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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for May 12, 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 Economic Impact (MainStreetMaury)

Mule Day is easily the largest event that takes place in Maury County each year, bringing in thousands of visitors annually. The Maury County Bridle and Saddle Club has been hosting the event since 1974. A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the club makes sure the event services a variety of different organizations, but most importantly takes care of horse and mule organizations. 

“In our bylaws, it’s mandated that we give 25% of our profits to charity,” Maury County Bridle and Saddle Club president Ricky Strain-Smith said. “We have a section in the bylaws that tells us who our favored people are.”

In addition to those donations, money taken in from admission to the park and from vendors is also paid to office staff in the weeks ahead of and few days after the event, as well as used to pay for expenses for the current and future Mule Day events.

“There are a lot of loose ends to tie up. We have some accounting to take care of – Mule Day isn’t over until that’s done,” Strain-Smith said.

While there is a limited staff working before, during and after Mule Day, the job is never over. In fact, most of the time staff is thinking about next year before the current year’s event has even begun. 

“We have roughly 50 people working at any given time on Mule Day, and most of those are volunteers,” he said. “Without the volunteers, we probably couldn’t do Mule Day.”

If Mule Day is a “13 month job” as Strain-Smith said, when do the staff and those involved ever get any sleep?

“We’ll take a little time after Mule Day and process what we did and if we did things right and correct any problems we had,” he said. “We’ll get back at it in about a month.”

After the event has ended and a few days have passed, looking back on everything, how did the staff feel like this year’s event went? 

“I think we had a great year,” Louise Mills, Mule Day’s public information director, said. “We had a large crowd. If you were downtown on the parade site, you could not believe the people lined up on both sides of the street. Unless you go through the parade, you don’t ever see that.”

Each year the event happens, the club obviously reflects on the impact they have on the community. That impact is special for those who have grown up and lived in Maury County. 

What exactly is that impact? The data suggests it’s an annual windfall for local businesses and the surrounding communities. 

“One of our main goals is to get people (to Maury County), and of course the tourism part is very big,” Strain-Smith said. “We’ve had studies done that say the economic impact is upwards of $12 million in one year.”

But no matter the economic impact data, every year Mule Day brings excitement, joy and fun to Maury County Park, and the Maury County Bridle and Saddle Club is eager to continue serving Columbia and Maury County. 

Police Memorial Service (WKOM Audio 1:30)

The Annual Fallen Officers’ Memorial Service will be taking place on May 16th. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy visited with Officer Brian Goetz as he and his fellow officers practiced for the memorial ceremony in Woodland Park yesterday…

Maury County Schools To Use Metal Detectors (MainStreetMaury)

Visitors to upcoming graduation ceremonies at any of Maury County’s public schools will have to go through a metal detector before being admitted, the district has announced.

Graduation ceremonies start this week across the county, with Spring Hill holding ceremonies on May 12, Columbia Central on May 15, Santa Fe on May 16, Culleoka on May 18 and Mt. Pleasant on May 19.

Maury Superintendent of Schools Lisa Ventura made the decision to require metal detectors earlier this year.

“The decision was made by Superintendent Lisa Ventura earlier this year based on incidents that occurred at graduations in other districts in May of 2022. We used safe schools’ money to purchase portable metal detectors in preparation for graduates in 2023,” Communications Director Jack Cobb wrote in the email.

The portable metal detectors cost $3,700 each and were purchased from the Garrett K-12 School Protection Program, according to Cobb, and include a handheld device.

To help get the word out, the district has put a video on its website explaining the new requirement. The video features Sonya Cathey, an assistant principal at Columbia Central.

“This year, we want all graduation attendees to feel safe and secure,” Cathey says in the video.

Attendees are advised to empty their pockets of any metal or metal-containing objects such as keys, coins or cell phones. In addition, attendees are advised not to bring knives, pepper spray or anything that could be construed as a weapon.

Zion Christian did not immediately respond to questions as to whether they would have any increased security measures at their respective graduation ceremonies. Zion’s ceremony is scheduled for May 12, while Columbia Academy’s ceremony is scheduled for May 20.

“Planning for the graduation ceremony is no different than planning for anything else; we want to make sure the graduates’ day is as special as it can be,” said Ben Jones, head of security at Columbia Academy. Jones said there would be added security on hand for CA’s ceremony but did not discuss specific measures.

“We’re continually working on our plans to make sure everything is safe and we will revise as needed,” Jones added.

Merited Favor Safe House (WKOM Audio 4:42)

Yesterday, Merited Favor Safe House held their grand opening yesterday. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting to learn more about what the new facility has to offer the community…

CSCC Graduates Medical Lab Techs (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College recently honored nine medical lab technology graduates in a pinning ceremony in the Waymon L. Hickman Building.


“We were delighted with the number of friends and family who came to the pinning ceremonies,” said Lisa Harmon, Columbia State program director and assistant professor of medical laboratory technology. “This demonstrates the high level of support that these students have and need to complete this rigorous program. Also present were Columbia State administration and our partners from Maury Regional Medical Center whose continued support is so critical for this program.” 

The Medical Lab Technology Associate of Applied Science degree academic plan involves two or more semesters of general education coursework followed by a 12-month, three semester, series of core courses designed to provide classroom and clinical-based competencies which provide students with the tools for licensure examination success, gainful in-field employment, and career satisfaction.

“The procedures learned in a med lab program are essential to the what and why of diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. Kae Fleming, Columbia State dean of the Health Sciences Division. “The demand for laboratory professionals is critical and facilities are competing to hire Columbia State graduates!”

The medical laboratory technician possesses the technical skills necessary to perform routine testing in the areas of hematology, serology, coagulation, clinical microbiology, clinical chemistry, blood banking and urinalysis in clinical laboratories of hospitals, clinics and physician offices under the supervision of a physician and/or medical technologist.

