Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival

Amazing all the critters we have in Tennessee! 2011. Photos by the author.

Until I began working for Hamilton County Schools at Birchwood Elementary, I had not heard of the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival (or Birchwood TN Sandhill Crane Festival). I don’t know why not. This is a gem of an educational and fun opportunity.

The school was still open when I first became involved in Crane Days, and the teachers, students, and community were heavy into the preparations and running of the festival. TWRA (TN Wildlife Resources Agency) was the other main force behind the festival. They operate the Hiwassee Refuge near Birchwood where thousands of birds (not just Sandhill Cranes) come to rest and refresh. One year I actually saw a whooping crane!

As far as I know it has always been held on the weekend preceding Martin Luther King Day, and always free. I was on the committee for several years, but one time I had the responsibility of getting donations for the food that local community members have always cooked and served to visitors of the festivities. I vowed I would get all the food we needed donated. I believe I came pretty close. Every grocery store and many businesses in a fifty mile radius was asked for help, from Ingles to United Grocery Outlet—from Sweetwater to Chattanooga, Etowah to Birchwood. Those who couldn’t donate food, donated money. One grocery store in Charleston gave us 40 pounds of ground beef for the chili. It was a glorious time, but nerve-wracking.

Over the years a simplified shuttle system was developed to take people from the school/community center to the Hiwassee Refuge and to the Cherokee Removal site that was built around 2008 near Blythe Ferry on the Tennessee River. Each year various programs have presented information about birds, Cherokee history, and music. One constant is the American Eagle Foundation and their raptor show. (They are headquartered in Pigeon Forge and have a close partnership with Dollywood.) I learned something new every year.

After the school closed, I went for several years as a vendor selling my books. Even when I wasn’t selling, I became acquainted with people from all over the country and even a few people from other countries. Birders, history buffs, kids and adults—this event is well worth the trip down I-75 to highway 60 to Birchwood. Here is a link for this year’s event: https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/birds/sandhill-crane-festival.html

Susan Kite is the author of five books with two more in pre-publication. She is a member of Authors Guild of Tennessee. Her books can be found at: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00J91G0ZU/

One of the eagles. American Eagle Foundation. 2011. Both pictures by the author.


Sandhill Cranes are protected (like all birds) in Pinellas County. I had to slam on my brakes more than once to allow pairs of them to casually stroll across the road. They have no fear of humans down there. If a pair decides to make a nest in a parking lot, the county comes out and puts up a temporary barrier around it so that people don't disturb it. They rule the roost! I only recently realized they can be found around here. Nice article. Thank you for sharing.

Susan Kite's picture

Thanks! I may be quirky, but I loved driving to work out there many moons ago and hearing the cranes sounding off overhead.

I attended this festival this weekend. I was most impressed with the old Birchwood Elementary. How sad it no longer functions as a school. I am glad it is still in use as a community center. It certainly had the charm that school buildings often possessed in the earlier days. I felt like I was walking into Beaver Cleaver's classroom.

Susan Kite's picture

I am so glad you could attend. It's a great festival. I am hoping I can make it out next year. That was a grand old school! My digs were in the tall ceiling-ed room to one side of the cafeteria and behind the gym.



Some summer events canceled, Oct. 3 Heritage Festival plans proceed

Contestant Eric Nafziger fiddles his best tune with Ken Nafziger to try to win the 2019 Fiddle Contest during the Union County Heritage Festival at Wilson Park.

Contestant Eric Nafziger fiddles his best tune with Ken Nafziger to try to win the 2019 Fiddle Contest during the Union County Heritage Festival at Wilson Park.

Tennessee Valley Fair canceled
“It is with great sadness that we announce the Tennessee Valley Fair Executive Committee has decided that the 2020 fair, scheduled to be held September 11-20, will not be taking place.

