Meet our neighborhood bomb dog

Hannah Fleming poses with Cygan, a 2-year-old specially trained Jonesborough K-9.


Staff Writer

As the president of Jonesborough’s “Paws in Blue” charity, which raises funds to acquire and support the police department’s K-9 units, Ruth Verhegge knows how much work goes into training and caring for one of the canines.

“(The handlers) all stepped up. There’s a fair amount of extra work involved, being a K-9 officer. The dogs stay with them 24-7. So they’re responsible for their care. But the dogs get continual training, as well.”

She also believes they are game changers for the police, and may have changed the outcome of the recent shooting onn 11-E in Jonesborough.

“Several of us are so convinced the shooting would have been prevented had we had an appropriately trained K-9,” she said. “I really think it would have.”

With the arrival of Cygan and his handler, Hannah Fleming, her wishes have been granted.

A 2-year old Belgian Malinois and Shepherd mix, Cygan is specially trained in apprehension and explosives detection.

Fleming, who is approaching the one-year anniversary of her partnership with Cygan, was on the force for two years before switching to the K-9 unit.

She recently recalled her first meeting with her partner.

“We showed up at (FM K-9) school the night before it started. We woke up early and went to the kennels. Basically they just handed him to me and said ‘Here’s your dog’. Then I took him outside and the first thing, and he still does it, he nibbled on my pockets. I don’t know why he does it. He likes his pockets.”

As Jonesborough’s only trained explosives detection K-9, Cygan and Fleming’s job is crucial for a place that hosts numerous events with crowds of attendees all over the town.

Fleming urges folks who encounter the duo to make sure they ask permission before getting friendly.

“I think the biggest thing is asking if it’s okay to do something. A lot of people, they’ll just run up and touch the dog and half the time when they do that we’re trying to work the dog.

“For Cygan, we were running the tents at Storytelling, looking for explosives. Well, once you start touching and talking to the dog, it could mess him up. He’ll get distracted while we’re trying to focus on the task. It was a problem big-time at Storytelling.”

Fleming said she always knew what path she wanted to follow, and now that she is traveling that path, she is enjoying the trip.

“Being a handler is awesome. Police work is interesting. I enjoy it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else, for sure.”

Jonesborough to kick off Third Thursdays

The Town of Jonesborough is prepared to introduce a brand new event series to downtown. Third Thursdays will begin Thursday, May 16.


Main Street Jonesborough is set to kick-off a brand new series, Third Thursdays. This event will take place on the third Thursday of every month where you’ll discover unique finds at the many shops, explore museums and grab dinner or a tasty treat from one of the eateries or confectioneries. This family-friendly and open-to-the-public event takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. throughout downtown Jonesborough.

Jonesborough’s Third Thursdays will begin May 16 with a special kick-off in addition to extended shop hours. The festivities will include History Happy Hour at the Chester Inn Museum from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Boone Street Market’s Thursday Burger Night, live music, and extended hours until 8 p.m. for both shopping and dining.

For more information, please call The Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423)753-1010 or visit Main Street Jonesborough on Facebook.

Alliance gets ready for Digitization Day

Anne Mason and Jacob Simpson at work in the archives.



The call has gone out.

The Heritage Alliance needs your old photographs to help them tell the story of Washington County.

And they’re planning a special digitization day to help them do it.

On Saturday, May 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,  the Alliance will launch Washington County  Digitization Day to help local residents capture, preserve and share their historic photos.

According to Anne Mason with the Heritage Alliance, this is an important way to help fill in current archival gaps in local history.

This old archival photo shows downtown Jonesborough and the early Herald & Tribune building on Courthouse Square.

For example, she said, “we kind of roughly know what town looked like (during particular historical periods), but how about the rest of the county during that period?”

In addition, whole groups of individuals who didn’t fit the stereotype of mainstream America are also woefully represented, she said.

“Any images that help us tell the story of (the African American community), of the Latino community, any communities that are not typical of what you see when you walk into a museum,” Mason said. “We want to tell the whole story of Washington County.”

Digitization was recently made possible by a grant the Alliance received in late 2018 from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission — a division of the National Archives, and administered by the Tennessee Historical Records Advisory Board, as well as the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

“It was actually our second grant,” Mason said with a smile. “The first one provided the shelves that helped us organize our archives.”

Digitization, she said, is helping to preserve the archives, which already includes an extensive collection of local historic photos.

As the collection grows, it will also hopefully lead to easier access by the community into these historic records.

To take part in Digitization Day, participants are asked to bring old photographs and/or negatives along with a flash drive to the Jonesborough/Washington County Historia Museum located at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Staff will scan the image and return the original to the owner, along with the digital copy transferred to the flash drive.

That way, Mason said, the photo is not only preserved in the archive, but also for the family.

Mason and Jacob Simpson, also with the Alliance, both stress that participants may need to toss aside any preconceived notions of what constitutes historical photos.

For example, Mason said, the Alliance would be thrilled to see anything form the 1920s to the 1960s, a noticeable gap in their records. Even later photos with early town events or key individuals can be valuable.

“There are things even going on now that are worth preserving,” Simpson said.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Alliance’s wish list.

“We have very few photographs of the Chester Inn during the time period post World War II…” Simpson said. “We also have no pictures of the interior of the Chester Inn.”

Churches, clubs and organizational gatherings are also important.

“There is one picture that we have that is the Oddfellows parade and it’s actually the African-American Oddfellows group,” Simpson said, adding that it provided another important element often ignored in local history.

Family photos can also be valuable, both for the period trappings, the background and the individuals, as well as photos that capture any of the many communities surrounding Jonesborough, from Telford to Garber to Bowmantown.

The most important thing to remember, Mason said, is that while these photos tell their own stories, any extra details about when, where and who go a long way in helping in the preservation efforts.

“They all have some sort of educational value, but it does help when we know something about the people,” Mason said.

For more information, the Heritage Alliance at (423) 753-9580, or contact the organization via email at  Additional information can also be found online at

‘Harvey’ to step onto JRT stage

Lucas Schmidt and Heather Allen, above, are just two of the cast members who will bring “Harvey” to life this month. Schmidt will play the lovable Elwood P. Dowd.


The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is honored to bring the heartwarming comedy “Harvey” to the stage May 10 – 26. This show is guaranteed to delight audiences of all ages just as the 1950 movie starring Jimmy Stewart has for the past seven decades.

“When I cast this show, I knew I had to find someone who could bring the lovable Elwood P. Dowd to life as Jimmy Stewart did,” explained director Pam Johnson. “And I found that someone in Lucas Schmidt, one of JRT’s regulars.

“If you’ve seen him on stage, you know what I mean. Well, unless the only thing you’ve seen him in is “Matilda the Musical.” His role in Harvey is the total opposite of the evil Miss Trunchbull he played in that show.”

Elwood is kind and charming but considered an oddity in town because his best friend is a 6½-foot-tall invisible rabbit named Harvey. As his sister Veta Louis Simmons puts it, “He and Elwood go every place together. Elwood buys railroad tickets and theater tickets for both of them. We have to set a place at the table for Harvey. We have to move over on the sofa to make room for Harvey. And they tell each other everything.”

Veta and her daughter Myrtle Mae are so frazzled by Elwood’s delusions, they decide to have him committed to a sanitarium. But, after a comedy of errors, Veta is the one committed and Elwood goes free. Once the mistake is discovered, the hunt is on for Elwood to bring him back to the sanitarium.

But the question to the very end is, does Elwood really belong in a sanitarium? What’s so wrong about seeing a rabbit, especially when Elwood’s philosophy on life is so beautiful?

Daniel Matthews, who plays the sanitarium orderly Duane Wilson, said his favorite Elwood quote is, “I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I’m with.”

