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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for June 6, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Dr. Pennell Assigned to Riverside (Press Release)

Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Ventura is pleased to announce that Dr. Breckon Pennell has accepted a position with Maury County Public Schools as the principal of Riverside Elementary School.

Pennell is a veteran educator as a classroom teacher and administrator at the elementary and middle school levels, most recently serving as the Middle School Coordinator for MCPS.

Her undergraduate and master’s programs were earned at Middle Tennessee State University, while her Doctorate is from Trevecca University. Student mastery and ownership, school community, as well as building teacher leadership capacity and collaboration, are among her professional passions. Her experience also includes serving as a Doctoral adviser for Trevecca, a Lipscomb adjunct professor, and mentoring aspiring administrators for Belmont and Lipscomb Universities.

Dr. Pennell said of being hired for this position, “I am honored to join the Riverside family as principal and am grateful for the opportunity to serve our Maury County students, families, and educators in this capacity. I look forward to joining the team and moving forward very soon in July.”

“Dr. Pennell sets high expectations for herself, her staff & her students. Her experience and dedication will fit well with the Riverside family of educators and students, and we are blessed to have Breckon accept this position,” stated Superintendent Lisa Ventura.

The vacancy at Riverside Elementary comes as veteran educator Mr. Reggie Holmes is retiring after serving Maury County Public Schools for 25 years as an educator and most recently, principal at Riverside Elementary School. MCPS would like to thank Mr. Holmes for his dedication and years of service and wish him well in his next chapter.

Superintendent Lisa Ventura shared, “I am grateful for the servant leadership that Mr. Holmes exhibited in his 25 years at MCPS. He served his community well! His love and passion for student learning and his dedication to the needs of many students are a great example of leadership, and I hope he enjoys his well-earned retirement.”

Yancey Takes Over UT-Southern Volleyball (MainStreetMaury)

As driven as Janay Yancey is, her volleyball career has progressed in nudges as much as in steps.

The Columbia native, named earlier this spring as UT-Southern’s new volleyball coach, had her mind set on a different indoor sport before receiving some parental direction.

“Starting middle school, I was a pure basketball player,” the 35-year-old recently recalled. “I always wanted to play basketball. My sister was trying out for volleyball in sixth grade. I was in seventh grade, and my mom’s like, ‘why don’t you try out too; it’s in your blood’. I said, I’m going to just stick with basketball. And she responded, ‘if you don’t try out, you’re grounded – and if you’re grounded, you can’t try out for basketball, either’.”

So began a volleyball playing career that saw Yancey help establish the program at Spring Hill High School before signing a scholarship with North Carolina State and concluding her collegiate eligibility at Middle Tennessee, followed by a coaching trek that has included stops at Hampton, Alabama State, Tuskegee, Mississippi Valley and Alcorn State.

In April, she was named to fill the role at UT-Southern vacated with the departure of Jackson Lenoir.

“I think it’s super exciting for her,” said Sarah Lamb, who coached Yancey at Spring Hill as the founding coach of the school’s volleyball program and is now principal at Summit. “I’ve kinda followed her along the way, watched from afar her success.

“In high school, she was a definite leader on our team – took those younger kids under her wing when they came in, spent a lot of time working with them. So I could definitely see this coming for her. She was a leader, had a lot of passion and drive for the sport. She was an outstanding athlete, probably the best to come through in my time there.”

Still, after a playing career that ended with Yancey among MTSU’s leaders for blocks and attack percentage, moving to the sidelines wasn’t a natural progression.

“This entire experience has been me following my faith,” she said. “I really thought I was going to work in the medical field, be a doctor of some sort. My last year (2013) of grad school at South Alabama, one of my friends called me and said there was a camp. I figured I’d do this camp, make a little money, experience some other coaches.

“Two days into the camp, I was offered the assistant coaching position at Hampton. A couple of coaches called me along the way and I turned them down. The second or third coach that contacted me said ‘you’re good, I see something in you; I think you’re eventually going to be a great coach’.”

That coach, Karen Weatherington, brought Yancey on board for the 2013 season. The duo led the Pirates to back-to-back Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances. Yancey spent the 2015 season as Hampton’s head coach after Weatherington accepted a similar position at Charlotte, where she’ll begin her ninth season this fall.

