IJAMS receives $10k donation

Knoxville, TN – The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation located in Lake Forest, Illinois, has donated $10,000 to Ijams Nature Center, Inc., in support of the nonprofit nature center’s new Nature Preschool, which is scheduled to open August 2018. The preschool will focus on helping children to develop a solid foundation for lifelong learning, while cultivating a love of nature that will serve as the basis for a conservation ethic later in life.

“This grant will allow Ijams to prepare the Miller Building and its grounds on the Ijams family’s original home site to become a place for children ages 3-5 to explore and learn about nature,” said Amber Parker, Ijams Executive Director. “Our goal is for these preschoolers to spend 80 percent of their time outdoors. Part of this grant will be used to purchase desks, chairs and supplies, but the majority will go toward funding a nature play area and renovating the building’s deck to provide a space for outdoor education activities. We are extremely grateful to The Grainger Foundation for its generosity.”

The new Nature Preschool will offer a morning and an afternoon session five days a week for up to 18 children per session. Ijams also plans to offer a morning-only Nature Preschool Summer Camp prior to the school’s fall opening to allow younger children to experience an age-appropriate version of its Nature Adventure Day Camp.

Ijams will host open houses Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, and Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. for individuals interested in learning more about the new Nature Preschool, 2018 summer camps and other activities at the nature center.

This donation was recommended by Renee Trexler, Operations Manager of W.W. Grainger, Inc.’s, Knoxville location. Grainger has been a part of the Knoxville business community for more than 60 years as the leading broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products. “We are proud to recommend the Nature Preschool program at Ijams Nature Center,” Trexler said. “We understand the need to encourage stewardship of the natural world by providing an urban greenspace for people of all ages to learn about and enjoy the outdoors through engaging experiences.”

The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation based in Lake Forest, Illinois, was established in 1949 by William W. Grainger, founder of W.W. Grainger, Inc.

Ijams Nature Center is a nonprofit, 315-acre educational nature center for all ages, abilities, and walks of life. Located just three miles from downtown Knoxville, Ijams features 12 miles of hiking and mixed-use trails, a public access river dock, swimming, boating, biking, and more. The Ijams grounds and trails are open every day from 8:00 a.m. until dusk. The Visitor Center is open Monday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.Ijams.org or call 865-577-4717.

Ijams Nature Center received $10,000 from The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation, in support of the nonprofit nature center’s new Nature Preschool, which is scheduled to open in Fall 2018. This donation was recommended by Renee Trexler, Operations Manager of W.W. Grainger, Inc.’s Knoxville location. Pictured from left are W.W. Grainger, Inc. Operations Manager Renee Trexler, Ijams Education Director Jennifer Roder, W.W. Grainger, Inc. Sales Specialist Jeff Stewart and Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker. Photo submitted.

Orchid Awards nominations sought

KNOXVILLE, TN – Keep Knoxville Beautiful is now accepting nominations from the public for its beautification awards, the Orchids. Since 1979, Keep Knoxville Beautiful has presented Orchid Awards to Knoxville and Knox County buildings and outdoor spaces that beautify and elevate the local landscape.
Orchid Awards will be granted in the following six categories:

New Architecture
Outdoor Space (Parks, Patios, Rooftop Gardens, Neighborhoods, etc.)
Public Art (Murals, Sculptures, Signage, etc.)
Environmental Stewardship (Properties that incorporate renewable materials, energy efficiency, LEED certification and/or other sustainable building practices)

Anyone can nominate a location or outdoor public artwork by completing a simple online form on Keep Knoxville Beautiful’s website, keepknoxvillebeautiful.org, or by calling the office at 865-521-6957. Private residences are not considered for this award. Properties that received an Orchid Award since 2008 are ineligible, except in cases of major renovations.

For a list of previous winners, visit the Keep Knoxville Beautiful website. Nominations are due by Friday, December 18, 2017. Keep Knoxville Beautiful will announce the winners of the beautification awards at the annual Orchids Awards Dinner on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 6:00 at The Standard, 416 W. Jackson Avenue, downtown Knoxville.

For more information, contact Keep Knoxville Beautiful at info@keepknoxvillebeautiful.org.

IJAMS boardwalk closed for repairs

Ijams Nature Center is closing its popular River Boardwalk for the next two weeks in September and October 2017 in order to perform regular maintenance and assess long-term repair needs, says Amber Parker, Executive Director of Ijams. Last weekend, Ijams Nature Center closed the River Boardwalk as a precautionary measure when staff noticed that a rock had shifted near the foundation. After consulting with the original builder during an assessment yesterday, it was determined that the River Boardwalk is structurally sound and safe for passage.

“Anytime you have a structure that is exposed to year-round weather conditions, you have to take time for general maintenance in order to keep it in good order,” Parker said. “Over the next two weeks, Ijams Nature Center staff will be performing tasks such as replacing a few boards, pressure-washing the entire boardwalk and applying a weatherproofing sealant. This kind of work takes time and requires the boardwalk to be closed so that we can do it safely…and not spray any of our visitors!”

Located just three miles from downtown Knoxville, Ijams features 12 miles of hiking and mixed-use trails, a public access river dock, swimming, boating, biking and more. The center offers hundreds of educational programs annually, from school field trips and off-site programs to on-site outdoor and classroom education programs that focus on topics from birding and wildflowers to yoga hikes, cooking classes and art programs. The Ijams grounds and trails are open every day from 8 a.m. until dusk. The Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit Ijams.org or call 865-577-4717.

Ijams Nature Center is a nonprofit, 300+-acre educational nature center for all ages, abilities and walks of life. Ijams’ mission is to encourage stewardship of the natural world by providing an urban greenspace for people to learn about and enjoy the outdoors through engaging experiences. Photo by Laura Long Martin, Celebrate Knoxville.

Contest seeks wildlife photos

Tennessee Wildlife Federation is calling for photos of the state’s stunning wildlife and habitats. The most breathtaking shots will be featured in the 2018 calendar and win prizes. Photo submissions are open now but will close August 31, 2017.

This year, the federation is celebrating the public lands in Tennessee that conserve some of the most important natural places and wildlife. Though not a requirement, contest judges will be on the lookout for photos taken on public lands—from state parks to wildlife management areas to national forests. A panel will select the best of the best for the official 2018 Tennessee Wildlife Federation calendar, which goes to thousands of outdoor enthusiasts. Also returning this year is the People’s Choice photo that will be selected through an online vote.

There are prizes for photographers whose work is featured:

Everyone with a photo in the calendar will receive a copy to display proudly.
The 12 month photos and the cover photo earn the photographer Tennessee Wildlife Federation apparel.
The cover image photographer will receive a $200 gift card.
And the People’s Choice photographer will receive a $100 gift card.

For full contest and submission details, visit TNWF.org.

IJAMS adds additional solar panels

KNOXVILLE, TN – A $22,000 grant from the Arconic Foundation is making Ijams Nature Center a cleaner, greener place. The nonprofit, 300+-acre center used the funds to install additional solar panels on the roof of the Visitor Center.

The new panels are projected to save more than $2,700 annually in traditional electrical use. Green Earth Solar, LLC (GES) completed the installation in March 2017.

“Adding the new array saved about $540 on Ijams’ utility bill in March and April,” Ijams Facilities Manager Brenda Rayfield said. “It was such a significant savings that KUB sent out two electricians to replace our meter because they thought it was broken.”

The effort is part of Ijams’ Sustainability Initiative, which was created to educate the public about climate change and the effects of traditional energy production and use on the Earth, as well as provide information about alternative energy sources. The solar panels serve as an educational demonstration model and interpretive signage helps visitors learn about solar energy options.

“At Ijams, our mission is to educate people about nature and encourage them to become stewards of the natural world,” Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker said. “But it’s not enough to teach others to care for the Earth. Ijams needs to ‘practice what we preach’ in daily operations. Using renewable, clean energy sources to reduce Ijams’ environmental footprint is an important way to do both.

“We truly appreciate the Arconic Foundation’s support of this project,” Parker said. “Arconic’s generosity will have a significant impact on Ijams—and the environment—for years to come.”

The new 7.8-kilowatt (kW) array brings the total size of Ijams’ rooftop system to 19.04kW. Power generated each month will vary depending on the amount of sun the panels receive.

GES installed the original 11.34kW system in 2015. It produced almost two megawatt hours of power before the additional 7.8kW system was added. A megawatt hour (MWh) is equal to 1,000kW of electricity used continuously for one hour, which is approximately the same amount of electricity used by about 330 homes during one hour.

Grants from the Alcoa Foundation funded both installations. When Alcoa and Arconic split into two companies, the Arconic Foundation completed the grant process.

Ijams Nature Center is a nonprofit, 300+-acre educational center for all ages, abilities and walks of life. Ijams’ mission is to encourage stewardship of the natural world by providing an urban greenspace for people to learn about and enjoy the outdoors through engaging experiences.

Located just three miles from downtown Knoxville, Ijams features 12 miles of hiking and mixed-use trails, a public access river dock, swimming, boating, biking and more. The center offers hundreds of educational programs annually, from school field trips and off-site programs to on-site outdoor and classroom education programs. Classes focus on topics from birding and wildflowers to yoga hikes, cooking and art. The Ijams grounds and trails are open daily from 8 a.m. until dusk. The Visitor Center is open during the summer from Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit Ijams.org or call 865-577-4717.

Scientist to swim Tennessee River

Dr. Andreas Fath, a world-record-holding endurance swimmer and scientist, will kick-off a swim of the entire Tennessee River from the river dock at Ijams Nature Center’s River Landing Thursday, July 27, 2017, at 10 a.m.

This isn’t the first time the professor of Medical and Life Sciences at Furtwangen University in Germany has taken on a river. In 2014 he broke the world record for speed swimming the Rhine River from the Swiss Alps to the North Sea.

Dubbed TenneSwim, Fath’s second “swim for science” will see him swim the entire waterway from late July through August 2017. He will conduct daily analyses along his route to determine how water quality in the Tennessee River compares to the Rhine. Other testing will be done after the swim. Specifically, Fath will be looking at chemicals, pharmaceuticals and microplastics.

Data collected will increase knowledge about the quality and health of the Tennessee River, as well as raise public awareness of water quality in the Tennessee River basin. This project will be the most extensive interdisciplinary water quality survey ever conducted of North America’s most biologically diverse river.

At 652 miles, the Tennessee River is 112 miles shorter than the Rhine, but its significantly slower current will pose an even greater challenge for Fath. If completed as planned, his swim will break another world record.

U.S. partner organizations include the University of the South, the Tennessee Aquarium, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Georgia River Basin Center, Ijams Nature Center, the River Discovery Center of Paducah, Tennessee State Parks, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Knoxville hosts alt fuel rally

KNOXVILLE – Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) hosted a stop on the second annual ‘From Sea-to- Shining-Sea’ Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) Road Rally Across America, a nationwide initiative highlighting the many benefits of using natural gas in transportation and the wide variety of vehicles currently operating on natural gas.

The spectrum of rally vehicles – ranging from a sedan to Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) 3D-printed utility vehicle – illustrated the diverse private and commercial uses of clean-burning CNG.

Presented by NGVAmerica, American Public Gas Association (APGA) and American Gas Association (AGA), the rally launched outside of Long Beach, California, on June 5, and will conclude in Washington, D.C., on June 16. The journey includes 18 stops and covers 4,825 miles, demonstrating the growing availability of natural gas fueling stations across the country.

The event took place at KUB’s recently opened, publicly accessible compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station at 1820 Third Creek Road in Knoxville. The station began fueling KUB’s CNG fleet in November 2016 and celebrated its grand opening for public use in April.

“We are honored to host this rally to encourage and celebrate the use of clean burning natural gas in vehicles throughout our nation,” KUB President and CEO Mintha Roach said. “It is exciting to see the variety of vehicles today from organizations that share KUB’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability.”

Roach announced during the program that KUB’s fleet this year earned Tennessee Green Fleet certification from the Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition. The program certifies fleets based on actual impacts and other actions taken to improve fleet sustainability and efficiency. KUB’s fleet began using CNG in the 1970s and now also includes vehicles powered by electric hybrid technology, E85 flex fuel and biodiesel.

A variety of alternative fuel vehicles from KUB, Sevier County Utility District, Gibson County Utility District, Middle Tennessee Natural Gas and Johnston North America fleets were on display at the rally, illustrating that any fleet can reap the cost and environmental benefits of CNG.

At the event, KUB presented the City of Knoxville with the First Fleet Award to recognize the city’s status as the CNG fueling station’s first fleet customer and for its leadership in alternative fuel use.

“As a local government, we seek to lead by example and show how practical, cost-saving investments can benefit our environment and the sustainability of our community,” Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said. “We thank KUB for setting an example for our community through a longtime commitment to sustainable practices.”

ORNL presented a look at the future with its 3D-printed utility vehicle, a natural-gas- powered hybrid electric vehicle using bi-directional wireless charging for a new approach to energy use and storage. Researchers at the lab’s National Transportation Research Center are examining new and innovative ways to maximize energy efficiency through transformative science and integrated technology solutions.

The Tennessee Call 811 hot air balloon also was on hand to support the event. The balloon travels the country as a reminder of the importance of calling 811 before digging to avoid accidental damage to underground utility lines, including natural gas lines.

