For the love of food

A Q&A with Stephanie Parker, a blogger from Birmingham, Alabama, who loves to share recipes and family adventures with fellow foodies on her blog “Plain Chicken.” Check out her blog …

What do readers find at your blog in addition to recipes?
Stephanie Parker: In addition to recipes, Plain Chicken posts about our world travels and our three cats, and we also post a weekly menu on Sunday to help get you ready for the week.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?
SP: Blogging started as a way for me to store recipes. I would make food and take it to work. People would ask for the recipe later, and I had to search for it. I decided to make a blog and store everything online. The blog started expanding because we were in a dinner rut. I decided to make one new recipe a week. Well, that morphed into four new recipes a week. Plain Chicken has totally changed my life. I was in corporate accounting for over 18 years. Plain Chicken took off, and I was able to quit my corporate job and focus solely on I am so lucky to be able to do something that I love every single day.

Everyone has different tastes, so when the extended family gets together, what kind of menu can you plan to please everyone?
SP: Pleasing everyone is always hard, especially nowadays with all the different diet plans people are on. I always try to have something for everyone. If you know someone is vegetarian or gluten-free, make sure they have some options. But for me, at the end of the day, I’m their hostess, not their dietitian.

What are some ideas for getting the children involved in preparing the holiday meal?
SP: Getting the children involved with preparing the holiday meal is a great idea. When making the cornbread dressing, let the children mix up the batter and crumble the cooked cornbread. Have the children mix the cookie batter and form the cookies. For safety’s sake, just make sure the adults put things in the oven and take them out.

Budgets play a big role in planning holiday menus. What are some ideas for hosting a party with “champagne taste on a beer budget?”
SP: Plan your menu early and watch the grocery store sales. Buy ingredients and store them for the holidays. Freeze what you can, and store canned/dry goods in the pantry. Wholesale clubs, like Sam’s and Costco, are also great places to buy large quantities of items and meats.

Do you have a good recipe for the holidays you’re willing to share?
SP: Yes. Spicy Ranch Crackers are a great snack to have on hand during the holidays. The recipe makes a lot, and the crackers will keep for weeks. They are perfect for unexpected guests and are also great in soups and stews.

Spicy Ranch Crackers
Spicy Ranch Crackers
1 (1-ounce) package ranch dressing mix
1/2 to 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 box saltine crackers

Combine dry ranch mix, cayenne pepper and oil. Pour over crackers. Toss crackers every 5 minutes for about 20 minutes, until all crackers are coated and there is no more oil mixture at the bottom of the bowl. Store in a resealable plastic bag.

Other food blogs that might tempt your palate:
This site combines a love of reading, writing and cooking into a blog that will keep you busy in the kitchen creating recipes that have been tested and tweaked for delicious results.
Even for people who work with food for a living, the editors at Saveur “were overcome with desire,” and named this blog its “Blog of the Year” for 2014.
This Prattville, Alabama-based blog focuses on Southern food with the idea that “food down South is not all about deep frying and smothering stuff in gravy.”

Connected Christmas

Your 2015 Gadget-Giving Guide

Ah, Christmas. It’s approaching quickly, and it’s never too early to start shopping. But are you struggling with what to buy that someone who has everything? Here are some of the season’s hottest items that are sure to impress that technologically savvy, hard-to-buy-for family member, significant other or friend.

Wocket Smart Wallet


If you’re tired of keeping up with all the cards in your wallet, the Wocket is for you.

The Wocket Smart Wallet is the world’s smartest wallet. How does it work? First swipe your cards using the card reader included in the Wocket. Information like your voter registration or any membership or loyalty cards with bar codes can also be entered manually.

The information stored in the Wocket is then transmitted through the WocketCard.
The WocketCard gives the information to the point-of-sale device when it is swiped, just as with a regular credit card.