Austin Wingate, who portrays the arrogant Dr. Lyman Sanderson, said his favorite quote is, “You must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”

“The quote from Elwood that I love best,” said Johnson, “is ‘Doctor, I wrestled with reality for 25 years, and I am happy to state that I finally won out over it.’”

Some of Elwood’s statements may seem outrageous, but they can also make people stop and evaluate what life truly is about.

“There is a little bit of Elwood in all of us: believing in the impossible, and not taking life too seriously,” said Dana Kehs, who plays the aristocratic family friend Mrs. Chauvenet.

Wingate added, “This show is a great reminder for our fast-paced world to slow down and appreciate the ‘miracles’ that are all around us.”

“I agree,” Johnson said. “Slow down and look at the world a little differently. It’s a lovely place to live.”

“Harvey” is written by Mary Chase and directed by Pam Johnson. The JRT thanks the show’s sponsors: Wolfe Development, Citizens Bank, Monkee’s of Johnson City, and Sonia King/Mary B. Martin.

Rounding out the cast are Heather Allen, Tim Barto, Andy Cobble, Janette Gaines, Shawn Hale, Sarah Sanders, Catherine Squibb, and Krista Wharton.

Show times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors.

The theatre is located at West Main Street. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to (An American Sign Language interpreter will interpret the Saturday evening, May 25, show. Reservations for the interpreted show need to be made by May 4.)

Rain fails to dampen Crockett plant auction

David Crockett FFA members work the show.


Staff Writer

Cold and rainy weather was not enough to keep green thumb-owning folks from the Fifth Annual David Crockett Future Farmers of America plant auction on Saturday morning.

“I was expecting fewer people to come because of the weather,” Crockett FFA Chapter Treasurer Anna Young said, “But that just goes to show how big of an event this is and how much people love it.”

Students celebrate the auction’s success.

Held at the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center in a steady rain, lilac trees, chainsaws, pallets of mulch and much more was auctioned off to help pay for the expenses and travels of the Crockett Chapter FFA.

A table full of awards claimed by the club greeted everyone who walked in, displaying their successes in their travels. According to Josh Conger, a Crockett Agriculture teacher with the FFA, around $9,000 was raised at the event, which will help pay for future trips to competitions.

The 2017 Chapter was successful at the state level and advanced to the national competition.

“We were the runner up. It was in the nursery and landscaping (category) and they were second place. Just getting to go to a national competition in itself was a treat for us,” Young said.

She added that the Crockett FFA would soon begin the state event, and that the auction money would help them at any competition they advance to.

One hundred percent of the auctioned items were donated and Conger estimated that one quarter of the plants were grown in the Crockett greenhouses.

The event has proven popular in the past and remained so this year even in the constant rain.

“I think it went really well this year. This is definitely one of the best years that I’ve seen and this is my third year doing it,” Young said.

According to Young, some of the popular items were the hanging baskets and the mixed planters, while the landscaping equipment also went quickly. She said the club was beginning to branch out this year and added weedeaters, chainsaws and more to the auctioned items. Also available were season tickets to Wetlands Waterpark.

After the event, Conger said that there were still two greenhouses full of items available for purchase by the public. The available hours are the first two Saturdays in May from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and on regular school days during school hours.

Reaching toward the heavens

Visitors to Jonesborough have been witness to a restoration in progress at Jonesborough Presbyterian Church. According to Gordon Edwards, the restoration began on March 12 and will continue until it is complete. “My role for the church is Project Leader for this restoration of the “belfry, roof and spire,’ “ Edwards said. “That’s technically what we are doing — instead of using the term ‘steeple’”  The church was established in 1790 with the current building erected in 1831.

Principal of the Year: Grandview’s Rachel Adams receives honor

Principal Rachel Adams observes a Grandview classroom.


Staff Writer

Every morning at Grandview Elementary, Head Principal Rachel Adams greets each student as they enter the school. Whether it’s raining or 20 degrees outside, she offers a smile and greeting as they arrive. But little do the students know that’s when they also offer Adams her favorite part of being a school principal.

“Honestly my favorite thing to do every day is car line,” Adams said. “It’s welcoming the students every day and hopefully making them feel like they are welcome here, they are wanted here, they are loved here. It’s important that they’re here. That’s really important to me. The weather might not always be the best, but that’s my favorite part.”

But Adams’ day doesn’t just involve smiling at kids as they walk through the door; she’s constantly looking for ways to better serve the teachers of Grandview who can then expertly serve students — and it’s her dedication to that mission that earned her this year’s Principal of the Year Award for Washington County Schools.

Adams is in her second year as head principal after serving as an assistant principal at Jonesborough Middle School for two years and a teacher at Jonesborough Elementary School for eight. Since then, Adams has been selected as one of the state’s 25 principals in the Governor’s Academy for School Leadership and is also part of the Tennessee Rural Principals Network.

Adams’ recognition as the principal of the year comes after Grandview reached its Reward School status, the highest distinction a school can receive. And for that honor, she points to the talent at Grandview.

“I think when I came to Grandview, I recognized there was a lot of talent here with the teaching staff and the support staff,” Adams said. “I think I saw a lot of potential and it just took focusing everyone. The vision was there, it was just putting all the pieces together. I have very high expectations, but I just truly believe that all students can learn at high levels and that we just have to push them to their fullest potential.”

Grandview’s success is attributed to hard working teachers, support staff and students, but it also comes from Adams’ focus on highlighting others’ strengths.

“Instead of trying to fix things that are wrong or trying to shape someone into something they’re not, I try to identify where people’s strengths are and let them use their strengths,” Adams explained, “whether it’s the way they’re teaching, what committee they serve on, the grade level they’re in or the subject they’re teaching.”

It might be hard to believe that someone who has dedicated so much of her time each day to the betterment of teachers and students ever wanted to anything other than teach and lead. But there was a time that Adams thought she’d be behind an operating table instead of a principal’s desk.

“What’s funny is, all through school I wanted to be a doctor. I was going to be a doctor. I knew that through high school and that’s what drove my path and everything. Then my first year in college over Christmas break, I shadowed a doctor in surgery and I said, ‘Oh. Nope, not for me,’ Adams said, laughing. “So then it was just a natural decision. I realized then that teaching is what I wanted to do.”

Instead, Adams has taken her natural love for teaching and leadership and honed those skills into administrative work.

“I love to teach people and watch them grow,” she said. “One of the things I would do (as a teacher) was help other teachers. I really enjoy working with other teachers and serving in leadership roles as a teacher. The reason I wanted to be principal was I love to help grow other teachers and help them do their best.”

Though being a principal sometimes includes mountains of paperwork and disciplinary duties, it also involves keeping an eye on the big picture, which Adams said is the most important part of her job.

“All of the teachers here, all of the support staff here, every person here, our number one priority is what’s best for our students and their learning,” Adams said. “We are thinking about what’s best for the whole child academically, socially, emotionally, physically. I think that’s important. If you’re not thinking about what’s best for the child, it’s easy to lose some children.”

“I always make decisions thinking about, ‘What if this was my child?’ That’s something that I think is really important, too, when dealing with parents and teachers and support staff. We always have to think about that. I think that helps a lot.”

Part of focusing on the “whole student” also involves recognizing student success and strengths. In fact, it’s typical at Grandview to see a smiling student heading off to the principals office with a positive referral in hand to share a recent success and grab a goodie from the treasure box.

“This morning I had a third grade student come into the office to do her positive office referral. She had her multiplication test, which she had made a 100 on — which is fantastic. She had her data notebook, showing me where she was, which was about 40 percent and jumped to 100 percent. She was so excited. (It’s good) to see the success and the growth in the students and also in the faculty and staff.”

Adams doesn’t plan to stop here. Her expectations are high and she already has plans for next year, (which include focusing on how teachers and staff can better serve students who have had traumatic experiences as well as digging into test scores later this year.) But all of her goals start and end in the same place; and that just happens to be the place where she starts and ends her day — with students.