Skylar Bates receives 2020 Plainview Scholarship

Picture of Mayor Gary Chandler awards the Plainview Scholarship for Academic Achievement to Skylar Bates

Mayor Gary Chandler awards the Plainview Scholarship for Academic Achievement to Skylar Bates

The City of Plainview made several donations at its June 2020 Board of Aldermen meeting. Mayor Gary Chandler awarded the Plainview Scholarship in the amount of $500 for outstanding academic achievement to Skylar Bates for having the highest grade point average as a graduating senior who resides in Plainview.

Don’t need no rocking chair

Always on Call - Rev. Gary Beeler

I met with the Reverend Gary Beeler in early May when I had the pleasure of learning about his inspiring spiritual journey and career. Although he retired as pastor of Fairview Baptist Church some 15 years ago, his work for the Lord did not end there.
But let’s go back to the beginning.
Rev. Beeler grew up the son of a proprietor of a general store and service station, his family business dating back to 1905 in the area where Union County Boat Dock is today.

Quarantine: 4-H Style

Savannah Jones and Kennedy Hill

Savannah Jones and Kennedy Hill

While many found quarantine boring, endless, and unprofitable, some people made excellent use of their extra time.
Among these are the Union County 4-H members. In spite of having some events postponed or canceled, many 4-H students stepped up to the plate with enthusiasm. No small thanks to the leadership skills and abilities possessed, the students adapted very well to the online platforms they switched to during quarantine and COVID-19 regulations.


UCBPA hosts 26th scholarship golf tournament

First Place winner KCB Excavating, Kyle Beeler, captain

KCB Excavating edged out First Place at the 26th UCBPA Charities,Inc.Scholarship Tournament.
Offering congratulations is Martin Shafer, President of UCBPA.

The Union County Business & Professional Association hosted the 26th Annual UCBPA Charities Scholarship Benefit Classic at Three Ridges Golf Course in Knoxville on January 27.

Betsy Stowers Frazier: from Entertainer to Angel

Early Picture of Mike and Betsy Stowers Frazier and their daughters Nancy Lee and Beth

Early Picture of Mike and Betsy Stowers Frazier and their daughters Nancy Lee and Beth

In 1933, the northeast corner of Union County, Tennessee, saw a new business open in Luttrell. A short fifteen years later, after surviving the Great Depression, and World War II with most of the young men serving in the armed forces, the property that consisted of a general merchandise store and a small brick home was sold to Bethel Reed Stowers and he moved his family there.

Child of the King

One of my favorite praise and worship songs is “Child of the King,” and no one leads it better then Mrs. Beeler and the worship team at my home church. I get fired up every time I hear the music and lyrics performed. While reading Paul the Apostle’s letter to the Colossians the other day I immediately thought of that song when I read the following verse:
Colossians 3:3
“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”



Who doesn’t love the character called “Tow-Mater” from the Disney movie “Cars?” He was a tow truck whose name was Mater, which made his nickname was clever as well as cute. If I were named Mater, my nickname would be “No-Mater.” Why?
Hang on to your hats!

Moonshining In Union County - Part II

"Troy Buckner related some of his whiskey making experiences during the 1920s and 30s. 'A still site was chosen in an out-of-the-way place,' he explained.
'It was not set up on one's own farm but rather on a nearby farm. After TVA purchased land for the Norris Lake, the reservation surrounding the lake provided a good location because it was not hard to find plenty of fresh water.'

Double minded?

I was on my way to work last week. I was listening to the late minister Adrian Rogers on Christian radio station BBC. Like many engaging preachers, Pastor Rogers possessed a drawing voice filled with conviction. One of the main things I like about him is his sense of humor—not foolish, but thought provoking.
In the course of his sermon, Pastor Rogers stated that it was not possible to think of two things at the same time. This gave me pause for thought.

Eating a miracle

As an amateur naturalist I have a curiosity to know how things work. In college I once saw the chemical reactions involved in photosynthesis laid out on a large poster. This all-important method plants use to make food for themselves (and ultimately us) was incredibly complex and took up half the wall.


