Stanley’s Butterfly Festival is educational, fun and free
Ali James, Shopper News
While the endangered Monarch butterfly tends to hog the limelight, many local native butterflies will be highlighted at Stanley’s sixth annual Butterfly Festival, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27.
Efforts to save the endangered Monarch butterfly have become increasingly popular, according to Stanley’s manager Abby Stanley-Jerrolds.
“I feel like a lot of people have got interested in saving Monarchs lately, and we need more of that to make a noticeable impact,” she said. “There is a big push. Our native butterflies aren’t endangered, but I wish there was more information about them, too.”
The Zebra Swallowtail is just one eye-catching native butterfly. “It has a zebra-striped pattern on the wings and its host plant is the pawpaw tree,” said Stanley-Jerrolds. “The plant isn’t super prevalent because it’s not a showy thing. This butterfly isn’t endangered, but we like to highlight the importance of native plants and the whole ecosystem.”
Stanley’s carries both the Swamp and Common varieties of Milkweed. “It is the only plant that the caterpillars will eat; they are 100% crucial for their survival,” said Stanley-Jerrolds. “Being a native, it is easy to grow. The Swamp Milkweed is the most sought after and is obviously suited for wetter situations and Common Milkweed for drier conditions.”
Stanley-Jerrolds said her mom, Lisa, started the festival six years ago. It has been held every year except 2020 because of the pandemic.
“Summer is the time when most of the perennials bloom around here,” she said of the festival’s timing. “That is when it is most beneficial for pollen eaters.”
Last year’s event had a good turnout, and this year may be busier than ever.
A Children’s Butterfly Workshop in the tent will be a hands-on, drop-in event for children of all ages. The expanded event will include the opportunity to create a butterfly mask, ring, or another fun butterfly craft. All supplies for the children’s workshop will be on hand and no registration is required.
Since the weather is likely to be hot, Stanley-Jerrolds said they asked Trent Sanders, owner of the Milk + Honey Ice Cream, to return to Stanley’s with his retro-style pushcart to sell his unique ice cream treats from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.
“We usually have a guest speaker every year; last year it was someone from Zoo Knoxville,” Stanley-Jerrolds said. Beneficial Plants for Butterflies at 11 a.m. will be an informal talk in which Stanley-Jerrolds introduces visitors to the amazing plants that offer food or shelter to butterflies at some point in their life cycle.
“Then at noon every year we will have our walk-through Monte’s Meadow for the butterfly scavenger hunt,” said Stanley-Jerrolds. The Davenport-Stanley Farm will be open to visitors — especially the butterfly meadow just past the spring-fed pond. Monte Stanley and his wife, Ann Whitney, live in the nearby farmhouse, which dates back to the early 1800s.
All events are free with no registration required. For questions about the event, call Stanley’s Greenhouse at 865-573-9591.
Lowercase, a new independent bookstore in Parkridge, draws 'adventurous' readers
Carol Z. Shane, Shopper News
Bryce McQuern of lowercase books in Parkridge is the first to admit he’s a book freak.
“I’m a book person and it’s not really something I took seriously until I quit teaching. I taught English for about six years. Then I was taking programming classes online and had some aptitude for it, but I thought, ‘I’m not going enjoy it.'”
Looking around his neat, bright space on Washington Avenue, he says, “I mean, this is hard. The discipline of it is hard. The loneliness of it sometimes is hard. But I wanted to try it anyway.”
Born in Indiana, McQuern spent much of his life in the Fort Myers, Florida, area and earned his English degree at the University of Central Florida. He spent time in Oakland and Richmond, California, where he was an integration specialist for the school system, working mostly with autistic students. He also taught English as a second language, and while there earned his teaching degree.
Skyrocketing rent led him to consider a move, and he returned to Knoxville, where he’d previously lived and worked at McKay’s Books and TomatoHead.
He opened lowercase books in mid-March of this year. “I wanted to call it ‘Book Lagoon,’ which I thought was hilarious,” he says. “But I took an informal poll …”
In addition to offering a carefully curated collection of new and used books, he hosts events. And as a dedicated supporter of local music, poetry and performance art, he’s gradually building a following.
The success of a recent event featuring UT campus band Alien Brainwave surprised him. “They have one demo online. I didn’t think anything of it but it’s the biggest show we’ve ever had. Sixty people showed up. It was really hard to take money at the door; it was hard to move around in the store. It’s never been like that.”