“It was the most amazing experience. I just trusted the process, what we were going to do there, and trusted God in ordering the steps before me,” Yancey said. “What really pulled me into coaching was the connection I had with my team, with each of my players.

“You get to see people blossom, see them open up and relax and be competitive and go through all this growth. I’ve seen a lot of growth from all my players, and I’m so blessed to be in the position I am, where I can closely watch them and see them take another step and trust the process and continue to move forward, even when it doesn’t work out in their favor. I also get to help teach them through that process, which I feel is important.”

After a year atop the Hampton program, Yancey joined the staff at Alabama State, where the Hornets won the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament in 2016 and made the program’s third NCAA Tournament appearance. From there, she spent three seasons as coach at NCAA Division II Tuskegee, a year as coach at Mississippi Valley and the last two as an assistant at Alcorn.

Pursuing her career in her backyard isn’t an option Yancey takes lightly.

“The pull to come home, be around my family and be a part of something that’s going to be great (is important),” she said. “UT-Southern already had a rich tradition, from Martin Methodist College. Changing over and coming under the UT system, it seemed like a great opportunity to be a part of something and start something. 

“During my (playing) career, I got the opportunity to be part of something great as far as MTSU goes. They really put MTSU volleyball on the map. I feel like I have the opportunity to do that here at UT-Southern, and I want to do that.

Homestead Festival Recap (CDH)

The second annual Homestead Festival once again marked a weekend of live music, education and lots of fun for all ages, while creating a sense of community among all involved.

The two-day festival kicked off its second year Friday, which was briefly met with a short downpour, but didn't stop the thousands of attendees descending upon Rory Feek's farm to experience all the festival had to offer. The fun then rolled into a Saturday full of sun, stories and celebration of how the event came to be.

Festival founder Feek said he couldn't be happier at the turnout, which brought nearly 6,000 people to the farm each year. He was also pleased that the number of vendors had almost doubled compared to the previous year and that much of the festival's focus was put on the weekend's speakers, educational demonstrations and opportunities for attendees to "get their hands dirty" participating in various homesteading activities, especially for the young ones.

"It's been great, and I've loved every bit of it," Feek said. "It's been really successful, and we are very encouraged to do this again next year. We're already really excited to start planning."

Next year's festival will take place June 7-8, 2024.

Each night was marked with live music sets from artists such as Collin Raye, Craig Campbell, Paul Overstreet, The Malpass Brothers and Feek, along with other performers such as "cowboy poet" Waddie Mitchell and a slew of bands on a second stage.

But the music is just one element, with an enormous amount of activities such as education seminars, shopping among vendors, demonstrations like learning how to sheer sheep or the chance to jump in the massive "corn pit" to roll around.

Something just about all festivals have in common is that there will always be surprises that arise, sometimes for the better, while other times not so much.

Just two days before the festival began, Shawn and Beth Dougherty, two of the weekend's featured speakers, lost their Ohio home to a fire. Upon learning about this, Feek and his crew knew they had to do something to help out.

"We took up a collection and I think we raised a lot of money to help rebuild their house," Feek said. "Our community is just rallying to help them."

Donations were collected throughout the weekend, and contributions may also be made via Venmo @HomesteadHall with the subject "Dougherty Fire Donation."

While the Homestead Festival is highlighted with its many speakers and live music, one of the bigger aspects, quite literally, are the many vendors set up among the festival grounds.

This year's event featured more than 200 vendors selling anything from farm-raised foods to handmade crafts, clothing, jewelry and more. Many of them also provided additional educational opportunities regarding their respective trades.

Whiskey Trail Bees, who hail from Lincoln County, Tennessee, came to the first Homestead Festival last year and were very excited to be returning, selling honey-based products like local honey, lip balms, as well as hives.

"I don't normally do festivals, but I will come to this one because they get vendors that are all different, and real people, nothing imported or corporate. And I love that people want to learn about why it's important to us too, to learn about our food chain, and we're all very likeminded," Jennifer Evans of Whiskey Trail Bees said. "There is also enough uniqueness that there is something for everybody."

Tommy Wheatley of Fayetteville-based Raw Milk, also returning for his second year, said another part of the appeal for vendors is how it's an opportunity to build lasting friendships, and discovering ways each vendor can play a role helping their business.