Commercials. That is often a dirty word when I am watching a program on television.
It seems that when the story becomes really interesting and has me “hooked,” there marches in a whole train of commercials. I have counted as many as a dozen, one right after another. It hasn't always been that way.

Black Walnut Pie

I grew up where black walnuts were the thing, not pecans. I didn't have to buy them. They grew all over the farm, especially down the lane to the pasture. Here, we had several black walnut trees on our 1 2/3 acres.
I remember the first time I gathered 'em, dried 'em and placed the precious nuts in grocery bags. They were placed to cure on a high shelf in our little barn. Later, the following winter, I reached up to retrieve a bag of walnuts to take to the house and crack.

Dingo and the Fourth of July


My husband had never owned a dog when he was growing up, but he loved them and dogs loved him. He said dogs that would tear up anyone else in his neighborhood would fawn on him like a little puppy.
So after we were married and in our own house, he insisted on getting a dog. I was not included in that selection.

Frequently asked questions about chiropractic

Q: How is a chiropractic adjustment performed?

A: Chiropractic adjustment or manipulation is a manual procedure that utilizes the highly refined skills developed during the doctor of chiropractic’s intensive years of chiropractic education. The chiropractic physician typically uses his or her hands—or an instrument— to manipulate the joints of the body, particularly the spine, in order to restore or enhance joint function.

Sourwood Blooms, a Beekeeper’s Delight

Sourwood does not stand out in the forest except this time of year when it is in bloom, and perhaps in the fall when it displays brilliant red colors.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) is locally called "sorrel” and is common in our area. It tends to be a small understory tree growing under larger tree canopies.


Isn’t it funny how we change as we go through life?

When I was a kid, lightning didn’t bother me at all. What I really hated about a storm was the thunder. You see, I can’t stand sudden loud sounds. Seriously, they hurt me from the inside out. I won’t even pop a balloon. Worse than that are fireworks. I love watching them, but not hearing them.


A Salute to Campers

There are designations used to denote time to help keep historical events in perspective. There is B.C., B.C.E., and A.D. In the beginning of attempting to label events in historical time perspectives, people counted years by such things as Greek festivals or Roman emperors. Old Testament scripture alludes to this practice (e.g., “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD . . .: Isaiah 6:1 KJV). As people converted to Christianity in the New Testament era, they wanted to count their years by Christian events.

Election Day is Approaching!

Election time is coming! And June 23rd is that special day for two cities in Union County. The city of Maynardville will be electing three officers to the city council, and the city of Plainview will be casting ballots for the Mayor’s office and two Alderman seats. On Election day, opening time is 9:00am, and all polls will close at 8:00pm. (For those unable to vote or over the age of 60, please remember the availability of absentee voting, now more accessible for those affected by Covid-19.)

Fishing for Bluegill

Bluegill are a fun fish to catch and eat. They will bite at almost anything, are fierce fighters when hooked, and offer meat with a slightly sweet taste. Most folks started their love for fishing as kids fishing for bluegill with a can of worms. They are easy to catch, but here are a few tips for getting a good stringer of bluegill for supper.

Momma Battle

It was a warm summer day in 1993 and Tim was working in the yard. By the way, he’s one of these people who takes his yard work very seriously. As soon as the grass begins to grow, he’s ready to mow it.

When he uses the weed-eater, he wears long pants. This day he had been in and out of the house quite a bit for cold drinks. Unfortunately, there was a stow-away clinging onto his yard pants.



I would venture that most people at present agree that the world’s condition is troublesome. There is a lot with which to be concerned, though not everyone’s concerns are in agreement. It seems to become harder and harder with each passing day to agreeably disagree with our friends and acquaintances.

But there is comfort in those things that do not change. I am by nature a traditionalist, and I have little (in some cases, no) patience for change. Unfortunately for those like me, it seems everything changes. Yet there is comfort in those things that stay the same.

