Member Highlight: Appalachian Ballet Co.

February 24, 2017   -   0 comments

One of Tennessee’s proudest establishments is the Appalachian Ballet Company. They have managed to move countless viewers with dance and music. The Appalachian Ballet Company has been providing the public with quality performances for over 45 years, and have earned a reputation for amazing performances.


Why “The Nutcracker” is a Must-See Show

The Appalachian Ballet Company has performed The Nutcracker every year since its founding. Although the play itself remains the same, different dancers join in every year to perform. The Nutcracker takes place every year right before the Holidays. These performances are a major facet of the season, which is one of the small reasons that it has a big place in the hearts of the Tennessee folk.


The Appalachian Ballet Co.’s Mission

The director of the Appalachian Ballet Company is Amy Morton Vaughn, and she has done everything in her power to maintain the classic tradition that the Appalachian Ballet has upheld since its birth in 1972. To do so, she had helped promote her lover for the arts by giving lectures to the community, ensured that all performers receive the utmost training, and has worked with local artist to encourage collaboration. The overall mission of both directors and dancers alike is to convey hope and beauty by means of dance.


When to Buy Tickets For The Little Mermaid Ballet

Every year, the Appalachian Ballet Company performs a three-program season, which means that shows are not available all year round. To properly coordinate vacations with show times, make sure to look through their website for showtimes. As of February 1st, 2017, tickets will go on sale for a full-length ballet rendition of The Little Mermaid. This show will be playing in March and is said to be breathtaking.

The Appalachian Ballet is one of the most renowned ballet companies in America, and has chosen to make their home base at the Van Metre School of Dance in Maryville, Tennessee. Seeing their ballets performed in person is unlike any other performance. The popularity of this prestigious institution keeps growing every year, and ballerinas from all over America dream of one day having the opportunity to dance on its stage.

Member Highlight: Mountain Challenge

February 21, 2017   -   0 comments

The Mountain Challenge is an organization that revolves around helping students spend more time in the outdoors while appreciating nature and building self confidence. Situated at the Crawford House in the Maryville Campus, the Mountains Challenge has proudly been teaching its members on how to live a happy and healthy life, while keeping the world’s needs in mind for over 25 years. The Mountain Challenge combines a healthy amount of outdoor and group activities in order to keep its member’s minds and bodies fit.


The History of the Mountain Challenge

Founded in 1987, the Mountain Challenge started off as a small organization that promoted outdoor group activities and quickly grew in numbers. By 1998, the Mountain Challenge found its way into the Maryville curriculum, where it has resided ever since. Since then, the Mountain Challenge has become the region’s most revered outdoor adventure provider and has helped countless people reconnect with nature.


Their Mission

The Mountain Challenge’s mission is to educate its members on how to be actively present in the outdoor world while making sure to respect it. To do this, they customize their outdoor experiences to each and every individual that joins their course, and ensure that environmentally-friendly procedures are rooted at the core of their establishment.


Building Strong Relationships

Students who choose to attend the Mountain Challenge are able to further their socializing skills as well as their outdoor survival skills. This is due to the fact that Maryville students are given the chance to meet each other on a trusting platform, while overcoming challenging obstacles together. Many of the Mountain Challenge participants end up learning how to cooperate and communicate with others in a positive way, through the means of outdoor activity. This allows students to familiarize themselves with others, thus building strong relationships.


Offered Courses

While the Mountain Challenge offers an array of activities, here are some of their most popular ones:

  • The Low Ropes Course

Much like an obstacle course, the Low Ropes Course is specifically designed to challenge its participants by making them think of creative ways to overcome any challenges that are thrown their way,

  • The Alpine Tower

The Alpine Tower might be a terrifying challenge to some people, but this doesn’t stop them from overcoming and conquering their fears. The Alpine Tower is 60 feet high, and is meant to be climbed by the participants, who in order to do so, need to work in a team and support one another.

  • The Adventure Race

The Adventure Race is designed to get a team’s blood pumping as they race towards the finish line while encountering many different obstacles. This adventure allows its participants to put all their skills to the test and engage in some healthy competition.

Becoming a member of the Mountain Challenge is a lot like becoming a part of a second family. Both staff members and participants end up building strong relationships with both each other and with nature, causing them to feel happier, more confident, and proud of their achievements.

Top 6 Winter Activities with the Family in Blount County

February 18, 2017   -   0 comments

Blount County is a great place to bring the family on vacation during the winter season and all throughout the year. Blount County offers a range of different family activities, all of which are fun, educational, and unforgettable. Situated near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Blount County is the ideal destination for families looking to immerse themselves in nature, while having the city life within close reach. Looking for some family-oriented winter activities in Blount County? Look no further!


