Fall in Love with the Arts in Blount County: Artistic Dance Unlimited

March 24, 2017   -   0 comments

At Artistic Dance Unlimited, the dance company’s ultimate goal is “to provide the best quality dance instruction in a structured and fun environment.”  The company offers several types of dance instruction to inspire students to develop a lifelong passion for the art form.  At ADU, the instructors understand that dance isn’t just about building skills, it is also about exploring a unique outlet for self-expression.  Offering classes for preschoolers up to adults, ADU seeks to share their passion for dance with all ages and ability levels.


Large, Equipped Facility

The ADU facility was tailored to fit the needs of the participants and their families.  In the facility’s 4800 square feet, dancers enjoy studio space equipped with a floating dance floor, mirrors and gender-specific dressing rooms.  Parents appreciate the specialized homework area and the monitors that allow them to watch their dancers from the lobby.    


ADU provides a wide variety of options that will suit anyone seeking to begin their dance journey or build on existing experience, and they even provide opportunities for those simply looking for a fun alternative to the gym for exercise.  Beginner courses are available for those just starting out, and students can advance to junior, intermediate, and senior levels.  The dance styles covered are ballet, contemporary, hip hop, jazz, lyrical, pointe, tap and acrobatics. There is a class available that is just for boys, which focuses on building strength and flexibility for athletic conditioning. There is also an adult class that is specifically for having fun and getting in some aerobic activity, which requires no prior experience. ADU offers particularly ambitious students an opportunity to hone their craft through the Performance Company.  Students and families in the Company attend additional practices and perform competitively.  


Book Birthday Parties at ADU

Birthday parties are another wonderful offering at ADU.  Book a party at the studio and get access to dance space, an instructor-led dance class, treat bags and special gifts.  Kids will love the Ballerina and Hip Hop themed parties and parents will love relaxing while the little ones have a blast.  The only thing the parents need to provide is the food, and the birthday coordinator takes care of all the activities.  Birthday parties are open to the public, and one set fee covers the entire cost.  


Explore the Benefits of Dance

If you’re interested in exploring the benefits and joys of dance, you can send ADU a message through their website, give them a call at (865) 982-1993, or visit the studio at 314 Gill Street in Alcoa, TN.

Great Restaurants in Blount County: Foothills Milling Company

March 21, 2017   -   0 comments

Tucked away on Washington Street South in Maryville, TN, there’s an unassuming restaurant covered in red brick that offers a world-class dining experience.  Step under the classic black awning into the double doors of Foothills Milling Company and a beautifully decorated dining room awaits you.  Casual with a bit of an upscale flare, this restaurant serves high quality food in a charming atmosphere, Tuesdays to Saturdays starting at 5PM.


Fine Dining in a Quaint Space

Foothills Milling Company is a local favorite, delivering fine dining in a quaint space.  The red brick that adorns the exterior continues inside, giving the dining room a cozy, comfortable feel.  Classic light fixtures hang from the ceiling between beams that stretch to either end of the room.  White linens are draped over tables in a seating area enclosed by partitions, creating an intimate setting.


Guests rave about the delicious, flavorful food as well as the knowledgeable and friendly staff.   

Appetizers range from simple and Southern dishes like Fried Green Tomatoes to more elegant offerings of Tuna Tartare and Duck Confit.  Another favorite is the Southeastern specialty, She Crab Soup.  For the main courses, Foothills Milling Company gives classic dishes a makeover.  Their Steak and Potatoes includes a center cut Filet and loaded potato cake and Shrimp and Grits gets a boost from bacon, andouille sausage and mushrooms.  The classic pork and apple combo makes an appearance in the Cheshire Pork Cheeks dish, which features local pork and apple butter sauce.  There are also lavish options like Lamb Two Ways – the two ways being a rack and lamb sausage – and Tempura Lobster Tails.  Some of the recent dessert offerings have been chocolate creme brûlée, buttermilk pie and pumpkin molten lava cake.  


Extensive Wine & Cocktail Selection

Wine lovers will be especially pleased with the restaurant’s extensive wine list.  They even offer bottles at half price every Wednesday. The restaurant has a full bar and creates fun cocktail specials to celebrate holidays and seasons in addition to their regular drinks.  Try a pumpkin cheesecake martini in the fall, or a Bahamian delight in the summer, or go for the signature Maryville Martini, which is a mainstay on the menu.  


