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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 15, 2024

WKOM/WKRM RadioSouthern Middle Tennessee TodayNews Copy for April 15, 2024

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

SOAR Awards (MSM)

The Tennessee Board of Regents honored outstanding students, faculty, staff, philanthropists, volunteers and partners of the year at its community and technical colleges in the Sixth Annual Statewide Outstanding Achievement Recognition (SOAR) Awards in Nashville on Thursday, March 28.

Northeast State Community College was named Community College of the Year and Tennessee College of Applied Technology Northwest  took home the Technical College of the Year award.

Among the 24 winners was Gregory S. Johnson, emergency medical services (EMS) program director and professor at Columbia State Community College, who was awarded the Community College Faculty Member of the Year.

In a video appearance, Gov. Bill Lee said, “It is an honor to celebrate each of Tennessee’s outstanding students, faculty and staff at our state’s community colleges and TCATS, as well as their benefactors, community partners and volunteers. From skilled trades to nursing, business and so much more – our community colleges and our TCATs offer a variety of life-changing programs that provide greater opportunities for Tennesseans all across our state.”

In presenting the student awards, Board of Regents Vice Chair Emily J. Reynolds said, “Tonight’s nominees for students of the year truly exemplify the spirit of Tennessee. All six of the nominees can go anywhere and do anything. We want your world to be big – but we also want you to stay right here and be part of Tennessee’s bright future. We are counting on each and every one of you, our students across this system, to take this state to the next level and we have every confidence in your ability to do so.”

TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings congratulated all SOAR participants for their achievements, saying, “We come together this evening to celebrate the best students, faculty and staff and many others who go above and beyond to support what I believe is one of the best higher education systems in the country. Students, you inspire us with your strength, perseverance and dedication to enrich not only your own lives but the lives of your families.”

Meat Social BBQ (WKOM Audio 2:48)

On Friday, a new restaurant opened in the Columbia Arts Building. Meat Social held their grand opening and WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy stopped by to sample what they have to offer and spoke to proprietor Bobby Tedley…

Mt. Pleasant to get Turf (MSM)

News that likely no one in school sports Region 5-2A wanted to hear about Mt. Pleasant football filtered out last week:

The Tigers got faster.

Members of the Maury County Public Schools Board of Education voted to approve artificial turf for the school’s athletic fields during their Tuesday night meeting, with installation expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2024 gridiron season.

“You usually run well on it,” Mt. Pleasant football coach Kit Hartsfield said after the approval was announced. “Speed’s kind of to our advantage usually; that’s usually what we have to lean on to try to get an edge in games. 

“Always having a good, playable surface, versus having to deal with a sloppy field, when other teams may not care if our field’s sloppy because they don’t rely on speed, can make a big difference for us.”

Natural grass hasn’t been especially kind to the Tigers of late, as potential gamebreakers saw their senior seasons ended prematurely in both 2022 and 2023 by knee injuries that occurred on that surface. Receiver/defensive back Demarkus Brown sustained a torn right anterior cruciate ligament in a mid-September win against Loretto two years ago, while receiver/defensive back Keevan Cooper went down in the team’s season opener last fall at Wayne County. Additionally, running back/linebacker Micah Hodison played with a partially torn ACL last season that has since required surgery.

In addition to football, both Eddie Bassham Field, home of the Mt. Pleasant baseball team, and the school’s softball field will have artificial turf installed.

“We don’t have an athletic period in (MCPS),” Hartsfield said. “It makes it difficult to keep a grass field up, although the county has helped us out the past year with some of those burdens. We (won’t) have to worry about weather, as long as it’s not lightning. There’s weeks it rained two or three days and you really can’t get anything done because we don’t have a practice field – a legitimate practice field.

“Dodging that obstacle is big. It makes for better quality practices and videos; all the lines are out there all the time. Not to mention, the middle school and youth league having to use the facility, it’s tough on the grass, along with our (junior varsity) games. There’s a lot of feet on it.”

Hartsfield said the traffic on the field combined with irrigation concerns create further issues that the new turf will solve once installed.

“In the long run, it’s something that’s going to benefit the program and the entire community,” said Hartsfield, who went through the transition from natural grass to artificial turf during his three-year tenure as coach at Blackman.

“Having been through it once, it makes me really excited for all the programs in the area, from the youth level up – the different type events you can do for the community. It’s one of those things where it kinda brings everybody together.”

Hartsfield expects work to begin next month on removing the current grass surface, preparing the ground and installing the new turf, with intentions of the Tigers hosting the Maury County Jamboree on Aug. 16.

“As long as the weather’s good, they’ll probably start digging in May,” he said. “Once they get the groundwork and foundation done, it’s a pretty quick process to put the field down as long as the weather cooperates.”

Artificial playing surfaces for the fields at the new Battle Creek High School were approved during a special called meeting in January. Upgrades for other MCPS facilities will be considered at a later date, according to athletics director Chris Poynter.

