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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 10, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Mule Day (CDH)

In less than two weeks, Columbia will transform into a town of mule-drawn wagons, festive events and everything wrapped up in the city's biggest tradition — Mule Day 2023.

The city will kick off this year's Mule Day by welcoming the traditional Mule Wagon Train as it descends upon Maury County Park, once again, the site for the festival's main events and attractions. And that's just the beginning of a week-long celebration of Columbia's historic past of being a world-wide leader in the mule trade, as well as being a valued region for agriculture and farming.

Though Mule Day's traditions date back to the 1800s, its current iteration overseen by the Bridle and Saddle Club and the Mule Day Committee first began with its revival in 1974.

This year's main Mule Day events will take place from March 27-April 3, returning for the second time since cancelling twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Organizers say last year's official return was one of the most-attended in the festival's long-celebrated history and expect this year to be even bigger and better.

"The years '20 and '21, we just absolutely did not know what to do with ourselves," Louise Mills, who oversees Mule Day's public relations, said. "Last year, we didn't know how it was going to work out, but it turned out fabulous. Everyone was happy to be here after being housed up for two years without a Mule Day."

Perhaps the most-attended Mule Day event each year is the annual Mule Day Parade, which will once again kick off Saturday, April 1st in downtown Columbia.

This year's featured Grand Marshal will be "American Picker" creator, co-star and all-around historian Mike Wolfe.

Mills, who is approaching her 40th year with the Bridle and Saddle Club and 20th year with the Mule Day Office, is also being given the title of honorary grand marshal, which she is excited about participating.

"I will have my own float in the parade," Mills said.

The full schedule of Mule Day 2023 events can be found online at or contact the Mule Day Office at (931) 381-9557.

One thing Columbia can often count on with a large Mule Day crowd is how the event serves as a massive economic generator for the city.

In fact, the last two years of data recorded as part of a 2018-2019 economic impact study (pre-pandemic) showed nearly double the money generated over a year's time. This included approximately $1.595 million overall economic impact in 2018 and $3.056 million in 2019.

"I'm sure last year was even greater," Mills said. "So, this year it has got to be astronomical."

The 2019 numbers also reflected $905,000 in hotel stays, which means more money generated to the city's hotel/motel tax to fund tourism projects. More than $920,000 was also generated through local restaurants and food establishments. The 2019 study also states that 98% of out-of-town attendees were likely to return the following year.

The data also estimated a giant boost in attendance, with approximately 14,000 recorded in 2018 and 100,000 people in 2019.

Mule Day features multiple days of events, competitions and entertainment for all ages, as well as an opportunity to explore the city's popular business districts.

This year will feature many of the old favorites, such as the Liar's Contest, lots of mini mules, log pulling and more.

One new event Mule Day organizers are excited to see in 2023 also happens to be one of its newest events, the Mule Day Dog Show in the old arena. Contestants are asked to bring a bag of dog food to donate to the Maury County Animal Shelter, which will serve as the entry fee.

"It's just a fun dog show," Mule Day Office manager Rebecca Gilbert said. "We did it last year and it was fun. We're hoping it will be a lot bigger this year, because we have so much fun watching all of the puppies."

See some of these cute pups in action following the Dog Show as part of the Border Collie Herding Demonstration at 2 p.m.

This year will also features the "Mule Man" Award, which Mills said "is someone who has shown a deep dedication and love for Mule Day throughout the years."

The honoree this year is Terry Thompson of Athens, Alabama, who purchased his first mule in 1990 and began riding in the annual Wagon Train in 1999. Thompson has since participated in multiple competitions and events over the years, this year taking part in timed events.

Main events will officially kick off Thursday, March 30.

For the little ones, the Little Miss Mule competition is another new event this year starting at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Each evening will feature live entertainment ranging from bluegrass music at Central High School on Thursday to live music at the Ridley 4-H Center on Friday. Bluegrass, line dancing and The Mule Town Stompers will be featured at the 4-H Center Saturday, with gospel music closing out the week Sunday afternoon on the Main Stage at Maury County Park.

