Library Happenings – Dan Brown releases fifth Robert Langdon thriller

By Angie Georgeff

Each month has its own appeal, but October is undoubtedly my favorite. I love the deep, rich colors of the fall foliage, the sound of leaves skittering down the street, the plump, round pumpkins looking forward to their big night, and the autumnal smells of smoke and spice. It’s the perfect time to curl up with a good book or scary movie, so be sure to stop by your library on the way home.

With many bestselling authors releasing new novels in the past few weeks, we’ve added a lot of fresh materials recently.

I recommend that you make our new books shelves your first stop, but there is a lot to be said for literary classics – and classic films.

Film Festival

Speaking of classic films, our annual Halloween Film Festival will commence with a movie beloved by generations of filmgoers and critics alike.

Join us at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 12 for popcorn, candy and a movie. Please feel free to bring a bottle of water or your favorite soft drink. We ask only that you bring one that can be capped so we can avoid spills.

Youth Programs

Since this week is National Fire Prevention Week, fire safety will be Wednesday’s story time focus. The fun will begin at 10:30 a.m., with stories, crafts and a snack to follow.

Reading Buddies, which pairs beginning readers with teens who listen to help and encourage them, meet Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.. If you have questions about any of our programs, please call the library at 743-6533.

Spotlight Book

Who has not dreamed of traveling to Spain? Its sunshine, beaches, castles, cathedrals, art and history are compelling. While I was living in Europe, I managed to get to Barcelona, but I was unable to explore the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. I still regret it and would love to go back.  Reading “Origin,” Dan Brown’s fifth Robert Langdon thriller, I could pick up where I left off.

It proceeds from the jagged peaks of Montserrat near Barcelona on the Mediterranean Sea to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, a port in the Basque country on the Atlantic Bay of Biscay.

Among the Guggenheim’s masterful modern art, tech magnate Edmond Kirsch is set to reveal a breakthrough he believes will revolutionize our understanding of science and religion, but the announcement is never made.

With his life hanging in the balance, Langdon flees the museum in company with its director, Ambra Vidal. The symbologist and the art historian race to discover the password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret – a secret that someone is willing to kill to conceal.

Feathered Friends – October walks will offer migrant-viewing opportunities

Warblers, like this bay-breasted warbler, are experts at remaining hidden in the leaves of trees. Their energetic movements make warblers difficult to follow through binoculars. In addition, bay-breasted warblers are among those species described as “confusing fall warblers,” because their autumn appearance is a dramatic departure from the look they had in the spring. (Photo by Bryan Stevens)

By Bryan Stevens

The autumn season is a great time to practice birdwatching skills. The temperatures are milder, some of the concealing leaves have dropped from the trees and many migrating birds are moving through the region. With those factors in mind, the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society, also known as the Elizabethton Bird Club, will conduct morning bird walks every Saturday in October at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton, Tennessee.

The walks will begin at 8 a.m. and participants are asked to meet in the parking lot in front of the park’s visitors center. The dates for this year’s walks are Oct. 7, Oct. 14, Oct. 21 and Oct. 28. Participants are advised to bring binoculars to increase viewing enjoyment. Persons of any skill level are invited to take part in these walks along the park’s walking trails, which offer river, field and woodland habitats. Members of the Elizabethton Bird Club will happily answer questions and help new birders with identification of any birds encountered. Targeted species will include migrants such as warblers, tanagers, thrushes and flycatchers, as well as resident songbirds ranging from Northern cardinals and blue jays to Carolina chickadees and red-bellied woodpeckers.

I enjoy fall birding probably more than any other season. It’s always nice to welcome some of our favorites when they return in the spring, but autumn’s the most productive season (at least in my own experience) when it comes to seeing the greatest diversity of birds in a relatively brief period of time.

Birding in my yard during September has produced sightings of several species of warblers, a family of birds that is always one of the anticipated highlights of the migration season. Migrants spotted in my yard this fall have included American redstart, Blackburnian warbler, Cape May warbler, Tennessee warbler, Northern parula, magnolia warbler, hooded warbler, black-and-white warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, black-throated blue warbler, black-throated green warbler and Northern waterthrush.

The warblers are the warmth-chasing retirees of the bird world. Like their human counterparts with summer homes in the mountains to escape the worst of summer’s scorching temperatures, warblers retreat southward every fall, spreading into the southern United States, the Caribbean, and Central and South America for the winter months.

Of course, warblers are not the only neotropical birds to employ this technique of nesting and raising young in the northern latitudes during the summer only to return south for the winter. Tanagers, vireos, flycatchers and some other families do the same, but not with the same niche-exploiting diversity of the warblers. As a family, the warblers boast 114 species. Not quite half of the species make some part of North America their summer home, which leaves the rest of the more sedentary family members living year-round in the American tropics.

Warblers pose a worthy challenge for birders. It takes practice to chase their movements in binoculars as they flit among the upper branches of tall trees. They are, for the most part, a family of almost frantically active birds that rarely pause for long while foraging for food, which mostly consists of various insects or insect larvae. Warblers migrating through the region during the autumn season bring another challenge to the table. Many warblers wear completely different plumages in spring and fall, which requires some mental adjustments when trying to match a binoculars view of a warbler to its illustration in a field guide. Known as the “confusing fall warblers,” these tricky cases prompt some novice birders to throw up their arms in defeat. I know because I once felt like that myself. As with all worthwhile pursuits, practice makes perfect.

Come out and join me and other bird club members at one of the Saturday strolls at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park, which is located at 1651 W. Elk Ave., Elizabethton, Tennessee. We’ll chase some warblers through the treetops. We may not identify every single one, but we’ll have a fun time in the attempt.