CNG is an environmentally friendly gasoline and diesel alternative made by compressing natural gas to less than 1 percent of its volume at standard atmospheric pressure. Costing about half as much as gasoline or diesel fuel and releasing about 90 percent fewer emissions, CNG protects the environment and makes driving more affordable.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero accepts from KUB President and CEO Mintha Roach the First Fleet Award at KUB’s publicly accessible compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station on June 13, 2017. The presentation acknowledges the city’s leadership in alternative fuel use and was part of the “From-Sea- to-Shining- Sea” Natural Gas Vehicle Road Rally Across America. Photo submitted.

Knox Heritage names Fragile 15

The French Broad River corridor is among Knox Heritage’s recently announced 2017 list of the most endangered historic buildings and places in Knoxville and Knox County. The announcement took place at Knoxville High School, 101 E. Fifth Avenue.

Every May during National Preservation Month, Knox Heritage releases its list of the most endangered historic buildings and places in Knox County to inform the public and local leaders about the plight of significant historic resources. Often, the endangered buildings and places are representative of issues that endanger other centerpieces of our heritage across the community.

The historic places included on the list are selected by the Knox Heritage Board of Directors from nominations received from members of Knox Heritage and the general public. The list provides a work plan for the organization over the next 12 months. Preservation strategies are developed for each site on the list and can include working with current property owners, government officials, citizens and/or potential new owners to preserve these important parts of Knox County’s heritage. Knox Heritage is committed to acting as an advocate for the endangered properties. The community is invited to join in efforts to save endangered heritage through advocacy and action. To volunteer, please contact Knox Heritage at 523-8008 or info@knoxheritage.org.
2017 Fragile Fifteen

1. Standard Knitting Mill – 1400 Washington Avenue

2. Estabrook Hall – 1012 Estabrook Road

3. Knoxville College Historic District – 901 Knoxville College Drive

Representative Properties:

a. McKee Hall

b. Wallace Hall

c. Elnathan Hall

d. McMillan Chapel

e. Giffen Memorial Gymnasium

f. President’s House

4. Fort Sanders House & Grocery – 307 18th Street, 1802, 1804, & 1810 Highland Ave

5. Rule High School – 1901 Vermont Avenue

6. Sanitary Laundry – 625 N. Broadway

7. First Friends Church – 2100 Washington Avenue

8. The Eugenia Williams House – 4848 Lyons View Pike

9. Burlington Commercial District

10. Lucky Inn – 4625 Asheville Highway

11. The Sterchi Mansion/Stratford – 809 Dry Gap Pike

12. The Paul Howard House – 2921 N. Broadway

13. The Knaffl-Stephens House – 3738 Speedway Circle

14. Greyhound Bus Station – 100 E. Magnolia Avenue

15. French Broad River Corridor (pictured below)

Visit KnoxHeritage.org.

Knox wins 3 environmental awards

Keep Knoxville Beautiful, Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization, and Suttree Landing Park in Knox County are all among the 2017 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards this year. Winners will be recognized for their achievements and positive impact on the state’s natural resources in an awards ceremony to be held in Nashville on June 16.

“These organizations represent the spirit and drive that make the Volunteer State great,” Governor Haslam said. “I thank all of the winners for their individual contributions to the environment and for keeping Tennessee a beautiful state in which to live and work and to visit.”

The Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards program recognizes exceptional voluntary actions that improve or protect environment and natural resources with projects or initiatives not required by law or regulation.

The 2017 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award recipients are:

Belmont University – Davidson County
Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority – Hamilton County
City of Lebanon – Wilson County
Keep Knoxville Beautiful – Knox County
Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization – Knox County
Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority – Davidson County
Nashville Fire Department Station 19 – Davidson County
New Hope Christian Academy – Shelby County
Sherwood Forest Project – Davidson County
Suttree Landing Park – Knox County
The Nashville Food Project – Davidson County

The 2017 awards roster includes two Pursuit of Excellence Awards, which recognize past award winners who continue to demonstrate a high regard for environmental stewardship practices. The winner of one additional honor, the Robert Sparks Walker Lifetime Achievement Award, will be announced at the awards ceremony.

A panel of 22 professionals representing agricultural, conservation, forestry, environmental and academic professionals judged more than 89 nominations and selected this year’s award recipients based on criteria including on-the-ground achievement, innovation and public education.

Keep Knoxville Beautiful hosts event

Keep Knoxville Beautiful will host a Trash Run in South Knoxville on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Check-in will begin at SoKno Taco Cantina at 3701 Sevierville Pike at 5:30 p.m. and the run will start at 6:00.

The Trash Run is a non-competitive fun run and litter pickup for runners/walkers of all ages. There is no designated route for the event; rather, participants are encouraged to spend an hour running or walking and collecting litter in the area. Keep Knoxville Beautiful will provide maps, gloves, bags, safety vests, and litter-pickers.

At the conclusion of the run at 7:00, participants are invited to enjoy a free beer and taco and will have the chance to win a $50 gift certificate, all courtesy of SoKno Taco Cantina. The event is free but participants must register at http://www.keepknoxvillebeautiful.org/upcoming/2017/5/9/trash-run or by visiting KeepKnoxvilleBeautiful.org and clicking on the Upcoming Events link.

South Knoxville is Keep Knoxville Beautiful’s Community of the Year through June 2017, and this is one of the last events that KKB will host in the area. Please join Keep Knoxville Beautiful at the Trash Run and help make South Knoxville a cleaner, greener, more beautiful place to live.

KUB adds CNG fueling station

KUB celebrates the official opening of Knoxville’s first public compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station and receipt of a grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to help expand KUB’s fleet of alternative fuel vehicles.

CNG, an environmentally friendly gasoline and diesel alternative, powers the cleanest vehicles in commercial production today. The fuel is made by compressing natural gas to less than 1 percent of its volume at standard atmospheric pressure. Costing about half as much as gasoline or diesel fuel and releasing about 90 percent fewer emissions, CNG protects the environment and makes driving more affordable.

KUB’s commitment to stewardship and sustainability was the impetus behind the decision to invest $2.5 million to open the publicly accessible CNG fueling station. It replaces an outdated station that was available only for KUB’s fleet.

Located at 1820 Third Creek Road in Knoxville, the station was designed and built by TruStar Energy CNG, which also manages operations. TDEC officials were on hand to present KUB a $67,500 grant.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero praised the station as being good for the city and the state.

“This station bolsters our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and make Knoxville greener,” Rogero said. “In addition to providing service to the City of Knoxville’s CNG vehicles, it fills a void in the state’s network of public CNG stations by adding service near the junction of interstates 40 and 75.”

According to General Electric (GE), natural gas currently powers more than 12 million vehicles around the world, but only about 250,000 CNG vehicles currently operate in the United States.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero pumps compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel into a city fleet truck alongside KUB President and CEO Mintha Roach and City of Knoxville Public Service Area Manager Alex Neubert at the grand opening of KUB’s publicly accessible CNG fueling station on April 19. The station, located at 1820 Third Creek Road in Knoxville, is open to the public 24 hours per day. Photo submitted.

Volunteers needed for river clean-up

If getting a little dirty to make Knoxville a cleaner place excites you, you’ll want to volunteer for Ijams River Rescue Saturday, April 1, 2017 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Presented by Keurig Green Mountain and TVA, the 28th annual Ijams cleanup event focuses on 30-40 locations along the Tennessee River and its associated creek tributaries from the river’s headwaters in Knoxville to the shores of Loudon County.

“Between 800-1,000 people pick up 10-14 tons of trash and debris as well as numerous old tires during this event each year,” Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker said. “We welcome individuals as well as groups of all sizes from local businesses, nonprofit organizations and scout troops. It’s a fun way to get involved and help ensure healthier, cleaner water for the residents and wildlife of East Tennessee.”

Volunteers can register online at Ijams.org through March 31. All supplies will be provided, including gloves and bags that have been donated by TVA and American Rivers’ National River Cleanup program.

Participants will receive a commemorative t-shirt designed by Ijams senior naturalist, artist and author Stephen Lyn Bales. This year’s shirt features a frog, one of the earth’s most environmentally sensitive creatures.

“Frogs live in two environments: land and water,” Bales said. “They have very thin skin, which easily absorbs toxic chemicals and other pollutants, so frogs are a good indicator of environmental stress. We can tell how healthy an environment is by how many amphibians live there.”

The 28th annual Ijams River Rescue presented by Keurig Green Mountain and TVA is sponsored by the City of Knoxville, First Tennessee Foundation, Grayson Subaru, Dow Chemical Company, Mesa Associates Inc., Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union, River Sports Outfitters, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Wood Realtors, Knox Area Climbers, AmeriCorps, and the Water Quality Forum.

Ijams Nature Center is a nonprofit, 300-acre educational and outdoor adventure park for all ages, abilities and walks of life. Ijams’ mission is to encourage stewardship of the natural world by providing an urban greenspace for people to learn about and enjoy the outdoors through engaging experiences. Located just three miles from downtown Knoxville, Ijams features 12 miles of hiking and mixed-use trails, a public access river dock, swimming, boating, biking and more. The center offers hundreds of educational programs annually, from school field trips and off-site programs to on-site outdoor and classroom education programs that focus on topics from birding and wildflowers to yoga hikes, cooking classes and art programs. The Ijams grounds and trails are open daily from 8 a.m. until dusk. The Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit Ijams.org or call 865-577-4717.

Marble Springs to celebrate Arbor Day

In recognition of Arbor Day, Marble Springs Historic Site, 1220 West Governor John Sevier Highway, will host a Tree Planting Celebration on April 8, 2017 starting at 10:00 am. Participants will first learn how to properly plant and label saplings to meet arboretum qualifications as set by the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council. Afterwards, participants can help plant the 60th tree in recognition of Marble Springs reaching a level 2 Arboretum.

Lunch will be provided for those helping plant the celebratory tree and take place at noon. Guest speaker, Tom Simpson, the Region Urban Forester with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, will provide a lecture on The Importance of Urban Foresty at about 1:00 pm. The Marble Springs Arboretum will be open for self-guided tours throughout the event with a guided tour scheduled at about 2 pm. Children can also participate in Earth Day themed crafts throughout the event.

Please confirm your attendance at info@marblesprings.net or by calling (865) 573-5508. This event is free. Donations are appreciated with all proceeds going towards grounds maintenance and educational programming at Marble Springs.

For more information please visit www.marblesprings.net, call (865) 573-5508, or email info@marblesprings.net.

KKB names Orchid Award winners

Keep Knoxville Beautiful hosted the annual Orchids Beautification Awards at the Standard this week. The event honored Knoxville’s most beautiful properties by presenting awards in six categories: outdoor space, public art, new architecture, restaurant/café/bar/brewery, redesign/reuse and environmental stewardship. Additionally, the Mary Lou Horner Award was presented to a former winner who remains “Orchid worthy,” and the Felicia Harris Hoehne Award was presented for the first time.

The winner for outdoor space was Suttree Landing Park, and the winner for public art was the Locust Street pedestrian bridge. For new architecture, the winner was the Natalie Haslam Music Center at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The winners for restaurant/café/bar/brewery were Balter Beerworks and K Brew. For redesign/reuse, the winners were the Daniel and Patricia Nash Designs. Finally, the winner for environmental stewardship was the Joint Institute of Advanced Materials. The Mary Lou Horner Award was presented to the Tennessee Theatre.

This year’s newest award was created to honor a person who exemplifies KKB’s mission of making Knoxville a “clean, green, and beautiful” city. Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero presented Ms. Felicia Harris Hoehne with the inaugural Felicia Harris Hoehne Award.

Harris Hoehne joined the Keep Knoxville Beautiful board in 2009, and is an active member of the Spring Place Neighborhood Association. She is dedicated to the KKB mission and hires crews to pick up litter in her own and other people’s neighborhoods.

Over 200 people attended the event, and guests enjoyed live music from the Old City Buskers, a live mural painting by Perry Hodson, a silent auction, and a specially brewed beer called “the Good Neighbor Orchid” provided by Balter Beerworks. The night’s guest speaker was Gale Fulton, who is the director of the School of Landscape Architecture at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Keep Knoxville Beautiful announced that the 2017-2018 “Community of the Year” will be East Knoxville. The 2016-2017 “Community of the Year” was South Knoxville, where KKB will continue to focus their efforts until June of 2017.

All proceeds from the Orchids Beautification Awards will go to benefit Keep Knoxville Beautiful’s education and beautification programs.

Orchid Awards presented March 7

Keep Knoxville Beautiful will host the annual Orchids Beautification Awards at the Standard at 416 West Jackson Avenue on March 7, 2017 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. The deadline for purchasing tickets is this Friday, March 3.

From 6:00 until 7:00, there will be a complimentary beer and wine reception with a floral beer specially brewed and donated to the event by Balter Beerworks. During the reception, guests may bid on silent auction items donated by local companies such as Bliss, Smoky Mountain Vintage Lumber, TVB, Knox Whiskey Works, Ijams Nature Center, Meadowsweet Massage and Wellness, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and many more.

Keep Knoxville Beautiful’s three goals to promote a “cleaner, greener, more beautiful Knoxville” will be highlighted by a photo-booth, a beer garden, and with a live painting by muralist Perry Hodson. Guests will enjoy live music by the Old City Buskers.

