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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for November 8, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Polk Preservation Park (Press Release)

The City of Columbia, in collaboration with Maury County Government, unveiled "The Polks at Preservation Park" on Friday, November 3, 2023, at 4:00 PM, in Columbia, TN. The unveiling ceremony featured distinguished speakers, including elected officials from the City of Columbia and Maury County Government, who celebrated the historical significance of this project. This project was initiated seven years ago through the dedicated efforts of former City Council Member Mike Greene and City Manager Tony Massey.

City Mayor Chaz Molder stated, “I am so proud of what has been accomplished at Preservation Park, now a centerpiece of our downtown district. I am most proud of all of the community partners who had a hand in bringing this Park to fruition, and believe this Park will stand the test of time for generations to come.”

The central focus of the park is life-size bronze statues of President James K. Polk and First Lady Sarah Polk, symbolizing the importance of President Polk's legacy and the rich history of Columbia. The Polks at Preservation Park is strategically located directly across the street from the James K. Polk Home & Museum, offering a unique opportunity for historical reflection and a place for the community to gather. City Manager Tony Massey stated, “This is the perfect addition to the West Seventh Streetscape. It will be enjoyed for generations to come as we honor President James K. Polk and First Lady Sarah Polk.” Massey went on to say, “The Polks at Preservation Park is a previous strategic planning goal by Columbia City Council. City Public Works crews, under the direction of Director Jeff Dewire, and Parks and Recreation maintenance crews, under the direction of Director Mack Reagan, did the majority of the work for the downtown historic park. Their efforts saved the Columbia taxpayer approximately $100,000.”

The Polks at Preservation Park represents an achievement that highlights the commitment of the City of Columbia to preserving Columbia’s rich history. The City looks forward to residents and visitors finding inspiration and meaning in our city's historical roots.

City and County Get Tourism Grant (MSM)

Tourism is getting a boost in communities across Tennessee, as the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development announced last week that the state awarded 29 communities over $2.22 million in Tourism Enhancement Grants.

Tennessee’s Tourism Enhancement Grants support cities and counties seeking to invest in their local tourism assets, lift visitation and increase economic impact. Eligible projects include stages, signage, historic preservation, ADA compliancy and other improvements to local attractions and venues.

Both the City of Columbia and Maury County will receive $100,000 in grant funding. Columbia’s portion is designated for creating two Blueway access points on the Duck River at Riverwalk Park, which Maury County’s portion will fund construction of a Blueway river access point along the Duck River in Yanahli Park, including wayfinding and instructional signage.

“The city of Columbia is so excited about this latest grant announcement from the Tennessee Department of Tourism, and anyone in our community who loves the Duck River and increasing recreational opportunities will be excited about this one, too,” said Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder. “This grant will allow the city to oversee the installation and enhancements of two access points for the Duck River, above the dam and below the dam which, coupled with the access points at two of our county parks, we will now have a full Duck River blueway from Yanahli Park all the way to Chickasaw, with a nice Riverwalk Park stop for park activities and even visits to our historic downtown in the interim. I love efforts where the city of Columbia and Maury County can work together for the betterment of everyone, and this effort is an example of just that!”

“Tourism is vital for the growth and sustainability of communities throughout Tennessee, especially in our rural communities,” said Melanie Beauchamp, Assistant Commissioner of Rural Tourism and Outreach, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “These projects create opportunities for visitors, enhance the quality of life for residents and ultimately, bring more funds back into the communities.”

Mt. Pleasant Tree Lighting (Press Release)

Main Street Mount Pleasant is proud to announce the much-anticipated first annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, this event will usher in the holiday season with a brilliant display of 14,000 LED lights, festive entertainment, and community spirit. This new tradition is scheduled to take place on November 25th at 6 PM on the square.

“My hope is for the Tree Lighting Ceremony to become an event in the Mount Pleasant community to bring residents and visitors together to celebrate the magic of the holiday season. I look forward to creating a memorable experience for all who attend,” says Director of Main Street, Haverly Pennington.

Highlights of the event will include:

• Official Tree Lighting: Watch in awe as Main Street's majestic tree is illuminated in a dazzling display of lights, marking the start of the holiday season at 6 PM.

• Holiday Entertainment: Enjoy live performances from Mount Pleasant Elementary who will sing timeless holiday classics. Followed by performances from the Middle School Dance Team and High school Cheer Squad

• Visit from Santa Claus: The jolly old man himself, Santa Claus, will make a special appearance to greet children and hear their holiday wishes on the square from 5 PM until 5:45 PM. Feel free to grab your camera to snap a photo with the man in red!