Grandparetns Grow Happy Hearts

Mamaw and Papaw. Granny and Pops. Mams and Paps. Grandma and Grandpa. Nan and Pop. They are all something very special, something that cannot be compared. They are memory makers of the best times, and the hardest. They know which heart strings to pull and when someone they love needs a little extra care.

The Effects Of Covid-19: Small Businesses

Covid-19. Coronavirus. The Rona. All are names of the virus that has swept the United States these last few months, the same virus that has drastically changed life for almost every person in the world. Anyone who watches the news, reads a news-feed, or listens to news-talk radio has an idea of what’s going on in our government (at least what they’re telling us). But what is really going on? How are things on the home front? How has this virus, and the resulting quarantine and social distance regulations, affected those here in Union County?

Farmers, Apply Now for Financial Assistance with USDA

Farmers and Ranchers Can Now Apply for Financial Assistance through USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Online Tools and Toll-Free Number Available to Assist Producers

Are you a livestock producer whose operation has been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic? The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program provides direct relief to producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19.

Another Favorite Gone for 2020

We’re all saddened these days when we hear that many of the events we love are having to cancel for 2020 due to Covid-19. One more beloved Knoxville tradition will not make an appearance this year.

The Tennessee Valley Fair will not be held again until 2021.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that the 2020 fair, scheduled to be held September 11-20, will not be taking place,” the Tennessee Valley Fair Executive Committee stated in a press release June 8.

Food Preservation: Canning

Hopefully we are past the final frost and all the rain and warmth will lead to an abundance in the garden this year. So how can we maximize our gardens? Food Preservation in the form of freezing, canning, and drying. This is article 2 of 4, where we will discuss canning. Freezing is a cheap, easy way to preserve foods where bacteria growth is stopped and items last longer. However, preserving foods by freezing is limited by freezer space. So how else can we stop bacteria growth without a freezer? Canning!

Chiropractic care for back pain

Among people seeking back pain relief alternatives, most choose chiropractic treatment. About 22 million Americans visit chiropractors annually. Of these, 7.7 million, or 35%, are seeking relief from back pain from various causes, including accidents, sports injuries, and muscle strains. Other complaints include pain in the neck, arms, and legs, and headaches.

What Is Chiropractic Care?

Dear OIe Dad

Dad has it figured out
How the country should be run
He tells us every day
The right way to be done.

That's okay in politics
He has his own opinion
But please call someone else if
That's gas you hear a-fizzing.

Fixing things around the house
Is not his cup of tea.
He made the lights go out again
TIme to call KUB.


The Answer in Poetry

When my only half-brother on my mother’s side passed away, he told his wife he wanted me to have his books. I received quite a few, but there was one in particular that his last spouse favored and made sure to keep for herself. I hope that book has brought her much peace and joy throughout the almost ensuing decade following his departure. It is not I who will go to the grave knowing I failed to fill one of my dying spouse’s last wishes, and I certainly don’t miss what I never had.

Walking in the Snow

Who hasn’t heard the difficult or traumatic stories of family members as they were growing up? Usually I received them when I complained about something:

“The power’s off. I can’t watch TV.”

“It’s raining outside and I can’t ride my bike.”

You get the idea.

That’s when my Mamaw Jo felt the need to tell me about her childhood difficulties. The one I heard the most was: “I had to walk to school for miles in the blinding snow.”

The Wilderness of Night

When was the last time you left the comforting lights of your home or campfire and stepped into the darkness? Familiar places take on a mysterious look. Colors vanish and the world closes in as your view becomes limited. You begin to depend more on your ears as your eyes fail. It can be a little spooky, and yet adventurous. Ever since that first campfire man has become addicted to light. We don't feel comfortable outside of the illumination of electric lights, flashlights, or fire. The darkness has become a foreign, forbidding place.

Sometimes Newer is not Always Better

A picture of the old FrontPage 2003 which Microsoft quit supporting in 2006.

Earlier this year, I did something I had said I was going to do for a long time—see if anyone—absolutely anyone—among web hosts supported FrontPage.

