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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Summertime Hawaiian Recipes

By Brandi Lindsey, Wildberry Cakes and Catering

NOTE: these photos were part of a partner shoot with Tulip Grove Farm for a lovely outdoor summer party scene. See that story HERE.


Mixed Asian Sesame Salad

  • Bag of mixed salad greensIMG_2449
  • 1 can of mandarin oranges
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • Sliced almonds, toasted if you like


For the dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all dressing ingredients and pour over salad mixture right before serving!


Grilled chicken kabobs with a sweet-and-sour glaze

  • IMG_24504 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 green pepper, cut into two inch pieces
  • 1 pineappe, cut into two inch pieces
  • Skewers soaked in water

For the marinade and the glaze:

Put cut chicken in a zip lock bag and pour over some of the glaze, reserving some to brush over the chicken when it is all done. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Skewer the pineapple, peppers, and chicken . Discard marinade. Cook the skewers on the grill until juices run clear (about 12 to 15 minutes depending on the temperature of the grill). When kabobs are done, brush the remaining unused glaze over the chicken and serve immediately. Enjoy!


Teriyaki noodles with cabbage, peppers, carrots, and snap peas

  • 1 pound of spaghetti noodlesIMG_2467
  • ½ of a head of napa cabbage, sliced
  • 1 bag of shredded carrots
  • 3 tri colored bell peppers, sliced
  • 2 oz of snap peas
  • Teriyaki sauce


Fill a large stock pot with water. When it comes to a boil, add salt and the noodles and cook until al dente. While the noodles are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the sliced peppers, and the snap peas and cook until just tender, then add in the carrots and the cabbage and cook for about two more minutes. Add the veggies to the drained noodles and toss with about 1/3 cup of teriyaki sauce or more to taste. Serve immediately. This can also be served the next day as a cold pasta lunch!


Roasted shrimp with Asian sauce

  • 1 pound bag of large raw shrimp, peeled and deveinedIMG_2454
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil


Asian dressing

  • 1/4 cup lime juice,
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix all ingredients together and then whisk in 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Serve alongside the shrimp for dipping.

To roast the shrimp: Place shrimp on a sheet tray and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 425-degree oven for about 5 minutes or until just turned pink.


Bananas foster cake

  • IMG_24631 box butter cake made according to package directions (I substitute the oil with a stick of softened butter and substitute the water for whole milk) and sliced for individual servings
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 bananas sliced


Melt the butter in a skillet over medium low heat, add the brown sugar and molasses and stir and let it simmer for about 2 minutes until bubbly. Once it starts to bubble, add the cream and cook for a few more minutes. Add the sliced bananas and pour over the cake. Garnish with whipped cream and berries if you like! You may also add a ¼ to ½ cup of rum to the sauce after you add in the bananas and let it cook for a few more minutes to let the alcohol cook off and this is also equally delicious!


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The Balloon Kid

this is what awesome looks like

Story by Ken Beck

Photos by Caitlin Steva Photography


Once upon a time there was a Balloon Kid with a Balloon Mom, a Balloon Pop and a Balloon Brother.

They lived in a (sort of) Balloon House with a Balloon Room and a Balloon Closet.

Meet Anthony the Balloon Kid, an effervescent Balloon Artist.

“I probably have more balloons than anyone in Mt. Juliet,” says the BK, making the understatement of his life while standing in his favorite room.

And once he opens the door to his Balloon Closet, there are definitely thousands of balloons in plastic containers. In fact, there are about 40,000 balloons in the closet and room combined.

“I have been making balloons for 15 years, since I was 10,” said Anthony Lena, 25, as he shares his knowledge of his medium, which is made of a natural latex tapped from rubber trees. “These balloons are 260s. That means they are 2 inches wide and 60 inches long when fully inflated. These are 360s, and these are 160s, the smallest. This is a 646, the big daddy.”

He grabs a hand full of brown, yellow, orange, red and white balloons of different sizes and inflates them quickly with a hand pump. He twists and manipulates the small blimps filled with air. They squeak in resistance.

IMG_8535smallWithin a few minutes, he reconfigures them into a marshmallow roasting over a campfire.

“This one of my favorites,” he says of the balloon art. “This is pure awesomeness.”

A little while later, he takes some gigantic balloons and creates a gorgeous butterfly with a 4-foot-wide wingspan. Pure magic.

He has made bigger balloon projects. These include a life-size balloon of Pope Francis, a three-day project. And there was that 8-feet-wide and 5-feet-tall display of a farmer holding a pitchfork staring googely-eyed as a UFO attempts to airlift his cow. He calls it “UFO Frenzy on Farm.”

A Wilson County resident since he was 3, Anthony attended Gladeville Elementary School and West Wilson Middle School and graduated from Wilson Central High School in 2009. He completed his business management degree from Aquinas College Nashville in 2013. His hometown of Mt. Juliet remains his favorite balloon playground.

He entertains 5:30-8:30 p.m. Mondays at NYNY Pizza in Providence Marketplace, 5-8 p.m. Tuesdays at Chick-fil-A, and 5-8 p.m. Thursdays at Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina.

The BK truly was a kid when he took up the hobby that blew up into a profession.

“When I was 10 years old, my mom and dad gave me a balloon kit for Christmas. It had a few little balloons, a little hand pump and instructions,” he recalled. “The most detailed creature you could make was two doves kissing in a heart. I thought if I could make that I would be the best balloon artist in the world.”

However, he confesses that when he opened his present that Yuletide morn, he really wasn’t into balloons. In fact, he says his Balloon Mom was the first one in the house to play with the kit.

IMG_8580smallA short time later a girl in his neighborhood came to visit, toting along her balloon kit.

“She was better than me. I was jealous,” said Anthony, who then set out to step up his game.

After creating a batch of dogs, flowers and swords out of balloons, he held a garage sale.

“I sold balloons for 25 cents. I made a sign that said, ‘Balloon art, 25 cents, made before your eyes,” he laughed at the memory. “All our neighbors bought one.”

IMG_8591Then came his big break.

Anthony, who was born seven weeks premature at Centennial Hospital, attended the annual NICU Reunion for children who had been patients in the neo-natal intensive care unit. He gave his nurse Patti Scott a balloon gift of the two doves kissing in a heart.