Currently, he’s also helping out Mutual Aid Space Knox, whose space was destroyed by flood in July, by housing some of their library.
McQuern and his mom renovated his space, a former martial arts dojo, and he’s proud of their tilework spotted throughout the store. He’s a lifelong reader, he says, because she was “really good about buying books for all of us” in his large family.
Recently a study by Preply, an e-learning platform, named Knoxville as the best-read city in Tennessee and ranks the city 53 out of 200 cities nationwide. What’s McQuern’s reaction?
“I’ve got a lot of very literate, interesting, well-read people who come into this store. I know from a marketing perspective that I can’t sell to every customer; I can’t sell to every reader. I think my buying philosophy is: On the one hand I’m a snob and on the other hand I’m trying to be democratic and not exclude anybody. So I just do both.
“My customers are nerds and educated people who know what they want. And people who are adventurous. Those are the best customers. The ones who take a chance.”
Check out lowercase books at 1530 Washington Ave., at lowercasebooks.neocities.org and on Instagram.
Central High senior's artwork accepted by Frist Museum in Nashville
Ali James, Shopper News
It has been a busy year for rising Central High School senior Trinity Anthony. During Anthony’s second semester as a junior, she started volunteering at The Bottom every Saturday.
“Everyone is just really artistic and supportive there,” she said. “I interned for a month over the summer and showed them my art, and Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin said she would love to have a show. So, I made a PowerPoint presentation of what my art show would be. There are 12 pieces total.”
Anthony’s solo art show opened Aug. 5 at The Bottom and will be on display through SaturdayAug. 13. For those unfamiliar with it, The Bottom is a nonprofit community center and Black-affirming bookshop at 2340 E. Magnolia Ave.
It is just one of many well-earned accomplishments for Anthony. In her junior year, she became the president of the National Arts Honors Society, was also accepted into the Tennessee Valley Fair Art show and featured in Central High School’s 2020 and 2022 art shows.
Earlier this year Cheryl Burchett, who teaches Anthony’s Advanced Placement 2D Art class at Central, encouraged her to submit some art for the Frist Art Museum’s ninth biennial Young Tennessee Artists exhibition.
“I found out in the middle of May that I had gotten in,” said Anthony, who drove to the Frist Art Museum in Nashville at the beginning of the summer to drop off her painting. “It felt like a movie. I hadn’t experienced going into a museum, it felt very surreal. It was an amazing feeling.”
Her work ‘Internal Transfixation’ will be on display as part of the Young Tennessee Artists Exhibition from Sept. 2, 2022 to Feb. 12, 2023 in the Conte Community Arts Gallery at The Frist.
The piece was inspired by a life-changing accident in which she suffered a severe concussion in seventh grade. “I felt like someone else was taking over me after I fell and was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome,” she said. “I felt like a completely different person, it was just so abrupt.”
Art has been a source of therapy for Anthony after her diagnosis forced her to change schools and homeschool for a period of time.
“I just started drawing and painting and getting my emotions out,” said Anthony, now an honors student. “I wasn’t functioning where I was academically, but my painting was there.”
Anthony’s middle art school teacher, Lucie Gilot, helped her grow her technical skills and to participate in the Knoxville Museum of Art East Tennessee Regional Student Art Exhibit.
“I really got into art during seventh grade,” said Anthony. “Then in my freshman year in high school my mom got me into some extra art classes: a still life, watercolor and a more technical mixed media class.”
Anthony says she gravitates most to acrylic paints. “I explore different painting techniques,” she said. “I reuse canvases, or sometimes I just revamp the painting and add something new to reactivate the painting. Especially if I paint it and then I don’t like the color scheme I’ll go back and add color.”
Anthony always has a gridded notebook with her to jot down inspiration when it strikes. “I like to write out how I want the composition and color schemes to be my inspiration and what art pieces are inspiring me,” said Anthony. “Then I will do a rough sketch, but that’s interchangeable…
“I would definitely say I like to explore sadness and melancholy in my paintings,” she continued. “I focus on that and like to see how I can portray that with colors and composition. I paint other people, my room and my own self portrait if I’m feeling confident or sad.”
Anthony is excited about her senior year. “I am looking at colleges and looking at UT and the Chicago Art Institute," she said. "I’m just excited to just be graduating and to do even more art stuff."