Bryan Stevens lives near Roan Mountain, Tennessee. To ask a question, make a comment or share a sighting, email him at

Feathered Friends – Hurricanes: Bane for birds, boon for birders

The sooty tern, pictured, nests mainly in Hawaii, but some also nest on the islands of the Dry Tortugas, west of the Florida Keys. In 2004, Hurricane Frances blew one of these tropical birds to Holston Lake in Bristol. Severe storms also present devastating obstacles for migrating shorebirds. (Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Duncan Wright)

By Bryan Stevens

During a program I presented on birds and birding at the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library, an attendee asked me if I knew what happens to birds in a hurricane? The question, no doubt prompted by such recent storms as Harvey and Irma, is of particular concern now that many of our favorite birds are migrating south along paths that could take them into harm’s way.

Well-known birder Kenn Kaufman shared his knowledge about birds and hurricanes when interviewed back in 2011 on the Audubon website. Among some fascinating insight he shared, Kaufman noted that the way intense storms affect birds depends on the species. He noted that a whimbrel, a large shorebird, would be more likely to fly through a major hurricane and live to tell the tale. On the other hand, such a storm would likely prove lethal for songbirds like warblers and thrushes.

To the questioner at my program, I also admitted that dedicated birders are, at times, rather atypical people. For a birder looking to find a totally unexpected bird, every hurricane comes with a proverbial silver lining. In the case of birders, that lining involves some of those stronger flyers — birds like whimbrels, noddies, terns, jaegers or tropicbirds — that get swept into the eye of the storm, carried far inland and dropped onto large lakes as the storm weakens.

My first direct observation of one of these hurricane-transported displaced birds took place back on Sept. 8, 2004. I had been drawn to Musick’s Campground on South Holston Lake by reports of an incredible fallout of such birds, which included species like whimbrel and red knot. More than a dozen fellow birders were present in the swirl of wind, mist and rain when a graceful bird with a dramatic two-toned black and white plumage flew overhead. I had no idea of the bird’s identity, but I knew instantly it was a species I’d never observed. I heard someone yell “sooty tern” — the identity of the shouter turned out to be area birding legend Rick Knight — and then pandemonium broke out as birders in rain gear got their binoculars into position to track the bird before it flew out of sight.

We needn’t have worried. The bird lingered long enough for all those present to get a good look. I was accompanied that day by the late Howard P. Langridge, a well-known birder in both Florida and Tennessee. Howard had seen sooty terns, but he had found them when visiting the islands of the Dry Tortugas, west of the Florida Keys.

Two months after the exciting observation of that sooty tern, Howard passed away at age 81. So, even to this day, memories of that bird are tinged with some bittersweetness from the fact it was one of my last birding adventures with a man who served as a bit of a birding mentor for me. On our drive back home after that exciting encounter with the storm-driven tern, Howard talked excitedly about sooty terns and some of the other rare birds he had seen in a birding career that spanned more than 50 years.

In addition, we learned a valuable lesson that day. It’s an accepted fact that no bird is worth risking life or limb. It’s also a good idea to be careful where you park when going out to a rain-drenched lakeshore to look for birds from a diminished hurricane. Howard and I lingered after the other birders departed. When we started to leave, he discovered his car’s back tires had gotten stuck in the clay mud. With Howard behind the wheel, I pushed his car as the tires spun madly for traction. I ruined a new pair of denim jeans, but I got the car out of the mud. It’s one more memory that will put a smile on my face to this day.

The sooty tern, blown to a Bristol lake in 2004 by Hurricane Frances, remains a highlight of my birding; however, it’s hardly the only unusual bird to be dumped on area lakes thanks to hurricanes that formed in tropic waters.

Hurricane Hugo back in 1989 remains one of the most legendary storms in the minds of most long-time birders in the area. I hadn’t yet taken up birding, but birders like Howard made sure I knew all about the bird bounty stirred up by Hugo. Two species of jaegers — parasitic and pomarine — were among the birds blown inland to Watauga Lake in Carter County. Seeing these birds usually requires a seat on a boat capable of traveling far out to sea to look for birds that hardly ever venture near the shoreline except for nesting.

Hurricane Hugo also blew more than 50 Forster’s terns — a record number for the region — to Watauga Lake. In addition, a single royal tern — a first record for Tennessee — was also detected by birders looking for birds displaced by Hurricane Hugo.

Much farther back, a high count of Caspian terns was recorded Sept. 5, 1964, at Boone Lake in the wake of Hurricane Cleo. The late Wallace Coffey, a well-known birder in Bristol, was present to witness those 130 Caspian terns. Both Caspian and royal terns are birds usually found along the Atlantic Coast in places like Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

As I write this column, I’m keeping track of the progress of Hurricane Irma, on record as one of the largest hurricanes ever to form in the Atlantic Ocean. Its projected path could also bring remnants of this monster storm over Tennessee. Will area lakes see another incredible fallout of birds uprooted from their tropical homes? Time will tell. If something unusual does make an appearance, I hope to bring it to the attention of readers in an upcoming column.


Join Bryan Stevens on Saturday, Sept. 30, for a one-hour morning bird walk on the trails at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton. The walk will begin at 8 a.m. from the parking lot at the park’s visitors center. Bring binoculars to help increase your chances of seeing some migrating birds along the park’s trails.