Sophisticated Destination for Your Next Meal

Foothill Milling Company is a unique and sophisticated destination for your next special meal, date night, or business meal. To make reservations, simply submit a form on the restaurant’s site.  For parties of more than nine reservations can be made by calling the restaurant at 865-977-8434.  


Feeding the City with the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee

March 18, 2017   -   0 comments

Food, Food Bank, Icon

For 35 years, the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee has been serving the community and combating the hunger epidemic in the area.  With 200,000 people at risk of hunger in East Tennessee alone, Second Harvest’s mission to fight hunger through food distribution is vital.  The food bank partners with area nonprofits continually to make sure that those who are hungry receive assistance, offering several programs that greatly benefit the surrounding area.  



Second Harvest refers to their partner nonprofit organizations as agencies, and these partners are crucial to the food bank’s mission to end hunger.  Agencies receive food from the food bank and redistribute it to those in need. The food must be given to the community free of charge, and agencies’ efforts must fall under a food bank program to qualify for assistance.  Agencies can receive large portions of food for a steep discount or for free, giving a boost to their efforts and allowing them to serve people who otherwise might be overlooked.  Some of the operations that Second Harvest assists are food pantries, after school programs, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters.  



The Food Bank of East Tennessee has several programs that focus on specific needs in the community. The child-based program Food for Kids provides food for children at risk for hunger.  Teachers who observe behaviors that indicate a child isn’t being adequately fed outside of school – such as hoarding food and having trouble concentrating – can notify the school and attain food to send home with the child.  Families regularly receive food that they can prepare on weekends and are even given food in the summer months.  


Partner Agencies receive food through the Food Sourcing program, which includes packaged pantry items, bulk items, frozen foods and fresh goods, as well as USDA grocery items.  Agencies can place orders online and pick them up from the facility.  


The food bank also has tractor trailers that deliver food directly to those in need. These programs include the Food Rescue Program, which collects prepared perishable food from organizations and delivers it directly to shelters, soup kitchens, programs that deliver to rural locations, elderly shut-ins and even parking lots when access to food pantry sites is limited.


The Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee reaches a multitude of people in the area and meets their most basic need.  To become an advocate for the hungry, you can donate financially or by providing food.  Visit their website to learn more about different ways you can set up your financial donations to support this significantly impactful organization.  


Plan the Ultimate Garden Wedding at Country Manor Acres

March 15, 2017   -   0 comments

When planning the perfect wedding, many brides-to-be imagine being surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes nature provides in a beautiful country wedding.  Country Manor Acres in Townsend, TN provides the ideal location for a nature-inspired wedding that feels far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  The countryside provides the crisp air, rolling hills and peaceful setting, and Country Manor Acres provides everything else needed for an unforgettable day.


Wedding Packages for Special Memories

Country Manor Acres offers several wedding packages to accommodate everyone’s financial needs and ceremony preferences.  The more economical packages include everything needed for a simple ceremony, including usage of one of the Manor’s beautiful outside spaces, photos and preparation rooms.  For a larger wedding with all the bells and whistles, more extensive packages are available.  These include lodging, additional time for the ceremony, reception facilities, snacks, the main meal and entertainment.  The Country Charm package even includes an outdoor fire for marshmallow roasting for a truly magical finale.


Country Manor Acres helps you incorporate plenty of Southern charm into your big day by supplying appropriate decor that gives your ceremony that special touch.  Simple elements like lush floral arrangements set in milk jugs, wagon wheels, horse-drawn carts, burlap and mason jar lanterns add just the right amount of country character.  Many of the items used in decorating are antiques, evoking a sweet, rustic feel.   


Beautiful Surroundings, Spectacular Options

The property that Country Manor Acres occupies is stunning and provides different landscapes that set the perfect ambiance for your particular ceremony.  If you want to get married by water, there’s a pond that creates a charming backdrop.  Reid’s Landing is a plateau overlooking a serene meadow that lends a distinctly country feel, complete with grazing horses down in the meadow.  Throughout the property, there are lovely mature trees, coves, glades and many other unique settings to inspire your ideal wedding.  There is also a decorated barn available for receptions.  