“Athletics play a significant role in a student’s overall educational experience, teaching important life skills such as teamwork, discipline and perseverance. Additionally, quality athletic facilities can enhance the sense of community and pride within a school and the surrounding areas,” Poynter said in a release. “It’s great to see that our leadership and board recognize these benefits and are committed to providing top-notch facilities for the students, parents and our communities to enjoy.”

Hartsfield also pointed to the importance of bringing Maury County’s athletic programs to a similar level as others in the area.

“When I applied for the Mt. Pleasant job three years ago, in the interview process, I made a statement that if it wasn’t for family in the area, there’s really nothing you guys are offering to make coaches’ lives better – facilities, money, no athletic period,” he said. 

“The county over the last two years has really recognized that and saw that, competitively, we’re not up to speed with surrounding counties in the smallest ways. They’re really committed to closing that gap and making our schools more attractive, as the Nashville area’s one of the fastest growing areas in the country.”

Kiwanis Sporting Clays (WKOM Audio 1:33)

On Saturday, the Kiwanis club held their annual sporting clays event to support youth scholarships. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy stopped by to learn more about the event and spoke to organizer Steve Burt…

Oates to Play CSCC (MSM)

Columbia State Community College welcomes John Oates to the Cherry Theater on Thursday, April 18 as part of the First Farmers and Merchants Bank Performance Series.

John Oates has been known as half of the best-selling duo Hall & Oates. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The American Songwriters Hall of Fame, recipient of the prestigious BMI Icon Award, as well as numerous American Music, MTV awards, and multiple Grammy nominations. Oates’ charity involvement includes the original Live Aid concert, We Are the World recording, and Oates Song Fest 7908 — which provided more than 450,000 meals for American families. In 2022, Oates became the international ambassador for Movember, the men’s health initiative. Since embarking on a solo career in 1999, Oates has recorded seven solo albums. In addition, his 2017 autobiography, “Change of Season,” released by St. Martin’s Press, became an Amazon best seller. He is currently performing an intimate series of solo acoustic shows called an Evening of Stories and Songs in America and Europe.

 “Get ready to groove with the legendary John Oates as we bring his world-renowned talent to our community!” said Tammy Rosson, Columbia State director of events and alumni relations. “This night of acoustic music promises to be a dynamic blend of his iconic classics and fresh solo material. Don’t miss out on this unforgettable experience!”

Individual tickets, on sale for $35 each, are available at Individuals may also contact the Performance Series ticket line at (931) 540-2879, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

On the night of the performance, the box office opens at 6 p.m. in the Kenneth and Ramona Cherry Theater, located in the Waymon L. Hickman Building on the Columbia Campus. Theater doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. The Columbia Campus is located at 1665 Hampshire Pike in Columbia.

For more information, visit

City and County Receive Grant (MauryCountySource)

The City of Columbia and Maury County have both been awarded $100,000 in Tourism Enhancement Grants from the Tennessee Department Of Tourist Development!

This grant supports cities and counties seeking to invest in their local tourism assets, lift visitation and increase economic impact.

The City will use these funds to create two Blueway access points on the Duck River at Riverwalk Park, while Maury County will allocate the funds for construction of a Blueway river access point along the Duck State Scenic River in Yanahli Park.

Mt. Pleasant Touch-A-Truck (Press Release)

Buckle up, young readers and families, for an exciting adventure awaits at the Mount Pleasant Touch-a-Truck event on June 1st. In celebration of the upcoming Mount Pleasant Library Summer Reading Program, this interactive and educational event will bring the community together for a day of hands-on exploration with a variety of vehicles.

Date: June 1st Time: 10 AM until 1 PM Location: Haylong Ave and the Square in Mount Pleasant, TN

The Touch-a-Truck theme is about community heroes and lots of different trucks lining the street for kids to check out and learn about their community heroes that help us every day! This unique opportunity will allow children and families to get up close and personal with an array of vehicles, from fire trucks to construction equipment, police cars, and more. This free family-friendly event not only promises a day of fun and excitement but also serves as the perfect kickoff for the Library's Summer Reading Program.

The event is designed to inspire a love for reading and learning in children while offering a memorable experience that fosters a sense of community. Participants will have the chance to climb aboard and explore the various vehicles, interact with local community heroes, and even learn about the roles these vehicles play in our daily lives.

"We are thrilled to present the Touch-a-Truck event as a dynamic kickoff to the Mount Pleasant Library Summer Reading Program. It's an opportunity for families to engage with the community, spark curiosity in children, and promote a love for learning," said Haverly Pennington, Director of Main Street.