Tragedy led to lifelong bonds for West High Class of 1972
John Shearer, Shopper News
The sudden death of a popular classmate 50 years ago caused members of the West High Class of 1972 to experience the darker side of life at a young age.
But in the half-century since, including at their recent golden reunion, the tragic event has caused class members to see and remember the brighter side of one another.
“That bonded the Class of 1972 in a different way from many classes,” said classmate Chris Lindsay of the event in which his best friend, David Hawkins, had a cerebral hemorrhage and died while playing in a church basketball game at West’s gym their senior year. “It was very sudden and shocking, but very unifying.”
Hawkins was not only popular, but he was also the class president and voted “Friendliest.” And he had been a solid baseball player for the Rebels, too.
That event and the death of another classmate, Danny Carroll, later that spring of 1972 from a drowning incident greatly bonded the class for life and helped them cherish their friendships even more.
They've gathered for class reunions every five years, including June 18 at the Club at Gettysvue for the much-anticipated half-century dinner.
According to Lindsay, who later returned to West as the basketball and baseball coach, a good crowd turned out and enjoyed bonding again and renewing friendships.
“At least half of the class was at the reunion,” he said. Though several dozen have died since graduation, the attendance was above average for the class of just over 250 students. They even had an oversized 50th anniversary picture frame they could put their heads in and take pictures.
For Lindsay, who also went on to coach and serve as an assistant principal at other schools, including Powell High, life was brought into focus 50 years earlier by what happened to their popular classmate, Hawkins.
Although he has admittedly not talked about it much over the years, Lindsay said he and his buddy and fellow guard, Hawkins, were playing in a game for West Lonsdale Baptist Church on Feb. 15, 1972, a Tuesday.
The game was getting late, and Hawkins went to the free throw line. He turned around and looked at Lindsay before collapsing. He was rushed to the current Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, while the two teams prayed and then finished the game, not realizing his serious condition.
Lindsay had ridden with Hawkins in a car that had belonged to Hawkins’ mother, who had died just over a year earlier, so he got the keys and drove to the hospital. Only when he arrived and saw Hawkins’ girlfriend out front did he realize the severity of what had happened.
“ ‘Hawk’ would have been 18 on Feb. 20,” Lindsay said. “He was very popular and well liked. It did something to our senior class. David was such a good guy that everybody loved.”
Lindsay, a 10th and 11th grade class officer, was chosen to join the three remaining class officers. The former Norwood resident had come over with Hawkins from what was then called Northwest Junior High, which he had attended the first year it opened.
Hawkins would posthumously be named to the all-KIL baseball team that year, and Lindsay would end up going out for baseball, although he normally participated in track and field and played baseball only in the summer.
“I played that spring for David,” he said about asking coach Roger Travis to join the team. “I went on to play college baseball for Roane State and walked on at Tennessee.” However, an opportunity to student teach in Oak Ridge and a desire to enter the education field kept the UT dreams from materializing much, he said.
He ended up coaching basketball for 24 years at West and baseball for 20 and grew to love the diversity of the school, which he said also existed when he was a student. One of the first moves he made as coach was to erect a marker to Hawkins.
The field a few years ago was named Lindsay-Hawkins Park, with the latter name requested at the insistence of Lindsay. A new video scoreboard was unveiled this April 2 during an event in which Hawkins’ younger sister, Amy Machtay, a 1974 Central High graduate, attended, and he saw her for the first time in years.
He also helped Steve Clark, who became class president after Hawkins’ death, coordinate the reunion along with some other women committee members, who had a nice memorial to deceased classmates. Overall, it was a great reunion, he said.
“In the banquet room, there was not an empty seat. It was shocking how well attended it was,” he said, adding that people came from across the country. “A lot of it goes back to David’s passing.”
Is your kid afraid to get a haircut? Brave Little Clippers caters to special needs
Ali James, Shopper News
When Samantha Weatherford is giving new customers directions to her kids’ salon, Brave Little Clippers, she says to look for Fountain City Park and the little shop across the road with the bubble machine.—
At Brave Little Clippers, kids can choose among two regular chairs, a fire truck, fighter jet, pink Hummer or white Jeep to sit in. Then Weatherford or one of two other stylists, Alicia Boyd and Lyndsey Archer, cut and style away.
