New Owners bring Breedans Orchard back to life

Aimee & Wendy Dorfman at the Orchard

They might be called a little “zany” to go out on a limb(s) (peach and apple that is!) and buy a revered orchard in Mt. Juliet during a ‘mid-life’ crisis whim. But, they did and those limbs are strong!

  • New Owners bring Breedans Orchard back to life
    New Owners bring Breedans Orchard back to life

Photos by Wendy Dorfman

Wendy Dorfman and Aimee Dorfman (sisters-in-law) opened the 12-acre boutique orchard July 2018 in the heart of Mt. Juliet.

It’s the Breeden’s Orchard County Store & Farmers Market. It’s a fresh new revamp on a beloved orchard that originated in 1974.

They’ve put their style and panache in the place, but with a respectful homage to the long-time owners who had to sell.

Together, Wendy and Aimee saved this pristine little orchard from the hungry hands of developers who wanted to raze the long-developed peach and apple trees to ‘raise’ a sprawling development.

Long time owners, the Breedens, had to sell after decades, simply because of health and age.

Aimee and Wendy are a cool pair. The “zanies” reference is to their partnership with their husbands in the well-known Zanies Comedy Club enterprise the past 25 years, ad all across the country. They’ve been doing it for decades, and, well, maybe a “zen” orchard was in order.

“We are in our 50’s now,” laughed Aimee. “We got a call to see the orchard. It’s a different path. It was so beautiful [the orchard sold by long time Tom Breeden because of health issues]. It was a dream that just sparkled.”

Rather than a bright red convertible mid-life crises issue, these two decided ripe peaches and red apples were more apropos.

Let’s get to real time and what this duo has done to enhance the orchard and provide a wonderful outlet for locals in Wilson County.

Their she-shed-place of business is spectacular with great space to showcase a myriad of locally produced products. It’s an Amish-style barn retrofitted with wood that came from the Breedens’ house and barn. No sadness, there’s still a place left where these women work, that was the Breeden’s home.

These nature lovers and preservers of history look toward many school field trips to visit them, and they are researching new apple varieties to call this place home.

“It is hotter, and we are sweatier and still celebrating our mid-life adventure,” said Aimee.

This year, Breedens’ peach trees have flourished so much that they opened up the orchard for a few limited u-pick days, something they thought they were years away from, or at least till their new grove of trees was ready.

“Although the trees are still old and fragile, they are stronger than we thought, well, and that the fact that some of those summer storms took out the weakest limbs,” said Wendy.

This year, Wendy and Aimee are making all their own fried pies, paying homage to the southern way with fried apples and dried fruit and perhaps leaf lard.

“We do get asked if we are frying them in leaf lard, I can’t source enough leaf fat or flair to do that,” said Aimee.

They say they don’t have a southern bone between the two of them, but, have managed to get more than a few “this tastes like my grandma from y’all.”

Think about peach, apple, lemon, chocolate, pecan pie, coconut cream, chocolate peanut butter, cherry, blueberry, blackberry, apricot, German chocolate, and finally, caramel banana fried pies and they are your ticket atop the orchard that is thriving under their care.

“And yes, we are working on sugar free and made without gluten varieties, but they are still in the testing stages,” said Aimee.

Both said they’ve augmented this orchard to include so many more agricultural opportunities. They said they want to get Tennessee peaches into peoples’ mouths and to remind them that the flavor of Georgia peaches doesn’t hold a candle to Tennessee peaches.

So, lets add tomatoes, pumpkins, melons and berries.

And, now they have their Scottish Highland beef cattle and invite people to taste and buy.

Aimee said they have a lot of fall activities planned. Their pond is taking shape, and, they baby their new 500 baby peach and apple trees.

“Some of the new varieties of trees took, some didn’t,” said Wendy. “Farm life lessons…not everything is going to take.”

One of their exciting new bits of information is that Edible is having their farm to table fall dinner at the orchard on Oct. 5.

Go to Breeden’s Orchard Facebook for updates on everything.

“We are doing a happy dance,” said Aimee. “We are a great spot for packing a picnic, grabbing some fried pies or a donut, a cider slushie and enjoying an afternoon with the family. This year, we will also have fresh beef from our herd of Scottish Highland cattle. We look forward to seeing you!”

This orchard is located at 631 Beckwith Road in Mt. Juliet.

Here’s To Strong Women!

May We Know Them, May We Be Them, May We Raise Them

When you meet Allie Cummings, Judy Cox and Medana Hemontolor, a few things stand out. Three generations of strong, smart, sassy women stand before you and you best get out of their way! These ladies have work to do! Allie Lee Tarpley Cummings and her husband, Howard Houston Cummings, raised their daughter Judy Cox on the family farm in Gladeville, where the Nashville Speedway sits today.

  • Here's To Strong Women

Life wasn’t easy back then, but life was good. Their children which included Judy, and her siblings, James Cummings, Joyce Reeves, and Joe Cummings were no strangers to hard work which often included early mornings, milking cows and tending to crops. And like many back then, that also meant there was no running water or an inside toilet.

But Judy remembers those days fondly, “life was simpler then. We didn’t have all the trappings we have now but instead we had family meals around the table and evenings under the stars listening to the whip-poor-wills. And yet we were never ever bored!” Christian values and family values were everything Allie made sure to instill those values in Judy at a young age. In the mid 60‘s, the family moved to “town” where Judy started high school, settling near Cumberland University. Soon, “Pa”, as Howard Cummings came to be known, had the kids mowing yards on the street for free, so they wouldn’t be bored. This strong work ethic eventually led to all four of his children working their way through high school and college and establishing careers in and around their communities.

Judy eventually went to work for Cecil and Sue Johnson at Johnson’s Dairy (Purity Dairy now) and became the first female District Manager for several counties including Wilson. After being in sales for years, real estate seemed a natural fit for Judy as Pa always told her she could talk to a fencepost! Judy notes “real estate is not about the sale, but it’s about the relationships you make along the way. I love to meet people and get to know them. My clients become my friends and I’ll often help families buy and sell several homes over the years as their families grow and change.” And while building her career and business have always been important to Judy, her mother, Allie, (known as Granny to many) taught her that family always comes first. That meant where Judy went, there was usually a little blonde-haired girl following her. Medana Hemontolor is much like her mother and grandmother and she is very proud of that fact.

Growing up Medana followed her mom not only to work, but to church events and community events. Judy, who has always been very involved in the community, felt it was important to teach by example. Medana remembers, “my mom would take me to her Business Professional Women meetings on Monday nights and Chamber events throughout the year. I had a blast and enjoyed getting to know professional women of all walks of life. I learned by watching mom and these women show me how to be professional at anything they did and how to be strong women with Christian values. I remember watching my mom be awarded the Career Woman of the Year award and was so very proud of her!

BPW no longer exists but in 2001 a core group of women from that group, which included my mom, formed Wilson ONE which is a wonderful group that encourages and supports women.” Today, Medana is the President of Wilson ONE, an organization of Networking and Education for Women – paid & non-paid working women of all walks of life. Each year this organization gives out two to four scholarships to non-traditional students and Medana has been instrumental in growing this organization to an average of 40-45 women who meet the first Thursday of each month for a lunch and learn one-hour event. Currently, Medana also serves on the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is a Chamber Ambassador. “I love helping new businesses and business owners get involved in our community.” Medana has also served as the past President of Kiwanis Club of Lebanon and currently serves as their Secretary. She is also a past graduate of Leadership Wilson, a group she continues to support. To say, she is following in her mother’s busy footsteps is an understatement!

These days when the ladies are not participating in community events, they are working side by side in the family real estate business. Judy’s husband, Mike Cox, is a well-known builder and owner of Cox’s Construction and Judy has been a top real estate agent in and around Middle Tennessee for almost three decades. In 2005, Medana came on board to help them both. Previous to this, Medana held several professional positions including working alongside her mother-in-law, Peggy Hemontolor, at the well-known school supply business, The Teacher’s Aid. No stranger to work, Medana met her husband, Greg, while the two were employed at the Lebanon Kroger, each paying their way through college at MTSU. Greg and Medana have been married for 26 years now and for the last 20 years, Greg has been employed at ICON Clinical Research as the Global Senior Project Manager conducting drug study trials. Medana has also stayed active working while also raising their boys, Evan and Grayson.