“My vision is that every student, first and foremost, is able to build a relationship with someone here and that they feel like they are welcomed, they’re wanted, they’re loved,” She said. “If we don’t build those relationships with students then all of those other things, academics, test scores, it’s not going to be the same. So the first thing is I think we’ve got to make them feel welcomed and wanted.”

McKinney Center goes in search of names

The McKinney Center, formerly the Booker T. Washington School, was the home to a generation of wonderful educators. Many are known, yet some names have been lost. This month, the McKinney Center is looking to fill in some gaps concerning the faculty and staff of Booker T. Washington from the years of 1940-1965.

During the 25 years that Booker T. Washington operated as a segregated school, there were two mainstays. Ms. Brown, who taught grades 1 through 4, and Ms. Silvers, who taught grades 5 through 8.

The school also operated under many different principals during these years. The McKinney Center is looking to organize these principals in chronological order. Former students are encouraged to call the center with information concerning names and dates of tenure. The center is especially looking for any photographs, as well.

In addition, the names and roles other supportive people who contributed to education at Booker T. Washington are also being sought. This would include people who cooked for students, drove the bus, provided maintenance, and taught. The center is especially looking for photographs of these individuals, in order to honor their contributions to education in Jonesborough.

If you have information about educators at Booker T. Washington School, have photos or artifacts, or a story you would like to share, please contact the McKinney Center at (423) 753-0562 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Photos and documents will be scanned and given back immediately. These photos and documents will help tell the story of Booker T. Washington School.

New chef gets cookin’

Chef Neal Smith fires things up at Boone Street Market.


Chef Neal Smith has only been at Boones Street Market for a few short weeks, but he just can’t stop talking about the food.

“There is no reason to go anywhere else. It’s phenomenal,” Smith said. “The quality of the meat is unreal. There are probably Japanese  chefs that are mad at the quality of waygu meat I’m getting. It’s ridiculous.”

It’s the kind of “ridiculous” on which Smith thrives.

A native of Stoney Creek, Tennessee — “the Hunter community,” he said — Smith traveled a number of miles to end up back here, close to his roots and in a situation of which he had only dreamed.

“At the risk of sounding trite, because everybody  is doing it, I miss what my grandmother made,” he explained. “My grandmother was an amazing cook. My mom was and is an amazing cook. And I miss, like when I was a little kid, going out in the garden with my grandfather, and coming back home and canning with my nanny. I miss that taste…”

Neal Smith shows off some of the market’s offerings.

Yet in the beginning, Smith admits he had no idea that recreating that experience for others would become his passion and his career.

He was first bitten by the culinary bug as a teenager at the local Waffle House.

“My first cooking job was I was a night shift lead at the old Waffle House on Roan Street,” Smith said. “This was the summer before I was a senior and the summer after.

“I really liked it though. The guy I worked for over there, his first name was Ed, he was the manager…He was really cool and he had all these pictures of him in the toque blanche, the tall white hat, of him cooking on cruise ships and such in the little Waffle House manager’s office.

“I guess he just got burned out and came home.”

The gentleman was a great teacher, however, Smith said, helping to lay a groundwork that this chef would rely on his entire life.

“Honestly, I will say this,” Smith added. “if you can work at a night shift at a busy Waffle House, you can work at any commercial kitchen. You might have to learn technique. You might have to learn a lot of other stuff, but as far as speed, you’re set.”

For example, in a Waffle House, they don’t use a ticket system. “It’s all call and heard. They call and there is never a ticket for you to look at. So no matter how busy a Waffle House gets, you have to memorize what’s coming in.

“So hats off to the guys that work at the Waffle House.”

Of course it’s been many years since Smith was in a Waffle House kitchen. After training and a guide for river rafting, Smith established a pattern of working as a guide in the summer and sometimes acting as cook as well, then getting a cooking job in the winter months.

Smith attended some college and some culinary school, but got much of his training working under what he considers some of cooking’s great master chefs.

“I fell in love with it,” he said. “I thought ‘this is what I’ve been missing.’ ”

Smith went on to work at several executive chef positions, mostly in Ohio, until he and his wife decided to return home to Stoney Creek to be close to Smith’s family.

Someone told him about the opening at Boones Street, and he was immediately interested.

“Cooks and chefs usually have a one- to two- year span in a restaurant. They just get burnt out,” Smith explained. “It ain’t the kitchen stuff you see on TV.  You’re going to work six days a week. You’re going to work 70 hours a week.

“ You’ve got to love it to live it.”

At Boones Street Market, he was offered the chance to work with real farm-to-table ingredients, all while getting to meet the farmers and have creative control.

His response?

“Yes please.. I don’t know a better way to put it than that.”

Now, Smith is part of a project that still has its challenges, but offers so much promise.

“We’re still in development in the kitchen itself,” he said with a shake of his head. “You know what a camel is, right? A horse made by committee. That’s our kitchen right now.”

He also likes what Jonesborough Locally Grown executive director Shelley Crowe says.

“What Shelley and I are doing — with the help and support of a lot of people — is we’re building the airplane while we’re trying to fly it.”

But he believes it is all worth it. It simply comes back to the food, and the chance to bring back some of his grandma’s cooking, with a bit of a modern twist.

“A lot of times when you get something from the grocery store, the flavor’s not there,” Smith said. “It doesn’t taste like what it is. .

“Here, it tastes like spinach is supposed to taste like and it looks like spinach in a picture book. The same thing for the beef and the lamb.

After all, he concludes, “where else can you go where you call a guy and he’s going to pull something out of the ground and bring it to you?

“Everything I have here is like that.”

Boones Street Market will be featuring Chef Smith’s dishes at hot lunches and weekend brunches. Set hours are still in progress. Visit  Boone Street Market’s Facebook page for continued updates.

Jonesborough spreads St. Paddy’s spirit

Joel Van Eaton, Van Eaton, Carol Huie enjoy the St. Paddy’s Day fun.


Hundreds of locals and visitors took part in Jonesborough’s St. Paddy’s Celebration that was held on Saturday, March 16.

The day was filled with kids’ activities, live music, a fun run, Irish foods, green beer and lasting memories.

Malachi Peek and McKinley Honeycutt show off their first place costumes.

During the day, families enjoyed the Leprechaun Trail which led them places like the Christopher Taylor House where visitors could make-their-own Victorian St. Patrick’s Day card, visit the Chester Inn Museum parlor to hear an Irish fairytale from playwright and author Anne G’Fellers-Mason, stop by Bewitched Boutique to get a free green Oreo ball, visit Tennessee Hills for a free green koozie and sweet treat, step into Noelle for some St. Paddy’s goodies,  enjoy Downtown Sweet ‘s shamrock cookies, learn skills at Mill Spring Makers Market for rock painting, and relax at Main Street for live music from the Celtic Dulcimer Trio.

The Jonesborough Gold Hunt, a mobile-friendly QR code scavenger hunt, took patrons throughout downtown all weekend long.

The hunt included almost 20 locations incorporating Jonesborough’s unique history and architecture.

At 4p.m., the Paddy’s Dash: Brew Fun Run began at the International Storytelling Center with the two-mile loop making a pit stop at Depot Street Brewery, then back to the International Storytelling Center for Shamrockin’ on the Plaza.

Shamrockin’ on the Plaza incorporated live music from ETSU’s Celtic Band, Roaring Jelly, Bangers and Mash, Irish stew and Depot Street Beer all provided by Main Street Café and Catering as well as a St. Paddy’s Costume Contest.

First-place winner for the costume contest was Malachi Peek and McKinley Honeycutt and the second-place winner was Carol Huie and her puppy Tucker.

MOTS to get ready for 21st season with kick-off gala

Listeners gather at a Music on the Square concert.



