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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for June 5, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Electric Car Fire Safety (CDH)

Columbia Fire & Rescue is partnering with General Motors to provide up-to-date safety measures for drivers, this time by focusing on electric and hybrid vehicle fires and how to handle them.

Later this month, Columbia City Council will vote to accept a donation from the automobile manufacturer of five specialized containment blankets to be used in the event of an electric vehicle fire. Fire Chief Ty Cobb said these blankets will provide a great addition to the department, because an electric fire is something that is "not friendly to water."

"It's pretty simple, but it can be pretty challenging. These are basically blankets used to put over electrical vehicles, battery cell-type fires," Cobb said. "If there is a fire, they use these blankets to cover it, usually when it is fully involved or 50% involved. Firefighters will use these aggressively to just 'cover it and smother it.'"

Cobb added that the blankets will be stored at Columbia Fire Station 5, located near the GM Plant and Ultium electric battery facility. This will provide training in close proximity where electric vehicles are being built and manufactured.

The approximate value of the blankets is about $7,250.

Vice Mayor Randy McBroom asked, given these blankets will only be at one station, what would happen when there is an electrical vehicle fire across town and what is the likelihood of a quick response?

Cobb said his department is looking into building better response times, and that one day he hopes each station could have this equipment at the ready. For now, the first step is training his firefighters on how to properly use them.

"We plan on adding more, so you'll probably see another donation down the road. We're just not going to put them on the trucks until everyone is properly trained," Cobb said.

TCAP Retest (MainStreetMaury)

Third-grade students in Maury County Public Schools were awaiting the results of a second try at the state’s TCAP test to see if they will need to attend summer school and/or have tutoring in the upcoming school year to avoid being retained.

Maury County Public Schools had previously announced that eligible students could retake the state’s TCAP test. Parents were notified last week if their child would need to retake the test or attend a summer reading camp. The state’s testing window until June 5 and MCPS is supposed to begin its summer program on June 5.

The retest opportunity was part of the state’s new third-grade retention law, which mandates that students who do not score as “meets” or “exceeds expectations” on the English/Language Arts portion of the test will not be allowed to be promoted to the fourth grade.

There are a number of exceptions to the rule for students with disabilities, students who have previously been retained and students with English as a second language. Students can also take a summer reading bridge camp – where they must have 90% attendance – and maintain a state-funded tutor during fourth grade to advance. Students can also re-take the TCAP test to advance.

MCPS received its initial test data on Friday, May 19, in which roughly 63 percent of third graders failed to meet the required score, with 37.5 percent of MCPS third graders scoring “approaching expectations” and 25.9 percent scoring “below expectations.” MCPS scored 27.4 percent of third graders “meet expectations” and just 9.1 percent scored as “exceeds expectations.”

The Tennessee Department of Education announced that retest results would be available within 48 hours. MCPS Communications Director Jack Cobb stated that “the window for retakes has not closed; however, our current data shows a 12% ‘pass’ rate of our students that have taken the retake thus far.”

Parents of students who have achieved the performance level of “approaching” on the ELA portion of the TCAP can file an appeal to the State Board of Education, according to information on the school district’s website. Appeals may be filed if the student received a score above the 40th percentile on their spring universal reading screener; or if there was “a catastrophic situation occurred during the days leading up to the TCAP test that impacted the third-grade student’s ability to perform on the test or the retake.”

Homestead Festival (CDH)

It's not every festival that you come home with knowledge to develop a sustainable life for yourself and your family, while creating lasting memories on a scenic farm in the country.

This is at the heart of Rory Feek's Homestead Festival, which returned for its second year this past weekend. The event featured two days of lectures, demonstrations, more than 200 vendors and, of course, each night was capped off with live music on the main stage.

On Feek's 100-acre farm, adults and children were able to plant seeds, see how honey is harvested, sheer sheep or milk a cow, just to name a few interactive activities at the festival. A 12-foot log cabin was even raised "the old fashioned way," built by hand using wooden pegs.

Homestead Festival organizers worked hard by bailing hay, gathering livestock, clearing the fields to set up tents, stages and the final preparations for another successful year following 2022's inaugural event, which featured Oscar-winning actor Kevin Costner and his band Modern West.

Feek said one of the biggest surprises for the festival's first year was the lasting impact it seemed to have on many attendees, because Homestead isn't your typical festival, he says, but one that is geared to inspire a better life - in food, education and living off of one's own land, or the quintessential homesteading-101 event.