For only $229, you can own the smartest wallet on the planet. Order yours at


The Lily Drone

Have you been considering getting a drone, but can’t bring yourself to pull the trigger? Meet Lily, the drone that takes flight on its own, literally. All you have to do is toss it up in the air, and the motors automatically start.

Unlike traditional drones that require the user to operate what looks like a video game controller, Lily relies on a hockey puck-shaped tracking device strapped to the user’s wrist. GPS and visual subject tracking help Lily know where you are. Unlike other drones, Lily is tethered to you at all times when flying.

Lily features a camera that captures 12-megapixel stills, and 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second, or 720p at 120 frames per second. You can preorder today, but Lily will not be delivered until May 2016. Expect to pay $999.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

If you’re looking for a new personal assistant, Amazon has you covered. The Amazon Echo is designed to do as you command — whether it be adding milk to your shopping list, answering trivia, controlling household temperature or playing your favorite music playlist.

The Echo, which uses an advanced voice recognition system, has seven microphones and can hear your voice from across a room. The Echo activates when hearing the “wake word.” The Echo is constantly evolving, adapting to your speech patterns and personal preferences. “Alexa” is the brain within Echo, which is built into the cloud, meaning it’s constantly getting smarter and updating automatically.

It’s available for $179.99 on



Have you ever wondered what your beloved pup is doing while you’re not at home? Wonder no more. iCPooch allows you to see your dog whenever you’re away. By attaching a tablet to the base of iCPooch, your dog can see you, and you can see them — you can even command iCPooch to dispense a treat.

Just download the free app to your tablet or smartphone and never miss a moment with your pup!

iCPooch is available for $99, not including tablet, from Amazon and the website

Classic Christmas Cookies

Hope Barker, of West Liberty, Kentucky

Hope Barker, of West Liberty, Kentucky, makes family cookie recipes her own.

Cookies so good Santa won’t want to leave

By Anne P. Braly,
Food Editor

We all know that holiday cookies are a lot more than sugar, flour and eggs. They tell a story. Remember walking into grandma’s house only to see warm cookies she just took from the oven sitting on the counter?

Hope Barker has similar stories when she reminisces about baking cookies with her mom. Her favorite recipe is a simple one: sugar cookies.
“My mom and I used to make these when I was young,” she recalls. The recipe came from an old cookbook — now so yellowed and worn with age that it’s fallen apart, but, thankfully the pages were saved and are now kept in a folder.

She learned to cook at the apron strings of her mother, Glyndia Conley, and both grandmothers. “I can remember baking when I was in elementary school,” Barker says. “My mom and I made sugar cookies to take to school parties. And Mamaw Essie (Conley) taught me how to bake and decorate cakes. From Mamaw Nora (Cottle), I learned how to make stack pies — very thin apple pies stacked and sliced like a cake.”

She honed these techniques and soon became known for her baking skills in her town of West Liberty, Kentucky, so much so that she opened a bakery business that she operated from her home, making cookies and cakes for weddings, birthdays, holidays and other special events.
During the holidays, cookies are in demand. Not only are they scrumptious, but just about everyone loves them, too. They make great gifts from the kitchen, and if you arrange them on a beautiful platter, they can become your centerpiece.

“Cookies are easy to make and easy to package,” Barker says. “They don’t require plates and forks, so they are more convenient than many other desserts. Also, because they are less time-consuming, you can make a variety in less time than many other desserts. They can be decorated many different ways. And who doesn’t love to get a plate of pretty cookies?”

But there is one big mistake some less-practiced cooks often make when baking cookies — overbaking.

“If you leave them in the oven until they ‘look’ done, they are going to be overdone,” Barker warns. “The heat in the cookies will continue to bake them after you have taken them out of the oven.”

She says the best outcome for pretty cookies is to start with the right equipment — a good, heavy cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. “This will keep them from sticking to the cookie sheet and help them to brown more evenly on the bottom,” she says. And when finished, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before putting them in a sealed, airtight container to keep them moist.