For area music lovers, Music on the Square’s spring gala has become almost as much a sign of the season as crocuses in bloom.

But for organizer Steve Cook —  currently getting ready for the March 22 gala, to be held once again at the historic McKinney Center — it’s still all about bringing the tunes to downtown Jonesborough.

Music lovers gather at the 2018 gala.

“We’re 21 now,” Cook said, adding with an impish grin, “we’re legal.”

From May 3 until Sept. 27, MOTS has and will continue to offer top-of-the-line talents each Friday to residents and visitors alike — all at no cost for the listeners, other than what they choose to toss into the entertainment hat that goes around each performance.

But while Cook remains committed to continuing to offer this family friendly event to all who come to listen, he soon recognized there was a cost to be met.

That’s how Music on the Square’s  springtime gala and fundraiser was born. Cook decided it was the perfect way to provide the community with a fun event, showcasing some of what MOTS has to offer, all while raising needed money to continue the tradition.

This year, the Friday event, which begins at 6 p.m., will feature music, a live auction, heavy hors d’oevres and drinks, much like past galas.

But 2019 is boasting a few differences.

For one thing, while Cook promises the food will be every bit as good as in previous years, he is hoping it will be a bit more Jonesborough focused, partly out of  necessity.

“Last year, the Noli Truck provided all the food, free of charge,” Cook explained. “This year, however, with a new Erwin restaurant on the horizon for Noli, MOTS needed to look elsewhere

“I thought what better way than to feature our own restaurants,” Cook said. “So Dawn Heaton (of Barrell House) is in charge of organizing the food.”

Cook added that they will be meeting this week to fine tune the details, but ideally, diners will be able to sample everything from brisket and burritos to pizza and more.

Auction items will also be paired down a bit to feature more of the best-of-the-best.

And music — always a necessity at a MOTS event — will this year be provided by Blue Foxx.

“Sol Driven Train was not available,” Cook explained. “Blue Foxx is a great oldies band. They do Santana, the Beatles, the Allman Brothers. . . “

Of course, in all that fun, ticket-buyers will also have the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to make MOTS available for all. And for Cook, that makes this one of the best causes to participate in.

“I love music,” he said simply. “I’d rather be playing music than presenting, but you can’t play all the time.”

Tickets for Music on the Square’s 21st Anniversary Gala are $50 per person and can be purchased by calling the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 753-1010 or by visiting

Sponsorships are also still available throughout the season. Contact Cook at for more information.

Market returns: Boone Street opens to reveal brighter, more spacious look



After a short break beginning in January to undergo renovations, Jonesborough’s year-round, locally produced market reopened its doors Saturday.

“People need their milk, eggs and bread,” explained Jonesborough Locally Grown President Shelley Crowe. 

While Crowe was quick to point out that the market is still adding finishing touches, she joined in her customers’ excitement at the newly renovated space.

“We now have an inside door to the bathroom,” Crowe said with a big grin. “With the expansion, we got the bathroom access in the inside and we also have an office space out here.”

The new market office, complete with a small window to allow a clear view of market space, is large enough to have two to three people working at one time without being moved from the main floor, she said.

More importantly, it has freed up valuable space for the market’s kitchen. And more space, Crowe said, means more products and more classes, events and tastings.

“In addition to the café space (at the front), which was a major part of this renovation, was the additional produce space,” she said. This will allow the market to better support its local farms and producers.

Hot meals — and the space to enjoy them — are also part of this new Boones Creek Market.

“We now have full-time kitchen manager and chef, Neil Smith,” Crowe said. “He comes with a very extensive back ground. And he is excited about farm to table, the café and helping us grow.”

Still ahead are finishing touches on the windows and interiors, as well as planning menu schedules and product availability. “We still have some work to do,” she said. “We’ll have a big grand opening in April.” Still, Crowe said, organizers and volunteers remain pleased at this restart. And Saturday’s crowd appeared to agree.

“I think it’s very nice. I think it’s also an example of how Jonesborough has grown,” said 14-year-old Sean Clare from Kingsport, who was visiting the market with grandfather and mother.

According to Sean’s grandfather, Jim Price, “We came for coffee, crepes and a haircut and this was on our list.”

“We come here once a month,” chimed in Lisa Clare, Sean’s mother.

Stephanie Saxsma, originally from Illinois but recently having settled in Gray, was another shopper who thought the opening was worth the drive.

“We just moved her six months ago,” Saxsma explained. “But we’ve been visiting here for several years. The jellies are good. The fresh herbs are very nice. We love sourdough bread.”

For Cynthia Burnley, however, it was all about the cheese.

“What I buy all the time is the cheese,” Burnley said. “It’s Ashe County cheese, and then I buy the pimiento cheese… and then the breads and the vegetables.”

A resident of Jonesborough for 40 years, she sees the market as not only a great place to shop, but also a strong draw for the town itself.

“People are excited to come here to the Boone Street Market and they come here for the Farmers Market,” Burnley said. “The Farmers Market and this one, a-year round market,  I think it’s attracting people to Jonesborough.”

Presidents’ Day

Jonesborough Elementary School’s kindergarten class (ages 5 and 6) celebrated Presidents’ Day this year by dressing up as former (and current)  U.S. leaders. According to teacher Ann Conner, “It all came about last year when we were working on our kindergarten social studies standards. One of our state requirements is learning about presidents and thus, the annual President Dress-Up Day began.” Students took home an information sheet and signed up for their top three choices to dress like and give a small speech on. The speech consisted of their president’s name,  the numerical order of the president, and an interesting fact about the president. “President Dress-Up Day is one of my favorite kindergarten days” Conner said.”It is filled with parent involvement, creative design of costumes, and fun  memorabilia learning!”

Jonesborough’s “Wild Women” help out

The “Wild Women of Jonesborough” are quick to help others as they did during the recent government shutdown.


Staff Writer

Many folks across the region watched the recent government shutdown crawl on and on, wondering when the rift would heal enough to at least restart the services left in the dark. 

Nancy Kavanaugh wondered if there was a way she and her “associates” could help any locally employed government employees working through the shutdown for no pay.

 “We came up on this government shutdown and I kept thinking, ‘There have to be people in this area who are affected, who are working without pay.’ And then it came to me — the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration workers (at the Tri-Cities airport) might be in that category.”

Her group, the “Wild Women of Jonesborough”, raised over $1,100 to help the airport workers who manned their posts throughout the shutdown.

Kavanaugh, who founded the group of mysterious Jonesborough residents known as the “Wild Women of Jonesborough”, has been the driving force for the group’s charitable efforts in the time since its founding last October, as well as the ringleader.

After numerous phone calls, the “Wild Women” ringleader said she eventually tracked down a Department of Homeland Security manager that could help.

“She told me they had 35 TSA employees and 22 FAA employees. Then she told me all the limitations on giving any kind of gift to government employees. One was that a gift could not be more than $20 and they could only accept it once a year. 

“It was pretty unpleasant that all we could do was give them each $20. So I thought ‘Well, that’s better than nothing. (The manager) recommended that we buy gift cards from Walmart, Ingles or Food City because all three of those places have gas stations.”

Kavanaugh said she began to call her “close associates” in the group for donations and that while the amounts were different, everyone was willing to help. 

“So I raised money to buy 57 or 58 gift cards for these employees. And people were very generous and happy to help. I never got anything negative from people.

“I see it as Jonesborough is a great town, and a great community of people, generous people who want to help other people…It wasn’t about me, it’s how people with small amounts of money can put money together and make a big impact.” 

The origin of the “Wild Women of Jonesborough” began when Kavanaugh, who is a board member for the Jonesborough Repertory Theater, was at home ironing linen napkins and thinking about an upcoming JRT performance. 