If you’re not looking to hop on a plane right after you wrap up the festivities, you can stay right on the Manor.  Book one of their lodging options and you can skip the exhausting travel plans and kick off your honeymoon right away.  The rooms come with fully-equipped kitchens, decks, picnic tables, barbecue grills, and hot tubs.  Accommodations are spacious with cabin-style features, such as wood-cladded walls, and offer beautiful views of the cascading green landscape.   
Start dreaming up your ultimate Southern wedding, and let Country Manor Acres take care of the details.  

Take the Family on a Tour of Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center

March 12, 2017   -   0 comments

The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is a site dedicated to educating the public about the history of the Great Smokies and its surrounding area.  The Center’s mission is to “preserve, protect, and promote the unique history and rich culture” of the East Tennessee mountain area, and through a thoughtful array of educational resources and events, they seek to leave an indelible mark on the community.  


Educational Resources

The Heritage Center boasts an impressive list of educational resources that help make visitors aware of the cultural achievements and background that characterize East Tennessee.  Stroll through the Center’s museum and pick up lots of interesting information from artifacts found in archeological digs.  Then, head outside and explore the preserved historic structures, such as cabins, houses, shops, and barns.  There is also an art exhibit that features artwork that is reflective of the culture.  


Field trips to the Center provide a popular outing for area students.  The Heritage Center encourages children to be proactive in learning about the diverse cultures that characterize the area, and through fun, tactical learning methods, the children can enjoy themselves and learn in a way that will help them to remember the information for years to come.  Kids love the unique flute-playing workshop that allows them to listen to an accomplished Native-American flute player.  They’re also given their very own flute to decorate and play.  


Programs and Events

There is always plenty to do at the Heritage Center, allowing for fun for the family while soaking up the culture.  The Center hosts festivals, concerts, docudramas, and fairs year-round.  In the summer, families can learn together at interactive, themed programs offered every weekday morning for 6 weeks.  There are also themed learning experiences every Tuesday afternoon that focus on diverse subjects such as beekeeping, hiking, and Civil War medicine and surgery.  
The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is in Townsend, Tennessee and is open every day except Sundays.  Many of the activities provided are free to residents, or accessible with a small membership fee.  The Center can only provide these services for such a low cost thanks to the donations of individuals and organizations that partner with the Heritage Center to help them fulfill their purpose of providing ongoing educational opportunities to visitors.  You can donate by filling out, printing and mailing the donation form on the website.  You can also help support the Center’s efforts by volunteering or by obtaining a membership.

Cades Cove Heritage Tours

March 9, 2017   -   0 comments

Located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove is a beautiful scenic valley and home to a wide assortment of wildlife, views, historic sites, and a paved 11-mile looped road for visitors.   


Preserving the Natural Beauty

While many visitors to Cades Cove choose to drive or bike the 11 miles, some enjoy a more in-depth tour with somebody else behind the wheel.  Cades Cove Heritage Tours, a non-profit organization focused on preserving the natural and cultural resources of Cades Cove, began their tours in the summer of 2007.  Concerned with the crowds, traffic and pollution, local citizens joined together to  provide shuttled tours of Cades Cove and all that it offers.


Cades Cove Ecology and History Tour

Public or private tours are available on 18 and 14 passenger vehicles and depart from the Heritage Center in Townsend.  The tours last 3-4 hours and visitors are welcome to bring a snack to enjoy on the trip.  

The experienced guides will share the history of the Cove, tell personal stories about the residents that once lived in this now preserved Appalachian community, point out natural resources, and answer any questions that visitors may have.  As a visitor, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and wildlife without worrying about paying attention to the road.


The tours are ideal for groups traveling together or for families that want to learn more about the history and culture of the area.  Tours are not offered on a daily basis unless there are at least ten seats filled but are offered every Saturday at 1:30pm.  You are encouraged to call 865-448-8838 to inquire about a specific day’s tour schedule.

