Midway + mAGic = Memories. The Wilson County Fair is coming to town!

It’s getting so close. That time of year where kids relish getting to stay out late on school nights and testing their bravery by stepping inside steel contraptions with names like “crazy mouse” and “zero gravity.” While adults like to test the true effectiveness of Spanx by indulging in fried foods during those eight glorious days in August when the Wilson County Fair opens for business.

The fair is about more than rides and fried foods. In fact, the Wilson County Fair, like state and county fairs around the country, began as a way to provide a meeting place for farmers to promote local crops to the general public. Wilson County Fair Executive Director Helen McPeak says the hard work farmers and exhibitors put into what they do is evident. “There is nothing better than the feeling of working hard getting your cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses ready all year just to show your animal or reap the rewards of growing and exhibiting your own fruits or vegetables, or spend hours piecing and quilting and all the many other exhibits people can enter in the fair just for the satisfaction of competing and winning that blue ribbon.” McPeak continues, “It’s not all about winning, just participating, getting to know others in the competition and making friendships to last a life time.”

The Wilson County fair is bringing the AG front and center with this year’s theme; mAGic Memories. According to McPeak the theme is an essential part of the planning process. “We use a different ag commodity to help promote the fair each year. That’s why AG is capitalized in mAGic. We are celebrating the Year of Milk in 2018. Dairy farming isn’t easy. What better year to promote milk and the three dairy farms operating in Wilson County.”

There’s plenty of mAGic Memories to be had during the fair too. “It’s magic when people make going to the Fair family time. There have been wedding proposals made during the Fair, even weddings. People travel for miles and visit family and friends just to make their annual trip to the Fair.” McPeak adds.

Reithoffer Shows has been secured as the carnival ride provider this year. Reithoffer is the oldest traveling carnival company and only five generational family owned and operated show, which has the largest, most modern inventory and unique one of a kind rides in America. In business since 1896, this will be their first time in Tennessee. With more than 50 state of the art rides-including the 65-foot-tall Euro Slide, thrill seeking kids and adults shouldn’t be at a loss for entertainment on the midway.

More than 1,000 volunteers contribute nearly 80,000 hours making sure that each of the 150 events and exhibits is successful and fun. “These volunteers are committed, passionate, dependable and the best volunteers in the world. They are talented and creative and always thinking of ways to make their areas better and coming up with new ideas to make it different and better.”

2013 holds the record for highest attendance at 589,229. “If the weather cooperates, I’m sure we will have more than 500,000 and who knows, we might even break the 2013 record,” McPeak says with confidence.

 

Valuable info about the 2018 Wilson County Fair

Fair dates August 17-25 Admission: $12 Adults; $6 Children 6-12 years of age; FREE Children 5 and under
You can purchase adult tickets online before the Fair for $10 if you purchase before August 16. After this, admission is regular price. You can also purchase MEGA TICKETS online for $25 which includes admission to the Fair and ride armband. These are offered for a limited time before August 16 and will not be available after this date. You can visit the Fairs website at www.wilsoncountyfair.net to see the different discounts, pricing and check out what days different events are held so you can plan your visits. Season Tickets are $45 good for admission all 9 days of the Fair, which is a $108 value. The Great Give Away is a popular event during the Fair. $1,000 will be given away on the nights of Friday, August 17, Sunday, August 19, Monday, August 20, Wednesday, August 23, and Thursday, August 24 at the fair, but the car, truck or tractor giveaway will be held on Tuesday, August 21 at 8:30 pm. But get there early to get a seat in the grandstand. You must present the winning ticket at the drawing within the allotted time. 2018 Wilson County Fair is presented by Middle Tennessee Ford Dealers as the title sponsor. Other premiere sponsors include Bates Ford, John Deere, TN Lottery, Middle Tennessee Electric Corp, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Tennova, Coca-Cola, Lochinvar, Farm Bureau, Demos.

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She’s doin’ it!

By Becky Andrews

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or perhaps not on social media, you’ve probably heard her commentary on everything from CrossFit to sick kids. She’s Heather Land or you may know her as the “I ain’t doin’ it” lady whose hilarious commentary has gone viral. It all started in September when on a whim she sent her friends a short video of what she really thought of CrossFit. That video, enhanced with a clever Snap Chat filter, has garnered more than 20 million views and caught the attention of some pretty big names in entertainment like country music superstar Miranda Lambert. A few weeks and additional videos later, organizations from across the country began reaching out because they wanted this funny lady to entertain at upcoming events.
It’s been nearly six months since that first post. Since then, Heather and her two children moved to Wilson County.
Even though she’s got a very busy tour schedule and kid schedule, she made some time to sit down with Wilson Living and answer a few questions, so we could get to know our new neighbor a little better.

 

WLM:
Where are you from originally?
HEATHER:
“I’m from Milan, in West Tennessee. After I graduated from high school in 1994, I hopped around a little bit and
eventually wound up in Pensacola, Florida and started classes at a bible college. That’s where I met my ex-husband.”
WLM:
How long were you married?
HEATHER:
“We were married for almost 15 years. We were in ministry for a long time. I was a worship leader and he was a youth pastor. We worked at a church in West Texas for 10 years. After our tenure in Texas, we moved to Colorado Springs where I wrote and produced an album. I started homeschooling my kids at that time too. After some international travel with the church, the bottom fell out of my marriage. And here we are.”
WLM:
Going through a divorce is hard enough, but as leaders in your church, did that make it even harder?
HEATHER:
“It’s hard when you’re in ministry. I don’t know if it’s people from the outside or ourselves that hold unrealistic expectations. Probably both. Your are held to a standard and we just couldn’t meet the standard.”
WLM:
What was the standard?
HEATHER:
“I think in my mind it was perfection. How stupid is that? You know the American Dream. You have it all together.
I think that’s part of the problem too. We appear to have it all together on the outside…”