Barker no longer caters, but she continues to do a lot of baking during the holidays for family, coworkers and friends.
Cookies, she says, just seem to be a universal sign of welcome, good wishes and happy holidays.

Sugar cookies are a delicious and versatile classic during the holiday season. This is Hope Barker’s favorite recipe. They can be made as drop cookies or chilled and rolled for cut-out cookies. You can use the fresh dough and roll balls of it in cinnamon sugar to make Snickerdoodles, or use it as a crust for a fruit pizza.

Classic Sugar Cookies
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup milk
Additional sugar (optional)

Cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix very well. Add flour and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Make sure all ingredients are well-incorporated.
For drop cookies, scoop fresh dough into 1-inch balls and place a couple inches apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Smear a small amount of shortening on the bottom of a glass, dip the glass into the sugar of your choice and flatten each dough ball into a disk about 1/4-inch thick. Continue to dip the glass into sugar and flatten the dough balls until all are flattened into disks. Sugar can be sprinkled on cookies at this point, if desired. Bake the cookies at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven when they begin to color at the edges.
For rolled and cut cookies, refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours or overnight. Roll out portions of the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Sugar can be sprinkled on cookies at this point, if desired. Place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size/thickness of the cookies. Remove from the oven when they begin to color at the edges.

Sugar Cookie Variations

Various Sugar Cookies Frosted Cookies
Bake either the rolled or drop cookies. Prepare your favorite frosting recipe (or buy canned frosting) and frost the cooled cookies. Frosting can be tinted with different colors and piped on in seasonal designs.

When making the drop cookies, mix together 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon with 1 cup granulated sugar. Roll each ball of dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and then put onto the cookie sheet. Flatten with the bottom of a glass into a disk shape and bake as directed.

Maple Cookies
Replace the vanilla flavoring in the recipe with maple flavoring. Make rolled cookies with no sugar on the tops. On the stovetop, stir together 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons milk; stir well. (Be careful as the mixture will splatter a little when you add the milk.) Put saucepan back on stove and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour the mixture over 1 1/2 cups of sifted powdered sugar and mix on low/medium speed until smooth. Drizzle the warm frosting over the cookies with a spoon. Allow to cool completely.

Jell-O Cookies
Make rolled cookies with no sugar on the tops. When the cookies come out of the oven, spread a thin layer of light corn syrup on the tops with a spoon. Immediately sprinkle with Jell-O gelatin powder of your choice. Allow to cool completely.

Fruit Pizza
Use about a half batch of the dough and spread evenly in a greased jelly roll pan. This will be the crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough begins to get some color at the edges and on top. Let the crust cool completely. Mix together 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 7 ounces marshmallow creme. Spread this over the crust. Cut up about 4 cups of fresh fruit (strawberries, kiwi, bananas, mandarin oranges, grapes, apples, etc.) and stir together with a package of strawberry fruit gel. Spread the fruit mixture over the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate before slicing and serving.

Employee Spotlight: Mooovin’ on up!

Jeff Carter manages three crews that are installing fiber optic cables on a daily basis.

Jeff Carter manages three crews that are installing fiber optic cables on a daily basis.

By Matt Ledger

Jeff Carter raises Limousin cattle, named after a region in France and not a misspelling for luxury auto transportation. Still, the cattle have kept him and his sons on the road.

For five years, Carter has served as president of the Tennessee Limousin Association. Each of his three sons have shown cattle competitively. For Carter, that’s all part of life on a family farm, but it’s not his only business responsibility.

Jeff Carter always takes a week of vacation to volunteer in the chicken barn at the Warren County A&L Fair.

He is also the installation and repair supervisor at Ben Lomand, overseeing three crews who add fiber optic lines daily. In 1999, he started on a line crew before moving to residential installations. “When I started, we were basically a telephone company,” Carter says. “I was installing dial-up Internet. Most kids today don’t even know what that is. Now, we’re a broadband company that still does telephone.”