Appalachian Bear Rescue – A Black Bear Care Facility

March 6, 2017   -   0 comments

Located just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sits a safe haven for black bears that have been orphaned, injured or are in need of medical care.  The Appalachian Bear Rescue, a nonprofit that opened their doors to the first bear in need in 1996, not only cares for the black bears that need it before releasing them back to the wild, they also raise public awareness about coexisting with bears in the area.


Reaching and Teaching the Public

Appalachian Bear Rescue offers educational programs geared toward elementary through junior high aged kids.  The programs offered include:

  • An Overview of Appalachian Bear Rescue  
  • A Year in the Life of a Bear
  • A Cub’s Life
  • If You Were a Bear
  • Amazing Bears
  • Be Bear Smart, Be Bear Safe
  • Be Bear Aware
  • Be a Junior Bear Curator
  • Bear Tales
  • Meet Our Neighbor

Each kid friendly program meets the standards for Tennessee Life Science studies regarding mammals, habitat living, ecology and biodiversity and keeps kids engaged while learning about the black bears that live among them.


Visitor and Education Center  

Appalachian Bear Rescue facility is closed to the public but they do have a visitors center that is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm.  The visitors center, located at Trillium Cove, features videos on a few of the cubs that the rescue has helped as well as other educational exhibits, and sells souvenirs that help fund the rescue facility operations.  Some of these souvenirs are also available online and can be found here.  


How You Can Help

Appalachian Bear Rescue is always looking for volunteers to help staff their visitors center or to help with the educational programs that are offered to area students and families.  If you are interested in learning more about these volunteer opportunities, visit their website at

In addition to volunteering your time to help educate the public about coexisting with black bears, monetary donations are always accepted.  Your tax deductible donation helps Appalachian Bear Rescue continue to care for orphaned and injured cubs and bears in the area. Your donation can also help the organization  continue  its education outreach.   


Supporters are also encouraged to shop with merchants that will donate a portion of the sale back to Appalachian Bear Rescue.  These merchants include popular everyday sites such as Amazon.  To learn more about how you can shop and support this organization at the same time, visit their Other Ways to Give page.

Blount County Habitat for Humanity – Building More Than Homes

March 3, 2017   -   0 comments

“A world where everyone has a decent place to live.”  That is the Vision Statement of Habitat for Humanity and what the Blount County chapter strives to provide to the community members it serves.  Operating since 1992, Blount County Habitat for Humanity (BCHFH) works directly with local partners to help end poverty housing in the area. Building more than homes, BCHFH is helping to build better communities.


Habitat for Humanity, Building Better Communities

According to their 2013 Annual Report, the latest report available online, over 900 Blount County residents have been helped through the local Habitat for Humanity chapter.  While most people know that Habitat for Humanity helps to build affordable homes for those in need, the program also advocates for fair housing policies and provides resources to families that will help improve their living situations.


An additional resource of BCHFH is the Housing Repair Collaborative. This program can help low income residents with handicap modifications on their home including new ramp construction and doorway modifications.  Qualified residents can also receive assistance on roofing projects, siding, painting, and more.  The Collaborative coordinates the projects with volunteers and assists with planning and evaluating the projects.

ReStore, The Community Store

In addition, BCHFH operates the local ReStore where residents and businesses drop off donations to be resold to shoppers.  Proceeds from the ReStore go directly towards building new homes and repairing existing homes in the community.  


Blount County benefits from the ReStore in a multitude of ways.  Residents have a place for their unwanted items to go besides a landfill, and shoppers (also residents) have a place where they can shop for needed items at an affordable price, knowing that every dollar that they spend goes back into their community.  


Yearly Events

BCHFH holds several fundraising events throughout the year.  These events help to raise funds for housing projects, build awareness in the community, and help bring the community together through fun and fellowship.  There are also Hard Hat Tours and Home Dedications throughout the year.  The Hard Hat Tours give groups and individuals a glimpse into a home under construction while learning more about the Blount County Habitat for Humanity and the resources that they offer.  The Home Dedications are celebrations that occur after a home is built and where the homeowners are given the keys to their new homes.
Many businesses, groups, and individuals volunteer their time, their resources, their knowledge, and their money to assist and support the BCHFH and their partners.  If you are interested in learning more or volunteering, you may contact them at (865) 982-8717.

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.

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