The ceremony and dinner will begin at 7:00 and will be emceed by Dino Cartwright of WVLT. Keep Knoxville Beautiful will announce its next Community of the Year, the area of Knox County where it will focus the majority of its efforts during the 2017-18 year.

Gale Fulton, Director of the School of Landscape Architecture at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville will be the night’s guest speaker. Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero will also be in attendance, and will present the first Felicia Harris Hoehne Award. Dino will present the Orchids Awards to a winner from each of the following six categories: Outdoor Space, Public Art, Restaurant/Café/Bar/Brewery, New Architecture, Environmental Stewardship, and Redesign/Reuse. Finally, Tom Salter, Solid Waste Director at Knox County, will close the night by presenting the Mary Lou Horner Award to a previous Orchid winner that has been improved or remains “orchid-worthy.”

A list of all nominees can be found at http://www.keepknoxvillebeautiful.org/orchid-awards.

The deadline for purchasing tickets is this Friday, March 3. Individual tickets are $85 each and tables for 10 are $750. Tickets can be purchased at www.keepknoxvillebeautiful.org/orchid-awards/. All proceeds benefit Keep Knoxville Beautiful’s programs.

Keep Knoxville Beautiful is a local non-profit with a mission to promote a cleaner, greener, and more beautiful community.

Evergreen Ball raises $725k for Park

KNOXVILLE, TN – Friends of the Smokies gathered for an evening of elegance at Cherokee Country Club to celebrate Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) and to raise more than $725,000 for the park’s annual needs at the 2017 Evergreen Ball.

The fundraiser featured a silent auction, wine auction, and live auction which included one-of-a-kind experiences and vacation packages to the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Andes Mountains of Argentina.

The recent fires in Gatlinburg weighed heavy on the heart of Rev. Dr. Matthews, a North Carolina native.

“Our brothers and sisters on this side of the mountains have been through so much this past year,” Matthews said. “Let’s come together tonight and show the world what Smokies Strong looks like.”

At the close of the evening’s live auction Sharon Miller Pryse, President and CEO of The Trust Company and Friends of the Smokies board member, announced a challenge gift of $30,000 to establish the Cades Cove Preservation Fund in recognition of The Trust Company’s 30th anniversary.

Generous donations by the guests in attendance exceeded this goal, for a total of more than $75,000 dedicated to the preservation of Cades Cove. Cades Cove is one of the most popular areas of America’s most-visited national park, claiming more than 2 million of GSMNP’s 11 million total visitors in 2016.

Friends of the Smokies has raised more than $55 million in support of GSMNP since the organization was founded in 1993.

“After a challenging season, it is heartwarming to see the outpouring of love and support for the Smokies shine through,” said Superintendent Cash. “We are so thankful for the support of Friends of the Smokies and all of you here tonight.”

2017 Evergreen Ball Co-Chairs Tim Chandler and Sam Curtis with their wives Katie Chandler and Jody Curtis. The evening’s program was emceed by WBIR anchors Robin Wilhoit and Russell Biven, and included welcome messages by Friends of the Smokies board chair Rev. Dr. Dan Matthews and GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash. Photo by Bob Franklin.

Chimney Tops fires under review

A team of fire experts is assembling at Great Smoky Mountains National Park to conduct a review of the 2016 Chimney Tops 2 fire that started in the park on November 23, according to Tina Boehle of the National Park Service Division of Fire and Aviation Management.

The purpose of the review team is to identify the facts leading up to and during the Chimney Tops 2 fire within the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as make recommendations on any planning, operational, or managerial issues which can be addressed locally, regionally, and/or nationally to reduce the chances of a similar incident in the future.

The team is assigned to the fire review through the division chief for the National Park Service (NPS) Division of Fire and Aviation in Boise, ID. Division Chief Bill Kaage stated, “The team will conduct a thorough review of the actions and response to this fire, which will include compliance with policy and application of professional wildland firefighting practices. Ultimately the purpose of the review is to identify lessons learned from this incident for use by any wildland firefighting agency.”

The Chimney Tops 2 fire review team is made up of interagency representatives: a team leader, a fire behavior specialist, two fire operations/risk management specialists, an NPS fire management officer from outside of the region, a municipal fire department representative from within the region, and an NPS management liaison.

Joe Stutler, a senior advisor for Deschutes County, Oregon, will lead the team. Stutler has extensive experience in wildland fire at the federal level as well as in local government and the private sector. He has nearly 50 years of knowledge of the complexities of fire management, including fire behavior and policy.

Other team members include:
Fire Behavior Specialist: William Grauel, Bureau of Indian Affairs – National Fire Ecologist, Boise, ID
Municipal Fire Department Representative: Jimmy Isaacs, Boone Fire Department – Chief, Boone, NC
Fire Operations/Risk Management Specialist: Shane Greer, U.S. Forest Service – Assistant Fire Director-Risk Management, Region 2, Golden, CO
NPS Fire Management Officer: Mike Lewelling, Rocky Mountain National Park – Fire Management Officer, Estes Park, CO
Fire Operations/Risk Management Specialist/Writer/Editor: Miranda Stuart, NPS Branch of Wildland Fire – Fire Management Specialist, Crawfordville, FL
NPS Management Liaison: Tim Reid, National Park Service – Superintendent, Devils Tower National Monument, WY

The work of the review team is expected to take up to two weeks. After that, the team has 45 days to complete their report and submit it to Chief Kaage for review prior to it being made public.

Transportation draft available for review

With a gas tax increase among the most important topics for the 2017 Tennessee legislature, a new study from the University of Tennessee Knoxville shows that a majority of Tennesseans want more investment in biking and walking. According to a recent poll, if the gas tax is increased, 57 percent of Tennesseans support increased funding for biking, walking, and transit.

A majority of registered voters also believe that investments in walking and biking infrastructure are investments in safety. Tennesseans also said they are more likely to support a gas tax increase if local governments retain control over how to spend this money.

Bike riders are a common sight in Market Square, downtown Knoxville. Long range plans for bike lanes connecting five counties could provide increased opportunities for economic growth as well as benefits for health and fitness in East Tennessee. Photo by CelebrateKnoxville.com.

Mobility Plan 2040 is the long-range transportation plan for the Knoxville region (including Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon, and Sevier). The plan guides transportation decisions and funding over the next 20 years.

The first draft of Mobility Plan 2040 is available for public review and comment. Comments will be accepted until the end of January 2017. Visit http://knoxmobility.org/recent/the-first-draft-of-mobility-plan-2040-is-now-available/

Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization is also taking comments on the revised project list – including greenways and bicycle facilities in the region. There is an interactive map, which can be used to view all projects, or just bicycle and pedestrian projects. Readers can also look at just the projects in specific counties, can comment on a specific project via the interactive map (click on the project, then on “details” in the pop-up box) or email with general comments.

IJAMS opens new adaptive dock

Great news for sports lovers who have physical challenges! This month Ijams, the City of Knoxville, and Catalyst Sports celebrated the opening of a new adaptive dock at the Ijams River Landing on the Tennessee River.


In addition to expanding paddling opportunities, the dock is the first step in Ijams offering adaptive recreation for individuals with physical challenges. Ijams plans to partner with Catalyst Sports to offer adaptive paddling programs in 2017. The nature center also recently purchased two adaptive kayaks.

The dock is free and open to the public. Motorized watercraft are not permitted. Future plans for the River Landing include new space for environmental education programs, as well as paddling rentals for those who do not have their own boards or boats.

In addition, Mead’s Quarry at Ijams has a creative new place visitors to lock up a bike or take a seat. The new bike racks and benches, created by artist Derek White of Bird on the Wire Studios, pay homage to the industrial history of the Ijams Quarries. White, along with the help of Ijams staff members, Ben Nanny and Jack Gress, and community members Kelly Brown, Gregory Tune, Claude Hardy, Duke Brown, and Noel Kuck, installed the one-of-a-kind gear-and-cog design near Mead’s Quarry Lake on Dec. 19, 2016.


KKB hosts beautification project

Keep Knoxville Beautiful (KKB) will hold two beautification mobs to plant approximately 18,000 daffodil and tulip bulbs on November 19-20, 2016. Volunteers are needed for both days.

KKB will kick off the weekend on Saturday, November 19 by planting 2,000 daffodil bulbs next to the sidewalks of Sevierville Pike and E. Moody Avenue, near the end of the James White Parkway. Planting will take place from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM and volunteers will receive a light breakfast and lunch. All tools and supplies will be provided, but volunteers are asked to bring a water bottle and wear clothes and shoes that can get dirty. Parking will be available at the intersection of Sevierville Pike and Compton Street, as well as on surrounding streets.

On Sunday, November 20 from Noon to 5:00 PM, KKB is partnering with the Town of Farragut to plant 16,000 tulip and daffodil bulbs at the Campbell Station Road I-40 Exit. KKB is seeking volunteers over the age of 12 to assist with the beautification mob. All volunteers will receive a lunch and a snack, and are also asked to bring a water bottle and wear clothes and shoes that can get dirty. Parking is available on the public road behind the Marathon Gas Station located at 800 N. Campbell Station Road.

“We’re at it again!” said Bob Graves, KKB board member and owner of sponsoring landscape design firm, Carex Design Group. “Last November, we planted over 60,000 daffodil bulbs on three I-275 exits with the help of over 220 volunteers. In the spring, the blooms carpeted the area with yellow and white, and we’re excited about seeing similar results on Sevierville Pike and the Campbell Station Road exit.”

Volunteers are encouraged to sign up for one or both of the Beautification Mobs at keepknoxvillebeautiful.org.


KKB hosts Pickin’ Party

Keep Knoxville Beautiful (KKB) is revitalizing a unique KKB tradition on Friday, October 14, 2016. KKB’s Rocky Top Pickin’ Party will be held under a full moon close to downtown at the historic Mabry-Hazen House from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM. It will feature the musical talents of The Bearded and the Hardin Valley Thunder. All are welcome and attendees are encouraged to bring an instrument and join the breakout sessions between sets.

Barbeque and tacos will be available from the Rollin’ Smoke and Captain Muchacho’s food trucks.

Tickets for this family-friendly event include 4 FREE beers or beverages, and can be purchased through the Keep Knoxville Beautiful website. Attendees who bring an instrument pay only $5!

General advance tickets are $15, or $20 on the day of the event. All of the proceeds go toward Keep Knoxville Beautiful’s programs.

“Here in East Tennessee, many people dabble in bluegrass and Americana. We’re encouraging everyone from these closet musicians to local virtuosos to enjoying making music by joining the breakout pickin’ parties held around the grounds,” says Patience Melnik, executive director of Keep Knoxville Beautiful. “The event is also unique because it will be low-waste. Our organization strives to promote a cleaner, greener, and more beautiful Knoxville, so we are making the event as environmentally friendly as possible in order to align it with our mission.”

“We have worked hard with everyone involved to minimize waste,” adds Sarah Carman, Programs Coordinator at Keep Knoxville Beautiful. “Most of the food sold by Rollin’ Smoke and Captain Muchacho’s will be served with reusable packaging, with the remainder served with recyclable or compostable packaging. We will collect compost and our recycling trailer with bins will be on-site.”

“We hope the event will inspire others to consider minimizing their waste, and will encourage event organizers to take advantage of our recycling trailer, which is a free resource for anyone to borrow for local events,” Melnik said. “Most importantly, though, we hope folks will come enjoy a relaxing fall evening of music,food, and friends, all while supporting Keep Knoxville Beautiful.”

To learn more about Keep Knoxville Beautiful and to purchase tickets to the Rocky Top Pickin’ Party, please visit www.keepknoxvillebeautiful.org.

Time for planting dogwood trees

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Once again, Dogwood Arts encourages Knoxville to take part in the community-wide dogwood tree-planting day on Saturday, December 3, 2016 . As part of the Bazillion Blooms program, Dogwood Arts asks Knoxville communities to keep their neighborhoods and communities beautiful for years to come by planting not only dogwood trees, but flowering trees and shrubs, bulbs, and perennials during the Fall gardening season. Fall planting allows plants to develop a strong root system over the winter months, so they are strong for upcoming summer heat.

Since the inception of the Bazillion Blooms program in 2009, Dogwood Arts has been working towards a goal of planting 10,000 new trees in the Knoxville community in 10 years. Dogwood Arts is selling disease-resistant dogwood trees at dogwoodarts.com or by phone at (865) 637-4561 through November 18. These 3’ – 4’ bare-root trees are available for $25 each or five for $100.


Trees ordered from Dogwood Arts must be picked up on Saturday, December 3, from 9 am to 12 pm at the UT Gardens off Neyland Drive. Trees will not be distributed at a later time or date. Photo submitted.

Since the initiation of Bazillion Blooms in 2009, Dogwood Arts, along with community and corporate partners, have planted more than 8,000 April-blooming, disease-resistant dogwood trees.

Bazillion Blooms, a program of Dogwood Arts, is sponsored by the ORNL Federal Credit Union. For more information, visit dogwoodarts.com or call Dogwood Arts at (865) 637-4561.

Dogwood Arts, presented by ORNL Federal Credit Union, is a 501(c)3 organization with a mission to promote and celebrate our region’s art, culture, and natural beauty.