Encouraging the next generation

The primary animals on the Carter farm are 20 to 25 cattle, mostly registered show cattle his sons have entered in competition. While they played baseball and basketball for many years, each boy really found the farm to be their favorite pursuit.

“We live on a farm with sheep, goats, cattle and horses, and we’ve got a little bit of everything,” Carter says. The Carter teens, Matthew and Jacob, attend Warren County High School and plan to enter the family profession. Their eldest son, Daniel, is now in college at Tennessee Tech, studying agriculture business.

“We travel around to all of the county fairs in this area and some national shows,” Carter says. Those efforts netted two consecutive trips to the Junior Nationals, with the family traveling to Amarillo, Texas, last year. Matthew went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, earlier this year. Also, two years ago, one of their cattle was the reserve grand champion, and several heifers have placed high in state rankings.

The Carter family, (from left) eldest son Daniel; Jeff; his wife, Jennifer; and teens Jacob and Matt.

The Carter family, (from left) eldest son Daniel; Jeff; his wife, Jennifer; and teens Jacob and Matt.

While he worked at Ben Lomand, Carter’s wife, Jennifer, went to college and became a kindergarten teacher. She likes to incorporate her knowledge of agriculture into her classroom lessons, including hatching chickens for curious youngsters.

Serving the Community
“I’ve worked at the Warren County A&L Fair since I was 8 years old — started off showing chickens,” Carter says. “All through school, I volunteered doing different chores as it went on, and everything just grew from that.” His father also taught him to raise chickens, ducks and pheasants.

Since 1992, the family has served in many roles at the A&L Fair. “All three of our boys have been at the fair since before they could walk,” Carter says. He now helps out with competitions in that same chicken barn where he started off, weighing and evaluating 700 to 1,200 chickens at one of the largest poultry shows in the state takes time.

Carter has taken vacation the same week each year to volunteer at the fair. “Working at the fair is what we love to do,” Carter says. “The whole family enjoys it because we’re doing it together.”

Cooperatives are exceptional

Ray Cantrell

Ray Cantrell

By Ray Cantrell
General Manager/CEO

Every month or two a news story will appear that looks at the so-called “digital divide” between big cities and rural areas like ours. This narrative paints a picture that rural Americans have a more difficult time getting reliable Internet access through broadband.

While statistics may back up that idea in some parts of the country, I’m proud to say our area is the exception thanks to this cooperative.

In some of the recent numbers I’ve seen from the FCC, there is a stark contrast between broadband access in rural America and in big cities, if taken as a whole.
As you’ve read in these pages before, the FCC has redefined broadband as Internet speeds of at least 25 Mbps. Based on that threshold, 94 percent of urban residents have broadband access, compared to only 55 percent of people in rural America.

Sitting in an office in New York or Los Angeles, it would be easy to see those numbers and think rural America has been left behind in today’s technology-driven, connected world.

But that’s not the case here in Middle Tennessee.

We’re happy to offer speeds well above those thresholds to some customers, and we’re working hard to bring those connections to everyone across the service area.
In fact, on the top end of the FCC numbers, only 8.9 percent of urban Americans and 3.7 percent of rural residents have access to gigabit Internet service. As a Ben Lomand customer, you have access to Internet speeds that 91 percent of big-city residents don’t have.

We are proud to be the exception to those numbers because it means we’re serving our customers. But we’re also proud to be exceptional because it means our founders were right about banding together to create Ben Lomand.

Cooperatives like ours were founded by local residents who knew a reliable communications network was important and were willing to join together to bring such a network to our area.

The statistics clearly show that corporate America is not meeting the needs of rural communities like ours. Companies focused on pleasing stockholders don’t see enough profit in our region to invest in building a network.

That’s where cooperatives like Ben Lomand come in. We answer to our customers, who are member-owners of the cooperative.

October is National Cooperative Month, which is a great time to think about our business model and how it benefits families and businesses in our area.