Scott rhapsodized over the creative present and told Anthony that he would have to perform at their next reunion, thus came his first paying gig as he entertained for the families who had spent anxious hours in the unit.

“At age 13, I officially became Anthony the Balloon Kid,” he said of that initial step in front of the public.

When he was 16, he began to get serious about his craft. Befriended by Nashville balloon artist Scott Tripp, Anthony was invited to fill in for Tripp at the Lebanon Shoney’s Restaurant.

“The first time I was so nervous. It was amazing the feeling I got. I made balloons for kids even older than me. I think the whole concept of ‘if I’m subbing for a professional balloon artist that makes me a professional balloon artist’ made me feel more comfortable,” he said.

In 2007, he attended his first balloon convention, Twist and Shout, which was being held in Nashville.

“At that point I realized I had a lot to learn. I saw hundreds of balloon artists from around the world, the best. They were superstars. I saw some of the creations they made, and it blew me away.

“I realized, ‘oh, man, I’ve got a lot of work to do.’ I thought I was great, but that propelled me to want to become the best balloon artist I could. I want to be the best balloon artist in the world,” said the BK.

IMG_8540smallThat same year in Nashville, Anthony competed in the TJam on the Road “Through the Door Contest” and placed first with a figure of a bubble-blowing boy on a tricycle. And at TJam on the Road 2010, he won Best of Nashville in the Through the Door category with a clown having its fortune told by a fortune teller and also for Best of Nashville in the 7-Minute Contest with a grimacing sumo wrestler.

He would win third place in the small figure competition at the 2013 Twist and Shout Convention, this time held in St. Louis, with his piece titled “Caveman Campout.” “What makes that win so special to me is the fact that I was competing against the best balloon artists from all over the world,” he said.

And at the TJam on the Road Contest 2013, he won Best of Nashville Through the Door event with “UFO Frenzy on Farm.”

These days Anthony performs at all sorts of venues and events from birthday parties almost every weekend to grand openings, company picnics and other corporate events. His clients have included Dick’s Sporting Goods, Steak and Shake, Coca-Cola, Cracker Barrel, Nissan, Lochinvar, Mars Pet Care and the Grand Ole Opry.

balloonkidpizza 015 (submitted)“I’ve done birthday parties from age 1 to 100. I made a 100-year-old woman a balloon arch and cake. She told me, ‘This is the grandest birthday I’ve ever had,’” said Anthony, whose second motto is “always a kid at heart.” “I think balloons bring that out of everyone, not just kids but adults as well.”

His first motto is “balloons of pure awesomeness.”

The BK did have a day job, working at his alma mater, Aquinas College, in Nashville where he worked for three years, most recently scheduling campus visits for prospective students and doing data coordinating in the admissions office. However, he bid that job goodbye in late June and has gone full blown into his balloon entertainment career.

Anthony said, “After a lot of thinking and a lot of prayer, I just decided there is so much I want to do, and I believe it is so important to live your passion. So I talked with my family about it, and we decided that this was the time to do it.

“And it’s a God thing, because as soon as I sort of made this decision that I’ve got to look for some more business, well, Salsarita’s wants me to be there every Thursday now.”

He truly lives for the moment when he can switch into his Balloon Kid persona. That means diving into his Balloon Kid Clothes Closet and putting on his Balloon Kid Costume. His guise features a striped shirt, cardinal khaki pants, suspenders, a portable, electric balloon pump around his waist and a Tilley hat atop his head.

If he has a little down time, he may take a few minutes to peruse his favorite magazine, Balloon Magic, a periodical published expressly for balloon artists.
So what skills does it take to be a fabulous balloon artist?

Says the BK, “Anyone with enough practice could make balloons, but it’s one thing to just make balloons and another thing to entertain and interact with the people. Number one, I would say patience. You have to have great patience with balloons. Many times trying to learn a new technique is very difficult. It takes practice, practice, practice.

“But you also have to be patient with your guests. Some balloon artists I’ve seen, they are not patient with the kids. You have to communicate on a level to go from conversation with a 5-year-old to a 40-year-old just like that. Balloons do that… Balloons cause laughter which is a universal language. Laughter means happiness, and balloons promote that with entertainment.”

Anthony frequently creates personalized balloon creations for his fans and says the possibilities are endless.

IMG_8855“I really try and play on people’s passions when I am creating a balloon, such as making a photographer a balloon camera. Among the most interesting requests I have received through the years would be a ceiling fan, a unicorn mermaid, a person inside of a vacuum cleaner, a jar of pickles and a championship wrestling belt.

“One of the hardest requests I’ve ever had was [performing] for a blind child. I used my voice and told jokes and did impersonations of characters like Shaggy and Scooby-Doo. I made balloon maracas so they could shake it and hear it. The parents could not believe I had made a balloon that could interact so well with their blind child. Balloons are for everyone.”

The feedback and reactions that Anthony receives from his audiences he describes as “pure joy.”

“The children’s eyes light up like it’s like Christmas morning. Sometimes when I’m surprising somebody and they don’t know what I’m making them, when it clicks in their brain, a smile comes on their face, and that’s pretty cool. I love seeing the reactions. It touches my heart and makes me feel very warm inside,” he said.

As for the varieties of creatures he can create with just balloons and several breaths of air, well, it’s only limited by the imagination.

He says, “Literally, if I have enough time and enough balloons, I can make anything out of balloons except porcupines. Every time I make a porcupine it pops itself. (That’s a Balloon Artist Joke.) I’ve made dogs, sea turtles, cats, dolphins, horses, frogs, ducks, octopus, jellyfish, dinosaurs, unicorns, ladybugs, monkeys, elephants, alligators, chipmunks, lions, tigers and bears.”

Besides his public and private performances, Anthony makes deliveries for special occasions of balloon flower bouquets and balloon/candy combos. But he has bigger balloon dreams.

“I really want to grow the business in ways and branch out to decorating. We’ve been doing a little decorating here and there. One thing I really would love to have is a balloon mobile, a big van, where I could go to events and set up and have a mobile store so I could make balloons anywhere,” he said.