UT Gardens Plant Sale is Oct 8

UT Gardens in Knoxville will hold their fall plant sale on Saturday, October 8, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. A Preview Sale (for UT Garden members, UT Faculty & Staff and Volunteers only) will be offered on Friday, October 7, from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Membership rates range from $15 per year for students to $100 for professional photographers.

A Bouquet Zinneas at the UT Farmers Market

This plant sale provides trees and shrubs that are known for being hardy for the Tennessee region. UT Gardens is located at 2518 Jacob Drive. From I-40 take Exit 386B onto Hwy 129 (Alcoa Hwy toward the Airport). From Hwy 129 take exit for Hwy 158 (Neyland Drive). Turn left at end of exit ramp. Turn left onto Joe Johnson Drive, and right at next light onto Chapman Drive. Visitor parking is directly across from the entrance to the UT Gardens, and is marked with signs for “2-Hr Visitor Parking.”

Featured plants for the sale include:

The Dogwood Appalachian series was developed by UT to provide the region with powdery mildew and anthracnose resistant dogwoods. Featured cultivars that will be available are ‘Appalachian Joy’, ‘Appalachian Spring’, ‘Appalachian Blush’, and ‘Appalachian Snow’.

Oakleaf Hydrangeas, cultivars ‘Ruby Slippers’ and ‘Munchkin’ feature robust bloom sets that stay upright with heavy rains. Both cultivars provide fall interest with the leaves changing from green to burgundy. ‘Sweet Tea’ Mountain Gordlinia is a new and hard-to-find hybrid of the Franklin Tree and Lolly Bay which has improved disease resistance and cold hardiness. Blooms July – September and is semi evergreen.

For a list of featured plants for the sale, visit:


Ice Cream Social for community planners

Knoxville, TN – An Ice Cream Sunday Social and Community Engagement Session will be held Sunday, July 17, 2016 from 1:00-3:30 pm. The East Tennessee Community Design Center (ETCDC) and the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) will host the event to gather suggestions for the East Knox County Community Plan, being prepared by MPC. It will be at the Carter Senior Center, 9036 Asheville Hwy.

All interested groups, including residents, landowners, community representatives, business owners, and county officials, are encouraged to attend. The information gathered will provide important input for this planning process.

Community members will have the chance to review past plans, consider areas to preserve and for potential future development, identify challenges today, vision for tomorrow, planning priorities, and participate in a Visual Preference Survey. There will be a prize drawing at the end of the session.

East Knox County has wonderful assets such as historic communities, long-standing farms, beautiful vistas, open space, and is flanked by two scenic rivers. Growth is likely, but how future developments impact the environment and benefit the community is yet to be defined. A goal of the East Knox County Community Plan is to ensure that community members are engaged in the process and able to make suggestions, which impact the quality of any future growth. The plan will be a realistic and effective community resource with a set of concise action steps for implementation.

A community representative stakeholder committee has been established to help with the process of gathering input and evaluating recommendations. The group includes representatives from several East Knoxville communities along with key elected and appointed county officials.

Please RSVP via email to leslie@communitydc.org or call (865) 525-9945. Cruze Farm Ice Cream will be served.

Author makes historic trek

Author Jerry Ellis will be speaking about his 900 mile walk along the Cherokee Trail of Tears as guest speaker for the Historic Ramsey House Annual Meeting to be held at the East Tennessee Historic Center, 601 S Gay Street on June 21, 2016 at 5:30pm. Ellis, a graduate of the University of Alabama, became, in 1989 the first person in the modern world to walk the Trail of Tears.


Jerry Ellis

“I did the walk to honor the Cherokee and to raise awareness about Cherokee history,” said Ellis. “I sold all I owned to finance the life-altering, two month trek. I slept mostly in woods and fields along the Trail, though sometimes kind strangers gave me shelter and a meal for the night.”

Random House nominated Ellis’ resulting book, Walking the Trail, One Man’s Journey Along the Cherokee Trail of Tears, for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. It has been read by more than 600,000, quoted in Reader’s Digest, and went on display in 2011 at the National Teachers’ Hall of Fame.

A meet and greet and book signing will begin at 5:30 with supper and program to follow at 6:15.

Tickets are $20 for members of Ramsey House and $25 for non members. Reservations can be made at 865-546- 0745 or by email at judy@ramseyhouse.org.


Kid’s night out at the museum

KNOXVILLE—The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will host its first “Night at the McClung Museum” family sleepover from 7 p.m. Friday, June 17, 2016 to 8 a.m. Saturday, June 18.

The sleepover will provide children ages 5 to 11 and their parents the opportunity to spend an unforgettable night with dinosaurs and explore the museum’s new special exhibition, “Dinosaur Discoveries: Ancient Fossils, New Ideas,” on loan from the American Museum of Natural History, which reveals a vivid picture of what living, breathing dinosaurs were really like. The event also will feature family-friendly activities including dino-related crafts, a flashlight tour, games, a movie screening and bedtime stories.


Tickets are $40 a person for museum members and $50 a person for nonmembers and include all activities and craft supplies, a survival pack with an exclusive event-themed bag, flashlight, evening snacks and supplies, and breakfast Saturday morning. Tickets may be purchased online or over the phone at 865-974-2144. Online ticket purchases will incur an additional processing fee. All children must be age 5 to 11 at the time of the sleepover and must be accompanied by an adult chaperone.

Participants can be dropped off and picked up in front of the museum, or parking passes will be available for $10 for those wishing to park their car overnight.

The McClung Museum is at 1327 Circle Park Drive. Museum admission is free, and the museum’s hours are 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1–5 p.m. Sundays. Groups may schedule tours by calling 865-974-2144 or emailing museum@utk.edu.

Free two-hour museum parking passes are available from the parking information building at the entrance to Circle Park Drive on weekdays by request. Free parking is available on Circle Park Drive on a first-come, first-served basis on weekends. Free public transportation to the museum is also available via the Knoxville Trolley Vol Line.

Book explores nature of the universe

CELEBRATE KNOXVILLE – It’s National Star Wars Day, and Celebrate Knoxville spent a little time on the phone today with UCLA researcher and astrophysicist Dr. Jeff Zweerink to discuss his recent book, “Whose Afraid of the MultiVerse?” Written in easy-to-read style, with illustrations from popular culture including Star Wars movies, the book explores ideas about space, time, matter, and energy.


CK: Thanks for talking with us on National Star Wars Day, Dr. Zweerink!

JZ: Glad to do it. I didn’t realize that was today.

CK: Is most of your work analyzing data or do you actually get to do experiments with gamma rays?

JZ: About 40 percent of my time is spent on experiments. We’re currently building a balloon that (once we get the funding) we will send out to collect data.

CK: When you talk about The Big Bang in ‘Whose Afraid of the MultiVerse?’, why do you use the word ‘inflation’ and not ‘explosion’ to describe what happened?

JZ: It’s a scientific term to describe the expansion of the fabric of space.

CK: As a layperson, it makes me think that the universe took a breath, like lungs filling up. Doesn’t using the word ‘inflation’ imply that something was sucked in from somewhere else, and what would that substance be?

JZ: I can see what you mean by that. Scientists use this word to describe one possible (scenario) that is like a balloon with dots on it. When the fabric expands, the dots move apart.

CK: On page 14 of your book, you said ‘the only real controversial aspect of the level one model (of the universe) is its spacial extent, or size.’ Are there really scientists out there in California that think the universe has a finite size, like a box, or like the earth is sitting on the back of a tortoise (to use Native American mythology)?

JZ: You can think of the universe as flat, in three dimensions like a piece of paper, but there are other ways to think about it. In a closed model, like the one on page 11 of the book, the universe would be ball-shaped with closed geometry.

CK: In your introduction, you inform the reader that you are a scientist with a Christian world view. Do you think that God placed the planets in such a way that it models sub atomic particles and helps us understand the nature of the unseen?

JZ: I think that there are signs both in the way the universe has been presented and in what we know about quantum physics that reveals the designer, creator, God. Whether they are exact mirrors of each other, I can’t say.

CK: I love how you use illustrations from popular movies like Star Wars, The Matrix, and Back to the Future, to help people understand some of these interesting but complex scientific ideas. Have you ever seen the television series, Lost?

JZ: I have.

CK: Do you think (as an astrophysicist who is also a Christian) that the story is a good example of a shared consciousness, and that we, as believers, are co-creating Heaven, a shared consciousness, with God?

JZ: There are some serious (mainstream Christianity) theological issues with that point of view, especially about the soverignty of God. He doesn’t need our help.

CK: But we do co-create with Him when we pray, right? We make things happen that otherwise might not have happened unless we were involved?

JZ: Yes, we do. That’s an interesting point. Not certain that applies to Heaven, though. Would make some interesting further discussion. When I first became a scientist, I thought that science and faith were enemies. Now I have come to understand that revelations from both science and faith (Scriptural revelation) will inform the other and both will agree.

CK: In your book you said that “Scientists are aware that their equipment selects what data they measure.” How does that relate to changes made by the Observer in quantum physics?

JZ: That’s one of the philosophical questions discussed in the book–in having the point of view as the universe being designed by a Creator to support life, we ourselves are Observer and are working within the realm we’re working to describe. We can’t argue for a universe that does not support life, since we are here and we are alive.

CK: That’s the topic of a new book?

JZ: Yes, my new book is about Exoplanets, planets outside our solar system, exploring questions about the possibility of life out there.

CK: And if there is life out there, Jesus died for them too, and would not have to be born on their planet to (provide spiritual revelation) enlightenment?

JZ: If they are human. Jesus being born as human, the incarnation, is crucial.

CK: But what is human? Scripture says God created man from dirt. And any other planet out there would have dirt of some kind, right? Or are you saying in the case of life not being carbon-based…

JZ: Well now we’re talking about the same kinds of issues with the multiverse, where we have infinite possibilities in infinite time…

CK: And I love how in your book, you say that Marty McFly’s time line where he does not go back into the future still exists!

JZ: If the multiverse exists.

CK: And would you say that if the multiverse does exists, the life, death, resurrection of Christ is the only event that does happen without change, and is central to all other events, which could and would be free to happen any number of ways and still be meaningful?

JK: If the multiverse exists, that would have to be true. You know there is a group that meets in Knoxville that discusses these kinds of questions, and is open to all people interested in science, regardless of world view.

CK: I saw that. We actually have several science-related Meet Up groups in Knoxville. And of course Knoxville is a college town with the University of Tennessee, so there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with scientific studies there too. So fun! For my last question, how can people get a copy of “Whose Afraid of the MultiVerse?” or find out more about your work?

JZ: Send them to the web site, Reasons.org.

UT Gardens hosts plant sale

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Spring has sprung and now is the ideal time to shop for some unique plants for your garden. The University of Tennessee Gardens in Knoxville is holding its spring plant sale on Saturday, April 9, 2016 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A preview sale will be held on Friday, April 8, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. for all UT employees, Gardens volunteers, and Friends of the UT Gardens. Friends will also receive a 10 percent discount on all purchases. If you are not a Friend yet, you will also be able to sign up for a membership at the preview sale and receive the member discount on purchases.

This year’s event will be offering brief informational sessions throughout the day on many of the choice selections of perennials, trees, shrubs, roses, delicious spring greens, cloned and new Lenten rose (hellebore) introductions, blueberry planting basics and flower garden design. Special guest and author, John Tullock will be speaking and signing his newest book: Seed to Supper: Growing and Cooking Great Food No Matter Where You Live–100+ Delicious Recipes & Growing Tips for Windowsills to Wide Open Spaces.

Featured spring-blooming perennials at the sale are bleeding hearts and baptisia (false indigo). Some edibles include Blueberry varieties: ‘Brightwell’, ‘Pink Lemonade’, ‘Tifblue’, and ‘Premier’. Thornless blackberries: ‘Natchez’ and ‘Triple Crown’. Figs: ‘Black Mission’, ‘Brown Turkey’, ‘Ischia’, and ‘Panache’. A vast array of herbs including Italian parsley, assorted mints, hardy selections of rosemary and lavender, and various thymes and sages. Ornamental perennials, trees and shrubs that will be available include a wide selection of choice conifer selections not easily found, the new ‘Alley Cat’ variegated redbud tree, the new seedless and double flower ‘Smoothie’ series of Rose-of-Sharon shrub, ‘Moonlight’ Chinese hydrangea vine, and new selections of Chinese fringe flower shrub.


UT Gardens is located at 2431 Joe Johnson Drive, Knoxville. The spring plant sale will be held on Saturday, April 9, 2016 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Photo by Celebrate Knoxville.

Dogwood Arts begins in April

KNOXVILLE – The first day of spring 2016 is near, which means Dogwood Arts is gearing up for its annual celebration with a number of exciting events and activities throughout the month of April.


April 9, 2016: See the sidewalks throughout Market Square and Krutch Park come alive as they become the canvas for artists of all ages and experience at this fan favorite Knoxville event.  Photo by Celebrate Knoxville.

April 15-May 1, 2016: Explore more than 60 miles of trails, open gardens, and camera site sites as you enjoy a walk, bike, or drive the time honored tradition of the Dogwood Trails and Open Gardens. Holston Hills is the 2016 Featured Trail.

April 29-May 1, 2016: A Knoxville tradition, the Dogwood Arts Festival on Market Square is a lively street fair showcasing the juried artwork of local and national artisans. Live entertainment around every corner, from street performers to three entertainment stages – a main stage, a pop-up stage and children’s stage- and culinary arts demonstrations and tastings.