In a news release from the USDA published in July, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “Broadband is fundamental to expanding economic opportunity and job creation in rural areas, and it is as vital to rural America’s future today as electricity was when USDA began bringing power to rural America 80 years ago.”

Sec. Vilsack is correct. Without access to broadband, our community would be at a disadvantage. Without Ben Lomand our area wouldn’t have such access.
Please join us in October (and throughout the year) in celebrating what our founders created and all the advantages we enjoy today because of their vision and dedication to their communities.

Fiber Update

BIMG_4779en Lomand continues to add fiber optic Internet capacity. The Westwood project in McMinnville is in the third of four phases to completion. The Bockman Way build in Sparta was completed only a few weeks ago. The Margaret Circle area was also completed in 2015. These projects will give fiber access to between 2,500 and 3,000 customers, with more than half of those already completed. Local fiber optic speeds are among the fastest in the country — ranging from 50 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second. More than 7,000 customers have already made the switch to fiber, and Ben Lomand crews are working hard to make that number grow.

Bringing an icon back to life

After more than $2 million dollars in renovations, the Park Theater is ready to hold its first shows in nearly 30 years.

After more than $2 million dollars in renovations, the Park Theater is ready to hold its first shows in nearly 30 years.

By Patrick Smith

Area residents celebrate the re-opening of the Park Theater

There’s something special about a movie theater.

Sitting in the comfortable seats. Eating the buttery popcorn. Watching a story that pulls you in that you don’t want to end. Maybe the dimly lit room is even where you shared your first kiss with a special guy or gal.

For decades, that all happened at the Park Theater in downtown McMinnville — It was a place where priceless memories were created. But, over time, the projector light faded, the crowds dwindled and the doors closed.

The newly restored Park Theater has seating for 376 on the floor, with the possibility of additional seating for about 100 more in folding chairs in the rear.

The newly restored Park Theater has seating for 376 on the floor, with the possibility of additional seating for about 100 more in folding chairs in the rear.

The doors remained closed for 29 years. Throughout that time, there were multiple attempts to revive the theater, but none were successful until 2014 when the City of McMinnville started to move full speed ahead on the renovation. After nearly three decades of failed endeavors, things came a long way in a few short months.

“Everyone is so excited to see it finished,” says Sara Morgan, Park Theater coordinator for the City of McMinnville. “I can’t wait for people to see the restoration.”

The first impression for many may simply be “wow.”
While the theater was closed, the lobby and second floor area of the theater took on several different forms, including business offices and apartments, but the theater area was completely blocked off and untouched.

On his first day, project superintendent Steve Darrow worked his way through the theater by flashlight. There was no power, no water and no heat — just the shell of times past.

“Before the construction began, the theater was completely bare,” says Morgan. “People described it like a bomb shelter.”

Tommy Certain of McDaniel and West Painting pressure washes the bricks outside the theater.

Tommy Certain of McDaniel and West Painting pressure washes the bricks outside the theater.

Darrow and his W&O Construction crew have recreated the space like it’s a time capsule. The restored theater looks much like it did in 1986 before it closed. But while it might look very similar, very little is original. Inside the theater, there’s new flooring, new seating, new doors, new curtains, new walls, new electrical wiring and new heating and cooling — practically everything but the foundation is new.

“To see it go from day one, walking around in the dark, to the finished product now is incredible,” says Darrow. “I’m very pleased with how the project turned out.”

IMG_0919Phase one of construction was completed for more than $2 million, with funds coming from both the city and state. Morgan hopes to start construction on a much smaller phase two soon, which will restore the balcony area, adding about 150 additional seats.

While a lot has changed, one item patrons will recognize upon re-entry are the lighted medallions hanging on the theater walls. “Each of the medallions were meticulously restored,” says Scott McCord, McMinnville’s parks and recreation director. “Only one had to be rebuilt, but you could never tell the difference.”