In the meantime, he has an instructional video for balloon artists about ready to launch. Titled Balloons of Pure Awesomeness, Volume One, the 2½-hour DVD is for seasoned artists. Among the feats he illustrates on the video are how to create such objects as a pterodactyl, caveman, sumo wrestler, laser gun, ice cream cone, zombie and, yes, a cow being abducted by a UFO.

As passionate as Anthony is about balloons, there is one other thing that he may be equally excited about, and that is classic Walt Disney movies.

The walls of his Balloon Room boast Disney artwork and a framed sheet that bears the images of miniatures posters of Disney’s animated classics.

Says Anthony, who sports a big Mickey Mouse wristwatch, “When you think of Walt Disney, what comes to mind is wholesome family fun. Walt created incredible characters that people could relate to. Growing up when I would watch a Disney move, I would get lost in it.

“My favorite Disney movie is Up. It has lots of balloons in it and a man in a house flying across the world because of balloons. That’s going to be me at 80 years old.

“Walt Disney had a quote that has inspired me. He said, ‘The real trouble with the world is too many people grow up.’

“People often ask me, ‘Are you gonna change your name to Balloon Man,’ and I say, ‘I’m always gonna be a kid at heart,’ and that’s why I will always be Anthony the Balloon Kid, even when I’m 100 years old.”





Balloon Kid gives birth to Balloon Baby

IMG_8815The Balloon Kid is actually a proud Balloon Papa.

Just check out this photo of the balloon baby he conceived.

“I came up with the baby and the bottle when a little girl holding a baby doll asked me to surprise her with a balloon. I figured her baby doll might like a friend, so at that moment the baby sculpture was born (no pun intended),” said Anthony Lena.

“At first I was only making the baby with a happy face, but then I changed the design where one side was happy and the other was crying. This got a great reaction when I made it in public.

“However there was a problem, it took just as much time to draw the two faces as it did to make the actual sculpture itself. So that is when I contacted Continental Sales in California to custom make a crying/happy baby face balloon. They really liked my idea and my enthusiasm, so they decided to make it a reality.

“I jumped up in the air in jubilation when I found out they approved my design. Now I, along with balloon artists around the world, can use this balloon to create the happy/crying baby with bottle very quickly,” said Anthony.

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Mesmerizing Mt. Juliet

Local artist Jeremy Simons partners with the city to bring the art scene alive

By Laurie Everett

In jeans, cowboy boots and well-worn cowboy hat always within reach, he worked many days and well into nights with paintbrush in hand.

Oftentimes Jeremy Simons was alone past midnight, dipping his brushes into the paints. At times hunched over, and other times stretched high, the artist lost himself in his project. One stroke at a time, a large-scale mural slowly emerged on a most unlikely canvas, at a most unlikely place. That canvas was a bare concrete wall in the main entrance to Mt. Juliet City Hall.

With each stroke the wall transformed into a vibrant one-of-a-kind homage to Mt. Juliet. Out of nothing, with just paints and a natural born gift, Simons, 33, brought to life locally known Mt. Juliet images of iconic country music artist Charlie Daniels, the commuter train, a local lake with a crane, a large-mouth bass, a Native American Pow Wow dancer and the city seal.

“I just wanted to represent Mt. Juliet and these images show how diverse the city is,” Simons said.

It took Simons about a week and a half to complete the mural that has the community in awe. City Billing Manager Wayne Griffin said he was mesmerized as he watched the veteran artist work.

“It was fascinating to watch,” said Griffin, who sits directly in front of the 5-foot by 12-foot mural. “It would be just blank, then all of a sudden a train would appear and then a fish would appear and I thought ‘how can anyone do that?’ The citizens are just blown away by it.”

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Artist captivates country

Nationally known for his mesmerizing, massive inspirational murals created within minutes with his bare hands to music performed by his wife Lydia’s band, Lydia Brittan, Simons is used to large-scale painting.

For a decade he toured the country, mesmerizing audiences as he poetically painted giant images of Christ with in mere minutes.  Up to 250 shows per year, he drew crowds awed to see his strokes of inspiration.

‘Art is mirror to heart’

An ever-evolving artist, Simons now has dialed back the tours. His wife, who is a singer and songwriter, has as well and now is recording an album. The creative young couple moved to Mt. Juliet a year ago and Simons is concentrating on fine arts nearly full time. He is working on a new body of work with a Native American influence, among many other projects. He’s from West Virginia and his heritage is of the Powhatan tribe.

“My great grandmother and great grandfather were Powhatan,” he said.

Simons was raised in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia, home to the Powhatan, a Native American people from that general area. It is estimated there were about 14,000 to 21,000 Powhatan people in the early 1600s. Today there are less than 3,900. It is, in part, because of this Simons wants to pay tribute to his heritage with his “American Realist” paintings.

“The heritage of my family has been some of my greatest memories,” Simons said.  “Dancing at a Pow Wow with my brothers and grandmother has been a lasting impression in my mind. Tribal heritage is one of great sorrow and triumph, but most important it is a lifestyle of family. The native heritage shared by our people is one of great beauty, and as an artist, I see the artistry in song, life, and even regalia. Everything has a story and a purpose, and if I can share that through my art, it is an honor.”

The evolution of an artist

Simons said he’s self-taught and started drawing in the first grade. He has a natural talent, as did his father. However, he said his dad never really made money with art.  Simons turned down 17 full-ride scholarships to art schools and instead went to Bible college. He laid his art aside and worked in the ministry full time. He did, however, illustrate his sermons. He then had dreams of painting live on stage.

“I knew what I was supposed to do was art,” he said. “It was liberating and terrifying.”

His performance art skyrocketed and his career emerged with the tours. Now, there’s a new chapter in his life as he works nearly full time creating and selling his artwork. He’s inspired by his Appalachian upbringing in the mountains that have inspired his love for the American frontier and the nation’s first people.

Devotion to Mt. Juliet

However, along with progressing his career full time, he plans to devote a lot of his time to “beautifying” Mt. Juliet with his murals. Simons said when he and Lydia moved to Mt. Juliet they “loved the area and the people.”