“This idea flew past me that there was a play that was going to be produced here called “The Wild Women of Winedale”. And it was a world premiere and they were going to present it here for the first time. And I had this idea, well what about “The Wild Women of Jonesborough” being sponsors of this show? And it went from there.”

According to Kavanaugh, she made phone call after phone call asking who would help sponsor the show, finally ending with around $4,000. 

“We would not reveal who we were. So we had an ad in the playbill that ran for the shows and just said, “Wild Women of Jonesborough” So that’s how the “Wild Women of Jonesborough” came to be.”

Kavanaugh and some members of the “Wild Women” met recently to chat about their charitable work so far and possible future ideas.

Requesting anonymity, the members said that some of them did not know the other members, but everyone was friends with Kavanaugh, and they were all fans of the JRT.

“The significance of it is what one woman can do who has a lot of credibility, because Nancy (Kavanaugh) has so much credibility and does so much good. And we trusted her judgment. We knew if she said there was a need, we’d be part of it. 

“The JRT is a very reputable organization, we all support it, we all attend, so Nancy and the idea to support the play was natural,” one member said.

Kavanaugh, who said she envisions the group eventually having collective leadership, added that she believes the future is exciting because the blueprint has yet to be drawn up.

“That’s the beauty of this. No one did this for publicity. No one wanted their name in the paper. It is below the radar, people who have similar values and interests,” another “Wild Woman” added, “The group is below the radar, non-faith based, and non-political. Involved women who want to help.”

Chocolate Fest hits all-time high

Graham Carriger, left, and Thomas Petretta enjoy Saturday’s Chocolate fun.


Staff Writer

While the mild winds may have kept the hot air balloon from soaring above the Jonesborough Library,  they certainly didn’t keep much else away as Jonesborough welcomed its fourth annual Chocolate Fest.

The balloon didn’t get off the ground due to wind, but chocolate was plentiful on Saturday and crowds seemed satisfied.

Last Saturday’s Chocolate Fest 2019 event featured more tickets sold, more attendees waltzing up and down Main Street and more delectables — enough of everything to keep everybody happy.

“It was a huge success. We were up 30 percent over last year. That’s big. That brought a lot of people into town. We sold over 19,000 tickets,” said Dona Lewis with the Jonesborough Area Merchants and Service Association at Monday evening’s Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting.

Lewis continued. “We had 38merchants handing out candy, all the way up to the Pancake House and all the way over to the Chuckey Depot and everything in between. And I just want to say ‘thank you’ to everybody that helped.”

Smiles reign at Saturday’s fest.

The JAMSA-sponsored event was held throughout downtown Jonesborough in various businesses, while some 11E-based businesses participated by setting up in the Historic Jonesborough Visitor’s Center.

In order to draw crowds towards the northern part of downtown, a hot air balloon was brought in to offer tethered rides for $10 per person in the library parking lot, provided the weather cooperated.

According to The Lollipop Shop owner Jeff Gurley, who led the “balloon effort”, the maximum allowable wind for the inflatable was six miles per hour.

However the winds were not in a cooperative frame of mind, said local downtown merchant and JAMSA member Melinda Copp.

“(The balloon) never actually got up because of the wind. It was right around seven miles per hour wind, so they stuck around to see if it might die down but no, they never got to fly the balloon, sadly.”

Although no one was able to float over the town, the amount of chocolates available may have kept any disappointment at bay, while also offering a chance to escape the winter doldrums and get out of the house.

Rows and rows of chocolate bites wait for another happy customer.

“Who doesn’t love chocolate? And I think it’s so close to Valentine’s Day a lot of people do it as a day date or they’ll do it as a day date for the whole family,” Copp explained. “It’s far enough after Christmas that people are ready to get out and do something after kind of being inside for the winter. So I think it’s a good draw to get people downtown.”

Another new addition to Chocolate Fest this year was the contest for the best treat.

“We had where you could vote on your favorite chocolate on the guides we handed out. The people returned that to the Storytelling Center if they wanted to vote and the ‘Old Town Dairy Bar’ actually won. They had a hot fudge cake and it won. You can’t go wrong with hot fudge cake,” Copp said.

While those with a sweet tooth had the opportunity to indulge last Saturday, Alderman Terry Countermine offered some advice to 2020 Chocolate Fest attendees at Monday’s BMA meeting, “You gotta follow that with an exercise Saturday.”

The Tool Box: ’Equipment’ tops school lunch needs

Allicia Osborne at Lamar is ready for whatever is thrown at her.


Staff Writer

When Donna Mauk, the satellite kitchen manager at Lamar Elementary, makes her way through the school’s kitchen, she passes the dishwasher, double oven and rows of stainless steal equipment. It’s all used on a daily basis (save the deep fryer that’s yet to be removed and hasn’t been used since before stricter food regulations were put in place). But should a piece of that equipment go out, the entire kitchen’s routine can be thrown off-kilter.

Lamar was built in the ‘90s and thus contains equipment that is still in relatively good shape according to Mauk. But that’s not the case at every school. While one school’s dishwasher might be out, another’s oven isn’t cooking evenly. These equipment needs, as mentioned in previous school board meetings, are the biggest struggle for the food service department according to Director of Schools Bill Flanary. What are the needs of the Washington County School System’s kitchens? And what action is being taken to combat those needs?

The tools to do the work

No matter if the power goes out or the freezer temperature start to rise in Lamar’s kitchen, Mauk and her staff can still anticipate a group of kindergarten-through-eighth graders lined up in the cafeteria as the sun comes up.

Pictured above is the equipment in Lamar Elementary’s kitchen.

“We figure it out,” Mauk said, standing in the cafeteria kitchen after the last group of students have cleared out of the cafeteria. “You have to come up with ways to figure things out. Whether we’re ready or not, at 7:45 they’re going to be here to eat breakfast. And at 10:45 they’re going to start back for lunch. So it just depends on the day, what you’re cooking and just the challenge of making sure that you have everything done in a timely manner.”

Mauk said she and her staff have been pretty lucky with the equipment at Lamar, but that currently, the dishwasher hasn’t been holding temperature, which will mean the school system’s maintenance department will have to pay a visit to try to repair the machine.

Each of Washington County’s schools comes with its own set of struggles, but for some schools, some struggles will remain until money can be put towards equipment replacements. And that’s what makes equipment the top struggle for the school system’s kitchens, Flanary explained.

“At Boone we have some original equipment (still being used) and that school opened in ’71,” Flanary said. “Some of it is sitting there and hasn’t been used in years because it’s broken. Phillip Patrick, our maintenance supervisor, will have a man take a part somewhere and they’ll say, ‘What is this? Is it an antique? This doesn’t exist anymore. We can’t get this.’”

So why aren’t these outdated pieces of equipment replaced? Flanary said it’s because many of those items aren’t as costly as the school system’s other capital improvement needs.

“The items that food service needs are not so costly that we would go to the county commission and ask for capital improvement money,” Flanary said.”They are $2,000 and $3,000 items where we need a $300,000 roof somewhere. We’re not going to go ask for an oven that costs $3,000.”

Meanwhile, Washington County Schools Food Service Director Caitlin Shew feels that having an equipment replacement schedule could help with aging equipment.

“Just like with the buses, you’ve got to have plans in place to replace (equipment) pretty often and that is the same with school lunch equipment,” Shew said. “We don’t have (requirements from the state on when equipment has to be replaced). That is something I think needs to be implemented.”

Others feel it’s a sign that times have changed.

In the school board’s Jan. 24 called meeting to discuss 2018’s audit, Phillip McLain said he felt there’s been a change in the amount of revenue the school system’s food service department has earned in recent years.

“Years ago food service bought all their own vehicles to transport food in. They had tons of money back in those days. But with all the things we went through the last few years, it just ate up all the profit that was there,” McLain said. “I think it’s just increased food costs (that have taken a toll on food service revenue). We always hate to increase costs to the students so a lot of times we just sort of absorbed it and it got out of balance, which is why we spent some money to get some of this equipment here recently.”