WLM:
But on the inside?
HEATHER:
“Everything’s a mess. No one can keep up that act. I think some looked at me and thought, “How can you minister
to other people when you are fractured?” If we love the Lord, we minister out of our brokenness. That’s what I’m
doing. I don’t consider myself broken emotionally, but my marriage was broken. And that seems to be doing me and the people around me more good than when I was ever pretending like I had it all together.”
WLM:
How did you make the leap from Heather to the “I ain’t doin’ it lady”?
HEATHER:
“I had tried CrossFit in the past and I think one day I had noticed one too many “CrossFit Check-ins” so I decided to record a video. I sent it to a group of my girlfriends and they said I should post it online. I mean if you can check-in every time your feet hit that Cross-Fit mat, I should be able to give my thoughts on why I can’t do it. It was all in good fun. I remember posting it and going to a meeting at church. Three hours later it had been shared 15,000 times.”
WLM:
Your fanbase is huge. What do you think the appeal is for your fans?
HEATHER:
“That’s weird to hear. “My fans”? I have fans? Anyway, I think it’s honesty. It’s very freeing to be yourself. It’s less
exhausting. When you become who you were meant to be, you discover that the only person holding you back was
the old you. I know for me, I love when someone is honest enough to show their brokenness; people who will look at your wounds and say, “I’ve been there too. But guess what? We’re going to be ok. That’s all we need in this world. To know we’re not alone.”
WLM:
Tell us what’s next for you? Also, how can our readers keep up with you?
HEATHER:
“I’ve got a pretty busy tour schedule. We’ve also got some exciting things in the works. The best place to keep up with me is on social media. On Facebook @iaintdoinit or my YouTube Channel @Iaintdoinit

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Dancing from LA to TN

Mileles bring their love for dance back home

When you grow up in a small town, it’s hard to dream big. Your vision can be tunneled and sectioned off, and all you can see is what that small town in Tennessee wants you to see. Your biggest dreams can be reduced to simply making ends meet while you pack away all childhood hopes of becoming a rock star. Or an actress. Or a professional dancer.

Meet Justin and Marissa Milele. Wilson County natives, Mount Juliet High School alumnus and living proof that it does not matter where you come from or what obstacles stand in your way, but that hard work and putting your mind to something is a lot of what it takes to make your dreams a reality.

Just like their parents, Mark and Jamie Milele, the siblings had the perfect Southern small-town life. Their parents were high school sweethearts before they settled down in the same town they met, their son was the hometown football star and their daughter happily cheered on the sidelines. William Faulkner would have been proud.

But small-town life isn’t for everyone, and at a young age, you could see that it wasn’t enough for the Milele siblings. So they threw themselves into what they loved doing — dance — and they worked, strived and accomplished turning what they loved into a career.

And now, at the ripe young ages of 22 and 24, with roughly 15-plus dance credits in music videos under their belts, a position on Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” tour, multiple guest spots on the show “Nashville,” a “So You Think You Can Dance” season and 70-city tour, a highlighted position in Ricky Martin’s current Vegas residency and faculty memberships with Revel Dance Convention, the Milele siblings have made it a mission to share their message of hard work and passion, along with all of the lessons they have learned in their respective careers, with the young dancers in the greater Nashville area.

Established in 2016, the Milele siblings, along with their parents, founded and created their own dance studio, appropriately named the Milele Academy. They have only been in the competitive dance circuit for a year now, but in that year, they have won countless titles — both nationally and at state level, more than 17 choreography awards and scholarships and major recognition from the dance community as a whole.

With the academy’s motto of, “Bringing LA to Nashville,” it is the Milele’s hope to bring all of their industry knowledge and talent to the local youth who are passionate about dance.

“I like to think that we can inspire young dreamers to do what makes them happy and to work hard to make it happen,” Marissa says. “Teaching has always been a passion of mine, and I feel I’m able to inspire young kids — especially in a small town — that you can do what you love for a career.”

Giving their dancers a competitive edge is what draws most students to the academy. Not only because both Justin and Marissa are established names with well-established careers in the industry, but because both Marissa and Justin are still incredibly involved in it.

The pair are constantly working toward their dreams, auditioning and training, with no signs of them slowing down anytime soon. They are constantly traveling all across the United States — sometimes together, sometimes solo — to set choreography for other studios, participate in the Revel Dance Convention as faculty, and take professional jobs — most recently with Marissa being a featured dancer performing beside Demi Lovato on “Good Morning America” — all with the promise to bring their lessons back home to their dancers.

It should be noted that while Marissa and Justin are absent, the learning, training and growth for the students is not put on pause for even a second. Their parents, Jamie and Mark, step up to the plate to tie off any loose ends while a scheduled round of professional dancers, choreographers, Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders, members of the Nashville Ballet, additional contestants from “So You Think You Can Dance,” personal trainers, motivators, up and coming performers such as Bobby Newberry and talent agents from Bloc Talent Agency visit the academy to coach, prepare and counsel the students for their future careers.

This type of training is completely new for most people in the area. While there are students in the academy who view dance as a hobby and there are classes associated with it, the main purpose of the academy is to give the students the foundation for success in what they love doing.

But even with all of this success with the academy in its first year, owning and establishing their own business wasn’t always on the Milele sibling’s radar. Understandably, this wasn’t their original goal.

Justin had plans to take his love for football to the college level, while Marissa wanted to focus on her own career as a professional dancer. But flexibility and answering the door when opportunity knocks is one of many lessons the Milele siblings pride themselves in.

“I had thought I was going to head to college first and play football, but then I decided at 19 that I would use my dance training to pursue what I felt I needed to do,” Justin says. “We knew we wanted to do something good for the community, and of course, once we started the academy and saw that our vision was working, it became an even bigger dream to help so many dancers pursue their own dreams.”