“Art, culture, and natural beauty take center stage during the month of April throughout East Tennessee ” said Tom Cervone, Executive Director. “And Dogwood Arts (once again) is pleased and proud to shine the spotlight on and create the itinerary for your journey to experience every moment.  Happy Spring from all of us at Dogwood Arts!”

Dogwood Arts 2016 begins on April 1, First Friday, at the Opening of the Regional Fine Art Exhibition at The Emporium Center in downtown Knoxville.

IJAMS offers birdhouse workshop

IJAMS Nature Center in downtown Knoxville is already offering Spring programs, including a class in making birdhouses from gourds on March 12, 2016, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Participants will start with a clean hard–shell gourd with a pre-cut hole, perfect for wrens, finches and other small song birds. The class will cover how to grow, dry and clean gourds.

Class attendees will also personalize the gourd by choosing paint or stain, color and decoration.

The fee for this workshop, including all materials, is $20 per person. Please call (865) 577-4717, ext. 110 to register.

Ijams Nature Center is a 300-arce urban greenspace and environmental learning center. Ijams’ mission is to encourage stewardship of the natural world by providing an urban greenspace for people to learn about and enjoy the outdoors through engaging experiences. Photo courtesy IJAMS.


Knoxville to name Orchid winners

Knoxville, TN. – On March 1, 2016 Keep Knoxville Beautiful will announce winners of its 34TH annual Orchids Awards Dinner, 6 p.m. at The Standard, 416 W. Jackson Ave.

The 2016 Orchids Awards will be presented to winners in three legacy categories (New Architecture, Redesign/Reuse, and Outdoor Space) and three new categories (Restaurant/Cafe/Bar/Brewery, Environmental Stewardship, and Public Art). The East Tennessee Community Design Center served as judges for the awards.

Additionally, The Mary Lou Horner Beautification Award will be granted to a former Orchids Award winner whose property remains Orchid-worthy. “As a founder of our organization, and a significant leader in improving the Knoxville community, Ms. Horner worked tirelessly to continue making Knoxville environmentally beautiful,” said Keep Knoxville Beautiful Executive Director Patience Melnik. “This award is a tribute to her pursuit of our mission.”

Also new in 2016 is the selection of a Community of the Year, which will be announced at the 2016 Orchid Awards Dinner. Keep Knoxville Beautiful supports all of Knoxville in its efforts but will provide enhanced beautification projects to the selected community in 2016.

Attendees will enjoy music by the Old City Buskers, a silent auction with complimentary beer and wine reception, dinner, and the awards ceremony.

Keep Knoxville Beautiful is a 501(c)3 organization that promotes litter eradication, recycling, and beautification efforts in Knox County communities using education, events, and volunteer engagement.

Nominations sought for Orchid awards

Keep Knoxville Beautiful is now accepting nominations from the public for its beautification awards, the Orchids. Since 1979, Keep Knoxville Beautiful has presented Orchid Awards to Knoxville and Knox County buildings and outdoor spaces that beautify and elevate the local landscape.

Orchid Awards will be granted in the following six categories:

  1. New Architecture
  2. Redesign/Reuse
  3. Restaurant/Cafe/Bar/Brewery
  4. Environmental Stewardship
  5. Outdoor Space
  6. Public Art

“This year we revamped a few of the categories to reflect some of the changes happening in our dynamic city,” said Patience Melnik, executive director of Keep Knoxville Beautiful, “We added the restaurant/brewery, environmental stewardship, and public art categories to celebrate these growing elements in our community.”

Anyone can nominate a location or outdoor public artwork by completing a simple online form on Keep Knoxville Beautiful’s website, keepknoxvillebeautiful.org, or by calling the office at 865-521-6957.

Private residences are not considered for this award. Properties can win only once except in cases of major renovations. Nominations are due by Friday, January 8, 2015.


Kayak company locates in Knox County

Lifetime Products, Inc. officials have announced the company will locate new manufacturing and distribution operations in Knox County. The leader in blow-molded plastic products will invest $115 million and create 500 jobs.

“We spent over a year researching different locations on the East Coast. After meeting with local state and economic groups, Tennessee was obviously the best option,” Richard Hendrickson, president and CEO Lifetime Products, Inc. said. “We are excited to facilitate the creation of U.S. manufacturing jobs and opportunities for the people of the Knoxville area and the state of Tennessee.”

Lifetime Products is the leading manufacturer of blow-molded plastics products. Its products range from plastic folding tables and chairs, basketball hoops and outdoor sheds to kayaks and paddleboards. Lifetime was started in 1986 with 15 employees and now employs over 2,700 people worldwide.

Lifetime’s new manufacturing and distribution operations will be located in the former GE building in Knox County. The existing building is 360,000 square feet and the company plans to double the size by adding a new building to the existing structure.

The facility will produce Lifetime’s water sports line that includes kayaks and paddleboards as well as its outdoor children’s playset line. With this new facility, the company will be able to meet its customers’ increased demand for Lifetime’s products.

Lifetime plans to have the facility operational by summer 2017.

UT Gardens hosts conifer sale

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Ready to create a low maintenance garden? Join University of Tennessee Gardens experts to learn about some of the most beautiful evergreen trees and shrubs available and how best to use them in your landscape.

The event is indoors, Sunday, November 15, 2015, at the University of Tennessee Brehm Animal Science Arena at 2506 River Drive on the UT agricultural campus. This is near the UT Gardens, Knoxville.

Visitors are invited to attend a free lecture by UT plant science faculty members Sue Hamilton and Andy Pulte from 1:30 – 3 p.m., to be followed by a conifer sale from 3 – 5 p.m.

Adaptable to a wide range of soil and site conditions, conifers are the perfect anchor and companion plant in any landscape and ideal for providing four-season interest. After the lecture, shop the UT Gardens conifer sale for exclusive and hard-to-find selections and add to your low-maintenance landscape.


More than 140 different conifer selections are being offered at the plant sale including pine (Pinus), Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria), arborvitae (Thuja), hemlock (Tsuga), yew (Taxus), Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus), juniper (Juniperus), cypress (Cupressus), cedar (Cedrus), false cypress (Chamaecyparis), and Dawn redwood (Metasequoia), bald cypress (Taxodium), spruce (Picea), Japanese elkhorn cypress (Thujopsis). Photo submitted.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s mission: research, teaching and extension.

Knoxville hosts Science Week events

An event celebrating the growing interest in nuclear science will be centered in Knoxville next week for the Nuclear Science Week at the Knoxville Convention Center on Oct. 22-24, 2015.

“Because of our area’s strength in scientific businesses and organizations, Knoxville is perfectly positioned to host scientific meetings and conferences,” said Mary Bogert, general manager for the Knoxville Convention Center. “We are excited to host this event, which covers all aspects of nuclear science, and promotes East Tennessee as an area of innovation through such organizations as Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 National Security Complex, Provision Center for Proton Therapy and the University of Tennessee.”

The three-day event showcases some of East Tennessee’s leaders in nuclear science. The primary focus of Nuclear Science Week 2015 is uniting the community and world through nuclear science.

Panel discussions and presentations will take place Friday, Oct. 23, at the Knoxville Convention Center. Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero will welcome conference-goers at 8:20 a.m. and introduce the day of panels. A public screening of a new film about nuclear energy, titled “Pandora’s Promise,” will be shown concurrently at 6:30 p.m. at the Convention Center and Oak Ridge Associated Universities Pollard Technology Conference Center.

The week also will include sessions for students and teachers to learn about concepts and current issues of nuclear science in the region and internationally. On Thursday, Oct. 22, local kindergarten through sixth-grade students will participate in interactive nuclear science and engineering activities, including nuclear detection demonstrations, cloud chambers, electromagnets and atom assembly at two sessions from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.

All Nuclear Science Week activities and panels are free and open to the public. Prior registration is encouraged at http://www.nuclearscienceweek.org. A schedule also is available on the website.

Bazillion Blooms day is Dec 5

Bazillion Blooms, Knoxville’s community-wide dogwood tree-planting day takes place on Saturday, December 5, 2015. Dogwood Arts is once again asking Knoxville residents to keep their neighborhoods and communities beautiful for years to come by planting not only dogwood trees, but flowering trees and shrubs, bulbs, and perennials during the Fall gardening season.

Fall planting allows plants to develop a strong root system over the winter months, so they are strong for next year’s summer heat.

Trees are purchased for $25 each (or five for $100) ordered from Dogwood Arts by November 13, 2015. The trees must be picked up on Saturday, December 5, from 9:00am to 12:00pm at the UT Gardens parking lot off Neyland Drive. Trees will not be distributed later.

For more information, call Dogwood Arts at (865) 637-4561.

Erin Donovan Bazillion Blooms

Erin Donovan plants a dogwood tree for Bazillion Blooms, an annual community tree planting event in Knoxville, Tennessee. Photo courtesy Dogwood Arts.

Rambler train rides feature banjo music

KNOXVILLE – The Three Rivers Rambler is in full fall 2015 mode for train rides featuring live music by banjo player Matt A. Foster.

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Matt Foster brings audiences Appalachian-tinged renditions of various songs and ballads in between country blues-fused originals. He is an entertainer for both the young and old. Foster plays a fretless mountain banjo, harmonica, and the sole of his boot. Photo submitted.

Tickets for fall excursion, the Hoot N’ Holler Autumn Express are now available online.

Enjoy the crisp, fall air and apple cider at our new depot on the outskirts of downtown Knoxville and ride along the Tennessee River. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the river and fields as we pass historic sites such as McNutt Farm and Lebanon-in-the-Forks Presbyterian Church.

2015 Hoot N’ Holler Schedule

Saturday October 24 at 10am, 1pm and 4pm
Sunday October 25 at 1pm and 4pm
Saturday October 31 at 10am, 1pm and 4pm
Sunday November 1 at at 1pm and 4pm

Visit www.threeriversrambler.com.

Melnik joins Keep Knoxville Beautiful

Knoxville, TN – The Board of Directors of Keep Knoxville Beautiful is pleased to announce that Patience Melnik has joined the organization as executive director. Patience brings a background in nonprofit project development and management to the position.

“The wealth of experience Patience has in grant writing and relationship building made her an ideal candidate for this position,” said Bob Graves, president of the board of directors.  “We are energized by her presence and look forward to her leadership as we continue the important work of keeping Knoxville beautiful.”

Patience fills the vacancy created by former Executive Director Allison Teeter’s departure in May to join the Knox County Health Department.

Before joining Keep Knoxville Beautiful, Patience served as Director of Environmental Health Programs at the Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN), a nonprofit statewide environmental organization located in Knoxville, Tennessee. At TCWN, she was instrumental in creating, funding, and implementing the Bringing Tap Back project, which increased access to drinking water in Tennessee’s public places by providing water bottle refill stations to schools, universities, municipalities, and other organizations.

“I am thrilled to join Keep Knoxville Beautiful,” Melnik said. “At nearly 40 years old, the organization has such a long history of partnerships with other organizations and with countless volunteers to make Knoxville a cleaner, greener, and more beautiful place to live. It is an honor to have the opportunity to build upon the foundation laid by so many people over so many years.”

To welcome Patience, please join Keep Knoxville Beautiful for a Meet and Greet at the Fieldhouse Social located at 2525 UT Commons Way on Thursday, August 27, 2015 from 5:30 until 7pm.

IJAMS hosts osprey observation

KNOXVILLE – On Saturday, June 13, 2015, from 10am-12pm, join Ijams naturalist Stephen Lyn Bales for a road trip to Sequoyah Hills to observe osprey nesting. Last year, attendees of this event were fortunate to watch parent birds begin the intricate training of their young fledglings.


With a wingspan of over 5 feet, the osprey is one of the largest birds of prey in North America. It eats live fish almost exclusively and is therefore usually found near large bodies of water.

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, over 150 osprey nests were counted during waterbird surveys across Tennessee in 2012, however only maybe 10 percent of the river miles in the state were surveyed. This expansion was also facilitated by the erection of numerous nesting platforms across the state, which continues to the present.

The osprey is one of the most widespread birds in the world, found on all continents except Antarctica. During the winter, North American breeding osprey mainly winter south of the United States, in Central and South America.

The fee for this program is $12 for Ijams Nature Center members and $15 for non-members. Brunch will be served during the event and will consist of a hearty continental breakfast provided by IJAMS newest gourmand, Kodie Underwood.

IJAMS is a 300-acre urban greenspace and environmental learning center located at 2915 Island Home Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Please call (865) 577-4717, ext. 110 to register.

See Park fireflies this weekend

GSMNP – Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s firefly viewing event in Elkmont takes place through Tuesday, June 9, 2015.


Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously.

Access to the viewing area during the 8-days of predicted peak activity is provided through a shuttle service beginning at Sugarlands Visitor Center. All visitors wishing to view the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont must have a parking pass ($1.50 for regular sized vehicles) and an additional $1 (cash) for the shuttle round-trip. Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

Passes can be purchased at http://www.recreation.gov. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials strongly encourage the use of the online process because it provides more information to visitors about what to expect when they arrive at the park.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/fireflies.htm.