Lab tests shape the majority of medical decisions made by physicians. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects the demand for medical laboratory professionals will increase at a rate nearly double the average increase for all populations. Since the pandemic began, nearly one billion diagnostic COVID-19 tests have been conducted by medical laboratory professionals.

Farm Day (WKOM Audio 1:39)

Yesterday, Riverside Elementary held their farm day event. Our own Delk Kennedy attended the event and spoke to teachers and students at the event…

Breakfast With the Mayor (Press Release)

Join Maury Alliance upstairs at Puckett's in downtown Columbia on Wednesday, June 7th at 8am for Breakfast with Maury County Mayor, Sheila Butt, sponsored by Caledonian Financial. This is part of an ongoing Breakfast with the Mayor Series.

During this event Maury Alliance President, Wil Evans will lead an informative Q&A discussion with Mayor Butt about the current state of Maury County.

 To submit a question or topic in advance, email 

Tickets are $20 for members and include breakfast.

For more information, visit

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

Mrs. Irene Wertz Race, 79, retired employee of Vanderbilt University, died Friday, May 5, 2023, at her home.  A memorial service for Mrs. Race will be conducted Saturday, May 13, at 3:00 P.M. with visitation from 1:00-3:00 at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Mrs. Linda Robbins Weatherly, 86, went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. Funeral services for Mrs. Weatherly will be held Monday, May 15, 2023 at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home The family will visit with friends Monday from 12:00 P.M. -2:00 P.M.

…And now, news from around the state…

Third Grade Retention Law (Tennessean)

As parents await the results of the standardized Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test, the widespread effects of a statewide third-grade reading and retention law are fast approaching.

The law, passed in 2021, takes effect for this year's third graders. It hinges on scores for the English language arts section of the TCAP, which is also known as TNReady. Third graders who score as "below" or "approaching" proficiency in that section may face retention if additional steps are not taken.

Here's what parents need to know about navigating the implications of the law.

The Tennessee Department of Education has promised to release raw test scores by May 19. Students who score at below or approaching proficiency can retest between May 22 and June 5. Some districts may have different dates for retesting.

Parents of children who score as approaching proficiency can also file an appeal to the state by June 30. It is not clear when appeal decisions will be made. Additionally, parents of children who scored in the 40th percentile or higher on a spring reading screening assessment or faced hardships during the days leading up to the TCAP can appeal.

The form to appeal a retention decision can be found at

There are exceptions…

Some students whose scores fall short can move on to fourth grade without any further action. Those students include:

English language learners who have received less than two years of English language arts instruction

Those who were held back in a previous grade

Students with disabilities or suspected disabilities that impact their literacy development

Children who score as approaching proficiency must complete one of the following to move on to fourth grade:

Retest and score on grade level, with a retest window of May 22-June 5

Enroll in summer school, meet 90% attendance and show “adequate growth” (a term the state board of education is still working to define)

Have a free state-provided tutor for the entirety of fourth grade

Third graders who score as below proficiency have the following options to move on:

Retest and score on grade level, with a retest window of May 22-June 5

Enroll in summer school with 90% attendance rate and have a free state-provided tutor for the entirety of fourth grade

Retesting and summer school dates may vary by district.

The impact of the law could be enormous.

Last year, around 65% of third graders statewide did not meet the threshold during TCAP testing. Additionally, this year's class of third graders were in the final months of kindergarten in March 2020 when schools shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe. Parents and advocates alike have cited pandemic learning loss among their concerns over the new requirements.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a measure passed by the state legislature to amend the third grade retention law in May. The changes add another assessment and widen the number of third graders who can either appeal or be exempt from retention, among other measures.

However, the amendments will not take effect until the 2023-24 school year.

More information on the third grade retention law from the Tennessee Department of Education can be found at

Gas Prices

Gas prices across Tennessee have been trending lower for three straight weeks. On average, gas prices across the state fell ten cents over last week. The Tennessee Gas Price average is now $3.12 which is 18 cents less expensive than one month ago and 94 cents less than one year ago.  

 “Tennessee gas prices have been falling for three weeks, and the trend is likely to continue,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Fears of a global economic recession are continuing to place downward pressure on crude oil prices, which, in turn, is also pushing pump prices lower. Right now, we’re seeing a wide range of pump prices across the state thanks to volatility in the oil market, and this will likely continue until pump prices have had enough time to stabilize into usual regional trends.” 

Quick Facts

39% of Tennessee gas stations have prices below $3.00 

The lowest 10% of pump prices are $2.85 for regular unleaded 

The highest 10% of pump prices are $3.53 for regular unleaded

Tennessee is the 5th least expensive market in the nation 

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

The Tennessee Renaissance Festival has begun – it takes place every Saturday and Sunday in May plus Monday, Memorial Day. It’s the perfect kick-off event for summer. The festival takes place at 2135 Newcastle Rd in Arrington.

Last year Williamson County Parks and Recreation took ownership of the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. Over the last year, they have made a number of changes. These changes include finding ways to enhance the flow for visitors, offering more shady areas, adding some new vendors and entertainment, and making extensive repairs to some of the old staging. But the biggest change is the entrance. There is now a large tented gate allowing visitors to pass through to the grounds much more quickly.

Everyone’s favorite acts are returning to the various stages, including Secret Commonwealth and Empty Hats. A new stage combat troop has been added, called Lords of the Edge, who also do sword swallowing.

Jousting Freelancers are returning to the field, as will the Knightwings Birds of Prey, but an old favorite is returning, the Human Combat Chess Match. It’s kind of like Harry Potter Wizard Chess but with real people.

For more information, visit


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