Showing sheep is not a skill and passion that everyone has the drive for, but when it comes to 5th grader Marshal, he has us all beat. It all started with his great grandfather in California and continued on with his grandfather, his uncle, and mother in Oregon. They brought their love of showing with them when they came to Tennessee, and the legacy and knowledge have been passed down to Marshal; this makes him the 4th generation in the Hull family to be raising and competitively showing sheep.
These days, life is looking a little different for Wilson County resident, Randall Clemons. After more than 30 years at the helm of Wilson Bank & Trust-the institution that he helped organize-Clemons passed the torch at the end of 2019 and called it a day… sort of. “I’m still on the board at the bank so I’ll still be around, but not in the day to day operations.”
A long-kept secret was finally revealed late summer when Judd Sellars announced Christmas Place was to be constructed on three acres in the planned Sellars Station development on North Mt Juliet Road.
At the groundbreaking, Santa Claus made his grand entrance with a “ho ho ho” atop a Mt. Juliet fire engine with nearly 100 well-wishers there to welcome Christmas Place owners Toby and Karen Barnes, along with co-owners daughter, Kristin, and son-in-law, Mark Jackson.
Projected opening is summer 2020, just in time to lead into the holiday season.
It’s a $3 million investment that will make Mt. Juliet a destination place and sister store to the south’s largest Christmas store, The Incredible Christmas Place, owned by the same family, already open at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
“We are so honored to be here in Mt. Juliet,” Barnes said at the groundbreaking. “We feel so lucky to be embraced and now Mt. Juliet and all around here can celebrate Christmas 365 days a year.”
Barnes is semi-retired now and Kristen is CEO of the company. And while this 12,000-square-foot centerpiece will highlight Mt. Juliet for years to come, the original The Incredible Christmas Place had 12 million visitors in just one week this past summer.
“They came to us,” said Sellars. “It was between Mt. Juliet and Brentwood. I know Mt. Juliet will embrace the Christmas theme and we are so family-oriented. They saw my Sellars Park (built in 2014) development and loved the old-world-looking brick. They want to replicate that for their store.”
The site plan calls for five lanes for tourist buses and about 65 parking places.
Kristen said part of the footprint will be a four-story bell tower that can play holiday music year-round.
Actual work on the project began in November.
“The project is going fantastic,” Kristen told Wilson Living. “We are finalizing all the plans and should begin construction in the next couple of weeks. We are so excited to see the ground move.”
Kristen said they are in full swing of this Christmas season in Pigeon Forge.
“We have already begun buying, planning and constructing displays for the new store,” she added. “We have an amazing product selection and themes planned and cannot wait to unveil it next year.”
Spokesperson for the Christmas Place, Chad Nether-land, told Wilson Living the store planned for Mt. Juliet will be a smaller version than the massive store in Pigeon Forge (at 40,000 square feet and in its 34th year).
“But in itself, it [Mt. Juliet store] will be a regional draw as well,” he said. “It’s such a cute town and a great paring withdraws from Metro Nashville and way be-yond.”
Netherland said it’s so important to note the two Christmas stores are family owned and operated.
“Mt. Juliet is near and dear to their hearts,” he noted.
“This Mt. Juliet store may not have as much as the one in Pigeon Forge, but it will still have the same variety of Christmas trees, ornaments and all things Christmas from head to toe. All the best of the best. One hundred percent Christmas.”
And while they will include seasonal nods, the focus is the merriment of the Christmas season.
What’s unique to the Christmas Place is they have design teams on hand to customize wreaths, garlands and anything one can imagine. And they ship everywhere.
“I guess the takeaway is that everyone loves Christ-mas and our store is not like your typical home-goods type store,” Netherland said. “It’s unique and is an ‘experience’ and people wander through and pick up great themes and ideas to replicate at their homes. We create one of a kind displays and rooms and layouts.”
To say it’s elaborate would be an understatement. The bell tower at Pigeon Forge and planned for Mt. Juliet’s store, is designed after a German village.