Turn up the heat with Thai Fire-tini

by Mary June Thompson, Contributing Food Writer. —One of my favorite things about the summer gardening season is growing (and eating) hot peppers. I generally grow 4-6 varieties in my garden, and occasionally pick up some additional varieties from the farmers’ market. Hot peppers are a good choice for a sustainable kitchen garden, as many types, including Thai chilies, cayenne, and chiles de arbol, can easily be air-dried, either on the plant before harvesting in late fall, or by hanging indoors, thus providing hot peppers for cooking throughout the winter season as well.

Most pepper plants don’t need more than full sun, hot temperatures, and adequate water to survive and thrive, so planting some by early June will insure that you have a bounty of hot peppers ready to eat by late summer. A new additional to my garden this year is the Carolina Reaper. I had never heard of it before this spring, and I am very anxious to try its peppers because it beat the infamous ghost pepper for title of “World’s Hottest Pepper”.


From more tame jalapeños to the classic habanero, there are all sorts of varieties to suit different tastes and heat tolerances. Hot peppers are great to liven up numerous dishes, and not just the typical Asian or Mexican cuisine that one might associate with having a higher heat level. Some other great uses for them include adding a kick to less assertive foods that benefit from some extra flavoring, such as sautéed zucchini, squash, or Brewer’s mushrooms; adding to scrambled eggs for a little extra morning zing; using a different dried variety to sprinkle over a pizza instead of the typical crushed red pepper flakes; or infused into a liquid, which is a great way to impart both the heat and flavor of the peppers in a novel way.


Infusing is not a new concept, but it is currently a very popular one with mixologists around the country, with house-flavored vinegars, mixers, and spirits spotlighted in their craft cocktail menus. Infusing a liquor is a virtually effortless thing to do at home, and it works equally well with vodka, tequila, or rum. Best of all, you can use whatever kind of hot pepper is most pleasing to your palate, and adjust the infusing time to create a milder outcome for those who don’t like it hot, as a lesser amount of peppers and shorter soaking time will yield the mildest result, or a more fiery outcome by using more peppers, stronger peppers, and/or a longer infusing time to create a significantly hotter finished product.

Cocktail IngredientsCelebrateKnoxvillesmall

Because I love ridiculously hot peppers and experimenting with them, I created a refreshing, albeit fiery hot, cocktail to enjoy throughout the summer. The sweetness of the just-ripe Georgia peaches helps to balance the burst of heat that every sip contains, and the tartness of lime and anise and herbal notes from the Thai basil complement the peach and the pepper flavors as well. (Disclaimer: I infused the vodka for 5 days before making this cocktail, and it was deliciously flavored but HOT. Please consider a lesser infusing time and/or using fewer peppers when making this cocktail if you do not enjoy the burn.) Photos by Mary June Thompson.

Thai Fire-tinismall


MJ’s Thai Fire-tini

Make Ahead:

Vodka Infusion: In an airtight glass container, add 1 cup vodka and 6 fresh or dried Thai chilies, crushed. Seal and store in a cool, dark place for at least 2 days (for less heat) and up to 7 days for maximum heat. Once desired heat level has been achieved, strain chilies and save for a cocktail garnish or refrigerate to use later in Asian dishes. Use infused vodka in cocktail or return to airtight glass container and store for up to 6 months.

Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together 1 cup filtered water and 1 cup organic sugar. Heat just until sugar dissolves, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator and store for up to 1 month in an airtight glass container. (Note: Recipe makes extra simple syrup, which can be used to sweeten fresh lemonade or other cold beverages without the grainy residue that plain sugar would leave.)

To Make the Cocktails:

In a mini (or regular) food processor, purée together the flesh or 2 large (or 4 small) very ripe southern peaches, peeled; the juice and zest from 1 lime; and ¼ cup simple syrup. Transfer to a large cocktail shaker and add the Thai chili infused vodka, 4 sprigs of Thai basil, crushed lightly to release their oils, and ice. Shake until mixture is well chilled. Pour into serving glasses and garnish with thin slices of lime, Thai basil sprigs, and/or Thai chilies, if desired. Makes 4 cocktails.

Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.

Mary June Thompson, Celebrate Knoxville, June 1, 2015.

Knoxville Zoo hosts sports event

Knoxville Zoo’s Wild World of Sports event will take place Saturday, May 16, 2015 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Knoxville Zoo.

Bamboo Playing Soccer

Athletic-themed activities include the chance for kids to interact with local collegiate athletes playing games that challenge them to move like animals.

Professional players and mascots from the Tennessee Smokies baseball team will be posing for photos and signing autographs, and guests can interact with other organizations representing the sports scene in Knoxville, including the Knoxville Force soccer team, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Knoxville Bubbleball, a member of the National Association of Bubble Soccer.

All Wild World of Sports event activities are included as part of general admission to Knoxville Zoo. Knoxville Zoo is Knoxville’s most-visited destination. Knoxville Zoo is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education.

Currently, the zoo is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. Next-day admission is free after 3 p.m. For more information, please call 865.637.5331.

Great views from hiking House Mtn

By Laura Long/CelebrateKnoxville.com. If you’re looking for a great place to enjoy Springtime in East Tennessee, you’ll want to hike House Mountain, a 500-acre natural area located in Knox County approximately eight miles from Knoxville.

The hiking trails are short, but steep, challenging, and rewarding. The 2,100-foot crest of House Mountain provides great views of the Unakas and Cumberlands some 30 miles away, or northeast to the adjacent Clinch Mountain.

According to Knox County’s Department of Parks and Recreation, before erosion by Big Flat Creek, “the gently dipping bedrock layers underlying House Mountain once extended to Clinch Mountain, whose base lies approximately two and half miles to the northeast. The bedrock structure represents a large synclinal fold that formed during the Appalachian mountain building event called the Alleghenian Orogeny.”


The western trail of House Mountain to the crest is .8 miles and the eastern trail is 1.5 miles. The western trail is narrow, steep, and has a few turns that require careful negotiating. Both trails are connected at the top by the wider Crest Trail that is 1.5 miles long. Photo by Laura Long/Celebrate Knoxville.

Many hikers bring their dogs with them on the trail. From time to time, a courteous wait is needed to allow hikers coming down and hikers going up enough room to pass one another.

In a few places, the great sandstone boulders serve as resting places or picnic spots for hikers or artists sketching the chestnut oaks and mountain pines. Photographers are often seen kneeling in the moist dirt by streambeds to catch a close-up. The north-facing slopes support a forest of sugar maple, tulip poplar, ash, and buckeye.

Don’t forget the binoculars: House Mountain is also a favorite place for birdwatchers. Migrating hawks and warblers can be observed from the mountain. Ruffed grouse, pileated woodpeckers, scarlet tanagers, wild turkeys, and more than one hundred additional species of birds have been observed on the mountain.

Gurgling from the cool streams provide a musical backdrop for hikers making their way up the slopes. House Mountain is drained by several unnamed tributaries of Roseberry Creek and by Hogskin and Brice Branches, which divide it from the 1,500 feet high McAnnally Ridge, which lies to the east and south.

To get to House Mountain from Knoxville, Tennessee, take I-40 East. Exit on U.S. Highway 11W (Rutledge Pike) and go north and east on Rutledge Pike. After about 10 miles, look for the “House Mountain State Park” sign on the right side of the highway and then turn left on Idumea Road. Turn left on Hogskin Road. The parking area is less than a mile on the right. Restrooms are available next to the parking lot. There is no admission fee to hike the trails.

Benches and signage along the trails are provided in memory of John Evans, a Scout leader and founding member/active volunteer for Friends of House Mountain. Enjoy the trails and remember to Leave No Trace.

–Laura Long/CelebrateKnoxville.com

Shinrin Yoku at IJAMS

Had a rough week? You need sanctuary!

The Ijams Sanctuary Series is a new program designed to help visitors slow down and appreciate all the beauty in their surroundings.


Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, is the slow, meditative exploration of the forest using all five senses. Studies conducted in Japan, where the art originated, showed that people who spent meditative time in a forest environment not only reduced stress but also boosted immunity and the body’s ability to fight disease.

Participants may experience this walk on Saturday, April 25, 2015 from 10am to noon.

By removing distractions such as cell phones, cameras, and even talking, participants are able to truly engage with their surroundings and experience the restorative properties of nature.

The fee for this program is $7 for Ijams members and $10 for non-members. Please call (865) 577-4717, ext. 110 to register.

Hampton Inn West celebrates Earth Hour

Knoxville – Hampton Inn West at Cedar Bluff has announced it will unite with Hilton Worldwide Team Members and franchisee employees around the world to protect the planet by participating in the celebration of Earth Hour 2015.

Earth Hour will take place from 8:30p.m. to 9:30p.m. local time on Saturday, March 28, 2015.

“Celebrating Earth Hour is one of the many ways we demonstrate how we conserve waste, water and energy every day, and we are encouraging our guests and neighbors to join us in support of this global effort, said Lisa Benker, General Manager. We will switch off the non-essential lighting as well as dim the lights in public areas. Also, we will engage our department teams to participate in Earth Hour by taking actions, such as:

switching off non-critical music in lounges and restaurants
encouraging guests to reuse towels and linens
housekeeping not turning on lights prior to check-in on March 28

The original idea for Earth Hour was conceived by WWF in 2007 during a meeting held at Hilton Sydney, and Hilton Worldwide has a long history of supporting the event. When this worldwide effort began in Sydney, Australia, more than two million people turned off their lights for an hour and reduced the city’s energy consumption by more than 10 percent. It is now a global movement with more than 7,000 cities and towns in 162 countries and territories and hundreds of millions of people participating across seven continents.

IJAMS hosts eCycle event

KNOXVILLE – On Saturday, March 28, 2015, Ijams Nature Center will host a community e-waste recycling event. Organized and conducted by eCycle of Knoxville, the collection will provide an opportunity for local residents to safely and responsibly dispose of old and unwanted appliances and electronics.

The collection will be open from 10 am to 2 pm in the overflow parking lot across the street from the main Ijams entrance at 2915 Island Home Avenue. There will be signs directing people to the drop-off location, and there will be staff on hand to assist with unloading.

eCycle will accept all types of electronics and appliances with the exception of CRT televisions. Accepted electronics include but are not limited to televisions, desktop and laptop computers, speakers, stereos, and kitchen appliances. They will also accept accessories, cables, and cell phones as well as scrap metal.

According to the EPA, e-waste recyclers recover more than 100 million pounds of materials annually. Responsible companies like eCycle of Knoxville ensure that these materials are reused or disposed of in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

Ijams Nature Center is a 300-acre urban greenspace encouraging stewardship of the natural world by providing engaging outdoor experiences.

About eCycle of Knoxville: eCycle was formed to address the tremendous need our local businesses had to correctly dispose of their electronic and computer e-waste. What started as a venture has grown into a venue collecting as much as 40,000 lbs of recyclable material per month. eCycle accepts all electronic, computer and metal waste including printers and appliances. They are a licensed electronics recycle business and use R2 certified recycle companies for downstream channels.


Spring arrives at IJAMS

Spring arrives officially today and Knoxville’s urban wilderness, IJAMS, invites residents to enjoy the warmer weather by exploring the nature center on Saturday, March 21, 2015. Just some of the weekend scheduled events are:

9 am – 10 am
(All Ages) Grab your favorite four-legged friend and join Ijams’ own veterinarian, Dr. Louise Conrad, as she walks her own canine companions. She’ll review good doggy etiquette at the park and help owners understand the special safety concerns for dogs in nature. The fee for this program is $5 for non-members and FREE for members. Please call (865) 577-4717, ext. 110 to register.

9 am – 12 pm
IJAMS BIRDING SERIES: Backyard Birding Basics
(Recommended for Adults) Studying birds can open up a new world of outdoor exploration. This hands-on workshop will take you into the field to learn more about the practice of birding as well as how to identify common bird species. Instructor: Stephen Lyn Bales. Fee: $29. This is an UT Non-credit course.

9:30 am – 11 am
PEG’S KITCHEN: Breakfast is Served
If you are heading to Ijams this Saturday morning for a program, hike or simple walkabout, bring your appetite. Each week, Peg’s Kitchen features one of Ijams’ very own chefs, including the original… Peg! The menu varies from biscuits and gravy with sausage to pancakes and maple syrup, plus fresh fruit, coffee or tea. Come hungry! The fee for breakfast is $7 for adults and $5 for children (12 and under). For $10, you can get all you can eat! No pre-registration is required.

10 am, 2 pm, 3 pm
ANIMAL PROGRAM: Ijams Creature Feature
(All Ages) Have you met all the animals that call the Ijams Visitor Center home? If not, be sure to stop by every Saturday for a chance to get nose-to-beak with some of our resident furred and feathered ambassadors. This program is FREE, but donations to support animal care are welcome. Pre-registration is not required for this event.

1 pm – 4 pm
(Ages 16 and up) The Tennessee Naturalist Program (TNP) is an education training course designed to introduce the natural history of Tennessee to interested adults. This immersive nature study allows participants the chance to wade in creeks, stargaze in an open field, and even catch bugs and tadpoles. How often do you get the chance to act like a kid again? This week is the introductory session for the 2015 class. Open to registered participants only. For more information, call Peg at (865) 577-4717, ext. 114.

