fundraiser, on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. © HELEN COMER/DNJ Former MTSU baseball catcher and current Texas Ranger baseball player Michael McKenry, speaks during the MTSU Baseball Groundhog Day lunch and fundraiser, on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.

Now he’s on the other side of things for the Pirates as a pre- and postgame and color analyst for AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh. He describes the job as a “science experiment,” learning equipment in their “brand new multimillion-dollar studio.”

“I’m getting into a little more editing,” he said. “I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Before and after games, he said, “I do demonstrations and breaking down a player’s mechanics or swing or the analytics of a pitch.”

With other analysts, “We react to the game and do a couple breakdowns during the game,” he said.

He still looks back fondly to his days at Farragut, where he holds the record for most career RBIs (202) and most career home runs as a player (47).

He credits Coach Tommy Pharr with helping him grow, not just as a player, but as a person.

“He’s a man I’ve looked up to since I was 13 or 14 and still look up to,” McKenry said. “He means the world to me.

“Coach Pharr always wanted to create good men,” he added. “Most coaches just care about a W; he cared about life.”

Pharr built a strong community for his players.

“You don’t just fall into something like that. It’s created over time,” McKenry said.

McKenry says those positive influences, plus his own tenacity, helped him get where he is now. “I grew up with two learning disabilities. School was hard to say the least... I couldn’t speak in front of people, couldn’t read in front of people. Being strong willed and having good people push me got me to where I am.”

If you’d told him he’d end up on TV, “I would’ve told you you were nuts, there was no way.”

He hopes this gives “a little hope for people who want to do something that’s a very far reach... If you want to do something, just go for it.”

SOUTH KNOXVILLE

Ijams holds open houses for new Nature Play Club

Ali James, Shopper News

Families have been asking Ijams for a part-time preschool program since they started the full-time Nature Preschool last fall. At an open house on April 22, the preschool introduced Nature Play Club for children ages 3-5, but with a twist — it will be a100% outdoor program.

Full-time Nature Preschool combines indoor and outdoor activities, while blending in the traditional academics. “There is a weekly nature theme that guides exploration of the outdoor classroom,” said Leslee Moore, the Ijams Nature Preschool/Play Club administrator. “Half of the Play Club's time is free play and half is structured nature lessons, games and activities.”

a group of people sitting on a rock: Ijams Nature Preschool students make up a game in the Primitive Playground on April 22, 2021. From left: Dexter Duggan, Fletcher Bentley, Rose Mecklenborg and Barrett Horner (top). © Ali James/Shopper News Ijams Nature Preschool students make up a game in the Primitive Playground on April 22, 2021. From left: Dexter Duggan, Fletcher Bentley, Rose Mecklenborg and Barrett Horner (top).

“What is great about the (Play Club) is that it is based on the original model of the nature preschool, that was started as a part-time program,” said Cindy Hassil, Ijams Nature Center’s development director.

“It will be from 9:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and their parents know that their kids will be playing outside in all kinds of weather. At some point we hope to have a waiting list and add Mondays and Wednesdays as an option.”

a close up of a garden: Ijams Nature Preschool open house on April 22, 2021. A second in-person open house is scheduled for 10 a.m.-noon May 20 and a virtual Zoom open house from 6-7 p.m. on May 13. © Ali James/Shopper News Ijams Nature Preschool open house on April 22, 2021. A second in-person open house is scheduled for 10 a.m.-noon May 20 and a virtual Zoom open house from 6-7 p.m. on May 13.

Students will experience an outdoor, forest school-type educational model on Ijams' more than 315 acres of protected land. The program is aimed at homeschoolers, nature lovers, and families whose children are not quite ready to attend the full-time Ijams Nature Preschool.

Nature Play Club is a hands-on experience based on the needs and curiosity of preschoolers. Hassil said that there are animal programs — learning about the frog and turtles they see and some Native American storytelling. “It’s a lot of free play, child-led play,” she added.

a little girl standing next to a tree: Ijams Nature Preschooler Alannah Darth collects rocks in the Primitive Playground on April 22, 2021. © Ali James/Shopper News Ijams Nature Preschooler Alannah Darth collects rocks in the Primitive Playground on April 22, 2021.

Nature Play Club will run Aug. 10-May 24 and follow the Knox County School schedule, but they set their own in-service days, sick days, and inclement weather cancellations. Ijams members will receive a discount on tuition. “You can come and enroll your child in Nature Preschool or Nature Play Club and they (your children) will probably drag you back here to do other things,” said Hassil.

a person standing next to a tree: Anna Thomas runs around at Ijams Nature Preschool on April 22, 2021. © Ali James/Shopper News Anna Thomas runs around at Ijams Nature Preschool on April 22, 2021.