“It has meant absolutely everything to me to see young dancers gaining confidence,” Marissa adds. “I used to struggle a little with being myself, but in time, I’ve learned to become who I want to be. So when I see so many of our dancers come into themselves and believe that they have accomplished something, it is truly life-changing.”

Most of Milele Academy’s classes are held in and around the Nashville area, with a permanent dance studio soon to be located downtown on Church St. currently in the works. But wherever these young dancers are training, there is no denying the magic and growth that is taking place in each and every class.

And if there is any singular lesson that comes out of the Milele Academy, it’s that dreams are not indigenous to any location. They are no longer secluded to only New York City and Los Angeles. You can start anywhere, even in a small area like Wilson County. You can make a difference anywhere, even if it is only within yourself. And that is enough.

Milele Academy is located at 805 Woodland St. in Nashville. For more information, visit Mileleacademy.com.

Written By Isabella Roy

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Taking the Stage

Centerstage Theatre brings community together with classic plays

Watching a favorite play, book or movie come to life on stage can be a captivating experience that’s not easily forgotten. Now, residents can enjoy that right here in Wilson County thanks to Centerstage Theatre Company.

Created by Mitchell Vantrease and Brady Quisberg, the community theater gives locals a way to participate in and watch plays. Centerstage began its first season with “A Raisin in the Sun” in 2016, and they’ve performed others like “Steel Magnolia,” “Fences” and “The Odd Couple.”

Their next production is sure to be another that people won’t want to miss. They will perform “To Kill a Mockingbird” at Living Word Family Worship Center in Watertown May 12-14 and May 19-21.

Though published in 1960, this classic still rings true with audiences today — which is one of the reasons they decided to perform this play.

“The subject matter is still relevant,” says Vantrease, who will direct the play. “Set in the 1930s, you’d think that things had changed. Believe it or not, it hasn’t changed as much as people want to think.”

The storyline of a black man being wrongly convicted of raping a white woman especially hits home, with Lebanon’s Lawrence McKinney experiencing the same injustice. (McKinney spent more than three decades in jail but was cleared through DNA evidence and released in 2009.) So it seems fitting that Centerstage would dedicate their production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” to McKinney.

This production will feature their largest cast to date, including 20 local — and diverse — performers, says Marilyn Bryant, who is involved with marketing and outreach for the theatre.

“We want to keep the community and inclusive spirit of the company by putting on productions where the cast can represent many ethnicities and include real people who want to perform wherever possible,” Bryant says.

Their cast includes several who have never been on stage before, and people with any experience level are encouraged to join their group.

“For us, our goal is to make theater accessible for anyone. Most of our actors were first timers on stage, which is really fun,” says Quisberg, who enjoys mentoring them on the different aspects of acting and being in theater. “It’s a learning curve for everyone and a really fun process.”

Mitchell Vantrease was one of the stars of their play, “The Odd Couple.”

Quisberg caught the acting bug while living in Arizona, which is how he met Vantrease. The two were both involved in theater while living out West.

Vantrease — a Watertown native — eventually moved back to Wilson County to be closer to family. And in interesting turn of events, so did Quisberg and his wife Samantha, who is the assistant director for their upcoming play.

Back in the same state, the two started looking for ways to get involved with a local theater. When they didn’t find one, they decided to create their own — and that’s how Centerstage was born.

This theater truly is a community project, relying on different residents for help with sets, props, costumes and rehearsal space, says Vantrease, who has even created a few shows of his own.

He encourages people to give theater a try if it’s something they’re interested in. “It’s not just on stage: You can help with costumes, effects or stage-managing,” Vantrease says. “There’s something for everybody.”

“We encourage community members to come out,” Vantrease says. “The arts are really important — not just to those who participate but also for people who watch.”

They will be offering acting workshops and seminars for community members, as well.

After “To Kill a Mockingbird,” they’re excited to produce “Charlottee’s Web” — which will be their first all-children’s production. They’re looking forward to getting more youth involved, Vantrease says.

Whether young or old, they hope everyone will come out to one of their plays.

“For a lot of members of the community, the first time they go to a live theater show is when they come to see us,” Quisberg says. “It’s neat to see a story they know told a little differently and in person.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” will be at Living Word Family Worship Center, 3633 Popular Hill Road in Watertown. It will be at 7:30 p.m. May 12-13 and May 19-20, and there will be matinees on May 14 and May 21 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $15 for adults. Like Centerstage Theatre Company on Facebook for more information, and visit Brownpapertickets.com for ticketing information.

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The Strawberry Patch

How this barn sale got its start in Middle Tennessee

Barn sales have been catching on in other parts of the country, but it wasn’t until Christy Stone created The Strawberry Patch in Hartsville that there was one in Tennessee.

The Strawberry Patch Barn Sale is a staple of the Middle Tennessee barn sale aficionado. It is big, well curated and situated in a beautiful rural spot in the countryside of Trousdale County, an hour east of Nashville. It was listed as one of Country Living Magazine’s seven barn sales to visit in 2015 (that’s countrywide), and in February of this year, it was a Reader’s Choice pick in Flea Market Style Magazine.

Not only does The Strawberry Patch continue to be among the best, but it was quite literally the first of its kind in Tennessee.

“I started having them in my backyard in 2010,” Stone says. “I think I had three at my house in Lafayette. In 2011, we moved the sale to the farm, and that’s when it started to get bigger, quick. I think the first preview party I had in the backyard we had like 50 attendees. Now, we get between 2,000 and 2,500 per event. One year, we had about 3,500 shoppers, but we haven’t come close to that again. We have 40 to 60 vendors.”

This year’s Strawberry Patch spring market will be May 4 to 6 at 1272 Starlite Road in Hartsville. It will run Thursday 5 to 9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Stone was inspired by some similar events that were becoming popular out in the Oregon and Washington areas. She met a woman named Gina Bishop who was selling at the Country Living Fair in 2009, and the Bishop inspired her with her aesthetic and her “you can do it” attitude.