“We feel there is so much potential here and we feel this is a great destination for musicians and artist,” he said. “We know there’s a great Shop Mt. Juliet campaign, but feel maybe the artisans’ side is not quite developed.”

This artist decided to take that mission on himself.

“Why wait for other artists to do it?” he said.

The initial prong to that mission is his donation of his murals to the city. Along with his completed mural at City Hall, Simons is in talks with City Manager Kenneth Martin about painting murals on a couple walls at the police department and has a four-year plan to paint all the traffic control boxes at traffic lights. There are also plans to expand the entrance to Charlie Daniels Park and he’s talked with Martin about painting murals on that as well.

“I think it will bring an art presence to Mt. Juliet,” he explained.

Martin is thrilled.

“Mr. Simons is a wonderful young man I met through a mutual local artist friend,” Martin said. “When he showed me some of his artwork I was totally blown away by his immense talent and many, many God-given abilities beyond just drawing, sculpting and painting.”

Martin said he was even more impressed with Simons’ “character and sincere desire to give something back to Mt. Juliet and its citizens.”

“Jeremy is so talented and we are all so very thankful to him for making this wonderful mural a reality for the city. I’m hopeful that other talented artists like Jeremy are able to create a true place to showcase their talents here in Mt. Juliet and Wilson County.”

An artist’s dream for Mt. Juliet

Simons hopes so too. He has big dreams for Mt. Juliet.

“This generous city is growing,” he said. “My personal goal is to have an art district with shops and studios. I want a huge art presence here in the city and if I can start by bringing awareness it can only grow.”

He said he knows numerous other artists who reside in Mt. Juliet.

“I feel good, why not give it a little push, and bring interest?” he said.

From the traditions of old masters to live rapid strokes at his stage shows, to donated jaw-dropping homage murals to the city he now calls home, Simons continues to astonish and mesmerize his audience.

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Defeated Creek to Hollywood

Smith County native Gary Granstaff makes movie deals from the family farm




Plenty of folks, after they flee their small neck of the woods in rural America to seek their fortune in the big cities, never look back.

For Smith County native son Gary Granstaff, who grew up on a small tobacco farm in Defeated Creek, to deny his birthright and get above his raisin’ proved an impossibility.
After leaving Defeated at 17, he was pretty much gone for 35 years, but he never forgot where he came from or those who shaped his character. About 12 years ago he built a new house half way up a hill on the old family farm, and today spends the majority of his time here managing one of the largest retirement consulting firms within Voya Financial Corporation and evaluating and negotiating movie deals with son Brett, his partner in Ridgerock Entertainment Group.

“I’m kind of a rarity for Smith County. There are not many movie producers here,” says Granstaff, 66, who served as an executive producer on the $65 million film Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp, which hit theaters in September.

DSC09342“Inasmuch as a majority of our work is in development and then production, with most being done outside of L.A. and Las Vegas, it really is not critical to be located in a specific area, and since I prefer to be in my home area, it was a logical move. Also, there are a very few independent film companies in the Nashville area, and we feel it has a great opportunity long term to develop the market in Tennessee.”

Ridgerock, where Granstaff handles development and finance and acquires intellectual properties, unveils The Masked Saint, a $3.5 million faith-based movie, in January. It stars his son as professional wrestler who decides to become a Southern Baptist pastor.

“My son is actually the boss. He got me into the film end of the business about 10 years ago,” said Granstaff, who over the last decade has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bruce Willis, Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Meg Ryan, William H. Macy, and most recently with Black Mass stars Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kevin Bacon.

Ridgerock has several projects that the father and son duo are scrutinizing, including a Steve McQueen documentary and two boxing-related films, Francois and Shadow Boxing the Mob: The Carmen Basilio Story. Meanwhile, Karaoke Kings, a comedy, is in the development stage, and Gary has definite plans to make a film in Carthage in two years.

“I have a passion project called Class Favorites that is set in the ’60s around the week of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and when I shoot that I will shoot it here locally and shoot all of it in Tennessee,” he said.

Gary and wife Wanda built a home in Las Vegas in 1994. Because of his marketing company, he could operate from anywhere in the U.S., so they settled in Chattanooga in the mid-1990s where Brett received a solid education at Baylor, a private prep school.

After Brett graduated from high school and enrolled at New York University (NYU) Film School, Gary and Wanda returned to Vegas. In more recent years they have divided their time between the farm and the city famed for showgirls, games of chance and glittering neon lights.

Gary Granstaff visits with actress Meg Ryan, co-star of the 2008 film The Deal.

“I try to be here at least seven or eight months a year. We’ve opened an office in Nashville so I’m trying to spend more time here if I can. It kind of depends where we are with production and business. I don’t want to be in Los Angeles,” Granstaff said.

As for his business partner and star of the upcoming Masked Saint, he says, “Brett’s a very creative person. He rewrote the script. He plays the lead… he did probably two-thirds of the casting, so that’s all from the creative side.

“He really didn’t have the interest or the inclination for the financial side, and that kind of fit my strength. I’ve been involved with some Hollywood productions, and when you see the waste of the money that goes on, surely just throwing money away, we felt like we could build a better business model.

“So Brett appealed to me to start taking control of financial opportunities that we could see within the film industry. There were several of his contacts that wanted us to invest and co-produce, and he didn’t have the confidence at that time, so we formed Ridgerock Entertainment in 2005.

“Then starting in 2007 we partnered with Emmett Furla Films on a couple of projects that I did the financing part for. In 2008 we co-oped with Meg Ryan and William H. Macy on a romantic comedy, The Deal. So as time went on we became more entrenched in acquiring properties and development, and then Brett brought me Black Mass, so we started working on Black Mass, and it just kind of snowballed.”

As things slowed down in 2012, Brett accepted a media scholarship to Cambridge University in England and earned an MBA in Media and Entertainment Management.

“It’s really given him more confidence in the financial side. He’s not only equal but taken the lead in some of the financial side. So we kind of partner in that. So that’s how I kind of got involved in the film business, through his encouragement to help him on the financial end of the film business,” Granstaff said.

Brett Granstaff, who currently hangs his hat in Franklin, Tenn., describes their roles by saying, “I say yes or no and do everything from business finance to creative. Dad specializes in the financial side and the fund management. I go to him and ask, ‘Is this a good deal? What do you think?’ I bounce ideas off of him. He’s amazing in what he’s done in his business. He handles all the finances: I do all the creative.