“We will never have five stylists; we just want the kids to have a choice in where they want to sit,” she said. Weatherford, Boyd, and Archer all love working with children.
“Over the years I met Alicia and Lyndsey and it just kind of worked. There are not that many people who can cater to children and those with special needs. We have become a village…
“Our stylists are Advanced Autism certified,” she continued. “There are so many kids that don’t like haircuts, it’s an actual fear. A lot of people just don’t know how to cater to that. We prefer to work around the child and let them decide.”
Children can sit on the artificial grass, explore the sensory wall or play video games while they have their hair cut.
Brave Little Clippers offers two-part haircuts. To help a child to relax, Weatherford is willing to cut their hair at the park or spend 30 minutes playing with and getting to know a new customer.
All children of all ages are welcome at Brave Little Clippers. “We even have adult clients. A guy came in and played video games on his lunch break while we cut his hair,” said Weatherford.
In addition to haircuts, Brave Little Clippers will paint nails, add glitter braids or hair bows. Weatherford's 16-year-old daughter, Kelsey Ferris, also works there and can create heart-shaped braids.
They also offer princess or art-themed birthday parties for children over 4.
Weatherford has been cutting hair and managing salons since 2012. “I’ve worked with children forever,” she said. “I have had a lot of kid clientele and enjoy cutting children’s hair the most. Kids are funny and it’s just a lot more fun.”
Initially Weatherford, who lives in Halls, had been drawn to the barbershop next door. The landlord suggested one of his other retail spaces and she went for it.
“I like the older feel of Fountain City, it reminds me of my hometown,” she said. “It has a small-town vibe.”
Before settling in Knoxville on a whim six years ago, Weatherford and her three children spent two years travelling around the country in a fully renovated RV. Then on a whim six years later, the family called Knoxville home and bought a house in Halls.
Those DIY skills have come in handy transforming the longtime vacant building into her dream salon for kids. “We had to knock some walls out. I think the neighbors were worried at first,” she laughed. “My Dad came in and painted and it kind of grew from there.”
Since opening on July 24, Brave Little Clippers has been busy. “The location is perfect. A lot of the kids end up going to the park afterward,” she said. “We didn’t realize we would have trouble getting them to leave after their haircut.”
Pop-it bracelets, toy vehicles and hairbows are also for sale. “We spoil them rotten when they are here,” said Weatherford. “You can tell (that) the parents of children who struggle are also anxious. We are all in this together. Welcome to our village, we will help us get through this together.”
Brave Little Clippers takes online and phone appointments and walk-ins from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Weatherford said that depending on a client’s specific needs, parents and caregivers can call to discuss after-hours appointments.
Weatherford has no plans for a grand opening. “It is just not who I am. We are offering $5 off to all new clients and participating in school events instead,” she said.
Brave Little Clippers is at 5334 N. Broadway, Suite C. Follow on Facebook @bravelittleclippers for online bookings and further details.
WORDS OF FAITH
What 'The Incredibles' has to say about living a moral life
John Tirro, Shopper News
One of my favorite movies, from when our kids were little, is "The Incredibles." The family at the center of the story are all superheroes. Dad, Mr. Incredible, is extraordinarily strong. Mom, Elastigirl, can stretch into any form and is also extraordinarily strong. Dash, the younger brother, is zippy fast. Violet, the older sister, can make herself invisible and generate force fields.
It’s a litigious age, and after multiple lawsuits it’s too expensive to keep the superhero program going, so the Incredibles are put in a kind of witness protection program for supers, doing their best to pass as ordinary suburbanites. Dad sells insurance in a company that tries hard to help nobody. Mom’s a housewife. Dash can’t go out for sports because he’d be too good, which would give them away. Violet mostly wants to disappear.
The crack in the veneer is that Dad and his friend, Frozone, who can generate sheets and walls of ice, are secretly listening to police scanners and superheroing on the side.
The thing I like, and this is intentional on Disney-Pixar’s part, is that the family is so normal.
Before the lawsuits – also before kids – Dad’s packing in all the superheroing he can, rescuing a cat, stopping an escaping car using the tree the cat had been stuck in, stopping a bank robbery, catching a falling train, and in the process almost missing his wedding. Once his outlet for all that energy is taken away by lawsuits and hiding, he’s frustrated and sad, gaining weight.
Mom is stretched thin, covering everything. The hyper brother wants to shine. The teenager wants to disappear and puts up invisible barriers.