“She had the cutest booth set up there, and I just wanted to meet her. She and I got to talking, and she was telling me that she had a barn in her backyard and would sometimes sell her own stuff there,” Stone recalls. “And she basically encouraged me. She didn’t know me from Adam, but she said, ‘What are you waiting on? Just do it!’”

In the first year of operating her own sale, Stone also took a scouting and inspiration trip to Washington to see the mother of all sales, called Barn House Boys, which she still says is the best she’s ever seen.

“Never have I seen anything remotely close to theirs,” Stone says. “Everything just flowed — everybody had the same look. I liked it because it was easy on the eye, though I realize people sometimes prefer some variety.”

Trendsetting in Hartsville

Most of Stone’s shoppers don’t come from the county this sale is held in. They come from Nashville, Hendersonville, Lebanon and other places. Vendors tend to return year after year, having been carefully vetted by Stone’s discerning eye. Still, she likes to have 10 or 15 new vendors every year.

“I know that shoppers want to see something different,” Stone says. “Although many want to come back and buy from those they know, people don’t want it to be the same show every time. It’s not easy on new vendors, because shoppers tend to buy from people they’re familiar with it seems like.

“When I’m considering a new vendor, I’ll look at how original it is — is it something new? You know, everybody wants to make signs, on pallets.”

However, she says she’s still surprised sometimes at what’s popular and sells.

“Some people really just love to buy a T-shirt that they’ve seen a dozen other women wearing. The average person is OK with wearing something that everybody else wears,” Stone says. “I have to remember that just because I wouldn’t wear something others are wearing doesn’t mean other people are that way.”

Fruit Tea Chicks

In addition to keeping up The Strawberry Patch, Stone’s new endeavor has her packing up and taking on the role of a vendor at other sales.

Fruit Tea Chicks is a simple booth with a simple concept: fruit tea from a secret recipe, served over ice with beautiful seasonal garnishes. People love it. Like with The Strawberry Patch, Stone seems to have found success just by packaging and presenting something that she herself was in love with.

“I just found an old diary entry from 2009,” she says, “where I was describing the barn sale and what I wanted to do, and I wrote that I wanted to sell my fruit tea there.”

There used to be a little restaurant and shop in Hendersonville where she would go and sit and read, enjoying their sandwiches and fruit tea. This was a big part of her life back when the sale was in the early stages. Many of the artisans she recruited to her first events were contacts she made at the little restaurant and shop, which was run by friends of hers.

But in the past few years, when she decided to make fruit tea into a business, she brought her own recipe into her home kitchen and started working on it until she felt she had something unique and inimitable, something truly her own. She planned for the Fruit Tea Chicks to be a little business that her teenage kids (Chloe, 14, Kailen, 13, and Stone, 11) could get involved in.

So far, it’s been a success. She recently sold 150 gallons of fruit tea in a weekend — one cup at a time.

Having done a year’s worth of events as a vendor, she’s now taking the Fruit Tea Chicks to another level: She bought a camper and is going to put the whole operation in there. As of now, she says setup can take about four hours — bringing in heavy coolers, carting gallons of premade tea and ice and setting up a tent. Once the camper is set up and everything installed, not only will she be able to set up and tear down quickly and make sales directly from the camper window, she’ll be able to make the tea onsite: a huge time saver.

It seems clear Christy is the kind of dreamer we’d all like to be. She can manage both ends of the creative process: picture something fabulous and actually get it done.

There’s no telling what that kind of a spirit will accomplish in the future.

For more information on The Strawberry Patch, check out their Facebook and Instagram pages, or visit Thestrawberrypatchtn.com.

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Homegrown Shopping

Watertown Mile Long Yard Sale celebrates three decades

What started out as a way to bring attention to local businesses and revenue to the city has now turned into one of the most popular events in the state, drawing nearly 20,000 visitors and more than 100 vendors from across the country. And on April 22, the Watertown Mile Long Yard Sale (MLYS) turns 30. That’s 30 years of bringing treasure seekers, young and old, to the city so many love to call home.

In 1987 (its inaugural year), the Watertown Mile Long Yard Sale included a few dozen vendors along a one-mile stretch of Main Street. This year, event coordinator and owner of Jim’s Antiques on the Square, Jim Amero, expects more than 130 vendors to set up shop along two miles of city streets.

As it turns out, Wilson Living has a close connection with the event. Co-founder Angel Kane’s mother-in-law, Nell Kane, along with Jackie Chitwood organized the very first MLYS in 1987.

With the spring sale just weeks away, Amero says everyone is preparing for what they hope will be the biggest MLYS to date.

“After being cooped up all winter, people can’t wait for the sale,” Amero says. “It’s a great excuse to get outside.”

From antiques, collectibles, furniture and dishware to fresh garden produce, homemade jams and jellies, there’s something for everyone. Perhaps even more interesting than the “treasures” are the people you will meet along the way.

“When you bring out thousands of shoppers and more than 100 vendors to an event, you are going to see some unique items and the stories behind them are even more unique,” Amero says.

With just a few vendor booths available for the upcoming spring sale, Amero is already fielding calls and taking reservations for the fall sale scheduled for Oct. 7. It might be a little hectic, but Amero wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The Mile-Long Yard Sale is great exposure for us. It’s a chance to introduce ourselves to new people. We don’t offer a put-on ‘come back again.’ We really want you to come back. And it’s another way to show our town off,” he says.

On April 22, as you stroll past vendors, you will be privy to incredible stories related to the individuals and the items they sell. While there’s no shortage of serious shoppers, most come to see the unusual and socialize. It is Americana at its best.

For more information, contact Amero at 615-237-1777 or visit Watertowntn.org.