"We were all surprised at how such a big undertaking last year was, but also how beautiful and special it was," Feek said. "We were all just in awe with how it happened and what's become of this idea that we had."

While last year's festival was a success, Feek said he wanted to take somewhat of a different approach this year, focusing more on the educational aspect. New features for kids, or "Lil' Homesteaders" were added and bringing things full circle in regard to the development of his farm.

Vendors taught interested festival-goers what they know about farming techniques and artisan goods and food from acclaimed homesteaders like Joel Salatin, "the most famous farmer in America" and creator of the documentary Food Inc. to Jill Winger who taught onlookers how to grow their own food. "Chicken ninja" Justin Rhodes was also on hand to show best practices of poultry.

"It's been really exciting this year, because we were able to learn from last year, make some changes, shoot for the moon in certain ways. And also we're doing a better job of taking care of our speakers and everybody else that came this year," Feek said. "It's been really, really good."

If there's one thing to describe all the experiences at the Homestead Festival, it's the variety of things to do for all ages.

This included taking in a lecture on home gardening, woodworking or creating sustainable living, loading up the kids on a hayride around the farm or simply wandering about and discovering something new.

In addition to two days of education seminars, demonstrations and live music, the Homestead Festival featured nearly 200 vendors, which included about a dozen food trucks, which organizer Rachel Greenwood said is more than double compared to last year.

"We've got things like wood turners, leatherworkers, ceramics and tie dye. We've got lots of merch and farm-oriented things, but also fun stuff like jewelry and handmade items,” Greenwood said.

The kids zone, or Lil' Homesteaders, featured a bounce house, a petting zoo, as well as a giant "corn pit" to jump and play in.

"How often do you get to come somewhere where you can go from a petting zoo to helping sheer sheep, helping milk a cow, processing chickens or pigs, building a timber frame or keeping bees," Feek said. "We've even got an area where kids can plant things. Our kids get to do this all the time, but this is more like one weekend a year when what we do at our school gets real big, and it's for children of all ages, even up to my age and older."

Another new feature included the opportunity to see a 12-foot-by-six-foot log cabin being raised "the old fashioned way," built by hand using mortise and tenon joints.

A new free-to-download Homestead Festival app featured things like a detailed daily schedule, information on featured performers, a festival map and vendor info.

At the end of each night, Feek hosted an evening of live music on the main stage featuring artists he personally curated for the festival.

This year's lineup featured performances by Collin Raye, Craig Campbell, Paul Overstreet and the Malpass Brothers. A second side stage for live music was set up near the Hardison Mill Schoolhouse.

Feek said he is excited for this year's music lineup, not only because he got to share the stage with good friends and tell stories, but because of a tie-in to the history of the farm itself.

In late 1999, Feek was getting his start as a songwriter, when he sold his first song "Someone You Used to Know," recorded by Collin Raye which went to the top of the charts. After receiving royalties for his first No. 1 hit, Feek decided to purchase a place of his own, eventually discovering his now sprawling farm.

The farm, the festival and Feek's career as an artist can be tied back to that first song, which he closed the festival with on Saturday night, bringing everything full circle.

Columbia Lions Football Camp

The Columbia Central Lions Football program is hosting a youth football camp on Saturday June 10th for kids ages 5-12. The University of Tennessee football players and 1 cheerleader will be coming to help all the coaches with the camp.

The cost of the camp is $50 and will take place at Eva Gilbert Park located at 120 Cord Drive in Columbia. Registration will take place on the 10th from 9-10am, the camp will last from 10-12 and will feature skills and agility training. There are 150 spots reserved for football players ages 5-12 and 50 spots reserved for cheerleaders ages 5-12. From Noon-1:00 kids will get to have autographs signed by UT players Dayne Davis, Squirrel White, and Austin Lewis and cheerleader Willow Martinez.

From 1-4, will be family fun day with food, a dunk tank, and water slide.

For more information, you can visit

Spring Hill Tourism Exhibit (Press Release)

The Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce its highly anticipated annual extravaganza, Experience Spring Hill, The Event presented by Liberty Federal Credit Union. The family-friendly, free event will take place on Saturday, June 24, 2023, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Summit High School. Featuring over 100 vendors offering a diverse range of products and services, Experience Spring Hill, The Event will showcase the vibrant community of Spring Hill in one convenient location.