A Sleigh Ride at the Cades Cove Stables

The Cades Cove Stables are situated in Townsend, and offer sleigh rides during the winter season, which is a great activity for families of all ages. While families can also partake in horseback riding, they would need to book an appointment in advance, as it is the stables off season.


Hike to Abrams Falls Trail

The Abrams Falls Trail is situated in Cades Cove, and is a popular waterfall hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains. This trail is opened all year round and is great for families, as it is of a mediocre difficulty, thus making it easily hiked by people of all ages.


Winter Heritage Festival

The Winter Heritage Festival will be taking place on the 27th and 28th of January. This festival is both a fun and educational one, making it a great activity for families. Located in Townsend at the GSM Heritage Center, the Winter Heritage Festival’s aim is to educate the population on the heritage of Blount County. Guest speakers will swap stories of their ancestor’s travels, and the Blount County Fire Department will be cooking lunch for the community, with hopes of raising money for the “Coats for Our Community” foundation.


The Cherokee National Forest

Head to the Cherokee National Forest and spend some quality time with the family. Known for its various outdoor activities, the Cherokee National Forest is the perfect place to go sightseeing, hiking, scenic driving, fishing, and nature observing. During the winter time, many of these activities are opened to the public, and should it ever snow, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing would also be available.


Christmas with Santa at the Friendly Farm

The friendly farm, located in Maryville, is a great place to bring the kids during the holiday season. Enjoy breakfast with Santa, animal petting, pony rides, cookie decorating crafts, and more!


Sweetheart Market at the Cades Cove Cellars

Bring the family to the Cades Cove Cellars in Townsend, and spend time admiring the locals’ arts and crafts at the open market. The event takes place on the 11th and 12th of February, and will include wine tastings for adults, and tasty treats for children.

Blount County has always been a spectacular place for family fun — no matter the season. There are many activities and festivals to partake in, and Smoky Mountain winter sights to uncover.

Member Highlight: Clayton Center for the Arts

February 15, 2017   -   0 comments

The Clayton Center for the Arts has been a strong focal point in Blount County’s diverse cultural heritage since it first opened its door in 2010. To emphasize the importance of the arts, the Clayton Center provides the community with easy access to the performing and visual arts, while helping both local and regional artists showcase their work.


The Different Corners of the Clayton Center for the Arts

The Clayton Center for the Arts is a large facility, that hosts many different activities, shows, performing spaces, theaters, heritage collections, exhibition rooms, and halls. Known for its size, success, opportunities, and artistic reputation, the Clayton Center for the Arts has become a go-to for locals and visitors alike in Blount County, Tennessee. The Clayton Center for the Arts is a 136,000-square-foot facility, beautifully decorated with over a dozen hand-blown glass orb chandeliers hanging from its ceilings. It is home to a number of performing spaces, and can hold up to 2,500 people in total throughout its numerous theatres.


The Clayton Center for the Arts Opportunities

While many people enjoy visiting the Clayton Center to admire its heritage collection, exhibitions, and performances, there are a number of people who use this center as a learning environment. On top of supplying Blount County with art performances centering around theatre and dance, the Clayton Center also offers its public the chance to engage in art. Artists, musicians, and dancers see the Clayton Center as a home, and often spend their time in its many practice rooms, classrooms, art studios, rehearsal rooms, and musical library.


The Clayton Center for the Arts Performances

No matter the time of year, the Clayton Center for the Arts is bustling with upcoming events. While the performances might range in artistic style and freedom, one thing always remains the same: the quality and soul-touching art performances given to the public from the artists. Not only are these performances mind-blowing, they are educational and help promote the diversity and beauty of the different art forms found all over the globe. From Irish singing to Cuban dancing, the Clayton Center for the Arts hosts a wide array of artistic performances.


The Clayton Center for the Arts and Family Fun

The Clayton Center for the Arts has a place for every age group, and also holds many children-friendly events like the upcoming show, Dinosaur Zoo Live. Not only are these events educational and mind opening, they are great ways for families to engage in fun activities while broadening their minds by means of art.

The Clayton Center for the Arts has proudly been supplying Blount County with exquisite events, performing arts, visual arts, and all around educational opportunities since it was first founded. It has become one of Blount County’s gems, and has helped raise awareness for the arts and a sense of community.