“We will bring a little of that to Mt. Juliet,” said Netherland.
Additionally, there are future projects for Mt. Juliet, Sellars revealed.
In Pigeon Forge, there’s an Inn at Christmas Place. And, more land is acquired by Sellars, so you never know! Other endeavors are in the works.
We don’t get as much snow as we once did.
Scores of former residents have had a significant influence on our nation’s government. One is regarded as the “father” of the United Nations. And Lebanon has made its mark in the field of entertainment from an early spokesperson for a popular pancake mix to one of America’s most gifted songwriters.
These bits and pieces of Lebanon’s past can be found in a history that has been recently authored by Sam Hatcher and titled “Notes From Lebanon’s First 200 years.”
For several months, actually dating back to early spring, Hatcher, a former newspaper journalist, and Brandon Wagoner, a book publisher who lives in Lebanon, have been poking around records, looking through scrapbooks, making phone calls, and interviewing locals regarding Lebanon’s 200 years of history.
“It’s no secret of course that the City of Lebanon is celebrating its bicentennial this year and because of that Brandon and I believed it to be important to create a book to commemorate this very special event,” Hatcher said.
He explained that the book’s title, specifically the word “Notes” in the title, is used as “an apology of sorts because I’m not sure any history book is ever totally complete.
“We’ve tried for the better part of seven months to piece together as best we could the 200 years of Lebanon’s past.
“This has not been an easy chore for either of us,” Hatcher said in reference to Wagoner, who has authored a number of books and whose three-year-old company, Grassleaf Publishing, has published several works including children’s books and faith-based titles.
“I think many readers will be surprised to learn that one of the early representatives of Aunt Jemima Pancakes, Maude Woodfork, was from here; that the longest-serving U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, was educated here; and that the songwriter who pinned “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and dozens of more classics, Curly Putman, made his home in Lebanon,” Hatcher offered.
A self-described “weather freak,” Hatcher said one of his personal favorite parts of the book deals with the weather.
Chapter Five of the book’s 11 chapters, “Weathering the Storms,” is a very thorough recall of significant weather events including a detailed graph that spans several pages noting dates of major local weather occurrences.
“We often hear that we don’t seem to get the winter snows as we once did and a graph Brandon labored over for several days spells this out clearly.
“Whether it’s global warming or some other cause, it’s evident that the deep snows experienced frequently in winters decades ago have been a rarity in recent times,” Hatcher pointed out.
Discussing the book’s content, Hatcher, who authored the popular “Heisman’s First Trophy” three years ago, said much of what’s in the history has been captured from other writings, reports by the community’s newspapers, individual interviews, records at Cumberland University, and other sources. He said there are a significant number of photos in the book, many of which have been in storage or not available for public display.
According to Wagoner, the book traces the development of industry and commerce; education, both public and private; healthcare; and other subjects.
He said one of the book’s final chapters is called Potpourri and addresses the World War II maneuvers, Gen. Robert Hatton, a Civil War battle in downtown Lebanon, and several other points of history that have had an impact on the community.
Both Hatcher and Wagoner reminded that “Notes from Lebanon’s First 200 Years” is strictly a history about Lebanon and shouldn’t be confused with matters, happenings or people outside of Lebanon.
“Notes From Lebanon’s First 200 Years,” will be available for purchase in early November. The book which sells for $20 per copy will be sold locally at the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce office on the Lebanon Square, at Gibbs Pharmacy on Baddour Parkway, Split Bean Roasting Company, and at Gifts on Main on West Main Street.
Hatcher, who began a career in journalism after graduating from Castle Heights Military Academy, is a lifelong resident of Lebanon. He often tells that his great grandfather, J.J. Hatcher, was the City’s first electrician and was the one who turned on lights in Lebanon for the first time in the 1800s.