But these days, the boys are grown and busy. Evan recently graduated from MTSU and is engaged to be married and Grayson, begins Cumberland University in the Fall. Medana notes “we couldn’t be prouder of the strong, Godly men we have raised.” As her boys came into their own, so did Medana. Real estate you can say is in her blood. Medana’s father, Ronnie Lee Hobbs, is the great-grandson of JR Hobbs who started JR Hobbs & Sons, the oldest real estate company in Lebanon, which shows the apple does not fall from the tree! Initially upon joining up with Judy and Mike, Medana worked with Mike on the construction side as the Construction Coordinator for Cox’s Construction where she learned all the ins and outs of building from Mike. And then when not on job sites, Medana was learning the real estate side from Judy. And from there, quite a dynamic Mother- Daughter Real Estate Team was born. The ladies work side by side these days at EXIT Rocky Top Realty (C&D Team), an international real estate company, which means they are often tackling to-do lists all over town for their real estate clients. “My mother can put a to-do list together for a day that looks so impossible to do; but she can do that list and then some by the end of the day. That is what I have been taught most of my life – Put your mind to it and you will do more than you thought you could in a day.” And while they have shared many, many good times, it’s in tough times, you really learn what you are made of.

In June 2016, in the midst of growing their business together, Medana was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent treatment and credits her family and church support for helping her go through this valley of her life. “I
received love and support from so many and even received cards of encouragement from people I did not even know. My aunt, Del Lackey, formed a Sherry’s Run TEAM MEDANA and the friends and family that walked with me was completely overwhelming! In 2018, I was asked to be an executive member of the Hope Joy Light Cancer Support Group at Immanuel Baptist Church. Sally Pierce, the founder, and I were on our cancer journey at the same time and were a support for each other. Our group is for cancer fighters and survivors of our community and we come together and support one another. We meet the first Wednesday of each month at 6 pm and Immanuel Baptist Church and would love to spread the word about our group so we can continue to support people like I have been supported,”

And when the ladies are not supporting their community, they are often together spending time in each other’s company. “Granny has a fun-loving spirit and loves when we come together and celebrate. You can often find us together after church on Sundays, eating around the dining room table or enjoying an afternoon of family get-togethers. I also have a brother, Jason, and sister, Deborah and am blessed to have them in my life.” Allie and Judy are both proud of the strong woman they have raised. “Medana is a loving compassionate person, she feels her friend’s and client’s joys as well as their sorrows. I am so proud of the Christian lady, wife mother, daughter and friend she is to all of us.”

Pool Days Are The Best Days

Take A Dip Into the World of Gene Kulas Pools

  • Pool Days Are Great
 

There is something to be said about sitting out by a pool on a hot summer day. And one man, who definitely sees the benefit in that, is local pool builder, Gene Kulas.

Gene and his wife, Leanna, live in Lebanon and soon will be moving into their forever home built on Leanna’s family farm. Their pool is still in the planning stages but chances are it will be spectacular!

Gene was raised in Hartford, Connecticut. The son of Polish immigrants, he grew up speaking polish at home and being the interpreter for his parents. He also grew up visiting his aunt and uncle who lived in Mt. Juliet and soon fell in love with the area. At the age of 16, he moved in with his aunt and uncle, ready to make middle Tennessee home. Immediately upon arriving, he went to work with Roy and Janet Vaden of Roy Vaden Pools. He would often work for them and then later that same day work at Big Lots and when not working those two jobs, would be found at Mega Market sacking groceries.

He was taught work is good for the soul from his parents and grandparents and since the age of 16 he has continually been working to support his family.

After graduating high school, he continued to work for Roy helping build pools with him and soon after met his wife, Leanna (King) Kulas. “Becky Sellars was a friend of mine and she was working at the pool store with Gene. She set us up and the rest is history!’ , states Leanna.

In 1997 Gene and Leanna married and together have built a wonderful family and thriving business. They have two children Anna Cate who is in college and Alek who is a Senior in high school.

Gene Kulas Pools has been in business since 1998 and Gene tries to only build 8 to 10 pools a year because he does the job himself from start to finish. “I remain on the job the entire process. I can build a pool, renovate an existing pool and also help design and build outdoor living environments. I’m also a licensed contractor and electrician and have been building pools from the ground up now for over 25 years. With proper planning, there’s nothing we can’t build.”

Every year, Gene takes classes to be sure to stay current on the latest building trends and innovations. Automation is becoming a feature everyone wants and with smartphones you can now control your entire pool with an App. Some of his favorite pools that he has built include a guitar-shaped pool he built for a Nashville musician which was featured on the Today Show and recently he built a lazy river pool for a family in Franklin.

To come up with his ideas, Gene will sit with the homeowner and find out their wish list and their vision. “I take into account the architecture and color of their home, is it rustic, modern, or formal and how the yard lays. I have built small pools for exercise and large pools and spa combos. If you can dream it, I can build it.”

Keeping the business small remains a priority for Gene. “I don’t have a storefront or big overhead. I don’t do much advertising either. My clients come to me based on referrals which makes me feel good because that means I did a good job for somebody else.”

The future looks bright for Gene. His son is becoming more and more interested in the pool business and the family will soon settle into their new home in Lebanon – a home Gene built himself at night and on weekends.

“By next spring we hope to be enjoying our own pool and I’m excited to start building more pools in my community as I plan to stay closer to home so that I can come home at night and finally enjoy my own pool!” Gene Kulas Pools can be found on Facebook and Instagram at @genekulas_pools

Designing Through the Decades: A Fresh-Traditional Renovation

For the past few years, most of my projects have been devoted to full home renovations. Many of them with homeowners who have spent the prior decades working, raising their families, and spending their time on all of the important things.

But now they’ve moved into a new phase of life- their children have left the nest, and they look around and realize their “nest” is in need of a few new feathers. These are the projects I love, and this one may be my favorite so far. When the homeowner originally contacted me about this project, she told me that she knew what she liked, she just didn’t know how to make it all work together. She felt her kitchen was too small to entertain family as much as she liked, and she just wanted to lighten things up.


She leaned toward traditional design and had many inherited pieces to work into the space. Upon our first meeting, I knew that updating this space with classic and timeless elements would be most important.

The time and planning required for a project of this scope is large, so it’s important to me to get to know my clients well as we will be spending lots of time together. Working in someone’s home is a very personal endeavor, and not something I take lightly.


I’m very grateful to my client, whom I now call friend, for letting me share her home with readers. We all love a good before and after, and these are some of my favorite shots from my client’s renovation.

A Cut Above…

Sammy B’s Restaurant & Catering

  • A Cut Above
    A Cut Above
 

Whether you are stepping inside their restaurant or attending one of their many catered events, the owners of Sammy B’s Restaurant want to make sure you have a culinary experience to remember.

With so many eateries, restaurants, and food trucks on the scene, it can be a challenge to stand out from the crowd. Jim and Gina Stradley have found that keeping things simple is the key to their decades-long success in the food industry with Sammy B’s Restaurant and Catering.

“By hand cutting the meat we serve and using superb locally sourced (when possible) ingredients, our food speaks for itself,” Gina says, “and there’s no difference in the way we prepare our dishes in the restaurant from the way we prepare for our catering events.”

Catering hamburgers for 600 means that they hand-cut every single one. “We could buy the frozen patties, but again, anyone can do that,” Gina continues, “trust me, you can tell the difference.”

Jim adds, “You can grab a burger from anywhere these days. We want to make a burger that brings you back time and time again.”

It’s clear that local is important to the Stradley’s. Gina sounds passionate as she describes the disconnection a lot of us have with the food we eat or how it’s prepared. We were fresh and local before fresh and local was ‘in.’ We wouldn’t have it any other way.” The filet is one of Sammy B’s most popular menu items. Their USDA Prime Barrel Cut filet mignon is hand-carved from the center of the tenderloin to deliver the quality and melt in your mouth tenderness you would expect from this cut of meat.