Explore Bed & Breakfast Inns in Blount County

February 12, 2017   -   0 comments

For a long time, Blount County has been a popular vacation destination for tourists all over the globe. Travellers have chosen to come to Blount County, due to its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains, diverse activities, charming municipalities, cultural and artistic ties, and lovely hospitality. Since hospitality plays a huge role is a positive Smoky Mountain experience, choosing to explore the Bed & Breakfast Inns can be an endearing and rewarding experience. Many of the Bed & Breakfast Inns in Blount County are family owned businesses, and are highly regarded amongst Smoky Mountain visitors. Thinking booking a stay in a Blount County Bed & Breakfast Inn? Here are some great options!


Chilhowee Inn Bed & Breakfast

First established in 1903, the Chilhowee Inn is well-known for its history and charm. There are 5 rooms available, all of which offer pleasant views of either the mountains or the river, and are decorated in their own special way. In the morning, Chilhowee Inn guests can enjoy a homemade complimentary breakfast, as well as free snacks and drinks throughout the day. Situated near Townsend and the Smoky Mountain National Park, the Chilhowee Inn is a lovely choice for a Bed & Breakfast.


Gracehill Bed & Breakfast

Located in Townsend, the Gracehill Bed & Breakfast is a gorgeous establishment that offers its guests complete luxury while being surrounded by nature. The Gracehill is the highest home in Blount County, and is renown for its scenic views and culinary achievements. When choosing to stay at the Gracehill Bed & Breakfast, expect complete privacy and a gourmet breakfast in the morning. Enjoy the elegance of the Inn and the 360-degree views of the mountains, while sipping on your morning coffee on the veranda.


Twin Valley Bed & Breakfast Horse Ranch

Located in Walland, on the foothills of the Smokies, is the Twin Valley Bed & Breakfast Horse Ranch. This Inn is perfect for families and people who love nature, and offers fully-equipped cabins, spacious Ranch House units, and cozy rooms to its guests. Explore this Blount County Bed & Breakfast Inn on horseback, while making your way along the scenic and private trails the Twin Valley’s own. In the morning enjoy a complimentary breakfast in the rustic ranch-style cabin, and don’t forget to go say hello to the many animals in the barn. Twin Valley is also dog and horse friendly, so take your pets with you if you’d like.

Bed & Breakfast Inns have been a popular tradition throughout the world for many centuries, which is why staying in one often fills visitors’ hearts with warmth and cheer. Explore the many Bed & Breakfast Inns in Blount County on your next trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, and have a hospitable experience like no other. Bed & Breakfast Inns are affordable and conveniently situated, making them a great lodging choice all year round

4 Fun Arts Activities in Blount County

February 9, 2017   -   0 comments

Blount County is rich with cultural and performing arts, which is only part of the reason why people choose to put it on their destination list. From singing to dancing to pottery making, Blount County has an array of fun activities that can pique the interests of any passerby.


The Clayton Center for the Arts


The Clayton Center for the Arts is a haven for all art lovers because it offers a variety of shows and activities on a weekly basis. If you’re looking for a fun art-oriented activity while in Blount County, the Clayton Center is definitely a must. While the dates of these activities change may change, there are always many exhibitions and live art performances available to both locals and tourists, so make it a point to stop by the Clayton Center for the Arts, and see which activities are available to you.


  • From January 5th to the 27th, the John Hancock Exhibit will be showcased. This exhibit consists of media paintings and drawings, and is said to be exceptional.
  • The Slovenian Independant Biennial Exhibit will also be taking place from the 5th to the 27th of January, and will be featuring different designs and illustrations from the Republic of Slovenia.


Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center


The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center is home to many interesting events, many of which revolve around art. While some of their events are time sensitive, the Heritage Center offers permanent exhibits, all year round, to anyone interested in learning about Tennessee’s history. The Native Americans of East Tennessee is a permanent exhibit, centered around the different art forms and pre-historic findings found by archaeologists in Tuckaleechee cove. Expect to see pottery and hand-crafted artifacts, left behind by the unknown artists who made them.


The Smoky Mountain Snowdown


The Smoky Mountain Snowdown Festival is a great place for art lovers to flock from January 26 to the 29th. This Winter Festival is well-known for have many art-based activities on its menu, some which even encourage the public to join in on,


  • Brusho Watercolor — This fun activity is going to be taught by Deborah Adams, a silk painter and fiber artist, who has become well-known in her department. Join in on January 27th, and learn to paint with watercolors.
  • Textured Crochet —  Also on January 27th, artist Vicky Walker will be teaching a crochet class to anyone interested, which will be a very interesting course that teaches its pupils different stitching and pattern techniques.