“He’s really good with the finances, good with negotiations, and he’s really a good people person, what you need to get along with everyone and problem solve.”

Black Mass came to Ridgerock in 2008 when Brian Oliver, now president of Cross Creek Pictures, told Brett he needed help in development. Brett, in turn, told his father about the book based on the life of Boston mobster Whitey Bulger.

“I did the research,” said Gary, “and in 2010 said, ‘Yeah, let’s pull the trigger on this and get involved because this is a very compelling story, a story that needs to be told to people.’ At that time this fellow was No. 2 in line behind Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s most wanted list.”

The rigors of plowing a ton of dough into a big-budget flick and watching the box-office reports come in, he describes as “a roller-coaster ride,” certainly a more exhilarating experience than riding behind a tractor, setting tobacco plants.

He notes that the biggest lesson he learned from helping guide the major film “is the ability to have control of a project, so that at the end of the day what’s on the screen turns out to be what you want.”

Thus, Ridgerock has complete control over the faith-based movie, The Masked Saint, based on the true tale of Chris Whaley, pastor of Longwood Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla.

“It’s the story of a Southern Baptist pastor who was a professional wrestler who is trying to make the transition from that world into being a pastor, and the trials and tribulations and struggles that he has of going from someone who is a very physical take-charge person and becoming a pastor of a church,” Granstaff said.

Brett, 35, who plays the lead, shares more about the wrestling preacher, saying, “He doesn’t always turn the other cheek all the time. He solves a couple of robberies, helps people and always has the knack of being where he can make a difference.”

As Gary tries to be objective about how son Brett’s comes off in his first starring role, he says, “His wrestling performance… when you have people like Jeff Jarrett and Jimmy Noonan, those kind of people who’ve been around pro wrestling all their life, tell you that he maintained the integrity of the physicality of the sport to a T, and that’s the only reason they endorsed our movie… then I think he did a good job.”

The Masked Saint, which opens nationwide January 8, gets its world premiere January 7 at Regal Cinemas Green Hills in Nashville. The film co-stars Diahann Carroll as a church parishioner who provides the pastor with direction, and the late professional wrestler Roddy Piper plays a promoter and announcer.

Gary leads Ridgerock’s faith division as he seeks to make more faith-based films.

“I used to work 100 hours a week, and in 2003 I had a major heart attack. I had just moved here in April, had a major heart attack in November and nearly died. I had quadruple bypass,” he recalls.

“I go see my mom some years after that and tell her about going into the film business, and she pretty much said, ‘You know, Gary, you’ve made a lot of money. You’ve done very well, but anybody can make money, but not everybody is gonna make a difference. You have the talent to make a difference.’

Ridgerock Entertainment Group vice president of development Gary Granstaff, who graduated from Smith County High School in 1966, has homes in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Defeated Creek, Tenn. He works from both locations but lately has been trying to spend more time closer to home. He also has offices in the old Carthage post office building and Nashville.

“After nearly falling out of my chair, I really walked away saying, ‘I do have an opportunity here to do something positive.’ That’s what really transitioned me into saying to my son Brett that I want to set up this faith division and make faith-based films side by side with secular films, so that we can take a message and hopefully be entertaining and expand the tent to bring people into see a faith-based movie that might not go see a movie otherwise.

“Our movie has a great positive message, but it also has a lot of action. So we want to embrace people who normally won’t go see that movie to say, ‘Hey, I’d like to go see this wrestling film.’”

While Gary gives his son Brett the credit for being the creative force of the team, he’s proven to be quite the dreamer himself and confesses that his imaginative powers were a gift passed down from his maternal grandfather, Newton Burford (N.B.) Kemp, who was his first babysitter.

“He had imagination that he really transferred to me, translated all of his dreams,” Granstaff reminisced. “He never really got to travel and explore and do a lot of things. I can remember sitting on that front porch in the swing with him, and him taking me on trips in his mind and really kind of cultivating all of his adventurous spirit that I kind of wound up with.”

Born the son of Don and Hazel Granstaff, Gary spent his first eight years of school at Defeated Creek Elementary where his mother was his first and second-grade teacher. He grew up on the family farm with siblings Virginia, LaDon and Bill, where they grew tobacco and corn and “all the trappings that go with being in farm life.”

His mother, who spent 36 years in the Smith County school system later served as librarian at the high school. His father operated Granstaff TV and Appliance Service Center in Carthage for about 25 years.

As a youth he helped in the tobacco patch every year where he learned the lesson of hard labor.

“It started early from the plant bed and ended up taking the tobacco to sell, and we had cattle and raised corn and had a huge garden. We did canning and freezing and all those things. It was like every time you get up there was something to do.

Married for 45 years, Gary Granstaff and Wanda Key had been dating about two weeks when they had this snapshot taken at the Smith County Fair in the summer of 1967. Photo submitted

“My mom was a big positive influence. As an educator, she encouraged me. I was in public speaking. I did a lot of work in 4-H, and I think in terms of those kinds of things that help you with self-confidence, my mom was a huge influence. I look back now, and it was nearly a borderline between pushing me and encouraging me kind of thing, but she knew I had some talent in leadership skills and she tried to cultivate that in me. I wasn’t the best student but I did always accomplish what I set out to accomplish,” said Granstaff.

As a child of the ’50s, he whetted his appetite for movies going to Saturday afternoon matinees at The Princess Theater in Carthage.

“I think the cost was either 25 cents or 50 cents,” he said. “The most memorable movies that I can remember seeing as a child were Peter Pan, Old Yeller and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”

The country boy also found another way to get to town during those long, hot summers. His excuse to flee the farm and carve out a little income for himself came via a job at a new hamburger joint in Carthage.

“They were opening up a little hamburger place called G&R, which is now Brenda’s [Restaurant]. Me and my buddy Tom McCall were the first two employees. I made 40 cents an hour, and it was a good experience. It was pretty much the only place to go and hang out,” he says. “It gave me a time not only to work but to socialize and to see people.”