Gender roles are stereotypical here, but from what I’ve seen in real life, either parent or gender can focus on trying to do something awesome and disengage from day-to-day life; both can get stretched thin holding it all together; we all want to shine, and we all sometimes want to disappear and put up invisible barriers.
Ultimately, like in most movies aimed at kids and their parents ("Star Wars," "Lord of the Rings," Harry Potter, "Frozen," "Encanto," etc.), it’s about people who love each other (often friends, in this case family) supporting each other to rescue a world on the brink of losing its friendliness, restoring it to love.
This is a lot of what Christian moral life – and moral life generally – is intended to be, a call to use our gifts for the greater good, to love and serve. Tucked into all these stories is the wisdom that changing the world is first about being part of the world, changing (loving and supporting each other, in serving from love).
In the words of Jesus (and John before), “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). A world where actions are ordered by love is ready to happen. How might you and I shift our energy, to support each other, to be part of that?
John Tirro is pastor of music at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Info: sjlcknox.org.
After tough band camp, director wants to have 'a whole lot of fun'
John Shearer, Shopper News
Cody Foster grew up playing the tuba while a student at Seymour High and then Carson-Newman University.
“They are usually about 30 to 40 pounds, and when you are marching and playing, it gets kind of heavy,” he said with a laugh.
He now has a heavier proverbial weight on his shoulders, as the new band director at West High after six years as an assistant director at Karns. But he is admittedly all positive about the opportunity and already feels comfortable in his new position.
“My plan is to have a whole lot of fun,” he said, adding that he wants to focus on positive friendships and relationships among the band members. “If kids don’t like what they are doing, they are not going to have fun. We want to make music along the way and a whole lot of friends. The more fun we have, the better.”
Foster, who was hired at West after former director Rodney Brown joined the band staff at Farragut, said he has about 60 students as part of the band this year, a typical number at West in recent years. They had been busy for a couple of weeks at camp recently practicing marching in the morning, playing instruments in class in the afternoons and – during the second week – marching and playing together in the early evening.
He admits that is the one time of the year when being in the band is not all fun and excitement, but he hopes the students got a lot out of it.
“Band camp is the toughest part of band,” he said. “Once we get through band camp, it gets a whole lot easier.”
As far as implementing his style, he has been as focused as someone in the initial stages of song writing.
“I’m more of a creative type,” he said, adding that he prefers the corps style that focuses on a lot of short-stepped movements in various directions in a harmonious and symmetrical manner. “You can do a lot more on the creative side. It keeps my brain going, and the kids can be exposed to this type of instruction.”
While he claims he is not great at the writing part, he also enjoys writing or arranging tunes for the band members to play in the football stands while a game is taking place.
As far as any planned shows for the band to perform this year, he said they plan to do some songs from the show “Bent,” by John Fannin, which focuses on the theme of bending.
This director, who also still plays the tuba as a member of the local Tennessee Wind Ensemble, hopes he can stretch the musical skills of his students and increase their appreciation for their time spent in the band as well.
“Watching the kids grow as musicians is important,” said Foster, who is also teaching band, percussion ensemble, and rock ‘n’ roll history classes at West. “If the kids have a light bulb moment and understand a little more, that’s the thing I like the most – helping kids find their musical skills.”
After flooding, Mutual Aid Space Knox needs a new home
Carol Z. Shane, Shopper News
Sarah Carman came to Knoxville from her native Baton Rouge armed with an International Studies degree from LSU and a desire to help others less fortunate than she. She’s had stints with Americorps, Knox County Schools, even Marc Nelson denim — she’s an accomplished seamstress — but when she found First Aid Collective Knoxville, she knew she’d found her people.
“I’ve been with FACK since its inception in the fall of 2018,” said Carman. An autonomous, all-volunteer first-aid/wound care collective crew that works directly with Choice Health Network, FACK’s main mission is harm reduction — meeting members of the street population where they are, reducing the harms of alcohol and drug use through reducing risk, providing peer and community support, and addressing a variety of medical and everyday needs within a community that is often marginalized.
Carman would bring soup and sandwiches to those who were receiving aid from FACK. “I am not a first aid person, but food is first aid!” she said.
FACK started as a mobile organization, using storage spaces for its supplies. Then it moved into the Birdhouse, which was its home until it became the Fourth & Gill Community Center.