• Food and Refreshments: The Connection Church will be on hand to provide delicious treats and hot beverages to attendees from 5 PM until 5:45 PM.

• Holiday Shopping: Stroll Main Street before the festivities and start your holiday shopping.

Main Street Mount Pleasant is dedicated to creating memorable and engaging events for our community. The Tree Lighting Ceremony is just one of the many initiatives we undertake to enhance the charm and vibrancy of our downtown area.

“We believe that this event will be a heartwarming and unifying experience for our community. We can't wait to celebrate the holiday season with our friends and neighbors,” says Mayor Bill White. All are invited to attend this free, family-friendly event. Please mark your calendars for November 25th and join us on the square to kick off the holiday season in style. Dress warmly and bring your holiday spirit as we light up the night together!

For more information about the Tree Lighting Ceremony and other Main Street contact us at

Maury Regional Safe Driver Program (Press Release)

For the fifth straight year, the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation and Columbia Fire & Rescue (CFR) have partnered to provide safe driving programs and services to the community. They’re supported in part by grant funding from General Motors.

The programs include routine car seat safety inspection events and individual inspection appointments provided by Columbia Fire & Rescue, as well as a safe driving program to teach high school students safe driving habits. In addition, car seats and boosters are offered by the Foundation to local parents who could not otherwise afford them.

“Our goal with this program is to ensure the safety of the youth in our community while they’re in a vehicle,” said Joe Kilgore, Foundation executive director. “Road injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths and injuries to children in the U.S. It’s important to check that car seats and boosters are installed correctly and properly functioning.”

Since its start, the program has ensured the safety of a total of 583 infants and children at CFR stations. Firefighters have also joined forces with the Tennessee Highway Patrol to deliver the Survive to Arrive safe driving program to hundreds of students from Maury County Public Schools.

“We are grateful for our partnership with the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation and General Motors to help keep our local children safe,” said CFR Chief Ty Cobb. “We’ve been able to help a lot of families in need in our community, and we’re excited to continue those efforts.”

It’s recommended that parents bring their children to car seat inspections to ensure they’re fastened in correctly. To schedule an appointment at a CFR station, call 931.560.1734.

Since 2006, the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation has funded more than $4.6 million in programs and services benefiting community members in need. Learn more about the Foundation at

Spring Hill Memorial Veterans’ Program (Press Release)

Spring Hill Memorial Funeral Home is hosting a Veterans Memorial Service, which will be held at 2:00 PM Sunday, November 12, 2023 at Spring Hill Memorial Park, Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 5239 Main Street, Spring Hill, Tennessee 37174.

The keynote speaker will be Lt. Col. Jeff King. Special music will be provided and veterans will be honored!

CSCC Exhibition Opening (Press Release)

From now thru December 20, the Pryor Art Gallery at Columbia State Community College will be hosting the exhibition “Native American and the West” featuring the pen and ink drawings of artist Bob Jones.

Bob Jones achieves a level of detail in his pen and ink drawings that boggles the mind. His passion for western art depicting Native Americans and cowboys goes back to second grade.

Jones attended Harris School of Advertising Art in Nashville which let to an illustrious career beginning in the 1960’s photographing and designing album covers for country music greats like Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash.

An artist, illustrator and photographer, Jones has many stories to share about his experiences in country music and his narratives of the West through pen and ink. Jones resides in Spring Hill.

Pryor Art Gallery on the Columbia Campus will feature an artist reception on Thursday, November 16 from 5-7pm. The reception is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

 Veteran’s Day Parade (MSM)

Maury County’s Veteran’s Day Parade is right around the corner, and the grand marshals have been announced as hometown heroes Beverly Williams, who served in Vietnam, and Dale Winston Riggs, who served in the Korean War.

This year’s parade, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 11, will be the county’s first in recent years. Veteran Services Officer Lisa Von Hagen said the county last held a parade years ago, but it is not known when it began and when it ended.

Raised in California, Williams received her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1966 and later received her master’s degree in health care management in 1977.

Williams began active duty in 1966 where she was assigned to MAC Scott Air Force Base in Illinois to hospital nursing. She then served in Danang, Vietnam, 22nd CSF (Casualty Staging Flight) from April 15, 1968 to April 15, 1969.

Upon being promoted to the rank of captain, Williams’ assignment was to treat and prepare causalities from all branches in Northern I Corps for evacuation for additional care.

After returning home, Williams joined the California Air National Guard, becoming part of the 146th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in Van Nuys, Calif., before graduating from flight school in 1971.