After graduating Smith County High, the 17-year-old talked his way into a job at Ross-Gear in Lebanon, saved his money and entered Middle Tennessee State University that fall.

“It set a foundation. I became self-reliant and learned the value of money,” said Gary, who graduated in 1970 with a degree in business.

He and his buddy C.K. Smith of Hartsville, with whom he played a lot of games of hearts, planned to enter the University of Tennessee Law School together. Then his uncle referred him to a TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) officer.

Their conversation led Granstaff into almost becoming a member of the first class of ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). To get the job he had to agree to go undercover for six to nine months in the Florida Everglades and cut himself completely off from family and friends.

However, he and girlfriend Wanda Key were on the edge of matrimony, so he turned down the job in law enforcement, got married and wound up teaching and coaching junior high basketball for a year in a small town in South Carolina.

Returning to the Volunteer State, he accepted a job with the Tennessee Department of Corrections at Spencer Youth Center. He resigned two years later and became an insurance salesman.

“In 1984 I converted into pension planning. Later I got into retirement planning and took over the marketing department of a small company in Seattle and helped grow it from $30 million a year to $300 million a year,” he said.

Today he oversees a marketing organization of 250 sales representatives nationwide who handle retirement planning for educators, teachers, nonprofits, colleges and universities.

And he produces movies.

His favorite film of all time? That would be Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Favorite actor? Paul Newman.

Hard-driven at business, for relaxation or short getaways Granstaff drives a small fleet of antique vehicles that includes a ’56 Chevy Bel Air, a ’69 Camaro and ’91 Mercedes. He also plays the piano and guitar and enjoys a game of tennis now and then.

“Probably right now I’m spending three-fourths of my time in the film business. The other fourth is spent overseeing about 20 commercial and residential properties I own here in Smith County,” he said of his work regimen.

Horses on Granstaff’s Smith County farm.

“As a youth growing up at Defeated, I always had an adventuresome spirit and wanted to travel and see the world. Since my love of my life, Wanda, had the same spirit, we were able to share the adventures that gave us the opportunity to not only live in many places such as Colorado, Washington, Nevada, California and South Carolina but also travel over the globe and have experiences that my grandfather and I dreamed, and I imagined as a child when I spent so much of my time with him.

“He enriched my imagination as a child, and then I was able to live out many of those dreams and then return to enjoy the beauty and people of my home where I grew up,” said the moviemaker, a man whose Smith County roots run as deep as his imagination.

Smith County filmmaker

For more details about Gary Granstaff’s Ridgerock Entertainment Group, go online to The film production company behind Johnny Depp’s Black Mass has several projects in development and debuts The Masked Saint in 600 theaters nationwide January 8.

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Buy your GALA and Breakfast with Santa tickets here!

Expo GALA: Thursday Nov 19, 2015 

5:00-10:00 pm

Tickets include free appetizers, drinks, and swag bag!

Buy tickets for Wilson Living 2015 Holiday Expo GALA


Breakfast with Santa: Saturday Nov 21, 2015

1st seating – 8:00 am

Buy tickets for Breakfast With Santa (1st Seating)

2nd seating – 10:00 am

Buy tickets for Breakfast With Santa (2nd Seating)

Wilson Living Expo FREE ADMISSION

Remember, the shopping is still free all day Friday and Saturday, Nov 20-21!

Friday 9 am – 8 pm, Saturday 9 am – 6 pm

The Wilson Living Magazine 7th Annual Holiday Expo

7th Annual Holiday Expo Scheduled for November 19th – 21st

Soon the weather will be cooler, the days will be shorter and the holiday decorations will be everywhere. That’s the perfect time for the Wilson Living Holiday Expo & Gala and we couldn’t be more excited to be bringing it to you for the seventh year in a row!

Make plans now and save the dates, Thursday, November 19 through Saturday, November 21 to come out to the James E. Ward Ag Center in Lebanon as we transform the fairgrounds into a winter wonderland filled with all sorts of vendors!

This year we have added even more room to accommodate even more vendors who are coming, not just from Tennessee but from as far away as Florida and California.

We kick off the Expo on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. with our ticketed Light Up The Night Gala which includes complimentary tasty treats and drinks, gift bags and preview shopping. The fairgrounds will be aglow with holiday lights turned on exclusively for our guests. Only this year we are limiting the number of tickets due to the crowds we had last year, so be sure to purchase your tickets (see links above)!

Then on Friday and Saturday no tickets are needed. The Expo remains free to the public on both these days although this year we will be collecting donations for the Chamber Education Fund by all our entrances.

Also new this year, we are adding a second seating to Breakfast With Santa and all Santa photos will be taken on Saturday morning. For tickets and times be sure to go to our website on September 2nd when our tickets go live! Again, tickets are limited so don’t delay. Once again Cumberland Pediatric is our sponsor for the breakfast and we will have all sorts of goodies for the kids while they visit with Santa.

We have a very small number of booth spaces still available so contact us if you have not reserved your space or call Becky at 969-6751 or Denise at 364-9082 for more information about booths and sponsorship opportunities.

Last year we lit up social media with our Holiday Magazine Cover Photos and this year sponsors can be part of the fun!

So save the dates, November 19th, 20th and 21st and kick off the holidays for the 7th hear in a row with the ladies of WLM!

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Author JB Millhollin

Re-Writing the Rules after Retirement

Spotlight On . . . Author, J. B. Millhollin


1. You and your wife, Rhonda, are residents of Wilson County, how did you arrive here? How does it compare to where you were living before?

When I sold my practice and Title Company in Iowa, we knew we wanted to live near our daughter and her family. She is Director of Sales with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau. We liked the concept of the Del Webb lifestyle and bought a home in that community while still living in Iowa. We love Tennessee and particularly the Wilson County area. The people are wonderful, and, of course, the entertainment is second to none.

2. What line of work were you in before you decided to write your first book?

I was an attorney and owned a Title Company. I was also the County Attorney in our community, elected and then reelected a total of 8 times. The Author JB MillhollinAuthor JB Millhollinexperience I had in the courtroom while practicing, is now reflected in most of my novels.

3. How many books have you written?

I am in the process of completing my fifth novel.