In November of 2020, the organization finally found its own space on Central Avenue. Known as Mutual Aid Space Knox (MASK), it included sister organizations East Tennessee Harm Reduction and Service Industry Coalition Knoxville, formed to help service industry workers navigate the devastation of their industry during the pandemic. The Knoxville Rap Library found a home there. With the recent addition of a brand-new bathroom, members were also hoping to welcome an auto collective offering free minor maintenance and oil changes.
On Thursday, July 21, MASK and all its supplies were destroyed by flood water.
“Everything was completely ruined,” said Carman. “The fridges were on their sides, the chairs were upside down and sideways. We’re out of that space — there’s still 4 feet of water.”
One week later, the people of Eastern Kentucky were hit with ruinous floods. Amid the early days of a startup campaign to address their own devastation, members of MASK did what they do best.
They went to Kentucky with supplies for the flood victims.
Carman hopes that people will also consider supporting those in Kentucky, as well as helping to fund costs to keep MASK going. They’d eventually like to rent or buy a new space of their own.
“Up until about two months ago we were bringing food boxes to people — at least five food box deliveries a week and sometimes a lot more — hundreds of food boxes. Our Free Store was supposed to be the end of July. It’s a once-a-month model — give what you can, take what you need. Now we’re looking for a satellite place to meet different communities where they are.”
As for the volunteers and their continuing aid to the locals who depend on their services, Carman said, “it’s been a challenge. But they go out, and they keep going.”
To support MASK, visit gofund.me/2def73d2. To support Kentucky flood relief, visit secure.kentucky.gov/FormServices/Finance/EKYFloodRelief.
Annual drama camp thrills youngsters at Farragut High
Nancy Anderson, Shopper News
“I’ve been here six years and the camp was going strong long before I got here,” said theater teacher Dr. Anthony Wooley at the annual drama camp at Farragut High School.
The weeklong camp held at the end of July is a fundraiser for Admirals Performing Arts Company (APAC).
“Not only is it a major fundraiser, but the camp is a great way to connect kids, connect the community, connect family. The kids find a love for theater and parents seem to love the show,” Wooley said.
The campers from first through eighth grade have the help of about 25 APAC counselors from grades nine through 12.
Enrollment is capped at 50 with about 20 on the waiting list.
“I’d like to say the popularity is because of the quality of the program, but it may well be because the kids have been cooped up. Either way the waiting list gets longer. I’d like to add more kids, but I don’t want to overwhelm the counselors. It needs to be fun for everyone,” Wooley said.
The camp is a great developmental tool and ignites a love for the theater.
“It’s a great way to pass the torch,” Wooley said. “The older kids get to see the younger kids come alive with the love of theater. It’s a great way to overcome shyness, get the kids out in front of people, helps with confidence.”
The campers get classes in improv, music, acting, set design and characterization. At the end of the week, they perform four skits divided by age group.
The youngest performed a song and dance number from “Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical.”
Each skit was more charming than the last. “Toy Store” received lots of laughs from the audience filled with family members.
In “Dorothy’s Adventure in the Magical Kingdom of Oz,” Taylor Brusseau got the opportunity to channel her inner Dorothy.
“Snow White and Aladdin” was a clever mashup featuring Brextyn Poetzel as Aladdin and Ella Grace Hasan as Snow White.
“A Middle School Science Project” depicted the nightmare that is a science project gone wrong, producing a zombie played by Anna Bishop.
It’s impossible to say who were the breakout performers. Each child shined brightly in their role and had an experience they will likely remember forever.
Dogwood sets the theme for another action-packed school year
Ali James, Shopper news
It might have been 3:30 p.m. on the Wednesday before school started back, but families were lined up an hour before the doors opened and the party was in full swing at Dogwood Elementary School’s Back to School Premiere.
“We bring the party,” said Principal Lana Shelton-Lowe over the loud music at the Aug. 3 event. “We have a committee in charge of the theme every year. This year they came up with ‘Best Days of My Life,’ and wouldn’t a premiere be the best day of your life?”
Last year it was ‘Whatever it takes’ with a camo theme, this year’s event was held a day early on Aug. 3 due to Election Day on the 4th.
The school arranged a Kona shaved ice truck out front, a limo to pose for photos, “red carpets” through the hallways and a balloon archway and props for that all-important red carpet photo op in the lobby.