According to a biography provided by the Maury County Veterans Service Office, Williams became inactive after marrying, but remained on reserve status until she was honorably discharged in 1987.

Williams, who has resided in Spring Hill since 2010, said she is excited and humbled to serve as one of the grand marshals in the Parade.

“My heart is always with Gold Star families and our returning vets, in varying needs of ongoing services provided by Lisa and her staff at the Vet Service Office,” she said.

Also set to be in attendance as the second grand marshal is Korean War veteran Dale Winston Riggs.

Born in 1933 during the Great Depression, Riggs enlisted in the Army at only 16 years old. He served as a Combat Infantry Medic in the 9th Infantry 2nd Division, known as “Greybeard,” from 1950-53.

Originally from upstate New York, Riggs moved to Spring Hill in 2020.

Riggs said he believes he was born to fight for his country, while adding another factor in his decision to enlist was the condition he was living in at the time. One of nine children, Riggs said he didn’t have his own bed or pair of shoes growing up.

“Generationally, men of my age enlisted in swarms because it provided three square meals a day, your own pair of shoes, and a bed to sleep in,” Riggs said, adding that his brothers also served.

Riggs said he was first assigned to a medical battalion.

“When they found out I knew how to drive, I was the medic in the ambulance taking wounded POWs back to the base,” he said. “I volunteered to go into the infantry next. I was assigned as a rifle company medic on the front lines, serving in the 9th Infantry 2nd Division Indian Heads.”

Of all of his battles, Riggs said his hardest was Hill 365, known as the “old baldie.”

“There was nothing left up there,” he said. “Just tree stumps and holes when we got done with them.”

Coming home was the difference between “daylight and dark,” Riggs said.

“I did get married and have kids, but you ask any veteran and it never leaves you,” he said. “I am an 89, soon to be 90-year-old man and every night I sleep, I dream of climbing the mountain and all the nameless faces of boys I lost in my arms. I couldn’t save them all.”

For his service, Riggs received the Combat Medical Badge, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Riggs was also one of 13 men to sign the petition for the creation of the Korean War Monument in D.C. Riggs is also the founding member of the KWVA (Korean War Veterans Association) organization, which was founded in 1984.

Riggs said he doesn’t take being a grand marshal lightly.

“Much like the medals in my display case, I didn’t do any of this for recognition,” he said. “I did it for my country. You never forget it.”

Maury County’s Veteran’s Day Parade is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. The parade will start at Columbia Plaza on West 7th Street, passing the Memorial Building before turning at the Polk Home onto S. High Street and ending at the Mulehouse.

Spring Hill Passport (Press Release)

On Monday, October 16, 2023, the Spring Hill Chamber launched its 2023 Think, Shop, Explore Local Passport presented by Groove Life, encouraging residents to explore the local community and its businesses through November 17, 2023.

Residents who collect at least 15 stickers from participating businesses will have a chance to win a grand prize featuring gifts from local businesses worth thousands of dollars.

"Empowering our community with a local passport program is not just about promoting business; it's about promoting community pride through local discovery," said Rebecca Melton, executive director of the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce. "With the opportunity to win a generous grand prize from some of our local businesses, the passport program offers an exciting way for residents to explore the community's assets and make new connections."

Passports are available at all participating businesses and the Spring Hill Welcome Center located at 5326 Main Street, Suite G in Spring Hill. The Welcome Center will also serve as the official drop-off location for all completed passports. A list of business addresses, a map with directions, grand prize details, and passport rules can be found at

The local passport includes thirty-three stops, encompassing various local business types and community photo opportunities.

This year's community photo opportunities include Spring Hill Public Library, Walnut Street Skate Park, and Cannon Hill. Participants can take photos at these locations and share them on Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #SHPassport23 or complete the entire passport to earn extra entries in the grand prize drawing.

CSCC Hosts Leadership Course (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College’s Office of Workforce and Continuing Education will launch a leadership development program designed to benefit new and emerging leaders to help them develop the necessary skills and a toolkit of resources to help them excel as they move into and grow in their leadership roles.

 “I am extremely proud to be bringing this program to our communities,” said Melody Murphy, Columbia State Workforce and Continuing Education director. With ‘Now Hiring’ posted on almost every storefront, it is becoming harder for employers to find and keep good employees. This program is an excellent opportunity for a company to identify dedicated employees' value and hard work and build them up through this program for leadership and supervision roles.”

The Columbia State Leadership for Operational Excellence program nurtures success and provides participants with the skills and resources for them to excel as leaders within their organizations.