In November, the board voted to take almost $80,000 in fund balance reserve dollars to put towards food service equipment needs. At that meeting, Shew came before the Washington County Board of Education with a lengthy list of needs. Shew’s list came in at $152,979.62 (her second option list came in at $158,038.88) and included items such as three ovens, a heated pass-thru cabinet, an ice machine, a reach-in refrigerator, a reach-in freezer, and multiple hot wells among other food service items.

“When the money was there for these types of replacements, the need wasn’t there,” Shew explained. “And then food costs went up, the prices of the school lunches increased, labor was still high — all those factors kept expenses high and revenue not being high enough dwindled that excess money that could have been used to make those purchases. And when we needed to replace equipment, the money wasn’t there. So it was just that evolution.”

The story of aging school facilities in the Washington County School System has also played into the operations of the schools’ food service.

The impact

While the cafeteria at Boones Creek Elementary and Middle won’t replace some of its older equipment due to the new Boones Creek K-8 school that is scheduled to open in August of 2019, the same can’t be said for Jonesborough Elementary and Jonesborough Middle schools.

When asked what the main concern was for the entire food service department, Shew and Flanary both agreed it would be the need for a freezer at Jonesborough Middle School.

Currently, the Jonesborough Middle School freezer is not operating, thus, the school is storing its food in the central freezer located near the bus garage in Jonesborough. However, that freezer is outdated, Flanary said, and has its own set of problems.

“It leaks cold air, it’s inefficient and it’s time to do something with it,” Flanary said. “These freezers and refrigerators don’t last forever, as much as we’d like them to. They get old and worn out, they’re inefficient and they’re wasting energy.”

Shew said she felt the freezer is the most crucial need for Washington County’s food service due to the amount of money that goes into the food being held in such freezers.

“A freezer holding a couple thousand dollars worth of food to me is a lot bigger than a hot well not working in a service line,” Shew said. “That (freezer) is housing everything, all your money. Until that food goes into a student’s belly, that’s money. It’s very important to keep it at the right temperature.”

The decreased storage space also serves as a hold back when it comes to food shipment orders. When the county school system needs more of an item, such as chicken, Shew explained, it typically comes in a pallet shipment from a food source like Sysco in Knoxville. That requires the school system to have storage space available for those large shipments. Flanary said, for now, the system is making due until they can house all its food locally.

“It’s a little known fact that we actually rent freezer space in Knoxville,” Flanary said. “We don’t have enough capacity here locally. When we need a large shipment of something, (Sysco will) pallet it up and bring truck loads of it up. But we’d like to get away from that. We’d like to not have our food stored 100 miles from here. We’d like to have it here handy. So that’s a big challenge — storage.”

While it wouldn’t be cost effective to put a new freezer at Jonesborough Middle School should the building not be utilized for a yet-to-be-approved Jonesborough K-8 school project, the school system still needs a new freezer. To combat that problem, Flanary is hoping to see two freezers placed at the upcoming Boones Creek School.

“There are some big purchases (that have to be made at the new school), I think crushed rock for a roadbed out there is one of them. They don’t know how much that will entail so (the architect) won’t commit the funding for that yet, but we’re hoping that we’ll have about $150,000 to put a central freezer there. It’ll handle every school in the school system.”

While the school system awaits recently purchased items such as a heated pass-thru cabinet and conventional ovens, they’re also waiting for an answer on where to place those two new freezers. In the meantime, Shew said the schools’ food service is not focusing on the needs of the school system and instead is remaining dedicated to serving Washington County students — with or without improved equipment.

“I like to say you can help us make this thing better and help make things easier for our staff,” Shew said, “but every day these women are going to get out of their beds, they’re going to come to that school and they’re going to serve kids whether you help us with that freezer or not. We’re going to make sure kids are fed. I don’t want people to lose sight of that.

“Our focus is not the equipment. Our focus is not any of that stuff. Whether we’re getting up and making them peanut butter jellies or ham and cheeses, we’re going to make sure they’re fed and that they know they care about them.”

For local kitchen managers such as Mauk at Lamar and Brenda Cicirello at Boones Creek Elementary, no matter what surprises, malfunctions or issues arise, they’re going to be in a Washington County kitchen looking for an opportunity to make a difference in a student’s day.

“I just love my job. I love what I do,” Cicirello said. “I can’t imagine not being able to do what I do. If I had to go back to the floor, I’d go back because I can do what I love to do on the floor. I would. I try because we can make a difference here. We really can.”

Footing the bill: BOE incurs debt to keep lunches served

How unpaid lunches are covered is a concern for the school board. Pictured, Boones Creek kitchen staff member Marilyn Odom assists two students in their lunch purchases.

Editor’s Note: The Herald & Tribune will publish a three-part series on school lunch.


Staff Writer

We know there was a time when the food prepared in Washington County’s kitchens was made from scratch. Long before that, it was up to parents and the community to gather and donate food from local gardens for a noon-time meal for rural area school kids. Nowadays, that’s not the case.

Food restrictions and requirements have definitely changed school lunches and the role of the lunch lady. But where does that food come from? How is it paid for? And how do schools navigate a student’s financial holdbacks when it comes to school lunches?

Getting the goods

At the start of each school year, the federal government gives an amount of funds called commodity money to the state’s school systems. Those funds are based on the number of students recorded from the school year prior. From there, the food choices are made.

Washington County’s Food Service Director Caitlin Shew explained that the school system then chooses to purchase items such as Tyson chicken or Land O’ Lakes cheese. They can also choose to have food processed and sent to the county school system, which is something she said the district has done frequently in the past.

Shew explained that the school can order an item such as chicken nuggets to be made by Sysco and have it housed in a freezer in Knoxville. But rather than stick to mostly processed foods, this year the school system changed it up a bit.

Washington County opted to put more of their commodity money into The United States Department of Agriculture Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which allows school systems to purchase fresh produce grown in the U.S.

“We put a large amount of money in (the program) to offer our students more fresh fruits and vegetables,” Shew said. “We rolled out salad bars this year, we’ve had strawberries, we’ve had watermelon, we’ve had cantaloupe — we’ve just really upped our game with our fresh fruits and vegetables. We really value that program.”

Shew added that the school system also uses Rhinehart Food Service in Johnson City and a co-op called SAM’S CO-OP (Southern Appalachian Mountain Food Co-Operative), which is based out of Virginia and is comprised of 15-16 food service groups from Tennessee and Virginia. Shew said the group joined forces to “gain buying power” and place orders for everything from paper products to food products.

Purchasing the food isn’t the only financial concern for the school system’s food service; while most guests at any other place you might purchase food like a grocery store or a restaurant are expected to always have funds available, that’s not always the case in a school cafeteria. So what happens when a student can’t afford a lunch?

So who’s paying?

Charging for school lunches isn’t a local issue. It’s one that has plagued school systems across the country.

While some school systems take away student trays when they aren’t able to pay and some substitute a hot lunch for a cold lunch (which would include food such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich), Washington County takes a different approach.

The Washington County Board of Education’s policy on charging meals states that in the event a student does not have adequate funds, the student is allowed to charge the meal. Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said the nine-member school board has made it clear they want to make sure all county students are offered food during the school day.

“There’s been an emphasis from the board on if a kid is hungry, we’re going to feed them,” Flanary said. “Somehow or someway, we’re going to find something for a child to eat if they’re hungry. A hungry child is just not going to learn. It’s just scholastically unsound for us to let a child be hungry. If there’s anything we can do about it, we do something.”

The government offers its free and reduced meal program for families that meet the criteria according to their annual income. Shew said that part of the struggle for food service each year is getting families to sign up for the program, which could help pay for student meals.

“If they’re come through the line every day without money for lunch, they need to be in those programs,” Shew said. “That needs to be paid by the federal government if those kids qualify for that.