Amongst many other things, Blount County has gained quite the reputation when concerning the performing and visual arts, making it a must-see destination for all people interested in art. Want to go on a weekend getaway where you can expand your artistic mind as well as further your relationship with nature? Blount County is the place for you!

Member Highlight: Your Signature Colors

February 6, 2017   -   0 comments

Knowing which colors go with your skin tone, hair, and eye color can be a little tricky, which is why most people may not pay as much attention to their pallette selection as they should and just simply purchase the items that catch their eye. However, at Your Signature Colors, clients can spend a short amount of time matching colors to their skin tones, and find out which colors were meant for them to wear with the help of a professional color analyst.


What Makes Your Signature Colors Unique


Your Signature Colors is unlike any other company because they offer personalized services to their clients by means of a real professional color analysis and not a computer program. When working with YSC, you can be certain that the color palette designed for you will match your appearance flawlessly. The color tests will be performed in person, and not through a computer screen where colors can end up looking washed-out.


What are Signature Colors and why do we Need Them?


Every single person has an individual look and character, which is why some colors and shades are much more flattering for them. Colors have the ability to either complement or detract from a person’s features, which makes choosing the right colors a powerful tool. When a person is matched with their signature colors, they can learn how to incorporate them into their wardrobe, makeup pallets, shoes and hand bags, nail polishes, and even accessories. This will help them develop a style and adorn themselves in colors that compliment them, making them feel good about themselves.  


How Does YSC work?


  • Order your YSC color package online.
  • Receive a YSC color package at home, and choose amongst the options given to you.
  • Enter your natural match selections into the YSC website.
  • Your natural match selections will then be examined by a professional color analyst, who will specially design a YSC Palette for you.
  • Once everything is finalized, you will receive an in depth analysis that reveals your ideal color patterns, giving you the means to a perfect wardrobe and makeup collection.
  • Your palette will be made out of 5 signature colors, as well as 15 additional colors that will also look amazing on you.

Your Signature Colors is an easy and convenient way to start making the most out of your wardrobe. Instead of purchasing items that end up never being worn, learn which colors were meant for you, and build an ultimate wardrobe where no garb gets left behind! Having a Your Signature Colors Palette personally hand picked will make shopping and accessorizing an easy ordeal, and make originality a fashion statement of its own. Find out how wearing signature colors can benefit the way you feel, act, and perform throughout your day, and learn how to incorporate them into every aspect of your appearance.

New Year’s Resolutions to Explore the Arts in Blount County

February 3, 2017   -   0 comments

It is no secret that Blount County is a fan of the arts. Many of its inhabitants pride themselves in living in a municipality that celebrates its artists and showcases them for all to see. Are you an artist or art-admirer who is interested in learning about the arts in Blount County? Why not make it a new year’s resolution to find time and plan a visit to Blount County and learn all about its art and history?


The Appalachian Ballet Company


Situated in Maryville, Tennessee, the Appalachian Ballet Company is renown for its soul-touching performances, exceptional precision, and amazing plays. Ballet is an art form like no other, and when paired up with talented orchestras, it has the power to move whomever is seated in the audience. Stop by the Van Metre School of Dance and find out why the Appalachian Ballet Company has been making Blount County proud since 1972.


Clayton Center for the Arts


The Clayton Center for the Arts is yet another playground for artists. It showcases many different exhibitions and is home to a large variety of performing arts. From dancing, to singing, to acting, the Clayton Center for the Arts is a well-known and very popular destination for both locals and tourists. Home to countless performances, this center is ideal for anyone who wants to see a live show performed by local and travelling artists.


Smoky Mountain Wood Carving Festival


Every year, the Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend, hosts the Smoky Mountain Wood Carving Festival. This festival generally lasts two days and is held in October. During this time, contestants compete in the art of woodcarving, and display their ingenious craftsmanship for all eyes to see. While at the Heritage center, there are many other exhibitions to view, most of which target the arts as well.


New Midland Plaza Arts and Crafts Fair

Visiting the Smokies in the fall? Make sure to stop by the New Midland Plaza and check out the annual Arts and Crafts Fair. Browse through homemade crafts and individually themed boots, and see what the Blount County locals have to offer in the art department.
Blount County is an advocate of the arts, and has invested in countless art-oriented activities and festivals in order to share its passion with others. Are you an art and history admirer? If you are, why not make your new year’s resolution to explore the arts in Blount County?