When the doors re-opened in May, the theater was ready for more than just movies. For the first time ever, plays and musical acts will have room to perform in the theater. With the renovation, a stage was built and dressing rooms and a backstage area were added to help broaden the variety of entertainment. Morgan hopes to book everything from plays and musical acts, to movies, comedians, speakers and private parties — anything and everything that will appeal to the community.

Scott McCord, left, parks and recreation director, and Sara Morgan, Park Theater coordinator, have overseen the renovation for the City of McMinnville.

Scott McCord, left, parks and recreation director, and Sara Morgan, Park Theater
coordinator, have overseen the renovation for the City of McMinnville.

The theater is scheduled to show a movie on July 4, and the city is in current negotiations to continue showing movies in the future.

“Our focus is to not only make it open for local people to come and perform, but also to provide acts that will be a draw for everyone in the area,” says Morgan.

The newly restored theater has 376 fixed seats, with room for an additional 100 folding chairs in the rear of the room.

As new plays light up the stage, music reverberates off the walls, and projector light flickers once again, the theater is becoming a place for old memories to be rekindled once more for an earlier generation and new memories to be created for young and old alike.

“This theater represents so much more than just being a building,” says Morgan. “People love to share the stories of their experience in the theater, and we’re so happy to bring it back to life.”


Madi’s best friend

Courtney Rogers and her daughter, Madi, have made a new friend for life.

Courtney Rogers and her daughter, Madi, have made a new friend for life.

British Lab helps local toddler manage diabetes

By Patrick Smith
Finding a true, lifelong friend is rare. But for Madi Rogers, her best friend isn’t just a loyal companion — her dog, Abby-K, helps her live a normal life.

Though she’s only 3 years old, Madi has been through more medically than many people experience in their lifetime. When she was just 18 months old, Madi began experiencing uncontrollable seizures, and a trip to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt revealed that she was suffering from complications of Type 1 diabetes.

In short order, Madi’s mother, Courtney, daughter of longtime Ben Lomand employee, Mike Birdwell, decided one of the most effective options to minimize the seizures would be a medical alert dog. After a series of community fundraisers, more than $20,000 was raised to outfit Madi with a dog. Now, a little less than a year together, the two are inseparable.

Madi and her dog Abby-K are inseparable. The British Lab alerts when Madi’s blood sugar levels are off.

Madi and her dog Abby-K are inseparable. The British Lab alerts when Madi’s blood sugar levels are off.

Every so often, Abby-K raises a paw and pats Courtney’s leg — it’s a sign to let her know Madi’s blood sugar levels are off. Abby-K can identify the imbalance by her sense of smell, and when she paws, Madi stops her play and finds her glucose meter. Practically fearless, Madi pokes her fingers and gives herself her own shots. And best of all, since adopting Abby-K from Drey’s Alert Dogs in Texas, Madi hasn’t had a seizure.

“She’s Madi’s guardian angel,” Courtney says about the British Labrador.

For some adults, learning about and caring for diabetes can be an immense struggle. So one can only imagine the difficulty Madi experienced — unable to walk or talk, encountering the terrifying seizures that would accompany her battles with high or low blood sugar.

At the condition’s worst, in July 2014, Madi went into diabetic ketoacidosis and clung to life in a coma lasting four days. But an event that could have spelled the worst for Madi ultimately made her stronger. Now, Madi is armed with an unbreakable, upbeat attitude and behaves like any other lively toddler. She’s likely to be found at a local park several days a week, zooming down the slide and begging to go higher as she’s pushed on the swings. All the while, Abby-K is by her side.

“No matter how sick Madi is some days, she still makes the most of her day,” says Courtney. And the Rogers family has many to thank for Madi’s stable health.

Long before the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” gained popularity on social media, locals in Grundy County were jumping into frigid water to raise money for Madi’s service animal. Throughout the area, the “Madi Rogers Cold Water Challenge” caught on rapidly. Participants were called on by friends to donate $10 and film themselves jumping into cold water, or pass on the chilly water and donate $50.