Library Happenings – McCrumb releases ‘The Unquiet Grave’

By Angie Georgeff

Some bestselling authors are prolific, producing one or more books per month. Others take a year or more – or even a lifetime – to research and write a book. Sharyn McCrumb’s novels tend to appear just about as often as birthdays, so fans work up a pretty good appetite for them in between. Her latest opus, “The Unquiet Grave,” recounts the true story of a murder trial that hinged on the testimony of a ghost. More than 30 years after the verdict, the tale is told by Trout’s lawyer, James P. D. Gardner, who was the first black attorney to practice law in West Virginia. When we meet Mr. Gardner, he is confined to a segregated asylum because of a failed suicide attempt, but he still stands on ceremony.

It is 1897 in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Pert and pretty Zona Heaster falls head over heels for blacksmith Erasmus Trout Shue. Trout is a once-divorced and once-widowed newcomer to the county with a 10-year-old daughter whom he never sees. Zona’s mother does not trust him, but Zona is 21 and determined to wed. She soon regrets her hasty marriage.

Mary Jane Heaster had been right to suspect Trout’s disposition. When Zona is found dead at the foot of the stairs within months of her wedding, her mother doesn’t believe it was an accident. After all, Trout’s second wife had died in a fall. Her doubts are confirmed when Zona’s ghost appears to her and tells her how she died. When Zona’s body is exhumed, her death is ruled a homicide and her husband is brought to trial.

Board Meeting

The Board of Trustees of the Unicoi County Public Library will meet in the library lobby at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21. The public is welcome to attend. If you should require any special accommodations in order to attend the meeting, please call the library at 743-6533.

Story Time

The autumnal equinox will occur this Friday afternoon, Sept. 22. The sun will shine directly on the equator and day and night will be nearly equal in length. The journey to winter will begin, but nature has not yet finished her work. There are still seeds to be distributed in readiness for next spring. Bring your kids to the library at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 20, for stories and songs about seeds. They will learn how nature prepares for her winter rest and for the new year full of promise that always lies ahead.

Feathered Friends – Green herons evident as summer turns to fall

With the arrival of September, migration’s pace will quicken. In late August, I started seeing warblers passing through my yard. In other locations in the region, birders have shared reports of shorebirds and wading birds.

Jonesborough resident Julia Ellis wrote about her own observation of a green heron that took place recently. She had seen a photo of a green heron with one of my recent columns, which helped her identify the bird.

She explained in her email that she saw the heron at along a creek on her Cherokee Road farm. “I was at a loss as to what it was,” Julia wrote. “It showed up several times a few weeks ago very close to dusk. The picture in the newspaper cleared up the mystery for me.”

Although not unusual at this time of year, green herons have been lurking along the linear trail’s waterways in Erwin. The scientific name — Butorides virescens – of this bird comes from a mix of Middle English and Ancient Greek and roughly translates as “greenish bittern.”

The green in the bird’s plumage appears as a dark green cap, as well as a greenish back and wings. Adult birds also have chestnut-colored neck feathers and a line of white feathers along the throat and belly. These herons often assume a hunched position, which can make them look smaller than they actually are.

Keep alert when walking along the trails in Erwin and you may catch sight of one of these interesting herons, too. Farm ponds in the countryside around Jonesborough, as well as wetland habitat around Persimmon Ridge Park, are also good places to look for this small heron. Most green herons will depart in late September and early October. This small heron retreats from the United States during the winter season but will return next spring in April and May.


A recent email from a reader sought help with a bird, probably a wren, that chose to nest in an odd location. These small birds are rather notorious for choosing odd nesting sites. I’m thinking it is that tendency that explains Vivian Tester’s recent email asking for some suggestions for a somewhat unique problem.

“I’m looking for advice,” Vivian wrote. “I have a bird that has made a nest on my car windshield. I have driven the car a few times and she will fly away when I start the car, but I don’t want to do anything to harm her or the eggs.”

The situation had her baffled. “How long should it take for the process of laying eggs and them hatching and leaving the nest?” Vivian asked.

She noted that she had not been able to see any eggs. She added that the nest’s construction starts at the windshield and goes into the area under the hood. “I haven’t tried to open the hood in case it would destroy the nest,” she wrote.

Surprisingly, Vivian said the same thing happened last year but she just kept removing the nest. “I’m just not sure what I should do,” she wrote.

In my reply, I told Vivian that it sounds like she has a wren or perhaps a sparrow, and it can take 12-16 days for the eggs to hatch. The young must then spend another 10-12 days in the nest, so it could be at least four weeks for the entire process.

I suggested that, unless she could go without her car for a month, she should open the hood and gently remove the nest somewhere close by. A box or crate could hold the nest and the parent birds are likely to simply move from the car over to the new location for the nest. The parents are more attached to the nest itself than they are your car.

I admitted that I was sort of “winging” it on this problem. While a car is an odd choice for nesting, I’ve heard of birds such as swallows that nest on boats and then follow the boats along their river routes.

After I responded, Vivian emailed me back. “I wanted to update you on the bird nest,” she wrote. “I did move it today into a hanging basket just above my car.”

The nesting bird flew away when Vivian opened the hood. “I am hoping she will return since I did see four little eggs in it,” she wrote.

I believe Vivian’s bird is probably a Carolina wren. I’ve observed these wrens, a slightly larger relative of the house wren, nesting in an old apron my grandmother used as a bag for her clothespins, as well as a plastic shopping bag hanging from a nail in my garage. A pair also once tried to nest in the exhaust vent for my clothes dryer.