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Lately Blooming

For artist and designer Melanie Cryar, middle age was just the perfect time to get started

 

 

By Tilly Dillehay

Photos by Morgan Cryar

 

Melanie Cryar was 51 the year she painted her first painting.

After all, four years ago, she’d never picked up a brush.

Several of her children had been interested in visual art, with some of them ending up in creative fields like music or writing. But Melanie herself, though she’s been a lifelong visitor of galleries and fawner over impressionist art exhibits, had never had the gall to imagine herself artistic.

“I’ve always felt drawn to it,” she says. “When I was in college, my favorite classes were interior design and architecture classes where we were exposed to those ideas. The way a house looked, and shapes and colors. I took textile courses, and we worked with fabric. What I don’t understand is why it never occurred to me as a young person to pursue that or explore it. And I think it’s because I had no mentors. I never had a conversation about what I might do or be. Without that, as a young person, you don’t necessarily think ‘Oh, this is possible for me.’

“My art education kind of started back then, and it was just me going to museums. And I wanted my kids to pursue that, because I thought ‘Maybe they can do this. I’m too old; I can’t, but maybe they can.’”

So she never stood in front of a blank canvas herself… until three years ago.

Melanie draws with granddaughter, Norah

I just had that kind of panic,” she says. “Over a period of seven months, we had three daughters get married and a son enter the navy. Honestly, my heart was just broken. I was in a really dark place. I felt lost and fearful. My children have been my life. ‘What am I gonna do?’ What could I do? So I decided to take an oil class at Cheekwood. I went out and got some paints, and some brushes, and that was what started it.

“It was fun; it was a bunch of mostly older women like me, so I felt really comfortable. The first thing we did was a pumpkin I think. Nothing really memorable. It was just about, ‘Here, figure out where the light is hitting this.’ And he taught us how to mix color, which is really big. That began the study of color for me, which is so important. The big thing was the teacher just really encouraged me—that I could do it. He encouraged me to keep painting, and even offered for me to come paint with him. And that was really the beginning.”

She continued to paint, eventually joining the Chestnut Group, a Nashville ‘plein air’ painting community. Plein air is the outdoor painting of landscapes. The Chestnut Group paints together, puts on art shows that benefit local charities, and provides workshops and support. Melanie spent more time painting outside, and also put together a space in her own home for painting.

But in the midst of all the still life painting she was doing indoors, she credits the outdoor work as being a gateway into abstract art.

“[Plein air] is a lot more fluid, and it’s a lot more subjective,” she says. “It’s really a looser subject for painting. I started learning color and learning light.”

From there, she started to feel freer to experiment, after a few years of painting a lot of flowers, dishes, and vegetables. She started to notice and admire some of the abstract work other people were doing.

“I thought, ‘I need to try that,” she says. “I need to explore every form and style, and see what sticks.’”

The first piece she did was specifically for her living room. It was a huge piece, about 50 inches by 60 inches, done on a canvas soundproofing panel that her husband had made and used in his recording studio. It has a seam running across it where the canvas sheets were sewn together.

“It ate up paint like crazy,” says Melanie, “because it wasn’t finished the way a normal canvas is.”

She’d wanted to do the piece using a specific yellow and aqua color palette that was in her living room pillows. From there, she ended up using a little bit of multimedia, including small shards of broken glass.

The finished piece was so striking that she kept getting comments and requests about it. Could you do that again? Could you do something like that for my master bedroom?

So she started down a new road—the road of abstract art.

Melanie at the Petite Palais in Paris

Then, last year, her children banded together to send her on a trip to Paris with a friend. It was a life-long dream fulfilled, and Melanie says it was also a seminal moment for her art journey. Not only did she do some fundraising to prepare for the trip by selling dozens of paintings online, but the trip itself was a foray into an art world she’d never seen before.

“It was a huge eye-opener in that way,” says Melanie. “I was so moved by the art that I saw and the realization that for this culture, art cannot be separated from their lives. It’s all woven together. The things they chose to paint—scenes of war, and love, and life. The way that history and life and art is all one thing in Paris. And just seeing the sheer genius of their talent and hard work. And how some of them were just completely self-taught.”

Around the time she returned from this trip, she began to dig deeper into her on-again-off-again work in interior design. Now she’s working with maybe two or three clients at a time, overseeing renovations and redecorating as needed, and often providing original art pieces or commissions as well.

She and her husband had purchased and renovated various homes through the years: “I realized during those projects that [design] makes a big difference in a buyer—people were really drawn to beautiful, well-appointed spaces. And I understand that. For me, being in a room that’s beautiful… it’s magic.”

“I want to keep learning and growing and to one day be able to inspire others; maybe teach some classes, and encourage my grandkids to pursue their passions early. At the end of the day, children and grandchildren are my calling and my biggest ‘why’ in life.”

 

 


To find out more about Melanie’s art, visit her website: www.thequietcanvas.com. To contact her about interior design needs, email her at melcryar@gmail.com.

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Good, clean laughs

Lebanon original Brian Bates has gone pro… as a comedian

 

By Laurie Everett

You could say Brian Bates is a thriving late bloomer. He’s blossomed in the comedic world after working in corporate America for nearly 20 years. And by “corporate America,” I mean News Channel 5, where he worked in all realms of upper management, including as the executive director of Talk of the Town and also producer of News Channel 5 Plus.

And, no, this seismic career shift was not a mid-life crises, but more of a wild hare for someone who truly believes you only live once and if you don’t take chances, untapped talents will go, well, untapped.

To leave a steady paycheck, a loving work family and a comfortable future wasn’t necessarily a piece of cake for Bates, 44, who admits the last six months he worked at Channel 5, he squirreled that paycheck away and lived solely on earnings from his budding career in comedy.

335985_10151649869056992_1139501176_o“I loved my job in the news business,” says Bates, who is a Lebanon native. “And, yes, it was hard to leave that family, but everyone was so supportive.”