The videos even caught on with military service members overseas who donated money to the cause. One widow gave $10,000 in memory of her fallen husband. Courtney offered to let the widow name the dog, so she requested that they add “-K” to Abby’s name, in memory of her spouse’s first name.

“We couldn’t be more blessed with all the help we’ve had,” says Courtney. “Life could be pretty rough without the dog. We’re so thankful for everyone coming together and helping us.”

Step back in time at the annual Swiss Festival

Hundreds gather each year at the Stocker-Stampfli Farm in Gruetli-Laager for the Swiss Festival.

Hundreds gather each year at the Stocker-Stampfli Farm in Gruetli-Laager for the Swiss Festival. Photos courtesy of Jackie Lawley/Grundy County Swiss Historical Society.

By Patrick Smith

Jackie Lawley is following in her father’s footsteps.

Lawley, the current president of the Grundy County Swiss Historical Society, took over her post about two years ago — roughly 39 years after her father helped start the organization in 1974.

“After my father helped found the group, I became a member immediately,” says Lawley. “I’m back now, after moving away for a while, but my dad’s history with it followed me the whole time.”

As president, Lawley is tasked with being the principal organizer of what is perhaps Grundy County’s largest family reunion: the Swiss Festival. The event, which draws more than 400 people each year, will be held July 25 at the Stocker-Stampfli Farm in Gruetli-Laager.

Photos courtesy of Jackie Lawley/Grundy County Swiss Historical Society.

The alpenhorn is one of the instruments used in the traditional folk music played at the festival. Photos courtesy of Jackie Lawley/Grundy County Swiss Historical Society.

“One of the nicest things about the event is that it’s a big reunion for a lot of people,” says Lawley. “A lot of folks get together at the event that probably haven’t seen each other all year.”

This year’s event will feature two musical groups, food, wine, vendors and the opportunity to step back in time and see how an authentic farm operated almost 150 years ago.

“We try to show people what it was like to live on a farm in this area in the 1800s,” says Lawley. “They get to see the equipment they used, maybe take a hayride and learn how things operated back then.”

While the Swiss Festival may be one of the most visible tasks Lawley is charged with organizing, she’s also working to keep the history of the area’s original Swiss families alive. After about 100 families moved to Grundy County from Switzerland in 1869, many of the settlers hoped to find fertile farmland like they’d grown accustomed to back home. Though the land was more wooded than they expected, many families stayed in the area, starting from scratch to begin a new life in America.

Now, nearly 150 years later, a small concentration of the original families remains, but the Swiss community has become a large part of the overall heritage of the area. And keeping the history alive is something Lawley is passionate about for future generations.

“Through the Internet, we’re fortunate to be able to communicate with people all over the world,” says Lawley. “We’re often emailing and staying in touch through Facebook with people who want to learn more about the Swiss settlement here in Grundy County.”

For the hundreds who attend the festival each year, it’s a celebration of the area’s rich heritage. “Every year we want people to visit the community and learn about the history and why the families came here,” says Lawley. “The festival is a wonderful celebration for the whole community.”

If you go
When: July 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Stocker-Stampfli Farm,
Gruetli-Laager, Tennessee
Admission: $5
For more information and directions to the festival, visit:
The GCSHS is also asking for donations to help with the upkeep of the Stocker-Stampfli Farm.

Wagon rides are one of the most popular attractions.

Wagon rides are one of the most popular attractions. Photos courtesy of Jackie Lawley/Grundy County Swiss Historical Society.

Ben Lomand family mourns the loss of former General Manager Ozle Allen


Ben Lomand Connect is sad to announce the passing of its former general manager and friend Ozle Allen. Working at the cooperative since its formation in 1954, Allen eventually worked his way up to serve as general manager from 1983 to 1988. After working at Ben Lomand, he worked as an advocate for the telecommunications industry on Capitol Hill in Nashville. He loved Ben Lomand dearly and inquired about how things were going with the cooperative on a weekly basis. Ben Lomand would like to extend its sincere condolences to his family and friends. He will be missed.