To share a sighting, make a comment, or ask a question, send email to

Green herons are fairly common summer birds in the region. Look for them along creek and rivers, as well as near ponds and wetlands. (Photo by Bryan Stevens)

Patriot Day service to honor local emergency responders

By Lisa Whaley

Unicoi County’s first-ever Patriot’s Day Service has been a long time coming, organizers say.

But now, as the Sept. 11 tribute honoring local first responders grows closer, there is also a strong feeling that the event’s timing could not have been better.

“I work day to day with most of the first responders and I see the things that they encounter,” said Debbie Tittle, Uncoi County’s register of deeds and a volunteer with the event. “I know that they put their lives on the line every day.

“It’s a changing world and Unicoi is no exception. They need to know that they are appreciated for their jobs, as individuals, for what they do to help us and protect us and for always being there. They need to hear that, especially in these times.”

The Patriot’s Day event actually got its start just a couple of months ago, according to Steve Rice, pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church and one of the key organizers of the event — during a simple conversation about the value of first responders that quickly grew into a desire to create some type of a tribute.

Sponsored by the churches of Unicoi County – as well as a host of community organizations and volunteers – the event is set for Monday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. at the Unicoi County High School, and will feature uplifting music, inspiring speeches and proclamations and the chance to say “thank you” to the men and women who help keep Unicoi County safe.

“Our first responders, they take a great risk,” Rice said, noting that every day can be a Sept. 11 for a first responder. “We want to let them know that we value them here. Certainly, we have our differences, but we all agree on how we feel about our first responders.”

Rice is also convinced the Sept. 11 tribute is going to be an a not-to-be-missed special occasion for the county.

Music will include everything from “God Bless America” by the Community Choir to individual  musical works by soloists Larry Pate, Alan Foster and Johnathan Huff.

Pastors will be on hand to provide prayers, words of encouragement and special recognition. Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch and State Senator Rusty Crowe are also slated to present special proclamations honoring first responders.

The guest speaker will be Randy Kington, who fought in Vietnam during 1965–66, was awarded 11 ribbons and six medals and now travels the nation sharing his inspirational story.

There will even be a moment of recognition for the Erwin Nine, the group World War II soldiers from Erwin who were assigned to different  bombers, shot down at different times and yet ended up at – and survived from — the same prisoner of war camp.

Of course, first and foremost, the event is one of honor.

A special first responders’ reception is set for 5:30 p.m. in the UCHS cafeteria where first responders and their families will be treated to a light meal, a chance to meet guest speaker Kington and sign up for door prizes that will be given out at the Tribute.

“We just want to say, “Thank you. Thank you.,” Rice said. “The bottom line is this is just a way to show a tangible appreciation for what first responders do. And to show that from the south end to the north end of the county, we are united in this.”

For more information or to volunteer, call 330-9334.

English: ‘It is exciting’ to start school year

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County School System is ready to welcome students back to class.

“It is exciting to have students return,” Director of Schools John English told The Erwin Record. “Our work in the summer is all geared towards things for our students. Obviously, they bring a lot of energy back to the school system. I think it is always exciting to get kids back in classrooms.

“We are in the business of students, so when they are not around it’s not quite the same. We are glad to be getting them back.”

The first day of school will be Monday, Aug. 14. Students will dismiss early on that day with middle school and high school students going from 7:45-11:45 a.m. and elementary school students going from 8 a.m. to noon. Breakfast and lunch will be served on Aug. 14.

“The first full day of school will be Tuesday, Aug. 15,” English said.

Teachers returned to work on Monday, Aug. 7.


New this school year is how parents and guardians will be asked to fill out and submit their students’ beginning of year information packets, according to English. In previous years, these were filled out by hand; however, in order to make filling out the packets more convenient, parents and guardians must now fill out and submit them online.

“The biggest thing parents need to look out for is our transition to online students’ beginning-of-year packets,” English said. “This will make it easier for our families, especially those with multiple students. Those packets were pretty cumbersome. We are trying to make that more efficient for our families and for us.”

English said login information for Skyward, the website parents use to access the packet and other student information, was to be sent to parents’ email on file on Aug. 7.

For more information about the packets, parents and guardians should call their child’s school.

Also new this year is an updated website, according to English.

“We have a new website that we feel like is much easier to navigate,” he added. “On the website is a systemwide calendar of events. So, for families with students at multiple schools they can go to one location to find out what is going on at each school.

“Every school still has its own website within the system website that will also have its respective calendar of events. But, we thought it would be better for communities or families to have one location and see what is going on throughout the system.”


English also reminds families that due to the solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, the school system will dismiss early on that day. Middle and high school students will dismiss at 11:30 a.m.; elementary schools will dismiss at 11:45 a.m. Lunch will be served.

“We had received a few calls from families who were planning to take their students out of school that day and traveling toward middle Tennessee where the eclipse is going to be more prominent,” English said. “With that being a once-in-a-lifetime event, we decided to dismiss early on that day to allow families to spend time with their children and make special plans.”


Open houses were held at the middle school and high school on Tuesday, Aug. 8.

Elementary schools students and their families are invited to open house events at their respective schools on Thursday, Aug. 10, from 5-7 p.m.

“The open houses allow the students to get their schedules and meet their teachers before school begins,” English previously said. “We believe it is advantageous to our students and their families to get to know their teachers before the first day of school.”

Classes begin Aug. 14, families invited to open house events

By Keeli Parkey

Summer fun is about to come to an end for Unicoi County students.

Director of Schools John English has announced that students will return to class on Monday, Aug. 14.

“We are looking forward to the start of another school year,” English recently told The Erwin Record.

Students will dismiss early on Aug. 14 with middle school and high school students going from 7:45-11:45 a.m. and elementary school students going from 8 a.m. to noon. Breakfast and lunch will be served on that day.