Along with support from work colleagues and friends, Bates’ number one supporter is mom Helen. It’s because of his love for his mother, Bates is in rare form behind the mic as a celebrated “clean performer” in an oftentimes vulgar world.

“I was raised to be a Christian,” he says simply. “I do not talk dirty and vulgar. That’s not me. Sometimes it’s a challenge to follow comedians who use shock humor.”

And it takes a lot more creativity and talent to get the laughs without using racy, titillating, down in the mud antics. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of work out there in the corporate world on stage, and at churches, civic halls and comedy clubs; all places that want a “clean” opening act.

For a guy who was raised in a rather well known Lebanon family – his dad was Denver Bates of the realtor world and passed in 2006 – to shine on stage at Nashville’s Zanies Comedy Club this past May was “a dream come true.”

On his night, the club was packed, almost without his beloved mom, though.

“Yes, it was ‘church night,’” Bates says with a smile. “And mom doesn’t miss church night. I finally convinced her a bigger miracle that night would be watching me perform at Zanies…”

Helen made it to her son’s Zanies debut, but only after she attended church at a nearby church that enabled her to get both accomplished in one fell swoop.

 

Road to comedic chops

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Bates with Tim Allen

A common irony, Bates says he’s a bit of an introvert. So true for many comedians, Bates has a quiet demeanor off stage, but has always been told he’s “funny.” When his dad passed in 2006 he found himself looking for a “cathartic boost of spirit.” In 2007 he took a random plunge and enrolled in a four-week comedy class at Zanies.  He was 35 years old at the time.

“The teachers and students were great,” he recalls. “I enjoyed it so much. You don’t know what you don’t know. Rik Roberts was my teacher and now my mentor.”

Bates learned entry-level comedy writing (a far cry from the news casts he wrote so many years) and performance. Right away, Bates knew he loved it so much it became a “very serious hobby overnight.” He began to get booked more and more often. For eight years he juggled his full time news gig with making people laugh on the side.

His comedy is hilarious and unabashedly self-deprecating. His extensive experience in the working world gives him a wealth of material.

“I get a lot of material from the newspaper and local events,” he explains. “I practice and try out my jokes and look for ways to improve.”

His practice run at saving all his corporate earnings for six months proved it worked, and in December 2014 he resigned his job at Channel 5 and became a full time comedian. He tours the nation as a headliner stand up comedian in comedy clubs and theatres, as well as touring with some big names like Henry Cho and Nate Bargatze.

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Bates as a guest on Talk of the Town

Just recently he showcased at the Ryman in Nashville. Many times he sees fans he met while in school at Lebanon High and Middle Tennessee State University.

 

Back to his insanely funny material

“My mom is a big inspiration in my act,” he says with a laugh. “I talk about family life and daily encounters. I point out that basically we are all the same. We all have the same insecurities and concerns. I just share examples of them.”

His mom’s struggles with technology get laughs, as well as his dating life, “or lack thereof.” And while he admits in the real world, he’s not the life of the party, but is a very keen observer, which makes for endless possibilities with his comedy career.

“Yep, my brain is wired more to observe and take things in,” he says.

And when he’s not polishing his material for the next show, Bates “takes things in” like utilizing his Titan’s season pass, going to the movies at Providence Theatre, reading on his Kindle, being a “meat and potatoes type of guy” and frequenting Cracker Barrel and Demos’.

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A selfie with Jon Lovitz

As for future acts, they will delve deeper into what it’s like being a single guy in his 40’s and “desperately searching for a wife” in this day and age.  However, that quest will be challenging because the work is pouring in. One night recently he managed three open mics. It’s seven days a week, lots of travel and no vacations.

He loves the view from his home in East Nashville, and he might even go out on a limb and get a dog. His idols in the comedy world are Jerry Seinfeld and Brian Regan. And this month his first album will be released, called “Easy Out.”

His cosmic career shift has been a home run, however, from the looks of his huge fan base, locally and afar.

“Goes to show you can fulfill your dreams, no matter what stage of life you’re in,” he says.

To see where he’ll be next and to get the latest go brianbatescomedy.com

 

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Renaissance Girl

Faith New pursues multiple passions with humility

By Ken Beck

Photos by Tilly Dillehay

 

She’s the girl most likely to succeed in . . . well, just fill in the blank.

When 16-year-old Faith New sets her sights on a new skill set, you’d best not block her path.

IMG_2559champThe home-schooled Mt. Juliet teenager proves a crucial member on her equestrian and competitive air-rifle teams, and, when it comes to individual pursuits, she shows her hand as a pretty fair guitarist, artist and deer hunter.

Besides the mentoring of her parents, Kevin and Christine New, Faith says she’s learned key life lessons while riding horses or sitting motionless up a tree in a deer stand.

“I think I get a lot more from horses than anything else. They’re the quiet friend, but I love the give and take,” said Faith. “They’re very peaceful animals, and my horse is very calm, and I can feed off of that. They’re a very good sounding partner.

“Every day I ride my horse, I train my horse. I want good things, positive things to come out, and you can see that through my horse.”

She specifically credits her mounts, Teddy and Bo, for teaching her patience and humility.

“If I’m angry or get overworked or overheated, I’ve learned to control it, so my horse can’t tell that he has anything over me… Horses have a mind of their own, and you sometimes can’t control them, and they’ll embarrass you in front of your trainer or other people, and you learn humility from that.”

IMG_2680champAs for the long hours spent in a deer stand, she describes that experience, saying, “Out in the middle of the woods, it’s so quiet, and we’re listening for deer coming up on you. We’re out there four or five hours. It teaches lot of patience. A lot of good outcomes come from listening.”

Born in Hermitage, Faith has lived in Mt. Juliet since she was 7. She attended Mt. Juliet Christian Academy from kindergarten through the seventh grade, but her mother decided to teach her at home in the eighth grade.