“We have a cute movie theme, so students will get a backstage pass with their room number,” said Shelton-Lowe, wearing a black evening dress and oversized Hollywood-style sunglasses. “They will go there to meet their teacher and the teachers are hamming it up with red carpet wear.”
“We like to make this a super cool event for our families,” she said. “Meet the teacher is just a thing you do; this is an experience.”
In the gymnasium, parents lined up to fill out the obligatory school paperwork, then students such as third-grader Amiyah Miller went up to another table for her “backstage VIP pass” with her room number on it.
“I think my teacher will be my favorite teacher,” she guessed. “I’m excited to see all of my friends, and science is my favorite thing to learn.”
At Dogwood Elementary School, students and teachers are sorted into one of four houses each year. Last year, third-grader Maxton Ward said his house, Amicus, was the 2022 Fortitude winners and earned a party as a reward for collecting the most points. The other three houses are Fidelis, lpsum, and Auxilium. Each of the backstage passes were strung on the corresponding house’s colored yarn.
The third-grade hallway also features freshly painted murals on the walls.
“We kind of are the school like none other," said Shelton-Lowe. "So, we wanted something where our school would look unique."
A couple of years ago, Shelton-Lowe said they gave surveys to the students. “The children said 'Put color on the walls',” said Shelton-Lowe. “It dawned on me that kids don’t like the same décor we might like.”
Since 2017, Shelton-Lowe has worked exclusively with street graphic artists Aaron Carroll and Steve Hall, who seem to outdo themselves with every mural they spray-paint inside the school. They spoke to the third-grade teachers and came up with their design.
It took them three or four days over the summer to paint murals depicting the subjects and topics students will learn this year: the solar system, the state of Tennessee, world geography and more.
Mellowing with time, but not ready to give up
Leslie Snow, Shopper News
I remember seeing the change in my father and being surprised. Not the change that marked the onset of his dementia, but another change; the one that occurred when he retired from his sales management position and started working with my mom selling used books online.
His demeanor changed when his stress level diminished. His attitudes softened. He laughed more, read more, and took more time for himself. He went from a stern businessman full of strong opinions he insisted on sharing, to a nuanced thinker trying to find truth in life’s gray areas.
When my father slowed down at work, he learned to find more joy in small things. He took more walks with his grandchildren. He spent more time painting, gardening, and trying to connect with his adult children.
He found new reasons to love my mother and the life they built together. His gruff exterior finally gave way to reveal the gentle man hidden behind the burden of a 60-hour work week. Years into his retirement, he even forgot the volatile man he used to be.
The mellow version of my father came as an unexpected surprise. I couldn’t have predicted its arrival. I thought the dad I had when I was growing up would always be my dad.
I wasn’t old enough, back then, to understand all the versions of ourselves we keep tucked away inside. But now I know. Now I know because I see that same softening in myself.
I’m not on fire the way I used to be.
I try to put good out into the world, but I’m not writing angry letters to the editor or contacting our state representatives as often as I used to. I’m not decrying the injustices I see and trying to right them.
Now when I hear an inflammatory news story, I think about it and try to examine it from all sides. I have my own opinion, but sometimes I get bogged down in the middle. Because that’s where my opinion usually lands. I’m made for the middle ground.
I don’t know how I feel about this more even-keeled version of myself. I want to see my new attitude as a sign of personal growth. I want to believe that as I age, I’m becoming a wiser, more measured human being.
Because that would explain the changes I see. That would explain why the fire that used to rage inside me seems more like a smoldering ash than a flame. I’m like my dad, I tell myself. I’m just mellowing as I become more at peace with my life.
That’s what I want to believe, but I have some doubts. I wonder if I’m too young to be mellowing, too young to be giving up the fight on issues I care about. I don’t want to stop being angry, not yet. Not when there are so many important battles left to fight.
I’m afraid that what I’ve come to see as a lovely mellowing and personal growth may be learned helplessness instead.
I used to believe in my own power. I used to believe I could write a letter and get someone to at least reconsider their position. But I don’t feel that way anymore. Now, sharing my ideas feels like spinning my wheels.
I don’t know if I’m mellowing or simply giving up. I want to age and soften. I want to be wise. But I’m not ready to put out my flame yet. I just need to find it again.
Leslie Snow may be reached at snow email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Shopper News brings you the latest happenings in your community