Topics covered will include leadership styles, generations and teams, employee engagement and productivity, communication and leading your team, business finance and budgets, presentation skills and networking as well as delivering outcomes and managing change.

“Many of us have seen firsthand how promoting internally for these positions based on performance can be problematic, because doing a job and leading others to do a job are very different things that require somewhat different skill sets,” Murphy said. “This program aims to give participants the necessary leadership skills to be successful leaders.”  

Registration is now open for the program, which consists of eight full-day sessions with two full days conducted back-to-back. Participants should plan to attend all sessions, which will take place at Columbia State’s Williamson Campus. The program begins in 2024 with the dates of January 11 – 12, February 8 – 9, March 7 – 8 and April 11 – 12. Cost is $2,995, with lunch and coffee provided.

To register, please visit

For more information, please contact Murphy at

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

Terry Warren Johnson, 75, of Columbia, TN, died on November 5, 2023, at Maury Regional Medical Center. 

The family will visit with friends on Thursday, November 9th from 4-8 PM at Oakes and Nichols Funeral Home. A private family service will be held at his beloved farm at a later date. 

Beverly Little Fitzgerald, 88, passed away on Sunday, November 5, 2023, at Maury Regional Medical Center.

The family will visit with friends Saturday, November 11, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. A private family inurnment will be at McCain’s Cemetery on Sunday.

…And now, news from around the state…

Ice Sculptors in Nashville (Tennessean)

They chainsaw colored ice inside a room engineered to never rise higher than 9 degrees.

It is delicate and detailed work, making ice angels, reindeer and other holiday images.

And that is warmer conditions than they endure at home where winter temperatures often fall below zero.

They are the artisans from Harbin, China (and a few surrounding cities in the Heilongjiang province), who have made their yearly pilgrimage to Nashville to create the ICE! show at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Thirty-five people from one of the coldest regions in the world arrived Oct. 3 in Music City to build scenes from "The Polar Express."

The 40th annual ICE! show will begin Nov. 10 and run through Jan. 1, 2024. The show features ice slides and tunnels and a train like the one in the popular Christmas movie.

In recent years, the show has been created by teams of Chinese artists from a region known for its Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in which entire cities, complete with skyscraping palaces, are created out of ice. In Harbin, the ice cities are visited each year between December and March.

"In America, the sculptures are detailed, small and delicate," You Bin Hou, 68, who is the ICE! project manager said through an interpreter. "In China we have giant buildings. It takes two hours to walk through (in China), while in America, it takes 15 minutes."

The team of 33 builders and two chefs have been hanging out in Nashville. The joke among them is that they will work harder for beer.

This year's theme is from the Disney Christmas film, and will include nine scenes and 2 million pounds of ice, which comes in 6,000, 300-pound "blocks and will be shaped in 12,000 working hours. The colored ice (giant blocks of red, blue, green and yellow) comes from Adel, Georgia. And the clear ice (used for faces and details) comes from North Ontario, Canada. The artists use chainsaws, chisels, drills and bing cha (ice forks) to shape the ice. The building process takes 31 days.

The artists spray regular water to meld the ice together.

Artist Bai Wei Guo, 68, said he got his start making ice zodiac animals in 1998.

"You have to endure the cold," he said. "You need to like the ice."

Bai designed the grand nativity scene angel that will be one of the focal points of this year's show.

"It makes me very happy that people enjoy the nativity scene," Bai said. "It gives me a feeling of accomplishment."

The Chinese crew has been spending their off hours in Nashville, where they love shopping at the Opry Mills Mall. 

Five Gaylord Resort sites will be hosting ICE! shows this year: Tennessee, Maryland, Florida, Texas and Colorado.

If you go

When: Event runs from Nov. 10 through Jan. 1

Price: Ticket prices and packages vary. Regular ticket price: Adults $31.99, Children $22.99

Times: Daily schedule varies. The house typically run:

Monday to Thursday, noon to 8 p.m.

Friday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Average time of tour: 20 to 40 minutes (but there is no time limit). Blue parkas provided.

For information:

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Hootie & the Blowfish returns to the road in 2024, as the foursome sets out on the Summer Camp with Trucks Tour featuring special guests Collective Soul and Edwin McCain. The tour will stop in Nashville on July 27th at Bridgestone Arena. The group comprised of Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, Darius Rucker and Jim “Soni” Sonefeld, who formed the band during their time as students together at the University of South Carolina, will visit 43 cities across the U.S. and Canada. This marks the first full tour since 2019.

General ticket sales begin Friday, Nov. 10 at 10 a.m. local time via


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