Another area where Jim’s culinary skills really shine is the smoker. He’s kind of known for it: that, and his special drool-inducing, homemade barbeque sauce. In addition to homemade barbeque sauce, their salad dressings, and hot honey (it’s sooooo good!), chicken salad, dips, etc. are all homemade.

In a fast-food, chain-driven, cookie-cutter world, it’s hard to find a true original. A restaurant that proudly holds its ground and doesn’t scamper after every passing trend. For more than 25 years, Sammy B’s has been that place. Whether you’re looking for a classic cocktail crafted from local spirits or a nationally acclaimed steak, Gina and Jim Stradley welcome you. “Come in and discover the unique mash-up of new and true that draws people to our restaurant or to use our catering services,” Gina continues, “and keeps them coming back for more.”

Godess of Grocery

Demeter’s Common is everything!

Mallory Jennings’ philosophy is simple: The earth has provided us with everything we, as humans, need to live a wonderful life. We just have to honor it and listen to it. Jennings recently opened a lifestyles grocery store in Lebanon. Demeter’s Common is located in a strip mall behind Cox’s Gifts and Jewelry on West Main. It is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Goddess Of Grocey
    Goddess Of Grocey
 

The store is full of locally grown produce, glass bottled milk, local cheese, flour grifts, cornmeal, spices, condiments, baked bread, eggs, jams, honey, coffee, salads, meats and more. The majority of her items are locally grown or made. It was a goal to keep everything in her full diet haven as natural and close to home as possible.

“I also have fun gifts such as cards, candles, tea towels dyed with natural plant matter, tote bags, t-shirts,” Jennings said. “We have a little of everything.”

Jennings grew up in Lebanon. She attended Tuckers Crossroads School until eighth grade. After graduation from Lebanon High School, she went on to earn degree in Agriculture from Tennessee Tech in Cookeville in 2013.

“After college, I worked on an organic farm in West Nashville for six years. I was the manager of the on-farm market. My job was to network with local farmers all across the state to get the best of the best produce, meat and cheeses
in the market,” she shared. “It is why I started Demeter’s Common. I wanted to do what I love, but be closer to home.”

The store is named for Demeter, the Greek Goddess of Agriculture.

Jennings studied agriculture in the Czech Republic in 2011 and noted that there was a huge statue of the goddess.

“They explained to us who she was and I absolutely fell in love. She inspires me and what she stands for is something I want to show the world,” she said. “She’s beautiful and I wanted to honor her with my store. I find Greek Mythology so interesting and I feel like with goddesses, you can make them your own and do your own rendition of what you think they look like. That is why you will find many version of Demeter in the store.”

She is helped at the store by her mother, Betsey.

“She is truly my best friend and the backbone of this store. She is here with me most of the time,” she said. Her fiancé, Miles Miller, also helps along with friends and her four sisters.

“It’s just me and mama for the most part and I have enjoyed every second of it – and so have the customers. She is basically famous now and people are mad when she isn’t here,” Jennings said.

She is intent on providing the best possible customer service. “That is my pet peeve and I have been so adamant about making sure everyone who steps foot in this door will be welcomed and feel comfortable. I want this to be a warm space for people to come relax, shop and have a full grocery store positive experience,” she continued.

“I use all of my products and stand behind them. I wouldn’t put anything on my shelves that I don’t support and believe in.”

Her store is incredible and unique – but Jennings credited mother earth and a supportive community with helping to make her dream a reality.

“I am in awe of our earth. It provides us with everything we need to live a full and happy life. I think our society has gotten away from that and the organic nature of our earth and is too caught up in technology, being in a rush, not listening and talking to one another,” Jennings said. “It plays into their diets and lifestyles. They are all wanting stuff easy and fast. I truly believe that taking time to understand where your food is grow, how its grown and who is growing it is so fulfilling and wonderful for our bodies, as well as our peace of mind.”

Jennings wanted to thank her community for making the hard work worthwhile.

“I will always be here with a smiling face because (they) have been so supportive and wonderful to me. Thank you is an understatement,” she said. “I am so grateful.”

From Home to Hollywood!

Kason Lester was a fixture on the last season of American Idol.

Yes, that American Idol. The televised talent show responsible for breakout artist-turned-superstars Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson.

Thousands of singers across the country tried out at open casting calls in hopes of making it on the small screen to be critiqued by Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan.

Kason made it, and despite the attention and newfound following, gives the glory to God, family, musical influences – and yes, his hometown.

  • From Home To Hollywood
 

Kason was raised in Lebanon, Tennessee – where his family operates Lester Farms. He discovered music at an early age. He’s always loved The Charlie Daniels Band and recalled his mom introducing him to the pop hits of Michael Jackson.

“I’ve wanted to create music and sing for as long as I can remember. I remember knowing that at 5-years-old. Growing up, I’d write songs and beats and guitar licks,” he said. “It wasn’t until I finally realized that nothing else was going to make me happy that I started really pursuing it. I ended up doing a complete 180 from what I was doing, built a recording studio in my apartment and decided to go to Belmont.”

In short, he started trusting that God would give him a path. He knows God also gave him a strong, supportive family. Kason is the son of Kevin and Teresa Lester and grandson of Bob and Fran Martin and Ken and Lynn Lester. His brother Mitchell started Lester Farms on Coles Ferry Pike.

“Their support is really what has allowed me to pursue music. I think most people go through some tough years growing up, trying to figure out what they want to do in life, as I did, and my parents stuck with me and believed in me the whole time – even when I didn’t believe in myself,” he said. “They even supported my metal band days and
would show up to my heavy metal shows in Nashville – even my Grandma!”

His family has watched American Idol since the show aired. Beginning in 2002, it was a hit on Fox for 15 seasons. “We’ve always love it and we used to have ‘Idol Nights’ watching it in the den,” he said. Last August, his cousin, Doug Corn, called to inform Kason that they were having open auditions in Chattanooga. After some convincing, Kason agreed to go try his luck.

“Mom and I drove down at 4 a.m. and I waited in the line of thousands of people until it was my turn. I played an original song and the producer loved it. The rest just kept rolling from there,” he said.

In October, Kason had the opportunity to play in front of the superstar judges. He commented that it was one of life’s coolest experiences.
This

“I received a ‘yes’ from all three judges and got my golden ticket to Hollywood,” he said. “I made it through all of the rounds in L.A. and was told I was going to Hawaii for the top 40.”

While in Hawaii, sitting on the beach, waiting to perform in front of Perry – Kason had a revelation. He was part of a national show – one he’s watched since childhood. “It’s surreal. The whole process was positive for me,” he said.

Kason said the exposure received from appearing on American Idol has been “mind blowing.”

“We’ve had people from all over the country come to the strawberry stand just because they saw us on American Idol. It’s opened up so many doors in the music business, as well. It’s given me the platform I need to make it a career,” he explained. “I thank God for the opportunity. I’m recording and writing music, playing shows – and this is just the beginning for me.”

Kason has played shows as far as Nebraska and is planning a tour this fall with his band.

“It’s an exciting time and a dream come true,” he said. Still, home will always tug at the rocker’s heartstrings.

“My hometown support has been a blessing. At my American Idol viewing party at the Capitol Theatre, there were so many teachers and people who have made a difference in my life, going all the way back to Mrs. Stephens – my kindergarten teacher,” he said. “Friendship Christian School has also played a big role in my life, giving me a strong environment to grow up in. I’m really thankful for it and for the people involved with it.”

Moonlight & Magnolias…a look at the 2019 Phoenix Ball and Patrons’ Party

  • Moonlight & Magnolias Phoenix Ball and Patron’s Party 2019
    Moonlight & Magnolias Phoenix Ball and Patron’s Party 2019
 

Since 1984, the first Saturday in June has always represented an evening of elegance, dancing, ballgowns, tuxedos, flowers, delicious food and a night of raising money to fund scholarships for the great students of Cumberland University.

By the time white tents start going up around campus, the Chairs and the Phoenix Ball Committee have spent months planning every single detail of one of Middle Tennessee’s premier fundraising events. Every detail, from choosing the theme and hiring the band to designing the invitations and curating the menu have been carefully planned to make sure the evening is perfect.