4. How did the idea for your first book come to you?

“Brakus,” a fictional account of Roy Brakus, a professional thief, was my first novel. I had always wanted to write but never had the time. My profession occupied all of my weekdays and many times, the weekends. As I started to wind down my practice, I decided to take the time and try writing a novel. I wanted to use my experience from my practice and particularly my experiences from the Courtroom. The Brakus story consists of three volumes of which the first is now available. The second volume will be available on August 3, and the last available this fall. The main character is in and out of the Courtroom. Roy also struggles with OCD which makes for an interesting and fun writing experience—a thief that breaks into homes but struggles with stepping on a crack in a tile floor presents many, many interesting situations indeed. Keep in mind, the novels I write are generally about bad events that happen to good people. Many times they involve characters that you would not want to invite into your home. As a result, the language and the situations they get into are not something you would probably want to read to your child.

5. How long did it take you to write Brakus? Do you have a set pattern in which you write?

It took me quite some time to write “Brakus” since I was still practicing law. Now, normally I write each morning and it takes about six months to complete a novel. Of course, there is much more to it than simply planning each chapter and writing it out. I review every chapter, word by word, sometimes seven or eight times, to make sure it says exactly what I want it to say. I once spent an hour on one sentence!

6. Where can someone buy your book right now?

At this time, “Brakus” is available as a Kindle download and in paperback, from Amazon. It is also available in paperback from Touchpoint Press, Barnes and Noble and Books A Million. Subsequent novels will also be available from the same sources.

7. When will your second book come out?JB Millhollin “An Absence of Ethics” Book

My second novel is entitled “An Absence of Ethics” and involves a young attorney by the name of Rosa Norway, who becomes  involved with a Judge, while in the middle of a trial over which he presides. Most of my novels are set in the Nashville/ Wilson County area and this one is no exception. It is now available through Amazon as a Kindle download and will shortly be available in paperback through those same locations.

8. What would you say to writers who have still not been able to publish their first book?

First, get a real job. This is a difficult profession. It took me months to find an agent and then a publisher. And, I was one of the lucky ones. Figure out a way to make a living WHILE you write. There are so few writers that become successful but if you are one of the lucky ones, you can be “discovered” just as easily while you are making a living, as you can if you have no job and are starving. However, Do NOT give up. It is a difficult process but so worth it in the end.

9. How can your readers meet you or learn about new releases?

We are in the process of setting up book signings in the Wilson County area which will be outlined on my local resume services website, JB and also on my Facebook page, JB Millhollin, author.


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Tiffany Cunningham

Stardust Drive-In


What comes to mind when you think of Drive-In Movies?

StardustMost think of the good ole’ days of classic cars with lots of people piling out of the trunk, old movie screens with James Dean staring as the rebel and speakers attached to a post, outside of your car. Well folks, like everything else in this world, things have changed and been modernized and yet we all yearn for simpler times.

Lucky for us, Watertown’s Stardust Drive-In serves up the best of both worlds. And these days while Stardust Drive-In is buzzing with all the latest movies and is the place to be most weekends, it wasn’t that easy for owners Barry and Dawn Floyd to accomplish their dream of a state of the art Drive-In located in the Industrial Park, just off the main road leading into Watertown.

The couple first came up with the idea in 1999 while sitting at the closing of Sumner Drive-In located in Gallatin watching the movie, X-Files. Barry mentioned it might be fun to own a theater to which Dawn surprisingly agreed. Soonafter, they began to search the internet and spend their vacations going from Drive-In to Drive-In throughout the country, just to see if the idea was plausible. In 2000, they joined the National Drive-In Association and began purchasing equipment to learn the ins and outs of a projection room. Neither of them had been in the movie business before so it was a learning curve. Barry notes, “most owners are second or third generation where they have grown up in the business. We started out as complete newbies but I knew that we could figure out how it all worked.”

Through mentoring and research the pair felt comfortable enough by 2001 to purchase land. Barry was eagerly pursuing the dream but he neglected one detail in the whole process and that was zoning, when he purchased 12 acres of land on Carthage Highway in Lebanon. He recalls, “the way we chose where to place the theater is that we first looked at a 50 mile radius of our home in Nashville, and Lebanon was the spot we chose”.

Unfortunately his new neighbors did not greet him with enthusiasm. After several failed attempts, Barry and Dawn pulled their zoning request for the land they owned and instead discovered an actual Drive-In still intact, but grown over, already existed on Carthage Highway. That land had also been converted to farmland but since everything was intact, and that land owner was willing to rent his property, the couple tried one more time. Things again did not work out.

Barry was met with a news truck and protestors upon entering the courthouse. He now can chuckle about it but remembers thinking, on that day as heStardust entered the building, “there must be something really big going on here today!” Little did he know he was the something BIG! He pulled his request for rezoning all together and went home to regroup.

All was not lost for the Floyd’s, however, as a phone call came in a few days later from Watertown Chamber President, Jeff Tunks. The County Attorney and Mayor of Watertown, Mike Jennings saw how eager the couple was to be a positive influence to the community and Watertown was willing to do what it took to have them in their community. After several meetings with town leaders it was decided that the industrial park was the only place that could hold the crowds and supply the electrical/ plumbing needs for the facility.

“The Watertown community went above and beyond in assisting us in making our dreams come true.” And in 2003 they purchased the land and construction began, the Floyd’s reminisce, “we don’t have our first dollar we made but we do have a spaghetti jar of dirt dug up the day we signed the papers on the land. Since that first day we have gotten to know our regulars and see them out in town, at Cub Scout meetings and church so it is great to have that connection with your customers that you would not get in a bigger town or city.”

Dawn goes on to say, “we always want our business to be a family friendly place where it is safe and fun. We want to be a draw, an attraction that brings people to the community so other businesses can also prosper. We hope if you come once you will want to come back again and again.” Barry believes once you see the a movie from the comfort of your car, on the 60 foot across and 4 story tall screen, you will be hooked, “nothing like seeing an alien life size, it’s amazing and the kids love it. I like to stand in the lobby and talk to the customers as they come through concessions and find out about their experience.”