“I love homeschooling. I think it’s amazing. The first year of home school was pretty hard, but the last couple have been pretty easy,” said the junior, who recently knocked out a year’s worth of math in two weeks.

Says her mom, “I’m barely the teacher. She does everything on her own. ‘Did you do your homework?’ She knows what she needs to get done and does it.

“I always said I’d never homeschool, but one day at the end of her seventh grade, it hit me that she would be able to spread her wings and do more of what she’s interested in. The same week she came to me and said she’d been thinking about homeschooling, so she could be free to practice her sports more.

“We knew being on her own to study would free up a lot of time if she was diligent in getting the required work completed. She is doing that and more. She is free after her regular studies to study astronomy, psychology, history and do more church activities and has time to learn business by working in her father’s company, which is what she wants to do for her career. She’s a very normal average kid who does what she loves,” said Christine.

IMG_2556champFaith’s affinity for horses had her begging for her own as a tot. At 7 she started taking riding lesson once a week, then twice a week, then three times. So her parents leased a horse. When she was 9, they bought her a 9-year-old quarter horse, Teddy.

With Teddy as her saddle partner, Faith began competing in dressage and then vaulting. She described the latter as “gymnastics on the back of a horse.” Nowadays, she participates in three-day eventing which encompasses cross-country jumping, dressage and stadium jumping. She competes in hunter-jumper events as a member of CF Topflight, an all-girl, high school team based in Murfreesboro that ranks first in the state and finished ninth at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Nationals last April.

Faith placed in the Top 10 in the Southern regionals against riders from 11 states.

“The judges judge you on how well you look and how well you control the horse from the second you get on till you get off,” she said of the event. “We ride for about 10 minutes on equitation on the flat and about four minutes on jumping the horse.

“My teammates and I like to compete against each other, but we compete as a team. We are very supportive of each other,” said Faith.

She cares for Teddy at their Youngblood Stables outside of Lebanon, while Bo, the horse she mainly rides in competition, is boarded in Murfreesboro. Faith feeds and waters Teddy twice a day.

Faith said she can read horses like humans and that Teddy “has a stoic personality. He’ll do anything, but he won’t fuss.”

Noted her mother, “She’s learned how to take care of other living beings and give them love. She’s learned how to wake up early and stay late until the job is finished… She’s learned how to be responsible for herself, a 1,300-pound animal, a trailer and truck rig. She drives herself to all of her lessons and makes sure she stays safe.

“She happens to have been blessed with owning two horses that have taken her to success over the last seven years. She’s put in blood, sweat and real tears.”

Faith also has put in long hours on the shooting range as a member of Mt. Juliet Christian Academy’s (MJCA) Shooting Saints, a competitive air-rifle team.

IMG_2699champ“I’ve put air rifle on hold going on my second month,” said Faith in early August. “Horse shows and air-rifle competition are held on weekends, so I had to choose. It’s hard to choose sometimes.”

Once the air-rifle season commences, the shooters practice pellet shooting twice a week at MJCA. During a match, each competitor will take 20 shots per position (standing, kneeling and prone) at a target 10 meters distance. A perfect score is 600. Faith’s best effort is 572.

“When we started three years ago, we were nothing. We practiced shooting in the attic of a bus barn in Mt. Juliet. We had to climb the ladder. We’re a very humble team,” she says of the squad that finished fourth in the state in last year’s Junior Olympics.

“I love being a member and seeing kids make the team. This is good for kids who may not fit in with other sports, and it makes them so happy. I enjoy seeing that,” said Faith, who sets the pace as team captain.

Shooting Saints coach Gibby Gibson said he selected her for that role “strictly because of the fact she exemplifies the attitude of a leader. If not from what she says, it’s from her actions.

“She’s a very gifted shooter, and she personifies the qualities it takes to excel in this sport. It’s just a matter of how far she wants to carry it. There are 416 colleges that offer scholarships in three-position, precision 10-meter Olympic air rifle shooting. Hopefully, that can come into play when she’s ready to go to college.”

IMG_2563Shooting an air rifle comes second nature for Faith as her father began taking her into the woods when she was 5, and she began deer hunting at the age of 7. Nine years later, she has a dozen to her credit; she shot half of them with a rifle and half with a bow.

Faith’s father finds their time in the forest provides an ideal opportunity to share his values with his daughter. Their conversations have become more mature in nature since she left childhood.

“We’ve talked about hard work, picking your friends, being a good judge of character—life lessons in general. When they’re young you have a chance to bond with them together in the same tent and have all that time together with no outside influences,” he said.

IMG_2765champHe also mentors her in the workplace as he runs his own business, Painter Ready, a national, commercial and industrial painting company, where he stresses the traits of honesty and hard work.

“I’m a big believer in that nothing comes from nothing. You’ve got to get out there and make it happen,” said Kevin, who had his daughter mopping floors at the time of the phone interview.

Asked to offer a few tips that might assist other dads in building stronger relationships with their youngsters, he shared, “It’s not always quality time but quantity time, but you need to be getting out and doing something with your children away from the TV and phone, building memories. And you need to give your child chores or jobs around the house, making them responsible.”
Faith is preparing herself to take the plunge one day and take the reins to her father’s company.

“I love business,” she said. “I think it would be amazing to carry on. Entrepreneurial is in my blood.”

Her mother added, “Honestly, she has such a big dream for herself to be an entrepreneur and a businesswoman. I cannot imagine anyone being able to tell her she can’t do it. She believes if you know how to run your life and run a business, then you have no limitations to your future unless you quit.”

As for Faith’s creative spirit, she proves to be a gifted artist and a fair guitar player. She began taking art lesson from Mt. Juliet’s Kathy Chester when she was 10.