Once Closed to Public, Renowned Maryville Retreat Space Now Thrills Guests

January 30, 2017   -   0 comments

Gary Doyle didn’t want this treasure to remain hidden.

For 20 years, RT Lodge in Maryville, Tenn., hosted corporate retreats, weddings and other events in its elegant, secluded setting next to the Maryville College Woods. But by 2016, demand had climbed high enough to justify opening the Ruby Tuesday-owned deluxe hotel and restaurant to the public.

“It seemed to us that there was a great opportunity to provide a downtown Maryville option for hotel accommodations that provided quick access to the airport and surrounding business community for those needing a home base,” said Doyle, RT Lodge’s general manager.

The Lodge began welcoming personal diners and lodgers to its restored 1930’s-era campus last August, and so far the move has been a resounding success.

“It is extremely rewarding to provide a public restaurant and hotel to individuals without the restrictions of being part of a retreat or wedding event,” Doyle said. “This diversity of group and individual venues and services we provide might drive others batty, but we enjoy the mix.”

Those services include lush accommodations featuring custom-crafted furniture in a classic lodge environment, as well as a gourmet restaurant led by Executive Chef Trevor Stockton. RT Lodge also remains a prized local destination for special events and corporate retreats.

“Our isolated location adjacent to Maryville College Woods in the middle of Maryville gives the feeling of being at a remote, natural and elegantly rustic hotel and restaurant, while being only 30 minutes from downtown Knoxville and 10 minutes from the airport,” said Doyle.

All guest rooms at RT Lodge are furnished with a king or two single beds, each topped with down comforters and made up with the elegant, country-house comfort of Ralph Lauren linens. The 60-bed lodging space is divided into two buildings, both in close proximity to the main lodge.

The restaurant, which accepts reservations Tuesdays through Saturdays, offers a gourmet seasonal menu, extensive drink list and intimate atmosphere.

Events, weddings and group retreats remain RT Lodge’s specialty. Its campus offers formal boardrooms, a laid-back fire pit and everything in between, as well as customized dining menus and the technology to facilitate productive meetings.

“For retreats and weddings there is an intimacy provided by the small campus feel to this footprint,” Doyle said. “It provides privacy from the herd when desired while keeping quick accessibility to event activity and services.”

Doyle emphasizes that while RT Lodge may be a complex business to run, it all boils down to a simple philosophy: If you provide premium hospitality, guests will become friends.

“One of the goals is to leave no details unattended, from the aesthetics and lighting, outstanding meals, warm and comfortable living spaces and accommodations, to genuine, friendly, helpful interactions with a hospitality-driven service and culinary team,” Doyle said. “If every need is anticipated and provided in a way that is above expectations, then hopefully our guests will leave here feeling better than when they arrived.”

“I had a guest relay to me a couple of weeks ago that the Lodge team was providing mission work.  Our interactions, smiles, and sincere display of warm hospitality had promoted an elevation of spirit in his group.

“That’s the kind of feedback we enjoy receiving.”

To book a stay, meal or event at RT Lodge, visit

Member Highlight: Wood N Strings Dulcimer Shop

January 24, 2017   -   0 comments

When asked if he “had a blank check, what would you want to do?” Mike Clemmer realized all he wanted was to open his own shop for building and selling his handcrafted mountain dulcimers.

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Dulcimers are a fretted string instrument of the zither family. Appalachian dulcimers are often made by individual craftsmen or small, family-run businesses located in the American South. Mike Clemmer and his wife, Connie, own one of those small, family-run businesses right here in Townsend, Tennessee.

More than 30 years ago, Mike was asked to help an acquaintance catch up on his dulcimer orders. Mike Clemmer already had years of experience repairing guitars and basses, and he quickly learned the art of building and crafting dulcimers. “It’s been a labor of love ever since,” Clemmer said.

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Music has always been a passion of Mike’s, and opening a dulcimer shop has been a “dream-come-true.” Clemmer enjoys many types of music: he plays instruments and  sings, and he has built a respected reputation for repairing, trading and buying instruments.

The Clemmers invite you to “watch how a dulcimer is handcrafted from walnut, cherry, butternut, sassafras or wormy chestnut and enjoy the “sweet song” of the mountain dulcimer.” If you are interested in purchasing your own dulcimer, the Clemmers are more than happy to help you create a one-of-a-kind instrument with you one soundhole pattern design.

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Don’t forget to take a look at their calendar of events too! Throughout the year the Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop hosts local musicians for music nights known as “pickin’ porch.” They often host music lessons too. You can find out more about their events here!

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