I can hear the tech folks out there right now, laughing their heads off. Still, I was serious. When my, then, current web host quit the FrontPage extensions some years back, they suggested I use FTP. I used one for a few years, even while the web host was pushing me to switch to Word Press. Finally, even the FTP (file transfer protocol) quit moving my update successfully.

Pinto Beans Ole

A few days ago I heard on TV that beans could become the new meat if meat prices continue to climb because of the virus. I hope not. But if you would like to prepare for that sad day here is a meatless recipe for you. You can eat it as an entree or make a wrap out of it with a flour tortilla, some shredded lettuce and a sprinkle of shredded cheese. Try it and see what you think.

Retirement of Coach Kerr

Union County High School’s Coach Larry Kerr is planning to step down from the head coach position of the Patriot Football team. While many would think this may shock the players or rock their world, the players would disagree. They have been expecting this and know what’s in store for them in the future.

Postmenopause vitamin d deficiency associated with disc Degeneration and lower back pain

Lumbar disc degeneration and resulting lower back pain become greater concerns with age and disproportionately affect women over men, likely as a result of decreasing estrogen levels during menopause. A new study demonstrates that vitamin D deficiency, smoking, high body mass index (BMI), and osteoporosis are risk factors for greater back pain.

The Pole Cat Incident

“Get her back inside! Get her back inside!” Tim and Sara screamed at the same time.
As usual, I had just let Pobby out the basement door and into the back yard one last time before we went to bed. By the way, Pobby was our dog that chewed on my Bible in my story/article “Eating the Word.”

“If It Was Raining Pitchforks . . .”

A few days ago Becky Ogle, who works for the Union County Schools Technology Department, gave me a gift of appreciation. It was a yellow mug bearing the school system’s logo, and it contained a few goodies in it (ink pen, note pad, a 3-in-1 “phone buddy”). Becky said the cup would turn orange if I filled it with a cool drink and ice cubes. She gave me two, one for me and one for my Administrative Assistant, Angela Henderlight. Each cup had a raffle ticket, and a drawing was to be held I read a post on Facebook a few days later.


Summer Jam at Luttrell Community Park July 25, at 115 Park Road Luttrell.

Saturday, July 25, 2020 - 12:00
Summer Jam

Summer Jam at Luttrell Community Park July 25, at 115 Park Road Luttrell.
Time: 12.00-6:00pm with an auction at 5:00 pm
Several Groups will be there such as; Spirit Filled, Faithful Promise, Janda Bozeman, Higher Calling, Wade Brantley,
New Friendship Youth Choir, Roy Poole, Wayne Carpenter, Teresa & Lecole Cooke, (8 yr. old) Parker Williams,
and Michael Bailey.
A concession will be there, come out and enjoy the day. Proceeds from Auction will go to Morristown Church of God.

For more information contact Michael Bailey at 865-455-2069

UCBPA Meeting

Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - 12:00

Reconnect with other business owners and professionals who want Union County to prosper. Plan to attend the UCBPA meeting at a NEW Date & Place: Wednesday, August 12, Noon at Pete’s Place. Mailing address PO Box 696 Maynardville, TN 37807

Speaker: Mayor Jason Bailey
Topic: Growing Union County in a Pandemic
Lunch: $10.00
BPA Scholarship recipients recognized
New Calendar of Events shared
Adjourn by 1:00


Fred Eugene McAfee

Fred Eugene McAfee, age 80 of Knoxville, passed away July 12, 2020. Preceded in death by wife Joyce DeVault McAfee, mother and father Maggie & Charles McAfee, brothers Charles Andrew McAfee and Robert Lewis McAfee, and sister Emma Irene Turner. Survived by sister Alice Ruckart, nieces and nephews, as well as many more loved ones. Family and friends will meet at Sharp Cemetery on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 9:45 AM for a 10:00 AM graveside service, Terry Echols officiating. Online condolences may be left at www.mynattfh.com.