This year is certainly no exception as the 2019 Phoenix Ball Chairs, Scott & Kirsten Harris, worked hard to raise the bar. Kirsten Harris explains, “We wanted to give a nod to Southern Elegance while also keeping the evening relaxed and glamorous. That’s why ‘Moonlight & Magnolias’ was the PERFECT theme for our year!” Based on reviews and attendance from the evening, Kirsten was right. The 36th Annual Phoenix Ball presented by The Pavilion Senior Living set records across the board.

This year’s ball had the highest attendance to date with nearly 500 guests and raised a grand total of more than $350,000. “One of the Chairs’ primary responsibilities is securing sponsorships and corporate donations,” says Scott Harris, “but this year the excitement and momentum made our job easy. We sold out of existing sponsorships early so we created new donor opportunities in order to meet the demand from businesses who wanted to be part of this year’s event.! In total we had 42 sponsors and donors.”

The Phoenix Ball Committee is the driving force of the annual event. Alongside the Chairs, this group gives input and direction every step of the way. Without them, the Ball wouldn’t be possible.

Of course, the event’s success can also be contributed to the Silent and Live Auction. A very popular part of the night’s festivities, more than 100 items were donated this year from businesses throughout Middle Tennessee.

The Pavilion Senior Living Community was the Title Sponsor for the 2019 Phoenix Ball. This wonderful facility gives so much to our community. The Pavilion took the opportunity to announce their new development Cornerstone Place at the event.

The evening began with cocktails in a Baird Chapel while guest browsed Silent Auction items.

The Dallas Floyd Phoenix Arena was transformed into an elegant ballroom with white draped walls, chandeliers throughout, an English Oak dance floor surrounded by a garden fit for any Southern mansion. At 7 pm guests were seated to enjoy a delicious menu that included, Charleston Shrimp & Grits, classic Blue Cheese wedge salad, Filet of Beef Oscar with orange-glazed carrots and Gruyere Potato Tart. A dessert buffet featuring classic Banana Pudding, Red Velvet Cake, Lemon Bars and chocolate bourbon pie capped off the dining portion of the event. 

After an exciting live auction, the Bourbon and Bubbles Bar and photo booth opened while guests danced the night away to classic tunes performed by 12 South Band.

The Patrons’ Party has become the 2nd hottest ticket in Wilson County and is a wonderful wrap-up event to The Phoenix Ball. This year’s Patron’s Party was hosted by Eric and Deanna Purcell. With more than 100 guests, this year’s event also broke records. The Purcell’s home offered a perfect location for a chic garden party.

Upon arrival, guests enjoyed signature cocktails and champagne and were invited to commemorate the event in the photo booth.

Attendees were led to the beautifully landscaped pool area where they dined on classic southern fare including fried green tomato BLTs, hot chicken and waffles, mini crab cakes, and Strawberry shortcake while the sounds of Amanda June & Cole Vosbury played in the background. The evening was capped off by a magnificent fireworks display.

Proceeds raised from the 2019 Phoenix Ball and Patrons’ Party will go directly into Cumberland University’s scholarship program. This enables more students to benefit from the superb education offered by the university. To learn more or to be a part of next year’s event got to www.PhoenixBall.com

Faith Over Fear… #sherrysrun2019

Sherrys Run

The 16th Annual Sherry’s Run 5K Run/Walk event on September 14 will be held in memory of Geoff Sadler, who passed away in November of 2018 after a year-long battle with esophageal cancer. Geoff Sadler served four years in the US Navy, during which he served as a submariner in Desert Storm before becoming an IT specialist and senior network engineer. “The world needs more Geoff Sadlers in this world,” says Heather. “He was a wonderful and genuine guy and was honored to serve his country. Heather and Geoff share two daughters, Sophie and Savvy Jean, who are excited to be a part of this year’s event.

  • Faith Over Fear

Throughout Geoff’s diagnosis and passing, the Sadler family has clung to their faith. “Psalm 91:4 tells us that He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings, you will find refuge,” Heather says. “When the worst happens, you can choose to either walk away from God because He did not answer your prayers or choose to trust Him through it.” Geoff encouraged Heather to trust in God’s plans for their lives and to use their story to encourage others. “Although I’ve been the mouthpiece of our faith, make no mistake, Geoff was the foundation,” says Heather.

Heather, Sophie and Savvy Jean are walking forward, gradually putting the pieces of their lives back together. It has been seven months since Geoff’s passing, and the dust continues to settle. They continue to lean on family and friends and are thankful to everyone in the community who has upheld them throughout their journey. “I’ve been very vocal to everyone that Sherry’s Run paid our utility bill the entire time during Geoff’s treatments. It was one less thing for me to worry about,” says Heather. “That made a huge difference. Sherry’s Run helped us, and now we want to help them help others.”

Heather and the girls will be a part of a team named Princess Protection Agency to honor Geoff. “Geoff always said he was the founding member of the Princess Protection Agency, and we have had so many who have stepped up to help us protect our girls,” says Heather, “This is a way for us to give back and make it fun for the girls.” Giving back is one way the Sadler family has continued forward while honoring Geoff’s legacy. “Geoff wanted to teach the girls to help those who help others, whatever organization or mission you believe in,” says Heather. “For us, one of those missions is going to be Sherry’s Run.”

If you are or know someone who is actively undergoing treatment for a cancer diagnosis and are in need of assistance, funds are available thanks to the generous support from the Sherry’s Run community of supporters.

To learn more about the Sherry’s Run organization, please call 615-925-2592 or email info@sherrysrun.org To refer someone for assistance, please call 615-9259932 or email sherrysrunhelp@gmail.com

To make an online donation to Sherry’s Run, visit www.sherrysrun.org or mail donations to Sherry’s Run, P.O. Box 8, Lebanon, TN 37088-0008.

The Road Home

By Angel Kane

As I sit here on my porch this early Saturday morning, I’m amazed by how time flies.

Four years ago I wrote an article about our oldest child leaving for college. At the time I thought my heart would break. Dropping her off and driving away was one of my toughest days thus far. I sobbed for the first hour and for the second and third hour, my husband and I sat in almost complete silence driving home. 

We were always trying to teach her to be strong and self-sufficient, but to be honest we didn’t think she was listening! 

And then she was gone. 

Four years have passed and since then our #2 has followed in her sister’s footsteps and gone off to college. (A different one in a completely different direction because that’s what middle children do!)

And in that time we’ve survived. 

Probably because #3 is still here and we are completely obsessed, with him. Some mornings, I literally just stare at him eating his breakfast. 

“You’re doing that thing again. It’s freaky.” he used to tell me. (Apparently a completely normal phenomenon for parents trying to soak in the last few years of child-rearing. ) Bless his heart though, four years later, he no longer says anything and just lets me stare. And then he gives me a long hug goodbye before he heads to school. 

But next week our eldest returns. 

I remember the first year she was gone, I followed her every move on my Verizon App. I’d obsess if she wasn’t in her dorm by a decent hour. I’d fret over her wardrobe choices and friend missteps. And if she didn’t text back for over three hours, I’d start calling her friends to look for her! (True story, and now she responds a little more quickly.) 

When she was happy we were thrilled, when she was sad we were crushed. She studied, she worked, she traveled. And each time we’d see her, she was a little smarter, a little stronger and a lot more self-assured.

She returns with two degrees in hand, a job lined up an hour from home and not the little Madi we dropped off with her matching dorm room bedding and twinkly lights. 

I like this Madi more. 

She survived and thrived and learned she could stand on her own two feet. That’s what we wanted after all. 

Soon after I wrote my initial article, I was at the park walking. Glenda Davis was walking too. She may not remember, but she called out to me and said, “I read your article, just know it gets easier. She’ll be fine. This is what we raised them to do. “ For some reason, her words brought me the peace I’d been looking for. She had once been in my shoes and knew how the story ended. 

So for all the mammas that are dropping their first-borns off this week, just know time will pass quicker than you know. They will call you heartbroken, they will call you overjoyed, each experience is a step to who they are meant to become. 

And those steps will eventually lead them home. 