“The first full day of school will be Tuesday, Aug. 15,” English added.

Teachers will return to work on Monday, Aug. 7.

• • •

Before the new school year begins students and their families are invited to attend open house events at their respective schools. English said elementary open houses will be held on Thursday, Aug. 10, from 5-7 p.m. Middle school and high school students are invited to the open houses on Tuesday, Aug. 8, from 5-7 p.m.

“The open houses will allow the students to get their schedules and meet their teachers before school begins,” English said. “We believe it is advantageous to our students and their families to get to know their teachers before the first day of school.”

The open house events will also give parents and guardians an opportunity to fill out their students’ beginning of year packet information in the schools’ computer labs.

“We are putting the packets online this year,” English said. “So, for example, if you have five students in the system, you can fill out some information once and it will apply to each student. We sent home letters at the end of the last school year letting parents know the packets will be online and the information will need to be filled out online.

“During the open house events we are going to open our computer labs and have staff on hand so families can come and get help with their online packets. Since this is the first time we have asked parents to fill out the packets online we wanted to make assistance available for them. We also understand that some families don’t have computers at home, so the open houses will provide an opportunity for them to use the computers at the child’s school to fill out the packets.”

English said login information for Skyward, the website parents use to access the packet and other student information, will be emailed to their website on file on Aug. 7.

For more information about the packets, parents and guardians should call their child’s school.

Resurfacing project begins in Erwin

From Staff Reports

According to Erwin City Recorder Glenn Rosenoff, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has begun a resurfacing project in the Town of Erwin.

Rosenoff said the project will take place on Second Street from Exit 37 to North Main Avenue and on North Main Avenue to the railroad overpass. Work began on Monday, July 10, and will take approximately two weeks and will including replacing, milling and restriping.

Drivers are asked to use caution in the area.

Summer train excursion planned

From Staff Reports

If you’re experiencing the summer doldrums, we have the cure for you – getting out of the house and taking a great train ride. Escape the dog days of summer with a cool, refreshing and scenic train trip through the mountains of the Southern Appalachian region.

On Saturday, Aug. 12, the Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society & Museum will sponsor its “Summer 2017 Excursion” – a train ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad through the majestic Smoky Mountains and the beautiful countryside of Western North Carolina. The train follows the route of the former Southern Railway’s Murphy Branch line, established in 1891, with its five percent grade, many bridges and the beautiful whitewater Nantahala Gorge.

Much of the route hugs the banks of the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers and crosses Fontana Lake Trestle, standing 100 feet above the lake and spanning 780 feet. After crossing the lake, the train will enter the breathtaking Nantahala Gorge – a natural wonder.

Passengers can choose to ride in comfort in Coach Class, Crown Class or First Class. Ticket prices for adult Coach Class seats are $83 and $69 for children (2 to 12 years). Adult Crown Class seats are $96 and $79 for children (2 to 12 years). First Class seats $152 for adults over 21.

The trip will begin in the parking lot of the Liberty Bell Middle School in Johnson City where passengers will board a motorcoach departing 9:15 a.m.  Passengers will also be picked up in the Asheville area at the Weaverville, N.C., Wal Mart Super Center, 25 Northridge Commons Parkway, Weaverville, at Exit 19 off of Interstate 26 at 10 a.m. Upon arriving Bryson City, N.C., passengers will have time to shop, snack, and visit the Smoky Mountain Train Museum before boarding the excursion train at 1:45 p.m. for the 4.5-hour roundtrip to the Nantahala Gorge and return. There will be a layover at the Gorge for sightseeing. Expected arrival back in Weaverville at 7:30 p.m  and to Johnson City at 8:30 p.m.

To order tickets (and lunch for Coach and Crown Classes, if desired), send your check or money order along with the number of tickets, the class of car you choose and lunch choices to Summer 2017 Excursions, Watauga Valley RHS&M, P. O. Box 432, Johnson City, TN, 37605-0432. A printable ticket/lunch order form is available on the website and clicking on the “Excursions” link. Please specify if you will accept an alternate class of service if your choice is sold out; you will be refunded the difference. Money will be refunded if you do not wish an alternate service.

Passengers will have several options for lunch:

• Bring your lunch (small coolers only).

• Box lunch meals will be available for purchase at $11 per meal and must be pre-ordered with your train ticket. The options are turkey and cheese on croissant or baked chicken breast on croissant.  Included with the box lunch are chips, cookies and a choice of drink (unlimited coffee, tea or soft drink) in a disposable cup. Box lunches can be picked up in the oncession car once boarded.

• Dining in historic dining cars. A truly unique, onboard dining experience in the grand tradition. A choice of meal will be available for selection. Note all dining car meals must be pre-purchased when ordering train ticket. These dinners include a choice of drink (unlimited coffee, tea or soft drink) and a special dessert. The cost is $15 per person.

• Purchase food from the concession car.

For questions about the trip, visit our web site at; phone 753-5797; email; or write to Watauga Valley RHS&M, P. O. Box 432, Johnson City, TN 37605-0432.

Rock Creek Park site of next RISE & Shine event

By Brad Hicks

This Saturday’s installment of the RISE & Shine series of summer events will feature a little rock and stroll.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. on July 1 at the pool at Rock Creek Park. East TN Rocks will have a tent set up near the pool, and attendees will have the opportunity to show off their artistic touches by painting rocks provided by East TN Rocks.

