Their Reports Will
County And Region
BY LISA WARREN
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development brought 13 U.S. travel writers to town late last week, and local tourism officials rolled out a "red carpet" for them that extended from the elegant General Morgan Inn to the scenic back-roads beauty of rural Greene County.
The large group of travel writers came to Greeneville Thursday night from multiple states across the U.S. in connection with a special tour through Northeast Tennessee arranged by the Department of Tourist Development.
Friday and much of Saturday were spent visiting a wide variety of local sites related to the Sunny Side Trail: a 475-mile mapped driving trail for tourists developed by the Department of Tourism Development.
The route winds from the Great Smoky Mountains through the small towns and side roads of Northeast Tennessee, and takes its name from "Keep On The Sunny Side," a song popularized by the famed Carter Family country music group, of southwest Virginia.
The Sunny Side Trail, which is marked by brown rectangular roadside signs, includes a number of locations in Greeneville and Greene County, including the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, the General Morgan Inn, the Dickson-Williams Mansion, and numerous others.
Many of the participating writers are associated with large-circulation newspapers, magazines and other news agencies, such as AAA Going Places, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Dallas Morning News, Smithsonian magazine, AARP magazine, and Gannett News Service.
Other participants are free-lance journalists whose work is published in a wide variety of publications as well as on the Internet. (Please see accompanying article, page ???)
"This group of 13 journalists are some of the best that we have worked with in the last several years," said Tammy Kinser, tourism director for the Greene County Partnership.
"They are energetic and want to take part in activities such as hiking, enjoying our agritourism sites and biking a portion of our Civil War Bike Trail," Kinser said.
PART OF OVERALL TOUR
The local visit last week was part of an overall tour for the writers that featured various stops along the "SunnySide Trail" in a number of East Tennessee counties.
Besides touring locations in Greeneville and Greene County on Friday and Saturday, the group also spent time in several other parts of Northeast Tennessee.
The other stops included Roan Mountain, in Carter County; the town of Uncoi, where they met Mayor Johnny Lynch, a renowned wildlife artist; and Bristol, where they were given a ride around the "World's Fastest Half-Mile" race track.
'PLENTY TO WRITE ABOUT'
Free-lance travel journalist Rebecca McCormick, of Hot Springs, Ark., was one of the writers on the media tour.
McCormick said in an interview Saturday that for about 10 years she has been participating in media tours coordinated by Geiger & Associates, the Nashville-based public relations firm that was hired by the Department of Tourist Development to bring travel journalists to the state.
"Each time that they have invited us to come on a trip, particularly to Tennessee, we always know our time is well invested," McCormick said.
"There's going to be plenty of activity, plenty of editorial research at our fingertips, and we'll have lots of opportunities and material to write from for the next year.
'WE GET TO CHOOSE'
"One of the things that we particularly enjoy about these kinds of trips is that we get to choose a track that we want to go on.
"For instance, there is an arts-and-culture track, there's a history track, there's an outdoor track, etc. -- and I have jumped around from track to track (on this trip)," she said.
"The other day, we were up on Roan Mountain -- and it was 25 degrees and snowing! But before we got there, we came through two or three different climates," McCormick said.
"So it was like seeing the seasons change in fast motion. That's an experience you won't get in very many other places."
McCormick said that part of her specialty as a journalist is having a multi-media platform.
"I take a lot of video when I'm on these trips, and I edit them and post them to social media. So the reach is multiplied not only expansively, but immediately," she explained.
One of the most memorable things during this trip, McCormick said, was not exactly a place, but an event that happened quite unexpectedly.
"Yesterday we were in Unicoi. And we met a wonderful wildlife artist named Johnny Lynch and his wife, Brenda.
"We drooled over both his art and his wife's bread. But best of all, when we were leaving, we looked up on the porch of their house, where their dog was taking a nap, and saw this fawn step up on the porch and began to lick the dog around the face.
"The two animals got up, walked to the end of the porch together, hung out for a few minutes, and then walked off the porch, nuzzling each other like two little puppies.
"We were there, with video camera rolling, in stunned silence!" she said excitedly.
She said that Lynch later explained to the group that he has rehabilitated deer for 30 years. And as soon as they are weaned, he takes them back to the herd.
"He said that even after they get old enough to be part of the herd, that some of the older deer often come back to interact -- not with the humans -- but with Bo, his dog."
JOHNSON HISTORIC SITE
While in Greeneville, the travel writers made various stops, including a visit to the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.
On Saturday afternoon, the writers were given a private tour of the Andrew Johnson Homestead by National Historic Site Park Guide Daniel Luther, who provided them with a wealth of information tidbits about the Johnson family.
Luther, who has often portrayed President Johnson at local public events, told them that Johnson, as a person, was reflective of someone that you "typically find not born into wealth or social position."
"He never bought anything on credit," Luther said. In fact, he pointed out that Johnson paid cash for his home.
The 17th president, Luther continued, lived "modestly and avoided living above his means his entire life" and is still today "considered one of the best businessmen who has ever served as president."
The travel writers spent Friday and Saturday nights at the General Morgan Inn.
McCormick called the historic inn "a lovely hotel!"
She said she was quite pleased to hear that the building had been restored to its former elegance.
"One of the things that has impressed me most about this area is the blend of public and private partnerships, particularly when it comes to restoring and maintaining historically significant sites," McCormick said.
"This is an area with not only a real 'sense of place,' but also with a real sense of 'we the people' here," she said.
McCormick also noted that she personally has ties to East Tennessee.
She explained that, in 1946, her grandfather, the Rev. J.J. Bingham, was one of the founding members of Black Oak Heights Baptist Church, in Knoxville, where he also served as the church's first pastor.
McCormick said that in addition to serving the Knoxville church, her grandfather pastored churches in Johnson City and in Persia, a community in Hawkins County.
Among those accompanying the writers on the tour of Greeneville was Dave Jones, the East Tennessee regional manager for the State of Tennessee's Department of Tourim Development.
"These writers are looking for some of the stories that relate to history and to the Appalachian region," Jones said. And they are drawn, he added, not necessarily to the "big icon" tourist attractions.
"They are thrilled to be here in Greeneville -- because what better place to tell the Andrew Johnson story than here?"
But in addition to Greeneville's notable citizens of the past, Jones said the group was also quite impressed with its citizens of the present.
"Everyone talks about the hospitality here in East Tennessee," Jones said. "And I like to say that the hospitality doesn't bring tourists here, but it does bring them back!"