Angels and Ice Cubes

By Andrea Hagan

When my daughter was four years old, she took a pretty bad tumble down the front staircase of our home.  I was walking in front of her and had just descended the L shaped staircase when I caught sight of her in the mirror hanging on our dining room wall.  In what seemed like slow motion, my daughter tripped and did a mid-air somersault, landing face-first at the bottom of the staircase.  She cried, but amazingly, she was not hurt.  From my viewpoint, her spill should have resulted in serious injuries.  She asked for some ice so I held an ice pack on her head where she said it hurt, but after about a minute, she said she was fine and that she wanted to go play.  

The next morning, my daughter slept in a little later than usual. At breakfast, I asked her how she slept, as I do every morning, and she said that she did not sleep well because there was a glowing man in her room that was keeping her up.  More curious than alarmed (my daughter is a creative and imaginative child), I asked her what this man looked like.  She described him, matter of factly, as a huge, white glowing man.  I asked her if he said anything and she said no, that he was quiet.  He was just watching her and he had a cooler.  Confused, I asked her what she meant, and she explained that he had an ice cooler with glowing cubes, probably in case he fell. 

Now, skeptics will say that my daughter simply recalled a vivid dream in which her subconscious mind was processing her fall earlier that day.  But I believe her angel was watching over her, explaining why she had no injuries whatsoever, not even the slightest bruise or knot.  Her angel, continuing to care for her that night, brought her some extra ice, the glowing heavenly kind, just in case.  

Seeing is believing, she saw and I believe.

Live Like You Were Dying…

By Jill Waggoner

“If you had just one-day

‘Til the breath left your body

Til the Lord took your soul


Would you still be afraid

To live in the moment

To let it all go”

Bryan Galentine wrote these words in 2002 for his song “Fly,” and today, he finds himself living them.

Bryan, known professionally as Bryan Wayne, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS,) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in April 2017.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The terminal, horrific disease eventually robs individuals of their abilities to move, eat, speak and, ultimately, breathe.

When Bryan began to realize the prognosis he would be facing, he asked himself some tough questions, along with his wife Staci. In short, if he knew his time was limited, what would he do?

“It does change how you view life. What are you going to do differently? What do you wish you had thought about before?” explained Staci.

First, Bryan made an album.

“When I knew that ALS could take my voice, I knew I had to hit the studio and put my voice on some of the songs that I’ve written over the years… I wanted my wife and boys to hear me singing forever. No matter what,” said Bryan. “It’s more than just a record.”

Within the week of his official diagnosis, Bryan and a group of his musician friends were in the home studio of country music artist Big Kenny, recording the first songs of his album, While You Wait. While Bryan has spent most of his adult life in the music business, recording an album was never in his plans. He’s enjoyed a successful career behind the scenes as a professional songwriter.

Bryan, Staci and their sons Grayson and Bennett have lived in Wilson County for 11 years. Bryan struck success with “What If She’s an Angel,” a song recorded by singer Tommy Shane Steiner. The song, which asks listeners how they would react to people in need, peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard charts in May 2002 and achieved BMI’s “Million-Air” status.

Bryan and his wife, Staci, with their two boys, Grayson and Bennett.

When putting together what he hopes will be his legacy on While Your Wait, Bryan carefully chose songs that he had written over the last 25 years. Songs like “Fly,” “Simplify” and “No More Rainy Days” share compelling, inspirational messages for those of us caught in the daily grind. “Still Beautiful” and “A Good Day” were inspired by his wife and children. In recent weeks, his songs have been gaining national exposure on country radio, podcasts and more.

It’s remarkable to understand that these songs were all written long before he faced this terrible disease. His diagnosis of ALS hasn’t changed his faith, his positivity and his overwhelming love for friends and family. It’s all there in the lyrics, but there is now a new power to his words and a new purpose in his heart. Rather than simply promoting an album, Bryan is devoting his platform to spreading awareness about ALS and working toward a finding cure.

Millions of people have participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which began over four years ago, including the Galentines and their children. Yet, many could not tell you its purpose or anything about ALS.

This reality is a catalyst for Bryan to promote understanding about the disease. Most recently, Bryan serves a board member with I AM ALS, a patient-led movement that seeks to accelerate the search for a cure. He hopes to lobby soon on Capitol Hill for more ALS research and better care.

Locally, Mayor Randall Hutto will be honoring Bryan with a proclamation at the County Commission in May, which is also ALS awareness month. “This is a vicious, horrible disease,” said Bryan. “I’m going to lose my voice. I’m going to lose my ability to eat, to move and eventually breathe. But so many people out there don’t have the platform that I have. I’m trying to spend every moment being their voice. This disease needs to be eradicated. No family should have to go through this.”

Bryan has also made a priority the last two years of living out the lyrics found in his song, “Fly,” which, interestingly, was first recorded on the day he met his wife, Staci: “Who knows what tomorrow’s gonna bring; What are you waiting for, Spread your wings.” This living-in-the-moment song meant so much to Bryan and Staci that they gave out copies at their wedding.
Bryan explains, “What have you always wanted to do or learn how to do and why aren’t you doing it? If you’ve got something you want to do… do it now.” For Bryan, that included learning how to make an omelet, a skill he is proud to say he has mastered. He also learned how to dribble a basketball around his back and through his legs, but now is unable to do because of the progression of his disease.

He and Staci have also focused on creating memories with their boys, Grayson and Bennett. With help from organizations who serve families after such a diagnosis, they have been able to travel together to Disney World, sporting events and of course, some country music concerts, in recent months.

Bryan also shares his message of gratitude and positivity on the Facebook Page, Find the Good Stuff, through memes, videos, and stories. Again, this outlet was created before the diagnosis. Yet Bryan says that what’s important to him has “absolutely changed” since his discovering he had ALS. “Just like my song, ‘Wake Up World,’ it’s made me wake up and realize what’s most important. Time to make memories with Staci and the boys — number one. Also, reconnecting with friends and family,” Bryan said.

The Galentines’ community – from every facet of their lives – has rallied to their support since the diagnosis. Friends from Wilson County, the Nashville music community, as well as those from Bryan’s home in Northern Virginia have come together to support them in numerous ways. “We definitely consider our friends here our family,” said Bryan. “They’ve just been amazing: bringing us food, gifts out of the blue, helping with the boys, putting us on their prayer chains at church. That’s family.”

As those around them seek to encourage the Galentines during this difficult time, many have come away encouraged as well. “Staci is one of the strongest women I’ve ever met,” said Jenny Bennett, who works at Cumberland University with Staci. “She is kind and cares deeply about others. When we met, it occurred to me that I already had been praying for them at my church. We became instant family.”

In November 2018, when the album was released, Bryan found his voice unable to perform his songs. Several of his While You Wait co-writers joined him on stage for a release party in Nashville. Six-time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Ashley Gorley performed the title cut, and GRAMMY winner and 2004 ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Neil Thrasher sang “Just Wouldn’t Leave It Alone.” GRAMMY-nominated songwriter Bonnie Baker sang the moving “No More Rainy Days;” Jason Blaine performed “Slow Time Down;” and Joanna Janet performed “Fly.” Big & Rich wrapped up the evening performing Bryan’s single,“Simplify,” along with many others.

“I was blown away to see so many people show up and lend their support,” said Bryan. “This industry has been good to my family and me, and I hope these songs inspire people for many years to come.”

His support from the music community extended all the way to the stage at 2018’s Soul2Soul tour in Nashville, featuring Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. During the Saturday night show, knowing Bryan and Staci were among the sold-out crowd, McGraw dedicated that night’s performance of “Live Like You Were Dying” to Bryan.

“It’s just like the song,” Bryan said. “None of us know when that’s going to happen. Based on odds, I have a more realistic timeline. We hope and pray for a cure, but the odds are not good. Only 10 percent live 5 years past their diagnosis. I’m two years in. “I’m at peace at where I’m going. I’m not really angry about having this diagnosis. God has put this on me to use it as a platform to spread the underlying message of kindness, goodness… find the good stuff. That’s my role here.”

The lyrics of “Wake Up World,” co-written with Greg Bieck, sums up well what Bryan would say to you, if you were sitting together at the coffee shop…

“Someday this light will fade, we will die with our mistakes. It’s not too hard, it’s not too late. Wake up world.”