Members of the East TN Rocks group decorate rocks with ornate designs and bright colors, then place the rocks in different spots throughout the community for citizens to find. Those finding one of the rocks are then supposed to hide the stone in a different location for others to find.

Kristin Anders with RISE Erwin said there are similar rock painting groups throughout the country.

“It is a national phenomenon,” she said. “…It’s just something fun for families to do. It’s geocaching on a much simpler level. Without clues or anything, you’re just always on the lookout for painted rocks.”

Anders said participants in this Saturday’s evening will not be required to bring their own rocks or paint, as supplies will be provided by East TN Rocks.

“All they have to do is show up to paint,” Anders said.

Anders added the East TN Rocks tent set up during the Erwin Great Outdoors Festival was a popular spot for both young and old.

“We had them in the Kids’ Zone, but there were as many adults there painting rocks as kids,” Anders said. “They encourage all ages to come out and paint them.”

Attendees of this Saturday’s RISE & Shine event will also have the chance to participate in a family guided tour starting at the Rock Creek pool at 10 a.m. Anders said attendees are encouraged to bring a picnic and explore all the things to do at Rock Creek Park.

The RISE & Shine events, which are free to attend, kicked off Saturday, June 10, with a free YMCA day at the Unicoi County Family YMCA, which was followed the next Saturday by a volunteer day at Rocky Fork State Park. This past Saturday’s event featured a free bicycle safety check and bicycle safety training conducted by the Erwin Police Department.

Other RISE & Shine events planned for the month of July include a “Touch a Truck” event on July 8 at the Unicoi County Courthouse that will allow attendees to get an up-close look at vehicles used by the military, emergency responders and in agriculture. Other July events will include a book exchange at the Unicoi County Public Library and skating demonstrations at the adjacent skate park, a volunteer day at the Unicoi County Animal Shelter and a fishing day at Erwin’s Fishery Park.

Summertime adventure series set to begin

By Brad Hicks

The RISE Erwin group is gearing up to kickoff what its members have described as a “summertime adventure series” of free events designed to offer fun and education for the whole family.

The first of the group’s RISE & Shine family events will be held this Saturday, June 10, beginning at 10 a.m. Different events, which are the result of partnerships with local organizations and agencies, will be held each Saturday beginning at that same time throughout the summer.

“Part of our initiative at RISE is to support our community, and one thing that we have realized is there’s not a lot of events within our community during the summer months of June and July, and we have so much locally to offer. There’s just no organized activities,” Kristin Anders with RISE Erwin said. “So that’s how the RISE & Shine summer series came to be.”

This Saturday’s activity will be held at the Unicoi County Family YMCA. Anders said RISE Erwin has partnered with the YMCA to offer a free YCMA day. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., attendees will have free access to the facility and classes offered there. Those taking part in the free YMCA day may also participate in outdoor field games, which will begin at 10 a.m. and include cornhole hopscotch and four square, to be held on the grounds of the facility.

The June 17 RISE & Shine event, which will be held at Rocky Fork State Park, will be Rocky Fork volunteer day and will include a guided hike. Anders said participants will aid the efforts at Rocky Fork State Park by helping to clean creeks and trails within the park to keep them accessible and safe. Staff with Rocky Fork State Park will also be on hand to lead attendees on a leisure hike through the park following the cleanup.

June 24’s RISE & Shine activity will feature bicycle safety training led by the Erwin Police Department. Anders said this activity, which will be held in the parking lot adjacent to the Unicoi County Courthouse, ties in with the organized community bike rides that will be a part of this season’s Downtown Erwin Farmers Market, which began its second season on Tuesday. The Downtown Erwin Farmers Market will continue each Tuesday from 5-8 p.m. through September.

“A lot of children, and even adults, just need to be reminded of traffic signals and safety when riding through town, so we’re going to go over that and then they’re going to do a little half-course, and then everyone is welcome to ride through town together,” Anders said of the June 24 activity.

Anders said RISE & Shine events slated for July include a “Touch a Truck” activity to be held in the parking lot next to the Unicoi County Courthouse. This activity will allow participants to get an up-close, hands-on look at vehicles used by local police and fire departments, the U.S. Army, and those used in agriculture. July’s slate is also set to include a support day for the Unicoi County Animal Shelter in which participants will help the shelter by walking animals along the Erwin Linear Trail and assisting with cleanup and landscaping around the facility.

Several of the RISE & Shine events will be “multifaceted” in that they will offer a fun activity for families while giving back to the community by helping organizations such as Rocky Fork State Park and the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

More information on RISE & Shine events to be held in July are slated to be released in mid-June and additional information on each upcoming event will be disseminated weekly.

For more information on the RISE & Shine events, find RISE Erwin on Facebook or contact the group at

Summer festival set for June 17 with crafts, food, entertainment

From Staff Reports

The members of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Mission have announced that they are planning their second Summer Festival. “Our first Summer Fest last year was so successful that we have decided to do it again and hopefully make it bigger and better,” said Fr. Tom Charters, pastor.  “We are trying to raise enough money to build a multi-purpose building and it is a big task.”

The Summer Fest will be Saturday, June 17th, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., on the church property at 657 N. Mohawk Drive in Erwin and everyone is invited. Look for the yard signs sponsored by Impact Plastics and follow them to the event.

There will be several food booths, featuring both Mexican and American fare. There will be homemade tamales and more traditional Mexican cuisine. The American booth will be flipping all sorts of burgers with all the fixin’s and grilling hot dogs.  There will be funnel cakes, which were a huge hit last year, and a bake sale booth with all home baked treats.