Perhaps the most exciting event for many attendees is reconnecting with old friends, meeting newcomers and creating new memories that will last until it's time to pack up and start preparing for next year.

"I personally enjoy seeing the people that come back year after year, many of them by now know me by name," Mills said. "It's fun for me to renew old acquaintances, to see those people that really come to Maury County to enjoy Mule Day."

Columbia Tree Removal/Replacement (CDH)

The city has begun work on a new downtown beautification project, which would remove and/or replace several of its trees downtown, giving it a fresh new look with new plantings.

The project will appear on Columbia City Council's consent agenda this month, where it will officially be approved. This includes funding $33,258 to Treework Arbor Services.

The tree removal was proposed initially in 2021 as a strategic plan objective, and was budgeted at $60,000, Assistant City Administrator Thad Jablonski said. The project will also be conducted in multiple phases, starting with the downtown square.

"We included the public square, but we also included the four corridors coming into the downtown square, one block north, south, east and west," Jablonski said. "That's so that, if the bids came in low enough we might be able to do the second project, or the whole project at once."

The process will involve taking a grinding machine to the remaining stumps once the tree is cut down. The machine will then grind into the soil to remove the stump, while also making room to plant a new sapling.

Jablonski added that Director of Development Services Paul Keltner, who is a licensed arborist, was a valued resource in selecting the right kinds of saplings, including a special kind of elm and oak trees, to take the existing ones' place.

"Paul selected trees that would be the right size, as opposed to what is there now," Jablonski said. "And to give you an example of what this project will look like, outside our Welcome Center, you'll see a young sapling that was planted just a few months ago. We had an opportunity to kind of experiment and take a look at what this process will look like using a similar tool that Treeworks will be using."

City Manager Tony Massey said, following the item's approval, Kellye Murphy, Columbia Marketing and Tourism Director will be submitting the project's plans to the Main Street Association and the Downtown Merchants Association later this month.

"This is long overdue, and something we really, really need," Murphy said.

Dutch Bros. Coffee (CDH)

Columbia residents will soon find another option for coffee as well as energy-boosting drinks to help fuel the daily grind.

Dutch Bros Coffee, one of several new stores in Tennessee, is now being constructed on James M. Campbell Blvd. — a drive-thru only store — where popular burger joint Fat Mo’s used to sit. A future Dutch Bros location in Spring Hill was also approved by aldermen last month.

Offering craft coffee and colorful customizable energy drinks, Northwest-based Dutch Bros Coffee, founded in Oregon by brothers, has a running tally of 671 locations across 14 states.

Designated “broistas” serve up a menu of more than 10,000 drink combinations with names like Rainbro, the Aftershock and the colorful Shark Attack with sugar free options.

Espresso bar offerings will include popular choices like the German Chocolate Mocha.

Dutch Bros does not have a known opening day set at this time, according to Columbia Development Services Director Paul Keltner, though construction is nearing completion on the 975 square foot building.  

The new drive-thru coffee shop would serve to spread out the early morning coffee dash and likely bring some relief to other James Campbell coffee locations, Starbucks, Cabin Coffee and the licensed Starbucks store inside the nearby Kroger. 

Those who prefer Fat Mo’s can still find a juicy burger at the restaurant's new location at 502 South James Campbell Blvd. 

Future Dutch Bros locations are "coming soon" to Murfreesboro and Smyrna. 

Changes continue for the commercial area on the boulevard as the former Silver Screen Videos building across from Kroger is in the process of demolition. Keltner said that a Take 5 oil change shop will be constructed in its location.

The Dutch Bros website has a link to job opportunities. For more information, visit

Cowboy Up! Non-Profit (MainStreetMaury)

Approximately one young person dies from suicide almost every two hours in the United States. In fact, suicide ranks as the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics report that suicide rates in the United States are highest in the spring and summer, which is exactly why Cowboy Up – a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in Maury County – is focused on bringing awareness to the new suicide hotline number, 9-8-8.

Regina Peery lost her brother, Marcus, to suicide and has dedicated the last 18 years of her life, alongside her role as a school administrator, to bringing awareness to Maury County and partnering with local organizations to brighten the lives of those in the county.