The first class of children to participate in the Nature Preschool are set to graduate soon. “We have gotten so much feedback from the children who started at age 3,” said Hassil. “They are so young, when you first meet them they may not be as confident. There may be days we they’re not ‘feeling it,’ but when you get them involved you can see the transformation…

a young boy in a forest: Nate Buchshorn tries to camouflage himself in the forest at Ijams Nature Preschool on April 22, 2021. © Ali James/Shopper News Nate Buchshorn tries to camouflage himself in the forest at Ijams Nature Preschool on April 22, 2021.

“They are so much more independent, they are so happy outside,” continued Hassil.

“We are hoping that through this early introduction to nature they will become good stewards of conservation because of what they have learned.”

a statue of a man sitting on a rock: Ijams Nature Preschool at the Primitive Playground on April 22, 2021. © Ali James/Shopper News Ijams Nature Preschool at the Primitive Playground on April 22, 2021.

Ijams' preschool summer camp program is already sold out. However, the fall preschool nature club still has plenty of availability, according to Hassil. “We have rolling enrollment; if they don’t sign up for the fall, they can join later,” she said.

A second in-person open house is scheduled for 10 a.m.-noon May 20 and a virtual Zoom open house from 6-7 p.m. on May 13. Signups and more information are available via the Nature Preschool page at https://www.ijams.org/nature-play-club.

OPIONION

Feeling normal again will take time

Leslie Snow, Shopper News

I spent the morning repeating the words to anyone who would listen. “The CDC says it’s OK to gather indoors since everyone is vaccinated.”

I was looking for validation that we were doing the right thing, that the people coming to Clara’s third birthday party would be safe from COVID-19.

My husband nodded in agreement. My sister Shelley promised everything would be fine. My daughter Jordan wished the rain had held off so the party could have been outside, but she was OK with it, too. “The new guidelines say that healthy unvaccinated children can be with vaccinated adults.”

The thought of my grandchildren being exposed to the coronavirus sent my heart racing, but I talked myself down by repeating my new mantra, “Everything will be fine.” I spent the next few hours hanging “happy birthday” banners, putting out snacks, and convincing myself that having a small party was perfectly safe.

By midafternoon, when people started to arrive, I was a bundle of mixed emotions. I was thrilled to see our extended family and leaned in for the kind of full hugs I haven’t given in over a year. I shook hands. I squeezed people tight. I kissed cheeks. It felt wonderful and strange and just a little bit scary.

For so many months I’ve kept myself physically distant from everyone who wasn’t in my immediate “pod.” Now, after becoming a fully vaccinated member of society, I was doing something that felt dangerous just a few weeks earlier. I leaned in eagerly for those hugs, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing something wrong.

And I felt awkward too, like I had lost the kind of muscle memory that helped me socialize with other people successfully in the past. I told an inappropriate story and felt my face flush. I talked too loud. I had trouble mingling.

I used to think I was the kind of easy-to-talk-to person you’d want at a party, but at Clara’s celebration, I was more of a party-pooper than a party favor. Apparently, my social skills were rusty from lack of use.

When the party was over, I felt tired and drained instead of energized. I plopped down on the couch, heaved a big sigh, and wondered what was wrong with me. A few minutes later Jordan and Shelley sat down beside me.

“I’m so tired,” my sister said. “Me too,” Jordan chimed in. “And apparently, I’ve forgotten how to be social,” she said with a laugh. “Were parties this hard before the pandemic?”

I laughed in response, then added, “I thought it was just me. It was so fun seeing everybody, but I think I was better at parties before the pandemic.”

“It’s hard to let go of the worry over COVID-19,” my sister added. “One day you have to wear a mask and stay socially distanced and then, two shots later, you can hug anyone who is fully vaccinated. It’s like healthcare whiplash.”

We talked for a while, waiting to regain our equilibrium so we could clean up after the party. I was grateful for the quiet conversation. I needed to know I wasn’t alone in feeling tired and awkward at Clara’s party.

Emerging from a pandemic is about more than getting vaccinated and flipping a switch. It will take time to reclaim our former lives and feel comfortable hugging again. It will take time to feel normal and carefree in a crowd.

So for now I’ll keep repeating the words “everything will be fine.” And before long, I’ll believe them. 

Leslie Snow may be reached at snow column@aol.com.

More: Former Tim Burchett challenger Renee Hoyos now heading Virginia environmental office | Ashe

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Shopper Blog: Groups focus on future of Sutherland Avenue

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