There are already many crafters and vendors signed up. There will be a silent auction and games for kids with prizes and lots of music.  “We will also have the dunk tank supplied by our Volunteer Fire Department, so Fr. Tom…be ready,” the press release read.  The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are supposed to be there with displays and information from all services.

They are still taking application for vendors and crafters. There are about 12 acres, so space is big enough to hold lots of booths and parking is close by. For more vendor and/or crafter information, call Mary Ann at 257-5096.

Men and volunteers from the Knights of the Columbus have been on the property mowing and getting things prepared for the Summer Fest.

If anyone would like to come and hay it before we cut it all down, call Gary at 257-5096 or 315-730-5096.  Someone will make arrangements to meet you there to cut and bale the property.

The congregation is praying for good weather and hope to see all neighbors and friends at the Summer Fest on June 17th to enjoy some good food and wonderful fellowship.

Di Fabio to present webinar for Australian cyber security organization

From Staff Reports

Andrea Di Fabio, chief information security officer and associate CIO at East Tennessee State University, has been selected by the Australian Information Security Association (AISA) to present a webinar highlighting how radio signals are being forgotten in security today.

“Hidden Among Us” will be broadcast online Wednesday, June 14, at 9 p.m. eastern standard time and is open to the public.

“Hidden among us are radio signals carrying sensitive information, supporting our national infrastructure, and connecting IoT (internet of things) devices,” Di Fabio said. “This presentation provides a quick overview and awareness of this threat landscape, while demonstrating some basic vulnerabilities and associated risks.”

AISA is a non-profit organization that champions the development of a robust information security sector by advancing cyber security and safety in Australia.

To register for Di Fabio’s webinar, click here. No AISA member ID is required to register.


ETSU to host 10th anniversary meeting of Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology

From Staff Reports

East Tennessee State University’s Don Sundquist Center of Excellence in Paleontology will host the 10th anniversary meeting of the Southeastern Association of Vertebrate Paleontology (SeAVP) from June 14-17 at the Gray Fossil Site and Museum.

SeAVP was started by ETSU paleontologists in 2008.  The annual meeting gathers together students, researchers, staff, volunteers and the public to advance paleontology in the Southeast.  While the meeting is always hosted by a southeastern institution, the conference encourages presentations on projects from around the world.

The meeting will begin Wednesday, June 14, with registration and a reception at 5 p.m.

On Thursday, June 15, the morning will begin with presentations by scientists from around the world, and the day will include behind-the-scenes tours of the Gray Fossil Site and Museum.  The meeting will continue on Friday, June 16, with more presentations and a poster session.

Friday will also feature a barbecue banquet at 6 p.m., with music provided by an old-time band from Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies in ETSU’s Department of Appalachian Studies.  Individuals expected to be in attendance include former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist, ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland, ETSU President Emeritus Dr. Paul E. Stanton Jr. and other university representatives.

The meeting’s keynote address will be given during the banquet by Dr. Jim Mead, retired professor and former chair of the ETSU Department of Geosciences.  Mead is now chief scientist and site director at The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

On Saturday, June 17, an optional field trip is planned to visit the Ice Age fossil site in Saltville, Virginia, where ETSU paleontologists are spending part of the summer conducting excavations.  The Saltville site, which has been known for its paleontological significance since at least the time of Thomas Jefferson, is marking its centennial of scientific research this year.

Registration for the SeAVP 10th anniversary meeting is $55.  An additional fee will apply for the optional Saltville field trip.

For registration or more information, call the ETSU Office of Professional Development at 800-222-3878 or visit and click on the Gray Fossil Site and Museum picture.   For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.

Barter Theatre recalls its history with ‘Barter Day’

From Staff Reports

Barter Theatre is once more returning to its namesake by offering patrons the chance to barter for tickets to a show with its annual “Barter Days” event.

“Barter Days” allows patrons to barter for their admission to three performances by donating non-perishable food items for tickets to the show.

This year’s “Barter Days” will include: “The Cottage” on Tuesday, June 13, at 7:30 p.m.; “The Savannah Sipping Society” on Thursday, June 15, at 7:30 p.m.; and “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel” on Saturday, June 17 at 10 a.m.

The concept of bartering for tickets started when Robert Porterfield founded Barter Theatre during the Great Depression to offer local farmers the chance to gain admission to plays by trading some of their crops for tickets. This allowed patrons who otherwise couldn’t afford admission to enjoy the theatre and helped provide food for the actors at the time. By the end of the first season the Barter Company cleared $4.35 in cash, two barrels of jelly and a collective weight gain of more than 300 pounds.

No advance reservations can be made for any tickets that will be purchased with goods during “Barter Days”, and only a limited amount of barter tickets will be available for each of the three performances. Tickets are distributed on a first come first serve basis. Anyone interested is reminded that these events are usually very popular, so it is recommended to arrive early.

Barter requests, when possible, that those interested bring an amount of food equivalent to the cost of a ticket. Barter staff will begin collecting food one hour prior to the show times listed, and all collections will be donated to a local food bank to help those in need in our area.

Barter Theatre to hold auditions for young actors

From Staff Reports

Barter Theatre is pleased to announce auditions for young actors for this fall’s production of “The Music Man.” The theatre will be seeking actor/singers for the roles of Winthrop, Amaryllis and young people of the town.

For these roles, show organizers are seeking actors between 5 years old and 16 years old who are no more than five feet tall and are able to sing. Anyone who fits these requirements is encouraged to audition.

The audition will take place on Barter Theatre’s Gilliam Stage on Wednesday, June 14, from 10 a.m. noon. Show organizers ask that you arrive at 9:45 a.m. with a parent or guardian to fill out paperwork providing contact information and any conflicts you may have between July 11 and Nov. 11.