Peery wrote a social media post explaining the origin of the organization’s logo, created by Brian Allred, which had little direction at first. Once the logo was created, Peery noticed a resemblance to her brother that she couldn’t mistake for just anyone else.

“I was absolutely amazed at how much the new logo did look like him,” she wrote. “It was almost like I could hear his contagious laughter. It was exactly how he used to stand and tilt his head. Every time I look at it my heart smiles.”

Originally started as a service project of Junior Auxiliary of Columbia in 2005, Cowboy Up continued as a service project with Junior Auxiliary until becoming its own nonprofit in August 2020. 

The program was started by Peery and an auxiliary member. Peery said she had a passion and desire to raise awareness and help break the stigma of suicide in Maury County and keep other families from experiencing the grief of suicide. 

Their mission is simple – bring hope to those in Maury County by letting them know they’re not alone. 

Over the last 18 years, nearly 20,000 Maury County seventh graders have observed the program designed to simply relay the organization’s message of hope. 

“The goal of the school project is to help young people realize that suicide is not the answer for life’s disappointments and hardships. The project encourages students to keep a ‘Cowboy Up’ attitude during the bad times and get to know where to reach out for help when they need it,” Peery said. 

In 2023, the group partnered with local realtor George Vrailas to advertise the new 9-8-8 campaign with a banner ad on the front of Main Street Maury and billboards around the county.  

“(Vrailas) asked me if it would be ok to sponsor some billboards around town,” Peery said. “We told him that would be great and went on planning other ways to create awareness. I’m not sure we even slowed down enough to think about what he had said. Cowboy Up Billboards all over town. When we first started, it felt like we were breaking down brick walls sometimes to shine light on this topic. Now – billboards all over town. I continue to be blown away every time I see one.”

This initiative is personal for Vrailas, who struggled with depression as a young man. He knows firsthand how imperative it is for those struggling to understand they’re not alone.

“We have to make people aware that this isn’t something you can just get over,” he said. “People sometimes think you can just keep going and move on, but that’s not always the case. Those who are struggling need to know there is a ‘light in the darkness,’ which is something I heard Regina say and I love that.”

When Vrailas heard Peery speak at a Rotary Club meeting and was immediately ready to get involved.

The two are working side-by-side to promote the new Suicide Lifeline numbers, which can be reached by dialing 9-8-8 or texting TALK to 741741. They’re asking local businesses and churches who would like to help spread the word to put the Lifeline on their marquee or pick up a sign at The Way Realty on March 13. 

The billboards, t-shirts and advertisements are a reminder there is a need for awareness, and as much as Peery would rather there not be, she’s determined to make sure the Maury Countians know they’re not alone. 

“I’d rather have Marcus here than a billboard,” she said. “I’d much rather there be absolutely no need for programs like Cowboy Up, but as long as there is, we will continue to ‘go to work.’  And it is so extremely humbling when other folks come along beside us to help shine the light. When I look at the billboards, there’s a part of me that thinks ‘That’s my brother up there – lighting up the darkness.’ 

“I just hope somehow he knew how proud I was of him and how much his heart impacted my life..and how absolutely blessed I was to be his little sister.”

Breakfast With The Mayor Series (Press Release)

Maury Alliance is kicking off their 2023 Breakfast with the Mayor series in Spring Hill with Mayor Jim Hagaman. This series will feature a different Mayor each quarter on their home turf for a Q&A led by Maury Alliance President, Wil Evans.

 The event with Mayor Hagaman will take place in the Dining Atrium at Worldwide Stages on Wednesday, March 22nd at 8am.

 To submit a question or topic in advance, email

Tickets are $20 for members and include breakfast.

Fire Cadet Program (MauryCountySource)

Are you looking for an exciting and rewarding new career?

Columbia Fire and Rescue’s Fire Cadet Program is a great way to get started on building a fulfilling career in the fire service. Cadets aid in increasing the diversity of Columbia Fire & Rescue by bringing new ideas and problem solving skills to the fire service. Columbia Fire & Rescue strives to develop a department that is reflective of the City of Columbia. This program is for men and women 18 years of age and up.