AR Workshop

A Mt. Juliet mother-daughter duo have joined forces to give all of us a chance to get our DIY juices flowing. To say it was a God thing puts it mildly. Both very spiritually minded, it was only natural mom Tina Pressley and daughter Haley Jones put their heads together – to be together – in a joint business venture.

They have recently opened an oasis for wanna be…gonna be…do-it-your selfers who just want to create original one-of-a-kind projects in a Zen environment with no pressures and tons of tools to simply create.

Right in the heart of Mt. Juliet.

Haley searched and applied for this franchise and got an automatic yes, said Tina.

They opened AR Workshop on March 16.

Think DIY art studio meshed with a very cool boutique. It’s the best of both worlds for those who want a wonderful escape to create fun gifts, special signs, and, while there, peruse a boutique full of enchanting items.

“God opened the door for us,” said mom Tina. “We wanted to work together and people have been gracious and supportive.”

“It has always been a dream of ours to work together, but we really had no idea what that might look like,” Tina said. “We had discussed every kind of business we could think of from real estate to clothing boutiques but something kept taking us back to the concept of a DIY-type business in general, but specifically AR Workshop. As longtime Wilson County residents, we were well aware of the need for some type of entertainment that would appeal to a broad age range and interests.”

They are the perfect pair, this mom and daughter. Haley is a 2014 graduate of Mt. Juliet Christian Academy and Cumberland University, where she received her master’s degree in business administration last year.

Tina is a longtime Wilson County resident and has worked as development director for Mt. Juliet Christian Academy for 15 years. She will step down from this job to focus full time on AR Workshop.

Tina’s dad, and Haley’s papa, Ken Stilts, was a much-revered businessman in Mt. Juliet and was Tina’s mentor. “This business was right up our alley,” said Tina.

She laughs out loud to say she’s not the craftiest person in the world. And, perhaps worse! Whereas her daughter is on point. They mesh their attributes to make the business run right. And, since they opened, it’s been a huge hit in Mt. Juliet with ongoing classes, workshops, and projects non-stop for people who just want to DIY.

“This makes me feel like I can do crafts,” Tina said with a laugh. They are 23 years and 53 years. “I see myself in her,” said mom. “It’s about patience and grace,” Tina said she’s the idea person and her daughter implements. “Haley is the nuts and bolts of this business,” she said.

The 1,350-square foot oasis is ready for anyone who wants to create.

“We are more than just signs, which are awesome,” said Tina.

There are also wood projects, chunky knit blankets, and specialty classes, with literally thousands of projects to create.

“I don’t think many people get to say they are business partners with their mom, but I am one of the few who can!” said Haley.

“Mom has always been my very best friend so it only made sense that we would start a business together. She is incredibly talented in all that she does and extremely giving, loving and a whole lot of fun! Working next to my mom is very rewarding and has given me a front row seat to see how amazing she really is as a mom, a person and now a business owner. I am extremely proud to work next to her every single day and although very hard work, there is no one else I’d rather be on this journey with!”

“We have never looked back, there is an internal peace for both of us,” said Tina.

AR Workshop works in four steps. First, participants choose a class based on the project they would like to make and then the day and time they’d like to attend. Second, participants book a seat at the workshop, choose their project, design and give them design-specific personalization. Groups or individuals can book workshops. Third, participants show up for the workshop, where the tools, materials and step-by-step instructions are provided. Finally, participants take home their finished projects.

“We look forward to offering something fun for all ages and interests, including those who do not really consider themselves the DIYer,” Haley said. “Anyone who knows Tina knows she is not exactly the most creative person, and she completes the projects with great ease all while having fun. This is a place for all groups, ages, men and women, those who do not know anything about DIY and the most experienced crafter. Along with our wonderful workshops of wood projects, chunky knit blankets, and specialty classes, we also offer retail for gifts, home decor, jewelry and more.”

Check it out at 1984 Providence Parkway, Mt Juliet, TN 37122 (615) 212-5676

The 'I do's & don'ts' of catering…

For better or worse, hiring a caterer can be one of the most daunting tasks when planning a wedding. It’s food, after all. Food is what brings people together. At your rehearsal dinner or reception, it can unite or…not. So, Sammy B’s Co-owner and Catering Manager Gina Stradley agreed to share some important tips and mistakes to avoid when working with caterers.

1. Don’t cut corners (i.e., be honest about your budget)
I’m naturally artistic, and as a caterer, this is where I work very hard to make my clients’ visions come to life. However, there are limits. I hate to be the one to ruin culinary dreams for a couple, so YOU MUST CREATE AND UNDERSTAND your budget. A caterer will be honest with you and help you discern what’s doable and what’s a no-go. You want a caterer that’s not afraid to say “no.” If they are offering something that seems too good to be true, it is.

2. Let your caterer guide you with the menu.
Odds are this is your first time planning the food for a wedding reception. Your caterer has likely done this hundreds or thousands of times. Take advantage of their expertise. We know that in the heat summer cheese sweats and fruit attracts flies. We know good alternatives. And I promise you that our goal is to make it look as beautiful as you imagined.

3. Make a list and check it twice.
Include everyone, not just those on the guest list (add a few more for those guests who don’t RSVP. Trust me there’s always a handful!). Your photographer, florist, wait staff, planner are all working to make your day spectacular and unless you don’t mind them leaving to grab a burger, include them in your head count so there’s enough food.

4. Meet/interview your caterer.
Unless you’ve tasted the food or experienced the professionalism of the caterer personally, you need to set up an in-person or phone consultation. It isn’t until you get face (or phone) time with the caterer that you can really know what he or she is all about, and vice-versa. This is the first opportunity to show you their style. Anyone can print beautiful brochures and have a fancy website. The proof is in the product.

5. Don’t curate your menu around one person’s taste.
If you have special dietary needs or restrictions, the time to let your caterer know is as soon as possible. The sooner I know about your strawberry allergy or hatred of onion, the more gracefully the catering team can work around it. However, this is not an excuse to push your beliefs or restrictions on the rest of your family and friends. It’s my responsibility to please the wedding couple and all of their guests, and that includes “meat-and-potatoes-only” Uncle Fred and “there-must-be-a-fish-option” crazy cousin. Thankfully, there’s a happy medium that falls between gluten-free everything and well-done filet mignon for 300. We can help you create the perfect menu that everyone will remember as fondly as the first dance.

Confidence. Discipline. Character.

Hunter Wright

By Jill Waggoner

All this and more, Hunter Wright, has found at the speed of 80 miles per hour on a quarter-mile track. Hunter, an 18-year-old senior at Wilson Central High School, began racing when he was just 4 years old. But before Hunter ever got behind the wheel, he was watching his father, Dwayne Wright, race cars at Highland Rim Speedway in Ridgetop, Tenn. Dwayne no longer races, but in a full circle moment, Hunter claimed two of his own championships at Highland Rim, now known at the Veterans Motorplex at The Rim, in March.

Hunter cringes at the word “career,” but he’s been working toward his racing goals for over a decade. He maintains a schedule that would intimidate most adults. He attends high school, plays football when in season and spends most of his free time working on his cars with his dad. He’s made tremendous sacrifices in his teen years, mostly social, in order to pursue these dreams.

Hunter races regularly on tracks in Middle Tennessee, but will participate in races in Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia this year. He would love to spend a lifetime in the driver’s seat, but also would be happy if he could continue working on the race cars professionally.

Hunter Wright’s Late Model race car on the track.

“This is a lot more fun that just a job,” said Hunter.

The car Hunter races has grown with him. He began his career in a small Quarter Midget model, which was created as a safe and fun way for children to become involved in racing. Wilson Living featured an article on Hunter while he was racing these cars in 2009. Today he races two types of cars, the Legends series, which is a 5/8-scale version of an early NASCAR modified car, and the Late Model, which looks like a car you could see on the road.

There are other teens who compete in these racing circuits, but both the Legends series and the Late Model series are semi-professional adult leagues. Hunter has been competing at this level since age 15.

“Over the past few years, it’s made me mature more quickly because of all the responsibility and sacrifice,” said Hunter.

“He’s in an adult sport and we expect adult things out of him,” added his mom, Julie Wright.