6 pm
IJAMS BIRDING SERIES: Woodcock Supper Walk
(All Ages) Join senior naturalist Stephen Lyn Bales as he reveals his secret location for observing the whimsical mating display of male woodcocks. Filled with struts, peents, flutters, and tweets, it is one of the most unique performances in the birding world. Peg’s kitchen will also be serving a traditional soupy supper to warm our bellies before we go adventuring. The fee for this program is $10 for Ijams members and $15 for non-members. Please call (865) 577-4717, ext. 110 to register.

Knoxville recycling turns to art

KNOXVILLE – Sculptures created by 12 University of Tennessee art students that incorporate materials provided by steel recycler Gerdau will be on public display April 3-19, 2015 at the Knoxville Convention Center.

“The Art of Recycling” sculpture exhibition celebrates April’s National Recycling Month and a partnership among Gerdau, Dogwood Arts and the University of Tennessee Sculpture Program. The sculptures will be unveiled in a public ceremony Friday, April 3, at 10 a.m. Though the partnership always has resulted in new works of art, 2015 is the first time it has culminated in a public art exhibition.

Participating UT students include Rachel Byrd, Veronica Castle, Keelin Cavanaugh, Kylee Haynes, Daniel Hood, Cameron Kite, Marisa Mitchell, Lauren Sanders, Paige Smith, Patricia Tinsley, Nicholas Tamas and Kenzie Wells.

2014-01 Gerdau - Scrapyard Dig
John Powers, University of Tennessee assistant professor of sculpture, and student Paige Smith survey the massive piles of discarded metal and steel at Gerdau’s scrapyard. A dozen students will create works of art from materials selected from the scrapyard, and the art will be on display during April 2015, National Recycling Month. Photo submitted.

TN announces sustainability awards

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau recently announced the launch of the TDEC Sustainable Transportation Awards initiative to recognize outstanding and voluntary achievements by governments, businesses, industries, public and private institutions of higher learning, and utilities that demonstrate leadership in advancing sustainable transportation in the State.

The awards cover eight broad categories: on-site transportation; off-site transportation; incorporation of sustainable transportation in the supply chain; employee incentive or engagement programs; public transportation; technological or operational innovations; and infrastructure development.

Entities eligible to apply for the TDEC Sustainable Transportation Awards include: federal, state and local governments; commercial and industrial organizations; public and private institutions of higher education; and utilities. Self-nominations are encouraged. A panel of judges representing diverse interests will select award recipients based on criteria including on-the-ground achievement, innovation, transferability, and public education and outreach.

In connection with Clean Air Month, TDEC will host a recognition ceremony and sustainable transportation forum on May 7, 2015 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Applications are due to TDEC no later than March 20, 2015. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Luke Gebhard in TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs at 615-741-2994.

IJAMS hosts Bird Nesting program

KNOXVILLE – Ready to get out and do something fun this weekend? Join IJAMS Nature Center senior naturalist Stephen Lyn Bales Saturday, March 7, 2015, from 9-11 a.m. for an indoor program on “Bird Nesting.”

Bluebirds need pine needles, titmice need hair, wrens need a hidey-hole and robins just need a flat surface and mud. Learn quick tips on how you can help your backyard birds nest successfully. After the program, enjoy hiking around the IJAMS Nature Center.

The fee for the Bird Nesting program is $7 for Ijams members and $12 for non-members.

IJAMS’ chef Peg will also be serving a traditional breakfast.

Please call (865) 577-4717, ext. 110 to register.

IJAMS Nature Center is a 300-acre urban greenspace and environmental learning center in downtown Knoxville.

Spay It Forward

East Tennessee – Springtime marks the beginning of kitten and puppy season and in turn shelters and rescues become overcrowded with unwanted litters, abandoned mothers, and lost, wandering males. Many of these animals never find homes.


Each year four million cats and dogs are euthanized in the U.S. This is why the Humane Society of Tennessee Valley began the Spay it Forward campaign. Spaying and neutering is an important step towards preventing further and future overpopulation. For each animal sponsored during the campaign, two unwanted litters are potentially saved from euthanasia this year.

On Saturday, March 21, 2015 the surgeries will be done at HSTV’s low-cost spay/neuter clinic on Kingston Pike in Knoxville. Until that date HSTV is challenging residents to pay it forward and be part of the solution to ending euthanasia of cats and dogs.

Donations made to the Humane Society of Tennessee Valley help to make these surgeries affordable for families who know they need to have their pet spayed or neutered but might not have the funds.

Those interested in fully or partially sponsoring a surgery can donate by calling the clinic at 865-579-6738.

Sustainable Coffee Bread recipe

Sustainable Cooking by Mary June Thompson, Food Writer, Celebrate Knoxville, February 20, 2015. – There are a lot of ways to utilize a sustainable cooking philosophy in the kitchen, and not just with food. At my house, we drink a lot of coffee, and we prefer a specific brand that is sold in tin cans. Not only do those cans keep the coffee very fresh, but they have a myriad of other handy uses once the coffee is consumed, including bacon grease cans, paint cans, storage cans, and even baking vessels.

Bread that has finished baking in the can

So today I would like to share a recipe I developed that not only reuses the coffee grounds, but also repurposes the coffee tin as well. It would also make a great homemade gift idea, as the bread is actually very simple to make, especially for a yeast bread, and a load of bread baked in a coffee can makes a whimsical and fun presentation.

My bread is purposely quite a bit less sweet than one would expect a chocolate bread to be. I made it this way for a couple of reasons: First, the coffee notes in the bread are more noticeable with less sugar, and second, I wanted a bread that I could enhance with sugary things and not be overwhelmed by an excess of sweetness. This bread is absolutely perfect with a smear of Nutella, and it is also complemented by maple syrup when used as the basis for chocolate French toast. Add some fresh sliced strawberries on top, and you’ve got a perfect breakfast, brunch, or snack time treat that is fresh, healthy, and sustainable.

A Few Simple Ingredients Make a Lovely Home Baked Bread

Chocolate Coffee Can Bread

Special Equipment:

Candy thermometer


½ pound metal coffee can (Note: Don’t use one with a coated lining for health

Kitchen string


Non-stick cooking spray

½ cup milk

2 Tablespoons used coffee grounds

1 teaspoon fast-acting yeast

1 Tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup bread flour, plus an extra cup or so for kneading

¼ cup cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons neutral-tasting oil, such as canola, vegetable, or safflower

1 large egg, at room temperature

Coffee Grounds Bundle


Spray interior of coffee can thoroughly with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Using at least four layers of cheesecloth, cut out a section large enough to hold the
coffee grounds with enough additional space to tie the bundle at the top. Place coffee grounds in center of cheesecloth and tie together securely with kitchen string. (See photo.)

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt. In another
small bowl, whisk together the egg and oil. Set both bowls aside.

In a small saucepan, add the milk and bundle of coffee grounds. Warm the milk over
medium heat to reach 110°F on a candy thermometer, pressing occasionally on bundle to release the liquid and infuse the milk with coffee flavor.

Once the milk has reached 110°F, remove from heat, press all liquid from the coffee
bundle, discard coffee bundle, and stir in yeast. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, then add the egg mixture and stir until incorporated. You should have a moist, sticky dough at this point. (See photo.)

Flour a large, flat work surface and the exterior of the dough ball generously. Place
dough on floured surface and begin to knead the dough with floured hands, adding a small amount of flour as needed, just enough to keep the dough from being sticky. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Place dough into prepared coffee tin. Cover coffee tin with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm place for an hour to an hour and a half, or until dough has risen above rim of can. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.

Once dough has risen, place can into the center of the pre-heated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into center of dough comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the can until the can is cool enough to touch. Remove bread and cool thoroughly on a wire rack before slicing, or return to can if giving as a gift.


Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.

Local mushrooms souffle recipe

Sustainable Cooking by Celebrate Knoxville Food Writer Mary June Thompson. —
I recently had the privilege of touring a local mushroom growing facility, Brewer’s Mushrooms. Housed on a hilltop with a gorgeous view of the Smoky Mountain foothills, their greenhouse (photo featured below) is a fascinating place for a food lover, with a surprising variety of mushroom types in various stages of growth. The mushrooms grow out of bundles of specially heated wood chips or straw that have been inoculated with fungi spores. They thrive in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, and they are grown without the use of any chemicals or pesticides. The proprietors sent me home with a bounty of pristine mushrooms, including lion’s mane, old world blue oyster, golden oyster, king, and shiitake mushrooms. The flavor of the Brewers’ mushrooms is outstanding; their earthiness is perfectly complemented when sautéed with onions or shallots, garlic, and/or thyme. (See our Twitter photos of Brewers Mushrooms @CelebrateKnox.)

Mushrooms growing in greehouse

Once back in the kitchen with the mushrooms, a quick look through the refrigerator yielded immediate inspiration for a sustainable, local dish featuring these beautiful fungi: some leftover egg whites from making pudding out of the egg yolks, a chunk of smoked gouda cheese, and two pieces of leftover shallot—the perfect makings for a soufflé.

Although a seemingly daunting task to many, I find a soufflé to be a very versatile dish, as it is a perfect centerpiece for brunch or an elegant dinner, and its presentation far outweighs the actual difficulty of preparation. Plus, if you start with whites from whole eggs when making a soufflé, you have the perfect excuse to make a decadent pudding or custard later using the leftover yolks.

Perfectly Browned Mushroom and Smoked Gouda Souffle

Local Mushrooms and Smoked Gouda Soufflé


1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
2 cups assorted chopped fresh mushrooms, such as those from Brewer’s Mushrooms
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
Cooking spray
2-3 Tablespoons unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups milk
1/3 cup unoaked dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
1 large egg yolk
½ cup freshly grated smoked gouda cheese
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar


Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes, just until shallots are softened. Stir in mushrooms, season with ¼ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper, and cook for another 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have released their liquid. Add the thyme and cook for another minute. Set aside.

While the mushrooms cook, spray a 1-quart soufflé dish with cooking spray. Evenly sprinkle breadcrumbs over the bottom and sides of the dish, discarding any extra crumbs that didn’t stick. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the 1/3 cup flour and remaining ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps. Stir in the wine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Once it boils, cook mixture for 1 minute or until thickened. Set aside so it doesn’t burn while tempering the egg yolk.

In a medium heat-proof bowl, add the egg yolk and lightly beat it. Starting with a few drops at a time, slowly whisk about a quarter of the milk mixture into the egg yolk. Return saucepan to medium heat and add egg mixture to milk mixture, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in gouda until melted and smooth. Fold in mushroom mixture. Set aside to cool slightly while whipping the egg whites.

In a large bowl (or alternatively, in the bowl of a stand mixer), add egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat at high speed with hand mixer or stand mixer until egg whites form stiff peaks.

Gently fold about ¼ of the egg whites into the milk mixture to lighten it a bit. Then fold the mixture back into the egg whites, taking care not to deflate the egg whites, until incorporated. Gently spoon into prepared soufflé dish, smoothing and leveling the top.

Place soufflé dish on a sheet pan or piece of foil to catch any drips. Bake for 55 minutes or until the soufflé is golden brown and set. Serve immediately, as the soufflé will begin to deflate as it starts to cool.

Serves 2-3 as a main dish.


Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.

Black Eyed Peas soup recipe

By Mary June Thompson, CelebrateKnoxville.com food writer. In previous Sustainable Cooking columns, I have mentioned that making stock is a great way to get extra mileage out of food scraps. For the past couple of weeks, I have been saving my vegetable odds and ends in a zip-top bag in the refrigerator. I collected quite an assortment: pieces of onions, leeks, carrots, bell peppers, scallions, mushroom stems, celery tops, jalapeno pieces, garlic ends, stems from parsley and thyme, and even some broccoli stalks. I planned to make a vegetable stock with them and use this a soup base. There are lots of recipes available for vegetable stock, but you don’t really need a set recipe to make vegetable stock successfully.

Veggie Scraps

The key to soup deliciousness is having a variety of vegetables to flavor the cooking water, along with the basics of onions, garlic, celery, and carrots. And if, like me, you find yourself coming up a little short on one thing or another (mine was carrot), you can always add some extra into the mix. I like to add a teaspoon of whole peppercorns and a couple of extra herb sprigs (parsley, thyme, oregano) for depth of flavor.

To make the stock, place the vegetable pieces in a large saucepan or Dutch oven on the stovetop. Add enough filtered water to cover the veggies, usually 6-8 cups, and bring to a boil on medium heat. Continue to boil for a couple of hours until the liquid is reduced to about half of its original volume. Cool to room temperature, strain liquid into an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to three months. It really is that easy.

Another “discard” item that I always save for later use is the rind off of a block of Parmesan cheese. The rinds freeze beautifully and add a luxurious umami note to simple soups. (Of course, you must buy the real Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano to get the rind, but I don’t recommend using that other stuff anyway, as it doesn’t impart the same flavor.)

During the cold of winter, I find myself craving warm, comforting, distinctly Southern dishes. I recently came across a recipe in a traditional southern cookbook for Black-Eyed Pea Soup. I loved the thought of that, but that recipe was way too bland for my taste, as it involved little more than the peas, water, and some salt, so I decided to come up with my own version of Black-Eyed Pea Soup. Most of the time, authentic southern food isn’t suitable for vegetarians or vegans, so the recipe I developed using my homemade “vegetable scrap” stock can be easily adjusted to suit any food preference. And if you make the stock in advance, the soup comes together very easily.