The Stardust not only offers digital sound through the FM signal in your car, they have a brand new digital projection system imported from Germany and Belgium that gives them the ability to present a picture that is brighter, richer in colors, and has razor sharp focus. They are currently one of only two drive-ins in the state of Tennessee showing movies with digital projection, the other being the Montana Drive-in in Estill Springs.

StardustThey offer an outstanding concession stand that serves a whole meal not just your usual movie fare. It is a true family evening out, offering what Drive-In’s did in the past, just with some new fangled technology.

The Stardust Drive-in is open from the 1st weekend in March through the 2nd week of December. Their schedule varies:

March through Memorial Day they show double features on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights only. From Memorial Day to mid-August, the theater is open 7 nights a week. From mid-August through the second week in December, it’s back to weekends only. Movies begin at dusk usually no earlier than 7:30 p.m. and people are encouraged to come early to get the best parking spots and enjoy their dinner. Floyd reminds people they don’t want to miss his opening remarks before each showing because when the staff is notified of a special event you may just hear your name mentioned.

Tickets are $7.50 per person for ages 12 and over, $5 for ages 6-11 and children under 5 are always free. For more information about the Stardust and movie listings check out or call (615) 237-0077. The Stardust is located on Tiger Drive-in Watertown, TN.


And if you happen to be “Around the Bend”, then you want to try Macon County’s Drive-In located in the heart of LaFayette. The Macon County Drive-In has a concession stand with your movie favorites like popcorn and sodas but also boasts specialties like tenderloin sandwiches and tater tots. 

Contact the Macon County Drive-In by web at or by phone at (615) 666-4411.
The Drive-In is located at 3570 Scottsville Road in Lafayette, TN and is open for double features Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Their website is updatedMacon Drive-in with their current releases.

The Macon Couty Drive-In also needs our help!! The Drive In, open since 1950, recently learned that at the end of 2013, film companies will no longer be making 35 mm films, forcing every theater to go digital. Going digital can cost upwards of $80,000 though. Honda is giving away 5 digital projectors and the Macon County Drive-In is asking us to all vote so that they might be one of the lucky winners!

You can vote everyday, once a day at or you can text your vote to 444999VOTE16.

Let’s help our neighbors and vote and text today!!

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3 Tips to Throw a Game





Sporting your team colors is a simple way to show your team spirit. In the South, we tailgate in hot and humid weather at the beginning of football season, while the last game of the season can be cold and occasionally frosty. With these major temperature variances, it’s not always easy to sport a team jersey. Instead of logoed items, look for functional pieces and fun accessories in your team colors.

Check out these sites for spirited game day styles.


Be sure to check the tailgating policy for the venue before planning. These policies can vary from school to school, so plan accordingly. Planning for tailgating is very similar to planning for a camping trip. You need to make sure that you have every item you need and you need to plan for unexpected needs that may arise. Once you’re on campus, it’s usually very difficult to leave and return.


You should plan to arrive two to three hours prior to game time and plan on staying two hours after the game ends. Hopefully, you’ll be celebrating your team’s victory with fellow fans. We southerners do love our football, and with that in mind, here are some sites that list just about any schedule you may need: lists college and pro-team schedules. lists local high school schedules.

Compile a checklist of all items that you will need on game day. Then, use the checklist as you are packing the car on game day. Make sure to include items from our must pack list.


  • Garbage bags
  • Toilet paper
  • Wet wipes
  • Jumper cables
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • First aid kit
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Extra ice – you always need an extra bag

Plan your menu in advance. Be sure to have plenty of snacks. Try this recipe for a simple snack mix.


4 ½ cups Rice Chex® cereal
4 ½ cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 can of Blue Diamond habanero BBQ almonds
1 cup of peanuts
2 cups of bite sized cheese crackers
½ stick of butter
¼ cup sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons worchestshire sauce
1 packet of dry ranch dressing mix

Heat oven to 250°F. In large bowl, mix cereal, peanuts, and crackers. Melt butter in a large roasting pan in the oven. Stir sriracha, worcestshire, and ranch mix into melted butter mixture. Gradually stir in dry mix ingredients. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Stir in almonds at the end. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container

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Summer in the South



1. Popsicles – Everyone has a favorite popsicle flavor and I suspect that most of us determined our favorite by the age of 5. I’m absolutely torn between my childhood favorites – bomb pops and Mayfield’s Brown Cows. Every now and then when I’m in Nashville during the summer I swing by Las Paletas on 12th South for a creamy coconut bar.


2. Lemonade. – Hot and humid summer days are perfect for a thirst-quenching glass of lemonade. Mix up my homemade lemonade recipe in under a minute.

Homemade Lemonade

½ cup lemon juice

½ cup sugar (or stevia in the raw for a skinny version)

3 ¼ cups of water

Lemonade is also a great mixer for cocktails. Try these refreshing concoctions at your next get together.Summer Fruit

Lemonade Margarita

Mix 2 1/2 cups lemonade and ¾ cup tequila in a pitcher. Garnish with lemon slices and rim glasses with lemon juice and sugar.

Lemonade Spritzer

Mix 1 cup lemonade, 2 cups sparkling wine, and ¼ cup cranberry juice cocktail in a pitcher. Garnish with lemon twists.


3. BBQ’s. – Summer wouldn’t be summer without firing up the grill, bringing out the sprinkler and enjoying lazy days with friends and family. Try this recipe for a quick weeknight dinner or a hassle-free patio party.


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Mesquite BBQ seasoning

Your favorite BBQ sauce

Liberally season both sides of each chicken breast with BBQ seasoning. Baste the top side of the chicken with BBQ sauce. Grill chicken over medium heat 6 to 7 minutes per side or until cooked through, turning occasionally. When you turn the chicken, baste the chicken. Serve extra BBQ sauce on the side for dipping.

4. Drive-in Movies. – In many parts of the country, drive-in movies are things of summer’s past. Luckily, Middle Tennesseans are a short drive from the nostalgia of the drive-in movie experience. Be sure to check out Macon Drive-In in Lafayette or the Stardust Drive-In in Watertown. Shows start at dusk. 

For features and more information: www.macondrive-in. com or

Wilson Bank and Trust’s Free Family Entertainment series returns to the West Lawn of the Main Office in Lebanon this summer. For dates and more information, please call 444-BANK.

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