“What I think is happening in a small amount of cases is that parents don’t want to either be labeled in that manner or don’t want to take the time to fill it out, whatever is the reason. Then the board of education is pulling from their pocket to pay when that money, in my opinion, should be going to better their education.”

For now, the board won’t have to cover any huge costs. Though the school lunch debt can accumulate into the thousands, a donation last month covered Washington County’s debt, which was almost $11,000.

“Right now we’re not in the red. We had a donation of $1,000 (two weeks ago) from a church here in Jonesborough that just said, ‘Take care of these kids. We don’t want anyone hungry.’ It really pulls at the heartstrings to know that people out there care whether or not children have something to eat.”

While the board’s policy also says the director has the power to turn lunch debt over to collections. Flanary said he’s yet to have to do so, but he’s hoping the benevolence of the community allows him to refrain from doing so.

But there are times that neither a student, the board, or generous community members foot the bill; here and there, that comes from lunch ladies who are also ready to help a kid out on any given day.

“Our ladies usually keep money in their pockets,” said Brenda Cicirello. kitchen manager at Boones Creek Elementary and a “lunch lady” for 11 years now. “That’s just something that we do. If that child got their food and they’re still hungry and they’re a free child and they don’t keep money in there, we will be more than happy to get that child something else to eat out of our own pockets. We know the kids (that do that) because it’s usually the same ones every day. They’re just hungry. They’re just hungry.With fourth graders, you know, they’re growing. And some of them don’t get what they need at home.”

Look for part three of the school lunch series in next week’s Herald & Tribune.

The challenge: Lunch ladies tackle school menu

Brenda Cicirello continues to ensure good lunches for the students she serves. Cicirello has been working in school food services for 11 years.


Staff Writer

You might not know their names, but you definitely remember their faces — just as they remember yours.

In any school system, those same friendly faces known as lunch ladies — serving up lunches in school cafeterias throughout your childhood — become somewhat of a fixture. But the lunch lady has changed in recent years — as has the whole of school cafeterias and the food it provides.

In an effort to take a closer look at the story of today’s school lunch in Washington County, the Herald & Tribune turned to school officials and local food service professionals. How do the schools get their food? What is the perspective of today’s “lunch lady”? What are the school system’s challenges in this changed area of the educational system?

And what better place to start a story than those who have dedicated their lives’ work to the county’s foods, kitchens and kids — the local lunch lady.

The changes

For 11 years, Brenda Cicirello has served Washington County students as they filed into lines for lunch.

Boones Creek “lunch ladies” get ready for another day. Pictured are Brenda Cicirello, Tim Trick, Marilyn Odom, Martha Wallace, Felicia Greer, Penny Fowler, and Karen Jennings.

From her days behind the deep fryer at David Crockett High School to her current role as the prep kitchen manager at Boones Creek Elementary School, Cicirello has seen the school cafeteria’s metamorphosis throughout recent years. The one thing that hasn’t changed for her, however, is the joy she’s filled with as her cafeteria grows with chatter, laughter and hungry students.

“This is the best part of my day,” Cicirello said as a line of anxious students formed behind her. “There is no greater joy than to be able to feed a child (when) that child is hungry and you get to be an inspiration to that child. He can start his day off and no matter what has come around that day, you can make a difference in a child.”

But the the 3,459 lunches served in the Washington County system have changed. And those changes all started at the top when the American school lunch system saw a shift in food restrictions.

Under the Obama Administration, the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was passed. The school lunch regulations gave the United Stated Department of Agriculture the authority to set new standards for food sold in schools (including that found in vending machines). The new regulations included emphasis on whole-grains (products had to be at least 50 percent whole-grain); a minimum of fruits and vegetable servings; restrictions on sodium, sugar, and fat content in food; and limitations requiring nonfat flavored milk or 1 percent white milk.

In Cicirello’s time in Washington County’s school cafeterias, she said those restrictions warranted the biggest change she has yet to see in the school system’s food operations — a decrease in the amount of kids still eating school lunches.

“I think it was about seven or eight years ago that we went to the whole-grain switch,” Cicirello recalled. “We saw a tremendous decline in our participation. We were getting prepared for this and we knew that our numbers would decline. Everyone said, ‘Give it a couple of years. The kids will come back.’ But it was a big decline and they still just haven’t come back.”

As America tried to lessen obesity rates through new school lunch regulations, Washington County has since had to change its ways as well.

Anyone who grew up in the Washington County School system long before 2010’s changes might recall the days of meals made from scratch by a lunch lady with a knack for producing home-cooked dishes and what Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said many considered a fond memory — the days when two lunch ladies were tasked with only making desserts each day for county students. But now, restrictions make preparing food a bit more tedious.

“I think they’re trying to get back to where we prepare a lot of things from recipes,” Flanary said. “It’s not just a dash of this and a cup of that. When they do prepare something from a recipe, they have to weigh everything (due to the restrictions).

“It’s a constant challenge to put something in front of kids that’s both healthy and palatable. No one wants to see a kid hungry because they just don’t see anything they like to eat. We can’t put fried pies in front of them though.”

Down to a science

Though Flanary said the school’s food service staff is working to get back to recipes, figuring what food makes its way to students in local cafeterias is more of a science than ever before.

One young student takes a closer look at the offerings. Providing nutritious meals that children will eat is the constant challenge for school lunch personnel.

School food services have to offer certain amounts of meats/meat alternatives, grains, fruits, vegetables and fluid milk and those amounts vary according to a student’s grade level. While grades K-5 and 6-8 must be offered 2 1/2 cups of fruit a week, grades 9-12 must have a minimum of 5 cups offered a week.

Not only are they required to provide certain amounts of each of those five groups, but schools have to offer specific vegetables in different subcategories. These include weekly offerings of dark green vegetables (such as broccoli, collard greens and kale), red/orange vegetables (like sweet potatoes, acorn squash, and carrots), starchy vegetables (such as potatoes, or green peas), legumes (such as black beans or black-eyes peas), and other vegetables (such as artichokes, asparagus or celery).

Washington County’s Food Service Director Caitlin Shew said choosing what goes on school lunch trays in the county requires a weighing of numerous factors including funds and what students want on their trays.

“You can’t just throw out any vegetables that you want,” Shew said. “You have to meet these minimums. With the federal reimbursement rates and the participation and all those kinds of factors that play into the funds that we actually get, you might choose carrots over a red pepper because of the financials. Carrots are typically a cheaper vegetable to purchase.

“When we’re looking at these things we’re also looking not to just provide the minimums regarding these, but what’s going to give us the most bang for our buck and what do the kids want.”

With so much attention on meeting dietary minimums, affordability and keeping kids wanting what is offered to them in the cafeteria, lunch ladies are required to pay more attention than ever before.

“People just don’t know. They just think you’re putting out some food. They don’t realize how much work went into that one meal,” said Shew, who served as a lunch lady earlier in her career. “I think lunch ladies get this stigma that they’re just putting food on trays and they don’t care.

“Those women out in those schools care so much about those kids. They’re the first people there in the morning. They’ve got a deep relationship with these kids. They’re just the best people. I want people to know that they’re doing their best. They’re caring for these kids.”

Look for part two of the school lunch series in next week’s Herald & Tribune.

Local eco-activist prepares for next chapter

Frances Lamberts’ vision and commitment are credited with creating Jonesborough Ardinna Woods Arboretum.


Associate Editor

Seated at a desk at the Ardinna Arboretum in Jonesborough, Frances Lamberts, for many years a columnist at the Herald & Tribune, quoted the Roman philosopher Cicero: “Sic hortum et bibliotheca habes, nihil deerit.”

That means, she explained, “if you have a garden and library, nothing will be wanting for happiness and satisfaction.”