Rodney Ted Piedot

Rodney Ted Piedot, age 88 of Knoxville, passed away July 11, 2020. Preceded in death by mother and father, Dorothy and Ted C. Piedot. Survived by wife of 63 years, Renna Fay, son Randy Piedot, and daughter Sandra Zani. Family and friends will meet at East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery JSH at 9:15 AM for a 9:30 AM graveside service on Thursday, July 16, 2020. Online condolences may be left at www.mynattfh.com.

Charles Edward “Bud” Branam

Charles Edward “Bud” Branam, August 30, 1943 - July 10, 2020. Bud was born in Sevierville, TN to Eddie & Anna Laura Branam. He graduated from Sevier County High School in 1963. During his high school career, he was an all-around athlete in every sport. His exceptional athletic ability lead him to a full athletic football scholarship as a tight-end at Middle Tennessee State University. Graduating with a BS in 1967. Then, he went on to receive his Masters + 45 at UTK. Bud was a faithful Christian & longtime member at Beaver Dam Baptist Church.

Jerry Lynn Mincey

Jerry Lynn Mincey, age 64 of Knoxville, peacefully passed away at home on Friday, July 10, 2020. He was born on December 8, 1955. He was a graduate of Gibbs High School, and a retired employee of the University of Tennessee. He was greeted in heaven by his father, Billy Howard Mincey.

Mary (Helms) Livesay

Mary Elizabeth (Helms) Livesay – age 59 of Maynardville, departed this life to go to her Heavenly home on July 8, 2020. She was a member of Circle Assembly Church of God. At age 35 she was ready for a career change and decided to go to Ross the Boss School of Cosmetology to become a beautician. Mary believed everyone needed a touch of red in their hair. She had a special way to make people laugh and smile even when they were going through the most difficult of times. You never had to guess what was on her mind because she was quick to let you know what she was thinking.

Debra E. "Debby" Dotson

Debra E. “Debby” Dotson, age 67, of the Inskip Community in Knoxville, TN went to be with Jesus Tuesday, July 7, 2020, while holding the hands of her husband and son. She was born June 22, 1953 to Charles E. & Frances White. Debby was a faithful member and Pastor’s Wife at Anchor Holds Baptist Church. She married Rev. Ronnie Dotson September 22, 1973 when she was just 20 years old and him 17. This September, they would have celebrated 47 years of marriage. Debby couldn’t have children so she prayed to God and he answered by giving her Dustin, the love of her life.

Eddie Branum

Eddie Cline Branum – age 64 of Maynardville, passed away suddenly July 3, 2020. He was a loving daddy, son, brother, papaw and uncle. Eddie was an accomplished musician and loved playing drums and singing with his brother Steve and The Branum Brothers Band. He loved riding his Harleys with the Ole Geezers Trike Gang and loved cruising in his ’39 coupe. Eddie loved family get togethers and spending time with his family. He loved his children and grandchildren. They brought a smile to his face and was so proud to be called Daddy and Papaw. He will be missed by all that knew him.

Beulah Mae Cook

Beulah Mae (Clark) Cook-age 90 of Sharps Chapel went peacefully to be with the Lord, Saturday morning, July 4, 2020 at her home. She was preceded in death by parents, Bruce and Hallie (Ray) Clark; brothers, Roy, Milas and Dewey Clark; sisters, Trula Miller, Nell Russell and Lurtie Brewer.

Curtis Glen Ridenour, Sr.

Curtis Glen “Rowdy” Ridenour, Sr.-age 65 of Maynardville passed away Saturday morning, July 4, 2020 at his home after a long hard battle with cancer. He was of the Baptist faith. Preceded in death by parents, William and Adna Welch Ridenour, sisters, Shelby Stiner, Diane and Cynthia Ridenour.
urvivors: wife of 36 years, Cathy Lawson Ridenour; daughters, Hope and Jessica; sons, Curtis Jr. and Kendall. He will be forever in our hearts and sadly missed by family and friends.

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