His book about Cumberland University’s game against Georgia Tech in 1916 in which Tech beat Cumberland 222-0, “Heisman’s First Trophy,” was published on the 100th anniversary of the game and has received national recognition by ESPN, several major metropolitan daily newspapers, National Public Radio, CBS, Sports Illustrated Magazine, and others.
Wagoner, a graduate of Friendship Christian School, holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee Tech and a master’s degree in engineering management from Lipscomb University.
He initiated Grassleaf Publishing some three years ago and has had the opportunity to publish several books including children’s books and titles that are faith-based. To learn more about Wagoner’s company visit Grassleafpublishing.com.
For some, it can’t happen soon enough. For the rest, the mere mention of four little words can incite anxiety, irritability, sweating, and nausea. No, it’s not, “Your relatives are here.” I’m talking about “it’s time to decorate!”
Pulling out the tree (or trees, for some), wreaths, and lights doesn’t have to be a curse inducing task. Do you believe that? According to Wilson County’s resident design expert and owner of home furnishings boutique, Square Market Paula McDonnell, there are more important things to wWrittorren By about. “Evy Bill Congereryone is going in different directions. And it gets even worse between November 1 and December 25. We set unrealistic expectations. We want perfection. And when you spend so much time focusing on getting the house totally decorated before a certain date, you miss all the fun.”
If you’re like me, you’ve gone down the Pinterest rabbit hole looking for tips on “Staying organized during Christmas” or “How to create the perfect holiday experience inside your home.” They never work. No matter how many clear bins you purchase, how loud Nat King Cole sings about roasting chestnuts, or how much you love your sweet family (even when they complain about pulling those plastic bins from the attic), every year someone winds up cursing or crying or both. And that someone is usually you (see: Becky).
Today I am in the front showroom of Square Market. I’m sitting in what has to be the most comfortable club chair in the world (or at least Middle Tennessee), and chatting it up with McDonnell when she declares, “I’m not pressuring myself into decorating by a certain time ever again. Adding a few pieces to what I already have out saves my sanity.” One might think it’s easy to say that when you own a home décor and furniture boutique but looking around at the sophisticated blend of modern and vintage, it’s easy to see that Paula practices what she preaches.
This year, she has a goal. That goal is to help you alleviate the stress when it comes to decorating this holiday season.
“By selecting items that are thoughtful, purposeful and simple, you can create a timeless Christmas décor theme that doesn’t have to be taken down on December 26th,” McDonnell says as she moves hand-carved wooden angels around a breathtaking table display.
According to Paula, there are several items needed to create timeless holiday décor that can stay up all year long.
“Angels, trees, nativity scenes, deer are things that do not scream Christmas, but can easily meld into your décor during the holidays when you pair with a string of lights.” Paula continues, “Boxwood wreaths are perfect transition pieces. Take the red bow off after Christmas and the wreath can stay up all year.”
There’s no one size fits all solution for taking the stress out of the holidays, but Paula hopes that she and her staff can help you focus on what matters. “The holidays are meant for spending time with family. Sometimes we get so busy trying to make things perfect, we miss everything. This madness must stop. Turn off the phone and iPad and pay attention. The magic of Christmas is in our families. Sure, the decorations provide a nice backdrop for photos, but simple décor keeps your family in the spotlight. And that’s what it’s all about anyway.”
While Paula has a natural instinct for putting a room together and curating a home with unique style, she has put together a staff who also offer a fresh perspective on creating interiors with a keen eye towards current home trends. “I’m just one person so, it helps to have the best employees. Every single one of us cares about each person who walks through those doors. It’s about building relationships, not a database.”
Paula’s mission is to think outside the design box and offer the most exciting always-evolving unique collections of furniture, lighting, home decor, textiles, artwork, and gifts while supporting local artisans. These collections are both inspired by years of exciting design work, and the creativity Paula pushes to consistently surpass with each new day.
Location & Hours of Operation
115 South Cumberland Street
Open Tuesday-Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday 10 am – 3 pm
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.
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.
“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.”
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