The event will also offer a plethora of activities to delight all ages, including a touch-a-truck display, an exhilarating bounce house, an engaging golf simulator, an exciting video gaming area, an immersive virtual reality station, lively dance demonstrations from local studios, appearances by beloved "famous" characters, and a medley of entertaining games with fabulous prizes. Furthermore, the City of Spring Hill's library, parks, police, fire, and administrative services will be present, providing valuable community information on-site.

Rebecca Melton, the Executive Director of the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce, expressed her enthusiasm for the return of the annual eat, shop, and play event. She stated, "Our organization's mission is to positively influence the business culture to create a better Spring Hill, and this event allows us to showcase the many local businesses and organizations that embody our mission.”

Bringing together representatives from the Spring Hill Welcome Center, Visit Franklin, Experience Maury, Visit Columbia, and South Central Tennessee Tourism Association under one roof, a new attraction at the event will be a "Tennessee Travels" exhibit area, featuring the very best in the area's local tourism, attractions, hidden gems and adventures.

"We are thrilled to be the presenting sponsor of Experience Spring Hill, The Event once again this year," said Chris Wagner of Liberty Federal Credit Union in Spring Hill. "Participating in this event allows us to connect with and wholeheartedly support the Spring Hill community in a meaningful and impactful way.”

For further information about the event, please visit the official website at

Tennessee Reconnect (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College will host virtual Tennessee Reconnect information sessions during the month of June.


Tennessee Reconnect is a last-dollar scholarship that provides free tuition for adults to attend a community college. The initiative is designed to help adults enter college to gain new skills, advance in the workplace and fulfill lifelong dreams of completing a degree or credential.


“We are thankful to be able to provide the local community with easy access to information about Tennessee Reconnect by hosting virtual information sessions,” said Joni Allison, Columbia State coordinator of Adult Student Services. “Tennessee Reconnect provides a wonderful opportunity for eligible adults to retool their skills and attend Columbia State tuition-free.”


To be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, students must meet the following requirements:

Haven’t earned an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Have been a Tennessee resident for at least one year.

Complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid and be determined as an independent student.

Be admitted to Columbia State and enroll in a degree or certificate program.

Must attend at least part-time (6 credit hours).


To view the full list of steps to apply, or to sign up for an information session, please visit


June 5 6 – 7 p.m.

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

Mr. Hershel Todd Currie, 59, self-employed carpenter, craftsman and resident of Columbia, died Wednesday, May 31, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center. Funeral services for Mr. Currie will be conducted Monday at 6:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends on Monday from 4:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.

Mr. Madison Elonzo Dodson, former longtime resident of South High Street in Columbia, died at the age of 93 Saturday, June 3, 2023 at Morning Pointe. Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday June 7, 2023 at 11:00 A.M. at First United Methodist Church. Burial will follow in Santa Fe Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 10:00 A.M. – 11:00 A.M. at the church. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

Rep. Bill Beck Dies (TennesseeLookout)

Nashville Democratic state Rep. Bill Beck died on Sunday at the age of 61.

WKRN in Nashville first reported Beck’s death. The cause of his death is not known yet.

Beck was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 2014 and was currently serving on the House Ethics, Civil Justice, Transportation and State Government committees. He became known among Democrats and Republicans as a genial colleague, easy to work with and easy to joke with.

Carson Bill Beck was a native of Nashville. He graduated from University of School of Nashville, Belmont University and The Nashville School of Law, before opening a law practice with his mother, Martha Lu Cone Beck. He was active in the Madison community and served as a board members for organizations including the Kiwanis Club of Madison and Madison-Rivergate Chamber of Commerce.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton tweeted “We are incredibly saddened to hear that our colleague, Rep. Bill Beck, has unexpectedly passed away. Bill was a dedicated servant and powerful voice for the city of Nashville, a husband, father, and friend to everyone in the General Assembly.”

In a statement, Democratic Caucus Chair John Ray Clemmons of Nashville, said “Our caucus is a family. Today we lost a brother, and we are devastated. Our hearts go out to Pam, Meredith and Bill’s entire family. Bill and I entered the legislature together, and it was a true honor to serve with and learn from him. He was a source of advice, inspiration and much-needed levity for me and many others at the most crucial moments. Everyone privileged enough to ever cross Bill’s path knows what a special person and caring individual he was. He truly had a public servant’s heart and the most memorable laugh. I will miss my dear friend and colleague. Please join us as we lift the Beck family up in prayer.”