Hunter is not your average high school student. Yet, he’s also not your average race car driver.

“At the big events, most people lease a car, or they own the car, but pay someone to work on it. The driver just shows up to drive,” explained Hunter. As has been the case for over 10 years, Hunter and his dad do all the work on their cars themselves, adapting the set-up of the car for each track and performing any repairs. They have a home garage on their family property in Gladeville, Tenn., where the Wright family also owns and operates Premier Sign & Trophy. Julie is also actively involved in his career, managing his social media, and his little sister is his “biggest fan.”


ABOVE: Hunter Wright with his 5/8 Scale Modified race car is the 2018 Champion.

“When we’re at the big events, I don’t really have time to get extremely nervous,” said Hunter. “Dad and I are just constantly hustling. I don’t have time to stop and think until I get everything done and get in the car and am waiting to race. That’s when it settles in.”

Yet, he says his favorite part is “racing.”

He says the Legends are his favorite to race. Up to twenty-eight cars compete at rapid speed on a quarter-mile track and can complete 25 laps in under 10 minutes–without caution flags.

“We’ve won six championships in the last two seasons,” said Hunter. “Most nights Dad and I are out here working on the car, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

Not only does Hunter assist with the maintenance of his cars, but he also primarily manages the relationships with all his sponsors.

“We greatly appreciate the way our sponsors have been able to make this all possible,” said Hunter.

His current sponsors include a variety of local businesses: B. H. Holmes Construction, Tennessee 811, Springfield Plumbing, J & D Specialized Equipment Hauling, Ace Fence Supply, Wholesale Trailers, Sanders Lawn Care, Al’s Tire Repair, Old Dominion Brush Company, and Standing Ovation Entertainment Management & Marketing.

Hunter’s family and Wilson Central have forged a partnership during his high school career in order to allow him to pursue his dreams, all while attending school.

“Wilson Central has embraced us,” said Julie. Hunter is currently enrolled in the Work-Based Learning Course there, which allows him to leave a little early and spend more time working toward his racing goals. His enrollment in this course allows him to build on his Automotive Program of Study at Wilson Central, while pursuing his love of racing.

“Mrs. Jennifer Allen has been one of my teachers all four years and she understood what I want to do,” said Hunter. “Mr. Travis Mayfield, our principal, also has been very helpful and understanding.”

“Hunter is a great young man,” said Mayfield. “He is a good student, very mature and the kind of student that everyone likes. I hope all my students realize their dreams, accomplish their goals in life and are happy. In addition to that, for Hunter, I just hope he keeps the rubber on the road!”

“Hunter has integrity and initiative to get what he wants,” said Allen. “I believe that no matter what he chooses to do, he will be successful. He has the drive and determination to learn, along with an entrepreneurial spirit. That is what impresses me the most, he is not afraid to try. He gives his all to whatever he is pursuing and that will get him where he wants to be.”

Graduation will mark the end of a personal chapter for Hunter. He will be starting at Tennessee College of Applied Technologies for machining, a skill set he can learn and apply to racing, and he hopes his racing will only continue improving.

He is seeing some of his biggest goals coming to fruition this year. He has plans to compete in major races around the country in the months ahead.

“I never thought I’d get to do the majority of them, and now I get to do them all in one year,” said Hunter.

For every mile of the track, the Wright family has been in this endeavor together. Damien and Julie are proud of their son and are excited about his future because they know the character he has formed is what’s most important. “I’m proud that when he wins, he gives away his trophy to a kid in the stands,” said Julie.

“I’m proud that he deals with the majority of our sponsors and the relationships that he forms. I’m more proud of those types of life experiences than how many championships he has won.”

River City Ball 2019

On a night like no other in Smith County, River City Ball hosted their second annual event on Saturday, May 11.

This second fundraiser raised money for worthy causes with the extra bonus of a great night out with friends in the beautiful venue of Main Street in Carthage, under the stars on the lawn of one of the most historic courthouses in Tennessee.

River City Ball planning committee member Erika Ebel said the non-profit organization was inspired by the famous Phoenix Ball in Lebanon.

“We wanted something similar for Smith County,” she said. “We wanted to raise money for causes and have it be fun and classy. Our original idea was to have the ball on the bridge, but our courthouse is a gorgeous backdrop and one of the originals in Tennessee.”

This year’s event was black-tie and for ages 21 and up.
“Attendees were encouraged to wear a masquerade-ball-type mask,” said Ebel. She explained the River City Ball began last year with proceeds benefiting a special cause and local scholarships to seniors at each of the county’s high schools.

“Last year a portion of the proceeds benefited the Carthage Junction Depot restoration project,” said Ebel.

This year a portion of the proceeds will benefit Smith County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) and county high schools.

“There are a lot of needs in Smith County,” said Ebel. “There are a lot of worthy causes, different causes.”

The board chose CASA because of the great need in the county and how much good the organization does for local children, explained Ebel. “We like to find organizations that do good and this recognition and donation will be a good vehicle for CASA, as well as raise awareness for what they do,” she noted.

On the night of the Ball, the historic court-house lawn and Main Street were transformed with a Phantom of the Opera type vibe. The big beautiful trees on the lawn were the backdrop for tents, a dance floor, lighting.

Guests walked a carpet and the band Naughahydes provided a mix of rock and bluesy music. There were silent as well as live auctions to keep the entertainment going all night.

The event was designed for guests to explore and move around the venue with a photographer on site for candids and vignettes where people posed throughout the evening.

Two Fat Men catered the linen table cloth dinner with dessert showcased with delicious strawberries donated by Catesa Farms. Think cheesecake and strawberry brus-chetta. Many sponsors including Citizens Bank supported the event and their cause.

The night was a marvelous success in the hopes of helping CASA in Smith County continue with their good works. And we can’t wait until next year!

Sweet Success at the 10th Annual Chocolate Affair!

Chances are, if you drove around Lebanon in the month of April you saw two pinwheel gardens. One by the train station and another by the main office of Wilson Bank & Trust. Combined, they showcased 260 blue pinwheels. Each pinwheel represented one case of child physical or sexual abuse reported in 2018.

“That is an average of 20 reports a month – in our community,” explained Jason Lawson, who serves as Treasurer on the Board of the 15th Judicial District Child Advocacy Center.

Thankfully, the CAC is there to help.

Whenever there is a case involving child physical or sexual abuse, the CAC conducts a one-time forensic interview. This is then viewed by assisting agencies, including the Department of Child Services, law enforcement and more.

“Interviewing one time prevents further traumatizing the child from having to retell (their story) over and over to everyone. It is also a very child-friendly environment,” Lawson said. Cece Ralston is the center’s forensic interviewer.

This past year, the CAC team – including Ralston and Director Nancy Willis – acquired family advocate Kira Bailey thanks to a grant. The CAC provides free counseling services to child victims of abuse. Bailey goes the extra mile by providing the family with information about community resources available to them.

“Your support makes those service available,” Lawson continued, “during the 10th Chocolate Affair – a fundraiser held on Saturday, April 6 at The Capitol Theatre in Lebanon.”

The Chocolate Affair, which included a scrumptious meal, chocolate fountain, live and silent auctions and performance by Audience of One, is held annually to benefit the 15th Judicial District CAC.

Bob Black, who owns The Capitol, also serves as Vice Chair of the board of directors.

“We are the ones who have to be their voice,” Black said. “You are supporting how we can grow and help the kids more than we already do. We know that this job is extremely important for the children.”

Willis thanked everyone who made the night and the Child Advocacy Center possible including Fundraising Coordinator Jackie Ramsey, Board Chair Dr. Bill McKee, Assistant Treasurer Judy Jordan, Secretary Anne Barger, Past Chair E. Marie Farley, Dr. Eric Cummings, Brian Harbaugh, Tom Swink, Lance Howell, Marilyn Bryant and Mary Ann Sparks. She also thanked Judge Ensley and Andrea Hagan, who were in attendance and mentioned longtime sponsors Vance Law, Bank Tennessee, Vanderbilt Medical Center and Wilson Bank & Trust.

For a complete list of sponsors visit www.cac15.org.