For the audition organizers would like to hear one song. You must bring sheet music with you or you will not be allowed to audition.  An accompanist will be provided. Some auditionees will be asked to stay to read sides from the play and dance. There is no need to prepare a monologue for this audition.

Rehearsals for the play begin on July 11, and the show opens on Sept. 15 and runs through Nov. 11. The date and time of each performance is on the website at Each role will be double cast or swung, meaning you won’t be called to every performance. Come be a part of this exciting production at Barter Theatre.

RSVP to Katy Brown at

Be sure to get your tickets to upcoming Barter Theatre productions, with tickets for every show starting at $20. Call the Barter Theatre Box Office at 276-628-3991 for more information.

Volunteers needed to help dig up a mastodon (and accomplish other assorted tasks)

From Staff Reports

Paleontology enthusiasts are invited to volunteer with excavation and lab crews at the East Tennessee State University Gray Fossil Site and Museum.

A volunteer orientation session for prospective “paleontological assistants” is scheduled for Saturday, June 10, from 10 a.m.-noon at the museum.

Many volunteer positions are currently available, primarily assisting in the field, because of the recent discovery of a nearly complete mastodon skeleton, among several other individuals.  Gray Fossil Site paleontologists are seeking dedicated people to help recover this and other specimens.

Volunteers will work side-by-side with the crew, excavating the massive bones and wet-screening the sediment produced during the dig.

“These skeletons illustrate the ridiculous size of our mastodons, ranking among the largest terrestrial mammals ever found,” said Dr. Chris Widga, the new head curator at the museum and an expert on Proboscideans (elephants and their closest relatives). “This new semi-articulated skeleton appears to be a male that was roughly four meters tall and nearly 16 metric tons.”

Dr. Steven Wallace, director of field operations at the Gray Fossil Site, joked, “We will need a small army to dig this guy out!”

By joining the museum team, volunteers become part of a unique group of dedicated individuals who can be found in nearly every area of the site. Whether digging in the pits, screening sediment, picking concentrate, greeting visitors, guiding groups or working alongside museum curators, there are many important ways in which volunteers contribute.

The museum regularly offers volunteer training and orientation in the spring and fall, but the June 10 session has been scheduled as an “extra push” because of the new mastodon skeleton.

Training and orientation is required, and the museum cannot accept new volunteers outside of the orientation dates.  Volunteers must be 15 or older.

Regular hours at the Gray Fossil Site and Museum, located 1.8 miles off Exit 13 on Interstate 26, are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

For more information, email Shawn Haugrud, laboratory and field manager, at or call 439-3661 and leave a voice message.

Mountain States Hospice seeks volunteers in Unicoi County, training set for May 24

From Staff Reports

Mountain States Hospice is holding a one-day volunteer training workshop on May 24 at the Clinchfield Senior Center, 220 Union St., from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Hospice care focuses on patients in the last phases of life and provides loving support and care for them and their families. Volunteers may work directly and/or indirectly with hospice patients and their loved ones. They may perform a variety of vital tasks, including administrative duties, spending time with patients, and providing breaks for patient family members.

Volunteers range in age from 14 up to retirees, although they must be at least 18 to sit with patients. Volunteers will be required to have a tuberculosis (TB) test and a background check, which will be paid for by Mountain States Health Alliance.

Mountain States currently has a critical need for volunteers in Unicoi County, Erwin and the town of Unicoi.

The training gives volunteers the tools they need to interact with patients, care for the caregivers, identify areas where they might be useful, and work with hospice nurses, chaplains and social workers. Through discussion and video, volunteers will learn about HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and privacy requirements, and what is appropriate to say and do around hospice patients and their families. No clinical training is involved.

As part of a special community of givers, many Mountain States Hospice volunteers find their work to be very gratifying. They are also recognized and celebrated during National Volunteer Week and at Mountain States’ annual volunteer appreciation dinner.

“Being a volunteer for Mountain States Hospice is very rewarding,” said Frieda Pickett, a veteran volunteer. “Many of the clients I care for are in great need of someone to just come and sit with them, help them in small ways and provide conversation and friendship. They’re very appreciative, and they tell me so. I’m grateful I have the time to do this valuable work.”

Please RSVP by May 23 by calling 423-431-7621. Lunch and light refreshments will be served.

TSBDC at ETSU to offer ‘Advanced Facebook Techniques’ class

From Staff Reports

The Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at East Tennessee State University will offer an “Advanced Facebook Techniques” class for entrepreneurs on Thursday, May 11, from noon to 1 p.m. at the ETSU Innovation Laboratory, 2109 W. Market St.

This workshop, designed for Facebook users with business pages, will focus on Facebook’s Power Editor. This advertising tool allows users to create targeted audiences to potentially amplify the reach of their posts. Advanced options include targeting audiences through their behaviors, demographics, interests, locations and other factors.

The workshop will be taught by Valentina Escobar-Gonzalez, founder of Beyond Engagement – Social Media Solutions. She assists small businesses in growing their engagement levels with customers online through social media marketing.

Escobar-Gonzalez, recognized as one of the region’s “Forty Under 40” by The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia, has been featured in a national Marketing Smarts podcast, “Big Heart, Small Budget: Social Media for Nonprofits and Small Businesses.” She has also been a finalist for the KOSBE Awards in Innovation and Marketing.

The fee for the workshop is $25.

For registration or more information, contact Teresa Shipley of the TSBDC at 439-8505 or For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 439-8346.