Nashville Mayor John Cooper tweeted: “Bill Beck was a constant charming and kind presence. He brightened every room with his grace and wit, and he made politics better for us all. Bill was a true friend, and we will miss him everyday. Our prayers are with his wife Pam & their family as we all mourn this tragic loss.”

Blackburn Speaks in Franklin (

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn is rallying Republican voters as the 2024 election cycle kicks off ahead of what she said will be a “pivotal year for our country.”

Blackburn spoke to dozens of members of the Republican Women of Williamson County at their monthly luncheon in Franklin, which included other guests such as Tenn. State Sen. Jack Johnson.

“You can’t make up this kind of crazy,” Blackburn told the crowd. “Every single day in [Washington] D.C., it is a fight to defend faith, family, freedom, hope and opportunity, and it is a pushback against [President] Joe Biden’s policies, and [Sen. Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer and what they are trying to do. I just look at where they’re trying to take the country and it is frightening to me.”

Blackburn specifically cited immigration and border security, reiterating her calls for the completion of a physical wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico, something that was a declared focus by former President Donald Trump, although his administration never completed it.

Blackburn said that the Biden administration “continues to try to find new ways to make illegal legal,” in reference to immigrants and refugees, while allegedly ignoring the ongoing fentanyl and opioid crisis and cartel operations and violence.

Blackburn alleged that the Biden administration is not interested in “stopping terrorists from entering this country,” while in the same breath stating that an Afghani national who is listed on a U.S. terrorist watch list was recently arrested crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is a federal law enforcement agency.

Blackburn also criticized Biden’s recent authorization of the deployment of some 1,500 U.S. troops to the border who are taking on administrative support roles, and not combat or law enforcement roles.

While she characterized the troop’s jobs of “processing paperwork” as antithetical to “securing the border,” the processing of immigrants is a necessary step in determining if someone meets the legal requirement for asylum and eventually either accepting someone into the country or deporting them, all parts of the federal government’s national security efforts.

The day after Blackburn’s remarks, Gov. Bill Lee authorized the deployment of 100 Tenn. National Guardsmen to the border where they will specifically support security efforts by "patrolling and providing additional security presence along the border; assisting road and route clearance; barrier placement and debris removal; and staffing outpost operations."

On May 22, Blackburn’s Tennessee colleague U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty led a roundtable discussion in Nashville with former Acting Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan and various state and local law enforcement and government officials discussing border security.

Blackburn also criticized the “impact” of the Green New Deal, proposed environmental legislation which has never been passed by the U.S. Senate or signed into law, as well as inflation and the national debt, the latter of which appears to have been addressed with a recent bi-partisan deal brokered between Biden and Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

Blackburn called Biden “weak and compromised” with regards to Russia, China and other adversarial nations, and reiterated many familiar culture war issues that have been evaluated by right-wing media.

“The only way to save this country is to do something about it,” Blackburn said. “We, the people, have to be the people and get to work.”

The Great Tennessee Airshow (MainStreetMaury)

The Great Tennessee Air Show returns to Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport on June 10 and June 11 with the first female pilot of a Navy Blue Angels fighter jet joining the event.

The Smyrna airport, once Sewart Air Force Base, has been hosting air shows since the 1970s.

The precedent-breaking pilot is Navy Lt. Amanda Lee, from Mounds View, Minn. Lee enlisted in the Navy as an Aviation Electronic Technician. She joined the six-person Blue Angels fighter jet demonstration squad in September of 2022, and has more than 1,400 hours and more than 225 carrier landings since then.

Lee, who uses the call sign “Stalin,” made her historic Blue Angels debut as the Left Wing pilot in the No. 3 jet last March. She is currently assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 and recently completed a deployment aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.

Other female pilots have worked with the Blue Angels team, which is more than 50 years old, including Marine Maj. Katie Higgins, who flew the team’s C-130 Fat Albert transport plane for three years beginning in 2014. Lee is the first female to serve as a fighter jet demonstration pilot.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

You can now beat the heat and bring your entire family to the splash pad at Fischer Park. The Splash Pad is now officially open for the summer after being repaired.

Repairs were completed earlier than expected. The City of Spring Hill previously posted on social media that the splash pad would not be open until June 10th due to “shipping delays of integral parts.”

Normal hours of operation are from 10 AM – 7 PM daily. The splash pad is free. The address is 4285 Port Royal Road, Spring Hill.


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