In addition to the vehicle displays, the event will feature entertainment, food trucks, and activities. Mount Pleasant Main Street, Mount Pleasant Library, Heritage Bank, First Farmer’s Bank, United Community Bank, Southside Baptist Church, Norman’s Body Shop, and Staggs Simple Shine have joined forces to make this day unforgettable, ensuring a festive atmosphere for all attendees. Families are encouraged to bring their children, explore the trucks, and discover the joy of reading. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information about the Touch-a-Truck event and the Mount Pleasant Library's Summer Reading Program, please contact Haverly Pennington, Main Street Director, at

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Kerry Blaine Huckaby, 57, died Monday, April 8, 2024 in Columbia.

Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, April 20, 2024 at 11:00 AM at First United Methodist Church.  Burial will follow at Polk Memorial Gardens.  The family will visit with friends Friday, April 19, 2024 from 4:00 PM until 8:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home and Saturday from 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM in the Atrium at First United Methodist Church.  Online condolences may be extended at

And now, news from around the state…

TWRA Cracking Down on Drinking (Press Release)

Alcohol possession and consumption will be prohibited on Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) Wildlife Management areas statewide, effective April 15 with the exception of designated areas. Alcohol is only permitted at designated TWRA campgrounds and on public waters bordering or within a WMA. Drunken-disorderly conduct is also prohibited.

This rule applies to all user groups, including hunters, hikers, off-highway (OHV) drivers and passengers, and other WMA users. Signs will be posted on the WMA noting that alcohol is prohibited. TWRA wildlife officers will be issuing citations for alcohol possession and use that is not in compliance with the regulations. Tennessee State Driving Under the Influence laws also apply on local roads and managed trails when operating OHVs.

The rule change is being implemented due to high rates of intoxicated trail riding on WMAs and frequent accidents where alcohol was a contributing factor. The TWRA is committed to public safety and is focused on keeping public lands family friendly and safe for all Tennesseans.

Ogles Honors MPD Officers (Tennessean)

U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tennessee, 5th District, presented Metropolitan Nashville Police Department officers Michael Collazo and Rex Engelbert with flags flown over the U.S. Capitol in their honor and a Congressional Record insert, according to a press release from Ogles' office.

The gesture was to commemorate their courageous response to the tragic shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville last March and to nominate them for a Congressional Gold Medal.

“The heroism of MNPD officers Collazo and Engelbert on March 27th, 2023, saved countless lives. Their bravery and disregard for personal safety to protect others is nothing short of noble and deserving of national recognition in history,” Ogles said.

"I submitted to the Congressional Record a statement to memorialize their acts of valor and nominated each officer for a Congressional Gold Medal. Officer Collazo and Officer Engelbert, thank you again for being exemplary law enforcement officers. Nashville is blessed to have both of you serving our community.”

Tobacco Production at All-Time Low (Tennessean)

Tobacco farming — once central to the South's economy and culture — has all but vanished from the region.

The end of government support for the crop in 2005, coupled with a sharp decline in smoking and stiff global competition from China, India and Brazil, guaranteed a decline in tobacco production. But even experts have been surprised by how quickly the crop has faded from prominence.

The most recent data collected reveals a severe drop in tobacco production, according to the 2022 U.S. Department of Agriculture's Census of Agriculture released in February.

The number of U.S. farms growing tobacco shrank 95% from 2002 to 2022. Meanwhile, Tennessee saw a 97% decline in tobacco farms. Only 241 Tennessee farms grew tobacco in 2022 compared to 8,206 farms in 2002.

The rise of vaping and nicotine pouches has further reduced the demand for tobacco.

As predicted by experts, the farms that continue to grow tobacco have increased the number of acres they devote to the crop.

The average Tennessee tobacco farm was 4.4 acres in 2002. In 2022, it jumped to 51.4 acres, according to the Census.

In Tennessee, the little tobacco farming that remains has concentrated in Middle Tennessee, said Mitchell Richmond of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

Richmond, who comes from a farming family, remembers when a few acres of lucrative tobacco was essential to a family farm in Tennessee.

"A couple of acres max of tobacco is how a lot of families would pay for the farm, pay for the Christmas groceries," he said.

Many people Richmond knows paid for their college by working for tobacco growers in the summers.

Other crops, like watermelons and hemp, have held promise as new high-value cash crops but haven't matched the onetime-prominence of tobacco.

"There's never really been a crop that has come through since that can replace that kind of income," Richmond said.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Nashville Zoo’s three tiger cubs can now be seen at Tiger Crossroads!

The cubs and mom, Anne, will be out daily from 9 am until noon – although weather and animal care factors may occasionally prevent the cubs from being outside. After noon, Felix (dad) will be in the Tiger Crossroads habitat for guests to see.

Anne, the Zoo’s 7-year-old female Sumatran tiger, gave birth to the cubs on the evening of October 20, 2023. The three cubs are the first Sumatran tigers to be born at Nashville Zoo.

The female cubs names are Kirana (key-RAHN-ah), an Indonesian name meaning beautiful sunbeam⁠ and Zara (ZAR-ah), a Malaysian name meaning princess and radiant⁠ and the male name is Bulan (BOO-lahn), an Indonesian name meaning moon⁠.


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