"My business partner and I go around to different homesteading events each summer, and this is definitely one of our favorites, if not our favorite for sure," Wheatley said. "The big thing is the fellowship and all the people you meet. We were living in Virginia last year, and my business partner met a family and is now engaged to someone we met at the festival last year."

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.

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 8 2 – 3 p.m.

June 10 10 – 11 a.m.

June 12 6 – 7 p.m.

June 15 2 – 3 p.m.

June 22 2 – 3 p.m.

June 24 10 – 11 a.m.

June 26 6 – 7 p.m.

June 29 2 – 3 p.m.

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

Airlines Comms Snafu (Tennessean)

Departures are once again cleared for takeoff at Nashville International Airport after an equipment issue in Memphis forced the Federal Aviation Administration to issue a ground stoppage.

According to the airport, departures were grounded until further notice by the FAA, but by 11 a.m., they were allowed to take off once again. Inbound flights were still delayed until about 11:20 a.m. when all restrictions were lifted.

According to a spokesperson with the FAA, there was a "telecommunications issue in the region," and the agency was routing aircraft around portions of the state's airspace. The Memphis International Airport was not impacted by the issue.

Wildlife Species Being Reviewed (WPLN)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is performing status reviews of several dozen endangered or threatened plants and animals in the Southeast. 

These reviews are mandated by the Endangered Species Act, a law passed in 1973 to prevent extinctions — which has been successful for 99% of listed species, according to one study. 

Recovery times vary, and the agency reports further declines in the populations for many Southeastern species, some of which were listed as far back as the 1970s. 

The Cumberland darter, a small, ray-finned fish, has been disappearing from streams. It is now spotted in just 17 streams in Tennessee and Kentucky and concentrated in the Daniel Boone National Forest. It was listed in 2011.

Many streams become degraded from urban and agricultural runoff, eroding soils, herbicides and fertilizers. Sediment is the most common pollutant, with the most concentrated releases coming from construction activities. Sediment releases into streams can also be caused by extractive industries, including natural gas drilling, coal mining and logging, according to the wildlife service. 

The Coosa moccasinshell is a tiny mussel, only 2 inches long, that is native to Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. The endangered mussel has disappeared from several rivers and now persists in only a few streams. It was first listed in 1993. 

The hairy rattleweed is an extremely rare plant with yellow flowers, found in just two counties in Georgia. Most of its habitat was cleared for pine plantations, which are used for construction and paper-product industries. It was listed in 1978. 

Plant species under review in Tennessee are the Blue Ridge goldenrod, Spring Creek bladderpod, Morefield’s leather-flower and ground-plum plant. 

Several other fish in Tennessee are under review, including the trisomy darter, Chucky madtom, and smoky madtom, along with 10 other mussels — the ovate clubshell, southern clubshell, fanshell, triangular kidneyshell, Alabama moccasinshell, oyster mussel, southern pigtoe, pink ring and finelined pocketbook. 

The agency is collecting public comment until July 10.

Gas Prices (MainStreetMaury)

After moving slightly higher over the Memorial Day holiday, gas prices across Tennessee held steady over last week. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.18 which is three cents more expensive than one month ago but $1.30 less than one year ago.  

 “Pump prices across the state are still fluctuating, and it’s likely that trend will continue throughout the summer driving season,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Over the weekend, OPEC agreed on another round of oil production cuts. At this point it’s unclear how much of an effect this will have on fuel prices, but if oil prices rise significantly it’s likely drivers would see prices at the pump follow suit.” 

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The quarterly pickleball clinic at Macedonia is back!

Instructed by certified instructor Kenda West, the Armory Recreation and Fitness Center is offering a beginner and intermediate class open to all! The beginner class is perfect for those who have never played or have played a couple of times and would like to know more about pickleball. The intermediate class will help players work on skills. This class is perfect for people who have a good grasp on the basic knowledge and skill involved in pickleball and are looking to build on the foundation they already have.

It’s happening on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at the Macedonia Recreation Center, located at 501 Armstrong St in Columbia.

Classes are filling up fast. Follow the Macedonia Rec Center on Facebook for details on how to sign up.


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