Soup's On!

Black-Eyed Pea Soup

½ cup dried black-eyed peas (or substitute 1 can of black-eyed peas in a pinch, but the flavor won’t be as good)
1 bacon slice (omit for vegan/vegetarian soup; substitute 1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil)
½ of a small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups “vegetable scrap” stock
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (omit for vegan soup)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

The night before, place the dried peas in an airtight container. Cover with water and soak overnight in the refrigerator. Rinse and drain them just before using. To make the soup, heat a medium Dutch oven or heavy-duty saucepan on the stove top over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, or alternatively, add oil to pan. Set bacon aside to cool. Add the onion to the fat in the pan. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add the peas, Cajun seasoning, rind (if using), and stock to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes.
When peas are tender, sprinkle flour over the soup, 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring well to incorporate, until soup is slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with your choice of thinly sliced green onions; the reserved bacon, crumbled; freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; and/or hot sauce. It’s best served with a slice of freshly baked cornbread on the side for a true Southern comfort food meal.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a first course.


Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.

IJAMS hosts 2015 Seed Swap

Join IJAMS Nature Center for the ever popular annual seed swap on January 31, 2015, from 1-4 p.m.

Ijams’ Seed Swap promotes the sharing of vegetable, flower and other seeds among area gardeners. This event supports genetic diversity, sustainability and self-reliance in the garden.

This program is free.

Located in Knoxville, Ijams is an urban greenspace filled with rocks, rivers, trees, trails, owls and salamanders. Visitors of all ages and ability can hike, bike, paddle, stroll, learn or simply enjoy the day.

Ijams is a sanctuary for all visitors to learn and connect with the natural world.

Ijams is also a member and visitor-supported nonprofit organization. Your generous support is needed to continue the ongoing legacy for generations to come.




Sustainable Cooking: re-imagined holiday snacks

Sustainable Cooking by Mary June Thompson. (Part II of an exclusive recipe series for CelebrateKnoxville.com)

In this season of entertaining, it is easy to end up with an assortment of miscellaneous leftover snacks. Whether the guys came over to watch the game and munched on popcorn and pretzels or the in-laws dropped by unexpectedly and you set out some nuts and cheese to serve as a quick nibble with a glass of bubbly, all of us end up with some sort of snack food remnants in our kitchens.

The day after a holiday party is one of the biggest opportunities to get creative with leftovers while eating sustainably and minimizing food waste. Whether you are a gourmet chef or a chip-and-store-bought-dip kind of person, odds are that not all of the food you set out will be eaten.

Sausage balls, a typical party food, are wonderful reheated and served for breakfast with eggs and toast the day after the party. A scoop of a cheese-based dip with hearty ingredients, such as corn and peppers or spinach and artichokes, or small chunks of cheese—grated or sliced—can be used as an omelet filling. A little leftover salsa is also great stirred into scrambled eggs and served over warmed tortillas with hot sauce on the side.

Serving Suggestion

While it’s likely that most of us will just toss those leftover snacks in the trash and not think twice about it, I have another idea for you that is a lot more fun, tasty, and supports a sustainable cooking lifestyle. Why not turn that handful of nuts and half a serving of popcorn into a totally new and delicious snack suitable for serving to the next round of guests that stop by—or simply as a treat for you to enjoy.

Re-imagined Snack Mix


2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

¼ cup chopped almonds (pecans, mixed nuts, etc. can be substituted)

½ cup broken pretzels

1 cup salted (unflavored) popcorn

?– ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)

½ Tablespoon black (or white) sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add nuts and toast just until fragrant, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle brown sugar over nut mixture and stir to combine. Add maple syrup. (Please note mixture will bubble so be careful.) Add pretzels, popcorn, and cayenne and toss well to combine.

Ingredients in the Pan

Immediately transfer mixture to a rimmed baking sheet coated with cooking spray or covered with non-stick aluminum foil. Spread evenly. Bake for 7-8 minutes, stirring twice, or until mixture is mostly dry and browned. Remove from oven and stir in sesame seeds. Cool on pan, stirring occasionally, and transfer to serving dish or to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Note: Recipe can easily be double or tripled if you have more leftover snacks, but baking time may need to be increased slightly if your pan is very full.

Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.

Sustainable Cooking by Mary June Thompson

Sustainable Cooking with Mary June Thompson, Celebrate Knoxville. (November 21, 2014) A hot trend in the food world is known as “nose to tail” eating, which makes for less food waste and contributes to sustainable agriculture by utilizing the entire animal in some way. While this is not necessarily practical (or appetizing) for home cooks, there are ways to be inspired by this movement in your own kitchen.

Americans in particular are prone to throwing out perfectly usable food items, like the pumpkins we use to decorate for autumn, bread that’s a little past its prime, and the other half of the onion that we didn’t need for a particular recipe.

One of my favorite ways to utilize some of the miscellaneous leftover items in the refrigerator is to make a hash. Hash is incredibly versatile in what ingredients it can be composed of, and this earthy dish works equally well for breakfast or dinner.

My latest version was based on the odds and ends I had left centered on a distinctively autumn theme: Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash. As this is more of a working model than a set recipe, I will outline the general steps and offer alternate ingredient suggestions so the hash can be tailored to ingredients that are on hand, as well as to suit different tastes.

Prepping the Ingredients

I had one small sweet potato in the pantry, so this was the basis for my hash. Cut the potato into approximately ½-inch cubes. Peel if desired. (I left the peeling on for the extra nutritional value it offers.) In a large skillet with a lid, heat a tablespoon or so of water over medium heat until it is very hot and bubbling. Add the potato cubes and cover with lid. Cook until the water has evaporated and the potato is tender, tossing once or twice during cooking to prevent sticking. Photos by Mary June Thompson.

In the refrigerator, I had some leftover (raw) breakfast sausage, some shallot pieces, and part of an Anaheim pepper. I chopped the shallot and pepper and added these to the pan, along with a splash of olive oil (to prevent sticking) and the crumbled sausage. I also added a pinch of cumin, smoked paprika, and ancho chili powder to the pan–to complement the southwestern component of the spicy pepper– along with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, cook until the sausage is browned and the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown. I served mine with fried eggs and toast on the side, and a generous splash of Cholula hot sauce. It was absolutely delicious.

There other food items that might commonly be odds and ends in the refrigerator that would work well in this hash. Part of a leftover onion would work just as well as a shallot, and any pepper—from sweet bell to hot jalapeño—can be used to suit individual tastes from mild to spicy. Have half of both a sweet and a hot pepper? Use both! Throw in a handful of leftover baby spinach for a heartier (and healthier) hash. Don’t know what to do with that one random slice of bacon left in the package? Add it to the hash, or chop it up and substitute it for the sausage. Baking a ham for the holidays? Diced ham would also be a tasty component of a hash.

The point is to be creative and use what you already have. I had a wonderful, healthy breakfast composed of items that might have otherwise gone to waste or been discarded had I not found a secondary use for them. And that’s a meal that you can really feel good about!

Hash for Breakfast

Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.

Sustainable Cooking column to launch

KNOXVILLE – (November 14, 2014) CelebrateKnoxville.com is pleased to announce that the site will launch a brand new online food and cooking series, “Sustainable Cooking,” by Knoxville’s own foodie Mary June Thompson, beginning next week.

“Sustainability is a hot topic, and a current trend in the food world is using what many of us consider to be the “throwaway” parts of the foods we consume,” says Celebrate Knoxville’s Laura Long Martin. “Contributing Food Writer Mary June Thompson will share her ideas on how to use some typically discarded items, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, stale bread, and tea leaves, to create delicious dishes that anyone can make and enjoy at home–and produce less food waste as a result.”


Mary June Thompson (pictured) has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.

Mary June counts Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa), Sean Brock, of Husk and McCrady’s restaurants in Charleston, SC, and having visited 48 states and 7 countries among her greatest cooking influences.

“I am really inspired by this new cooking theme and look forward to sharing my Sustainable Cooking recipes with CelebrateKnoxville.com readers,” Thompson said.

Thompson is already a familiar face to Celebrate Knoxville readers, as her previous cooking columns utilizing fresh produce from the Market Square Farmers Market and other fresh food venues received lots of positive feedback and continues to show up in popular searches for the site.

Shop early for holidays at IJAMS

KNOXVILLE – Ijams Nature Center is hosting a rummage sale this Saturday, November 8, 2014, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Items include housewares, dishes, furniture, children’s clothing and toys, and shoppers are encouraged to visit early to get the best selection, or visit late to get the best bargains.

All proceeds support education programs at Ijams Nature Center.

Ijams is a wild place filled with rocks, rivers, trees, trails, owls and salamanders. Visitors of all ages and ability can hike, bike, paddle, stroll, learn or simply enjoy the day. Ijams is a sanctuary for all visitors to learn and connect with the natural world and be made better by that connection – a place where living with the earth and caring for the earth become one and the same. Ijams is a member and visitor-supported nonprofit organization.

Ijams Nature Center is located at 2915 Island Home Avenue.

Knoxville hosts public trans expo

More than 800 government workers from counties and municipalities across Tennessee will gather at the Knoxville Convention Center this week for the Tennessee Public Transportation Association (TPTA) Conference and Expo and the Tennessee Stormwater Association (TNSA) East Tennessee Development Symposium.

The Tennessee Public Transporation Association Conference and Expo will be held Nov. 4-7, 2014. The event is hosted by Knoxville Area Transit (KAT) and the City of Knoxville. The sessions and workshops will focus on issues facing public transportation. An exposition also will be held in the exhibit hall with vendors showing the latest transportation services, equipment, technology and products.



The Tennessee Public Transportation Association Conference and Expo and the Tennessee Stormwater Association East Tennessee Development Symposium will meet at the Knoxville Convention Center this week, Nov. 4-7, 2014 to focus on issues facing public transportation. Photo by CelebrateKnoxville.com. 

“All of us at the Knoxville Convention Center love our city and our state,” Knoxville Convention Center General Manager Mary Bogert said. “We are proud to be able to host these conferences that teach best practices and trends for improving services across Tennessee.”

The Knoxville Convention Center, managed by SMG, is located in downtown Knoxville adjacent to the Sunsphere. It boasts a 120,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 27,000 square-foot divisible ballroom and up to 25 meeting rooms. For more information, visit http://www.knoxvilleconventioncenter.com.

IJAMS hosts Haunted Lantern Tour

Join IJAMS for a Haunted Lantern Tour on October 28 and 29, 2014, at 7 p.m.

Did you know that some ghost hunters believe that both water and limestone can increase paranormal activity? If that’s true, then the quarries at IJAMS Nature Center in downtown Knoxville are the perfect place for a haunting.

The fee for this program is $7 for Ijams members and $10 for non-members. Tours meet at Ijams Nature Center, in the Mead’s Quarry parking lot.

Please call (865) 577-4717, ext. 110 to register.

IJAMS is a 300-acre urban greenspace and environmental learning center. Visit http://www.ijams.org for more information and a full calendar of events and programs.

Dogwood trees on sale in November

Dogwood Arts is rallying East Tennessee to take part in the annual community-wide dogwood tree-planting day on Saturday, December 6, 2014. As part of the Bazillion Blooms program, Dogwood Arts aims to restore the former vitality and beauty of the dogwood tree population in East Tennessee communities.


Over the years, local dogwood tree populations have dwindled due to age, disease, construction, and neglect. The Bazillion Blooms program will begin selling disease-resistant Appalachian Snow and Cherokee Brave dogwood trees for $25 each beginning November 14. Photo submitted.

Since the initiation of Bazillion Blooms in 2009, Knoxville area residents and supporting volunteers have planted more than 6,550 trees.

Dogwood Arts is a 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to promote and celebrate our region’s arts, culture, and natural beauty.

Zombie movie marathon at IJAMS

Ijams Nature Center and Knoxville Horror Film Fest are pairing up once more to raise the dead at the 3rd annual Zombie Movie Marathon. This year the main feature will be the horror comedy Life After Beth, (2014, R) starring Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon.


Also for the evening’s entertainment, the classic Béla Lugosi film White Zombie (1932) will be screened, with a RiffTrax style accompaniment by Einstein Simplified Comedy Improv Troupe.

This is more than just a movie night, this event features vendors, food trucks, beer and of course…BRAINS! Dressing up is encouraged…the more zombies the merrier.

The cost is $10 for a night of fun and fright. Doors open at 6 p.m. Movies start at sundown.

IJAMS Nature Center is a 300-acre urban greenspace and environmental learning center located at 2915 Island Home Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee.

IJAMS offers kayak adventure

With its towering 180-foot limestone cliff on the west side, Mead’s Quarry Lake is one of the most dramatic bodies of water in East Tennessee. IJAMS Nature Center is offering visitors an opportunity to explore the lake this weekend in a kayak.

Join Stephen Lyn at 8 a.m. on Saturday, August 16, 2014, for an early morning paddle about Mead’s Quarry Lake. Cost for this adventure in nature is $15 for Ijams members, $20 for non-members.


IJAMS is a 300-acre urban greenspace and environmental learning center with a mission of encouraging stewardship of the natural world. Photo by Laura Long Martin, Celebrate Knoxville.

Please call (865) 577-4717, ext. 119 for registration and information.