Despite plans to return to her native Germany, Lamberts continues to work on her beloved local green spaces.

Lamberts recalled this same phrase being used in 955 A.D. by the German emperor Otto the Great. After decades of strife, war and suffering by the people of Saxony and the east Germanic tribes, Otto had felt that his subjects would see the philosopher’s wisdom, demand peace and be happy, if given the essential goods of gardens and books.

He made good on this notion, bringing monks from the western part of the empire to make transcriptions toward “libraries,” teach horticultural skills and develop gardens and farmland around the city of Magdeburg, his residential capitol.

One might well see gardens and books as a motif in Lamberts’ life. She spoke somewhat wistfully about all of  this, as she looks toward her planned retirement and return to Germany later this year.

Lamberts grew up in a village in the Eifel, close to Germany’s border with Belgium, where the forested landscape and deeply eroded mountains and river valleys supported many small farming communities.  She recalls the self-sufficiency of her parents’ farm, as well as memories of the war’s danger and oppressive atmosphere at the end of World War II. 

For example, seeing the city of Cologne burning again during an Allied bombing raid, Lamberts remembers her father urging the family not to talk about the sighting.  Merely expressing what was deemed a “defeatist” attitude toward the war for the “fatherland” was known as sufficient reason to get one executed by the Nazi government.

Her mother kept three gardens close to the home.  Fields and pastures grew grains and other crops the family and its many animals lived on. What was not needed at the farm was sold.  A mill on the village creek ground their flour.

All the children – Lamberts had seven siblings – helped on the farm, clearing weeds and rocks from the fields, spreading molehills in the meadows before spring mowing, guarding the cattle, stacking hay in the summer and foddering the animals.  This work and the parents’ example gave Lamberts a lasting awareness of gardens’ and nature’s sustaining gifts and ever-renewed beauty.

During the winter months her father worked for the regional forest service. With his horse team, he pulled the logs of trees, individually marked by the forester and cut and trimmed by local forest workers, out of the forest.

Lamberts came to Washington, D.C. in 1962 with a wish, she said, to “spend some time in an English-speaking country.” A nearly nine-year stint of secretarial and abstracting work there, for a bibliography being developed at the Center for Applied Linguistics, saw her attend night school at the University of Maryland, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  She vividly remembers seeing President John F. Kennedy, as well as her enjoyment of many of the city’s cultural events, museums and monuments and the National Arboretum.  She also became aware of the work of the League of Women Voters at that time.

In many ways, however, it was the lure of America’s wide-open landscape and great natural beauty, as seen in Shenandoah National Park nearby and the Blue Ridge Parkway, that caused her to seek and adopt U.S. citizenship.

Lamberts settled in Jonesborough in 1979 for teaching in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Human Development and Learning, following masters and doctoral studies in special education and educational psychology.  Receiving psychologist licensure for Tennessee after several years at ETSU, she worked and became the psychology director at the Greene Valley Developmental Center, until retirement in the late 1990s.

Small gardens had given Lamberts leisure enjoyment and fresh food during graduate study days (Penn State and Northern Illinois universities) but in Jonesborough, space for a much larger garden allowed many native trees and wild flowers to support a Monarch Waystation, as well as give all kinds of vegetables and work satisfaction.

She joined the League of Women Voters here, adopting its natural-resources portfolio as her area of responsibility and serving for 25 years. The League’s position on the management of air, water and other natural resources “is so common sense,” she said, reflective of most citizens’ desire that they be preserved for the children.  Its advocacy for citizen’s ability to participate in the government’s decisions about them inspired Lamberts’ long conservation-related public work.  It also made her accept an invitation by the Herald  & Tribune publisher, 15 years ago,  to write regularly on conservation issues – as she did in her “Eye on the Environment” column.

Soon after her retirement, Lamberts began the volunteer work toward Jonesborough’s Ardinna Woods Arboretum. With encouragement from Mayor Tobie Bledsoe and town officials, planning assistance from landscape designer Ken Soergel and continuous help from other volunteers, this task also was accomplished.  The roughly 3-acre space at the town’s Environmental Services site – badly infested with invasive weeds before – became certified as a TN native-plants arboretum in 2011, and again in 2016.  Containing more than 70 species of trees of the Southern Appalachian – Ohio Valley region, and numerous native shrubs, wild flowers and other plantings, it now serves as an attractive, new park for the Town.

For Frances Lamberts, gardening and care of nature, and a “library” containing favorite writers like Aldo

Leopold and Henry Thoreau, Wilma Dykman and Teddy Roosevelt, Wendell Berry, Rachel Carson and many others have been values in life that leave “nothing wanting,” just as the medieval emperor surmised. She hopes to continue them in her remaining years in Germany.

Boone Street store to reopen in February

The image above gives an idea of the future renovations. Note the “brick walls” illustrating where the expansion will be.


Staff Writer

Folks driving in downtown Jonesborough in the past week may have noticed some construction at the Boone Street Market.

The work underway is an expansion of the market to accommodate more local products as well as the addition of café seating to allow in-house meals to be served there.

The market as it looks right now, closed but getting ready for a grand reopening.

According to Jonesborough Locally Grown Executive Director Shelley Crowe, these additions will benefit local farmers and producers in the area.

“Our priority is to give (our farmers and producers) a place to sell and to promote those products, through events and through our kitchen,” Crowe said.

“That’s the main reason for our kitchen. To promote, to educate people on how to use those products and to be able to enjoy some meals based off the local products.”

Jonesborough Locally Grown is a non-profit organization that manages the Jonesborough Farmers Market and the Boones Street Market.

“Our mission,” Crowe added, “is to connect the farmers, food and the community using the Farmers Market, and the Boones Street Market, which is really considered to be a farmers market, a year-round market where local farmers and producers can sell.”

Final plans for the expansion were brought before the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman during the November meeting.

At that time, Alderman Adam Dickson commented, “Mayor, I do want to say that it’s real exciting on a Saturday to drive through downtown Jonesborough and just to see the bustling activity there on the corner (at Boones Street Market). It’s become a hub, a hub of activity, really good to see. So I’m grateful that we have a relationship with Jonesborough Locally Grown.”

The other members of the BMA agreed, and approval of the plans was given, setting the project in motion.

Half of the funding necessary for the expansion came from a $50,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture while the other half came from private donations.

“We have been very pleased with the support from donors, our members and the community helping to make up the difference,” Crowe said. “So between the TDA and private donations we’ll be able to cover the cost of the expansion.”

Plans for the expansion call for a 10-foot addition to the front of the existing building towards Boone Street. Crowe said the addition will add 30 percent more floor space and that, once finished, the storefront should look similar to the existing front.

“The whole project is estimated to be about four to six weeks, depending on the weather, which would put us into early to mid February when we should be back open.”

Once the construction is completed, more local products and new services will be available.

“(We will) provide more products, display and sale space. We’ll have more prepared meals, in addition to our to-go meals that we’ve done in the past. We won’t be what you think of as a traditional restaurant, but yes, we’ll have some seating so people can come in and have a sandwich or some soup or a daily special and eat there at the store.

“We do have special events with the store, we do fundraisers as special events, but we’ll also have special meals, dinners or special things there at the store.”

Crowe added that some topics were still in discussion and have yet to be finalized.

The store opening times would remain the same Monday through Saturday, but business hours for the dining side had yet to be decided.

And while the store had beer available for retail purchase, the market does not have a license to allow on-premise beer consumption. Crowe said that would need to be worked out.

Although all the details haven’t been decided, Crowe said she believes the expansion of the market will help them in their goal.

“Making sure that we are a source, a place for farmers and local producers to connect to those consumers who want to buy from and support local farms. That’s the most important reason why we’re doing all this. The expansion is also to help the market be sustainable, too. We are a non-profit but we definitely want to make a profit and be sustainable so we can be there for our farmers.”