To qualify, applicants must:

Be at least 18 years of age at the time of testing.

Have a high school diploma or GED

Have a valid Tennessee driver’s license

The purpose of the Fire Cadet program is to help young people make the decision on whether they want to pursue a career in Fire Suppression. The Fire Cadet program is a unique blend of training designed to prepare cadets for the academic, emotional and physical rigors required to be successful in the fire service.

A job as a Fire Cadet is a gateway to a full time firefighting career with Columbia Fire & Rescue. Fire Cadets are part-time employees that perform various support functions while completing training to become a Firefighter.

To find out more information about this great program visit

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

Mr. Thomas Harry Anderson, husband of Columbia native, Josephine Elizabeth (Jo Beth) Folger passed away on March 2, 2023 in Los Altos, California. A graveside service for Mr. Anderson will be held Saturday at 11:00 A.M. at Williamsport Cemetery. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

Governor Signs Bill Lowering Size of Metro Council (Tennessean)

Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill Thursday morning to slash the size of Nashville Metro Council just hours after Tennessee Senate Republicans passed it. The effort is expected to invite legal challenges.

The bill would require city and metropolitan governments to cap their councils at 20 members.

Though the legislation doesn't directly name Nashville, bill sponsors have acknowledged that, in practice, Nashville would be the only local government in the state affected by the legislation at this time. There are no other city or metropolitan governments in Tennessee that have councils larger than 20 members.

Once passed, bills require signatures from both chambers' leaders before going to Lee's desk. Lee signed the bill much quicker than usual.

Metro Nashville Law Director Wally Dietz said the bills as passed "contain several serious legal defects which will make them impossible to legally implement" in a statement following Thursday's vote.

Dietz reiterated concerns shared by Nashville Mayor John Cooper in a letter to state leaders Monday: There is not enough time to transition to 20 or fewer council districts before Nashville's Aug. 3 election, and key portions of the bills violate the state constitution. Both issues would mire the city in significant legal risks, Cooper and Dietz stated, but attempts to point out legal defects to the legislature and state leaders have been "largely ignored."

Dietz said Metro is "prepared to vigorously defend the constitutional rights of our city and its residents."

"This attack on the Constitutional rights of Metro and the people who live here is very dangerous," Dietz wrote. "It serves the interests of no one. Not the State of Tennessee. Not the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County."

The bill is widely viewed as the General Assembly's retaliation against the 40-member Metro Council after it blocked an effort for Nashville to bid on hosting the 2024 Republican National Convention, a move that sparked significant ire among legislative Republicans.

Bill sponsor Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, has argued the legislation is for government efficiency. House sponsor Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland, previously called the decision to allow Nashville's council to grow to 40 members decades ago was a "mistake."

Nashville voters rejected a 2015 referendum to shrink the council to 27 members.

The bill's passage would mean a new council structure would need to be developed and adopted, and Nashville's districts would have to be redrawn. Nashville accepted new maps for its 35 existing districts last year to adjust for the results of the 2020 census. That process, which included rounds of public feedback, took several months.

Nashville would have to complete a new redistricting process by May 1 or extend the terms of its current council members for one year under the House bill. Yarbro, who is running for Nashville mayor, has previously argued it would be unconstitutional to unilaterally extend terms, an assertion Republicans have brushed aside.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Pilgrimage Festival revealed its lineup for the ninth year’s event. Headlining on Saturday will be the Lumineers along with Black Crowes, The Head and the Heart, Better Than Ezra, and more.

On Sunday, Zach Bryan (who sold out FirstBank Amphitheater last year) will be the headliner along with Ashley McBride, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats along with Luke Grimes from Yellowstone.

Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival is returning to The Park at Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin on September 23 & 24.

Tickets for the 2023 festival go on sale tomorrow March 9 and include two-day GA, two-day VIP, single-day GA, single-day VIP and parking passes. Tickets will be available at 10 a.m. CT at Tickets will be tiered with limited quantities available at each price level, and fans can lock in early and save.


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