Here comes the bride…The Estate at Cherokee Dock

Whether you are hosting hundreds of family and friends for epic all-weekend wedding festivities or looking for an intimate way to say “I do,” The Estate at Cherokee Dock can make your dreams come true.

Once home to legendary country songstress, Reba McEntire, in recent years the mansion and lush 14-acre estate has been transformed into an event center. The mansion is just under 13,000 square-feet and hosts eight bedrooms with king or queen size beds, indoor/outdoor ceremony sites and a movie theatre.

“We can comfortably sleep up to 40 guests,” said Kelly Uldrich, The Estate at Cherokee Dock’s Social Media Manager. Uldrich described two of the popular wedding options
they offer. “We have an elopement or intimate wedding option and we also have a wedding weekend option as well,” she said. “The wedding weekend offering is something that really sets us apart.”

With the wedding weekend option, the bride and groom have access to the property for the entire weekend.

“On Friday night, they would have the rehearsal dinner. Vendors and your wedding planner would set up and the bridal party would spend the night in the top level of the mansion. The groomsmen would stay in our Groom’s Quarters, which is our fully furnished apartment above the stables,” Uldrich explained. The wedding would take place on Saturday, including a reception and even an after-after party if you choose to do so. Then on Sunday, the couple could host a “Send-Off Brunch.”

“It slows down the process,” Uldrich said. “I remember with my own wedding, it all happened so fast – like a dream. Having a wedding weekend slows the pace and lets the bride and groom really savor every minute with their family and friends before going off on their honeymoon.”

The maximum number of guests for a wedding is 500. The Estate at Cherokee Dock does not provide catering but welcomes all licensed caterers and vendors. Uldrich, who works with Venue Directors Daniel Spires and Aryn Meyer, said they found that having an open vendor policy for the property gave the bride and groom more options and the ability to customize their perfect day – rather than offer a one-size-fits-all inclusive package.

Another option The Estate at Cherokee Dock offers is their new elopement package.

“We provide seating for up to 25 family and friends, the ceremony can take place indoors or outside. The couple has two full hours of time and we provide a licensed officiant and photographer to capture their day,” she said. “The bride and groom can get ready on-site and we provide florals – the bouquet and boutonniere – based on what colors they would like.”

She shared that they recently hosted their first elopement wedding. The couple told their children that everyone was spending the night at the mansion, then surprised them the next morning with suits and ties to wear to their wedding.

“The children were very excited. It is nice to see those intimate moments,” Uldrich added.

“We want to make sure you feel like it is your special day, even if it is an intimate production.”

For more information on The Estate at Cherokee Dock, email info@cherokeedock.com.

Best Dressed! 2019 Bridal Style Guide

There’s something about seeing a beautiful bride draped in an amazing gown that hits us all; young and old-right in the feels. Even if you’ve been married for decades, watching a friend or relative try on gowns has the power to make some consider how much more fun your wedding could be now that you have the money to spend on it. Some, not all. But still. It’s no surprise that this is the issue that leaves the Wilson Living team with serious wedding envy.

While white has traditionally been the go-to color for wedding gowns, today’s modern bride craves variety. Not just with length, neckline, and fabric. If fashion magazines and runways at Bridal Fashion week are any indication, today’s bride loves color. We’re not talking about ivory or cream. We’re talking pinks, blues, and grays. So, we couldn’t wait to show off this year’s gowns provided by our good friends with The White Room in Lebanon.

PRETTY IN PINK

If there’s one wedding trend that’s not going away, it’s the blush pink wedding gown. And why would it? Pink dresses add a perfect subtle hint of color. No wonder the color is a favorite of celebrity brides and wedding gown designers alike.


Fun and flirty is how you will feel while wearing this dress. This v-neck ball gown with a floral beaded bodice is complimented with a full ruffled skirt featuring a horsehair hem. Buttons align the zipper to complete the look.

India is wearing a Hamlet Crepe with wide cap sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. Princess seams accent the bodice. A-line skirt with a slight back train. Cortnie is wearing a chiffon high-neck sleeveless gown in slate. It features hook closure at neck with a large keyhole back. Ruched cummerbund accents the waist. Soft gathers surround the skirt.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

A long sleeved beauty! This allover lace fit and flare gown may appear modest, but the V-neckline and low V-back add the perfect amount of flirtiness. Buttons are placed from the low back to the end of the chapel length train.

A long sleeved beauty! This allover lace fit and flare gown may appear modest, but the V-neckline and low V-back add the perfect amount of flirtiness. Buttons are placed from the low back to the end of the chapel length train.

Our bridesmaid, India is wearing a Bill Levkoff chiffon spaghetti strap gown with crisscross pleats embellishing the bodice. Ruched cummerbund accents the natural waist. Soft gathers adorn the front of the A-line skirt.

MEET OUR MODELS

Wilson County native Monica Duff is an instructor at Hot Yoga Lebanon and is currently working on a masters in exercise science and nutrition at David Lipscomb University. Monica served in the US Airforce before moving back to Lebanon. When she’s not busy guiding local yogis through a powerflow class or studying, she’s active in her church where she volunteers as a life group leader for 6th-grade girls. Monica plans to become a health coach and use this foundation to help young ladies and women learn to love their bodies physically, mentally & emotionally. PLUS, she’s single! We should do something about that!

17-year-old, India Mastin is a junior at Lebanon High School. An honor student, India is on the school’s cross-country team as well as track and field.

10-year-old Cortnie Ragsdale is 5th grader at Carroll Oakland in Lebanon. Cortnie is an honor student and a member of the school’s cross-country team.

LET THEM EAT CAKE & other tasty treats!

It was a love of baking instilled in her from her own mother that started it all. And from that little spark, Italian Mama’s Bake Shop was born.

Lauren Costley lives in Mt. Juliet with her husband Brandon, their sons, Collin, Luke, daughter Tessa, and their fourth child, Barrett, just arrived on May 6th. When she isn’t mothering or working in the family hardware store and mechanical business with her father, then you’ll find Lauren in her kitchen – baking.

“I was very fortunate and blessed to grow up with a Mom (Sharon Caputo) who was always cooking and baking. So, naturally I have always loved to cook and bake, whether it to be for my family or my friends,” notes Lauren. “After my Mom passed away in 2008, I really started to cook more and more because it reminded me of our time together.”

A love of family and a love of cooking are an integral part of Lauren’s life these days. “When Brandon and I started our family I began to have an interest in baking even more. I loved to make my kids birthday cakes and cookies. My friends started asking to buy cakes and desserts from me and at first, I was reluctant but gave it a shot. From there I started doing a little advertising online with my sister-in-law and it’s now taken off! Everything I’ve done has been something I learned from my own mother or just getting in the kitchen and giving it a try.”

But Lauren readily agrees she could not have done this alone. While her husband isn’t one to bake, he will help her when needed running to the grocery for necessary ingredients or cleaning up behind her. Her boys, on the other hand, don’t mind pitching in when its Pizza night, but it’s little Tessa who loves to put on an apron and help mom out in the kitchen.

“My sister-in-law Gina will also help me out with larger cakes or large events like parties or weddings. She is very talented herself and that’s how our name came about. We are both full blooded Italian so we thought it fitting to be known as “Italian Mama’s” Bake Shop.

Italian Mama’s offers all sorts of different treats from Italian cookies, decorated buttercream iced sugar cookies, different flavors of scones and breakfast/brunch desserts, cupcakes, cakes, cake pops, and brownies. They also are becoming very well-known for their gorgeous wedding cakes. “

The wedding cake trends I see and just love are the simpler one tiered cakes,” comments Lauren. “It’s a more affordable way to have multiple cakes with different flavors and designs for your wedding. Also, the semi-naked cake with gold drip and the two-tiered fresh flower cake with gold brushed paint, are both very popular right now and those are the ones we did for the Wilson Living Magazine wedding photo shoot.”

Lauren still considers her baking more of a hobby than a full-time business but her select few clients are keeping her very busy these days and no doubt, with her talent, we will all be hearing more and more about this Italian Mama!

If you are interested in any of her tasty treats then you can reach her at (615) 306-6355 or at 2italianmamasbakery@gmail.com. You can also check her work out on Instagram or Facebook at @italianmamasbakery.