IMG_2773“Painting was my first way of expressing myself, creating something with purpose,” said Faith, who won first place in her category that first time she entered the Wilson County Fair. “I paint pastels mostly. I like to paint landscapes, anything outside, buildings, flowers. For the past several years, I’ve kept pen and ink in my console. If I see something, I’ll jot it down.”

Purchasing her first electric guitar five years ago, she enjoys performing with a band at Heritage Christian Academy’s annual home school talent shows and also plays occasionally in the church band at First Baptist Mt. Juliet. “I enjoy playing rhythm and lead. I don’t sing but write,” she said.

Her mother, whose favorite time with her offspring is trail riding, describes her personality, saying, “She avoids drama, never gossips and is friendly, loyal and outgoing. She enjoys winning people over that may feel like they’re lost in the crowd and bringing them out of their shell. She is respectful and hardworking, and when asked to help a friend, she is loyal. No matter where she goes, she treats everybody the same way.”

Of her various pursuits, Faith shared, “Friendship is the most important. I love to see people happy. Everybody has a purpose. I really enjoy seeing other people create and find their purpose. It definitely has changed how I look at things.”

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Rock Star

Wayne Barnes has spent fifteen years growing his Lebanon rock garden into over 150 unique pieces

 

By Laurie Everett

Photos by Tilly Dillehay

 

Sometimes the “masterpiece” sticks just 6 to 12 inches out of the ground. A rock.

It’s what’s hidden underground the little rock iceberg that blows the mind.

Wayne Barnes spent hours with a pick and shovel to dig it out of the hard dirt, somewhere on a no-name farm (he won’t divulge his treasure rock-trove spot) in Smithville, Tenn.

But that little poke out of the ground turned out to be a huge limestone rock that had the exact shape of an elephant. Yes, an elephant. Even a toddler could specify the shape.

Barnes (we’ll call him his nickname, ‘Barney’, from now on) couldn’t exactly plop it onto his Lebanon front yard. It took a lot of subsequent grunts and groans, pulleys, shear fortitude, and even a sled at one point to transport this “beauty” to centerpiece his now famous “rock garden,” that has dozens of people daily do a double, and triple take, and many backups to just gaze upon the limestone wonder he’s “cultivated” for the past 12 years.

As far as “Barney,” he got that name in high school. And for anyone who knows the lovable character Barney on retro fav show Andy Griffith, this retired TRW welder has that frenetic energy.

“Well, I guess you could say I’m a little high strung and hyper,” he divulged with a laugh.

You’d have to be high strung to be a rock hunter by day.

It all started when he went to a rock show (yes, there are such).

“All the rocks were so beautiful,” he recalled. “They are limestone.”

He went to a place in Carthage and spent about twelve hours digging up a rock, and was awed at “how pretty it looked after I cleaned it up.”

He put it in his yard. Some time later a man came by his house and introduced himself after he saw what appeared to be an emerging, (admittedly, at that time a rather crude) rock garden on Barney’s well-kept Lebanon subdivision lot.

“I went out to his farm in Smith County and really went crazy,” he said. “There was a lot of rock, and a lot of them looked like animals.”

He said a friend got him into limestone rocks that take on the resemblance of animals, if you cock your head to one side and use a little imagination. With an artist’s hand and paint, they are replicas of animals.

Barney for a few seconds tried to explain that years ago Smith County was an ocean, and limestone was made with holes through them from the water… then he gave up, and just said he’s fascinated. For many years he’s searched far and wide for rock for his popular garden. His wife, Judy, helped revive it; she repainted the rocks and renewed the garden by making even more of the rocks into animals.

“I have always loved working in the yard and I love flowers and there’s nothing more pretty than a neat yard,” she said.

 

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Judy noted when they first starting dating, “I didn’t care for all the rocks he had outside, but I starting looking more at the rocks and they sort of grow on you. If you start to look at them with a little imagination you see all kinds of things.”

Like… a seal, a cow, a horse and dinosaur head, a dog and baby bear. There’s even a Woodstock (as in, Snoopy’s Woodstock).

“They just needed a new coat of paint and I loved it so much I kept painting more of the animals. It’s fun to have people stop and ask to take pictures.”

One day, a woman visiting the area from Arizona told Barney and Judy there are a lot of rock gardens in her hometown.

“She said the rocks were different here in Lebanon and she just loved it,” Judy said.

However, the showstopper on the Barnes’ property is their magnificent geode mailbox. Geodes, are, in layman’s terms, a hollow rock with sparkling crystals inside. Many a southern kids find the somewhat unspectacular mud-colored, bumpy rocks near creeks and burst them open to reveal a hidden treasure of sparklieness.

“I found a farm in Woodberry, Tenn. full of geodes,” said Barney. “Most were in the ground and it took me seven months to collect them for the mailbox stand.”

“I busted them in half, and pressured washed them with oxalic acid,” he said. “It’s a spectacular sight to see them all piled up together. People stop by all the time and gawk.”

His largest ornamental rock weighs 800 pounds. He hauled it from another undisclosed place just 15 miles from his house.

Six of his more than 150 rocks are painted. Now 67 years old, Barney has slowed down a bit. He’s got pretty flowers planted next to his rock flowers and he’s spread black lava rock around.

“Mulch just would not cut it,” he laughed.

He maintains the showstopper rock garden and dabbles in a little golf. (The clubs he traded for rock are long gone.) He’s also into scrap metal. He’s a bit upset some “kids” are stealing his sparkly geodes from his mailbox stand. It hurts a bit because he spent months down in the Woodberry, Tenn. ravine retrieving those marvels of nature.

“The largest one we found was 181 pounds,” he remembered. “It was giant, oversized, we pulled it up slowly on a dolly.”

Growing his rock garden through the years has been fun, said this quirky rock artist.

“It’s put a smile on many faces,” he said.

If you want to witness Barney’s rock garden, it’s at 1013 Shirley Drive in Lebanon.

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