On a Hallowed Hill in Tennessee

Many people across Tennessee, and beyond, recognize the first line of the University of Tennessee Alma Mater. The Hill, as it is commonly known, is enshrined in the hearts and memories of thousands of Tennesseans. Few people, however, are familiar with the rich history surrounding this iconic landmark. Ten amazing facts about, The Hill, should enrich your understanding of the Hallowed Hill, and the University of Tennessee.Thank Thomas Jefferson for The HillPresent day Knoxville began as a Fort, established by James White in 1786. When President George Washington appointed William Blount, Governor of the Southwest Territory, Blount came to White’s Fort and named it the Territorial Capital. White sold much of the land he owned and from it, Knoxville was formed with 64 lots.About the same time, Samuel Carrick, a young Presbyterian minister came to the fledgling settlement, intent on establishing a college and a Presbyterian church. The college came first. It was established in 1794 and was named Blount College, in honor of Governor William Blount. The college was located at the corner of Clinch and Gay where The Tennessee Theater now stands. It was the twenty fourth permanent institution of higher education in the United States and the first that was not church related.From the outset, Blount College teetered on insolvency. It attracted few students and only conferred one degree in a 13 year period.In 1807 the name was changed to East Tennessee College, thinking that might help attract more students. It did not.August 17, 1809, proved to be a fateful day. Samuel Carrick, the President of the school, and it’s only instructor, suddenly died. The Trustees developed a lottery scheme to keep the school open. They wrote to Thomas Jefferson seeking his support for their lottery.Jefferson opposed the idea but offered advice which would shape the future of the institution. He counseled the trustees to purchase land outside the city, which would provide sufficient space to erect several buildings around a grassy square, and thus form an academic village. The trustees could not focus on land. They were concerned with survival. The lack of finances forced the closing of the college for the ensuing 11 years.Barbara HillIn 1820, East Tennessee College reopened. Remembering Jefferson’s advice, plans were made to relocate outside the city limits. In 1826 the trustees purchased “Barbara Hill,” for the new campus. The Hill was named in honor of the daughterof Governor William Blount. The 40 acre parcel of land was purchased for $600. It was located between the river and the Western Road. The views from atop The Hill were breathtaking in every direction. The site soon began to be referred to by locals as “College Hill.” In 1828, the first building was erected. When construction began, the workers dug into a cemetery that no one remembered existing on The Hill. The first structure was built of stone and brick, with an observatory and belfry. The ten room building would become known as Old College. It would be the landmark by which the university would be identified for the next 91 years.Fort ByingtonIn 1861 cannons thundered at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the Civil War. Within six months, the Confederate army took possession of Knoxville and The Hill. In time the Confederate forces abandoned Knoxville to be a part of a major battle shaping up around Chattanooga. When the Confederates left, Major General Ambrose Burnside led Union forces into the city. He immediately began to build fortresses all around Knoxville.The Hill was designated as Fort Byington. Having won a major victory at Chattanooga, the Confederate army turned its attention back to Knoxville. General James Longstreet laid siege to the city, November 23, 1863 and lobbed cannon fire at Fort Byington and other Union fortifications. Six days later he launched an ill-fated infantry attack on Fort Sanders. The Union forces had dug deep trenches around Fort Sanders. The Confederates failed to realize how deepthe trenches were. Once in, they couldnot get out. The Battle of Knoxville lasted 20 minutes. Eight hundred and thirteen Confederate soldiers lay dead in the trenches. The Union army lost only thirteen men. Longstreet withdrew to join Lee’s Army in Virginia. Knoxville remained firmly in Union hands. In time, the war ended.100 Elm TreesThe Civil War left The Hill in shambles. Every tree on the campus had been cut for firewood. Deep trenches had been carved into The Hill. Longstreet’s cannons had taken their toll. Buildings had been heavily damaged. The Hill was left desolate and all but destroyed.When the war began, Thomas Humes was rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Knoxville. He was a staunch Union supporter. When the war concluded Humes was named President of East Tennessee University, and given the daunting task of rebuilding the University and its campus. Because he was a known Union supporter, he was looked on with favor when he requested government funds to repair the damage left in the wake of the war. Subsequently, a United State Senate committee noted that East Tennessee University was deserving of funds to repair the campus since it was the “only education institution of known loyalty in any of the seceding States.” A bill was passed providing $18,500 to help repair the war damage.At the same time, Yale University donated 100 elm trees to the University to be planted on The Hill as part of the reconstruction. Those trees remained until the 1950’s when they were destroyed by Dutch elm disease.Orange and WhiteWith war now passed, the fortunes of East Tennessee University turned. In 1879 the institution was designated as The University of Tennessee. Ten years later, students directed their attention to the task of selecting school colors. In those days, UT was a military school. Male students wore uniforms that were blue and white. At the same time, the baseball team was clad in red and black. Charles Moore, president of the Athletic Association, looked at The Hill and saw daisies growing profusely. He reasoned that the school colors should be derived from The Hill and the flowers that grew there. Moore decided that for the upcoming field day, he would dress in orange and white, the color of the daisies on The Hill. Soon, more and more students wore orange and white to athletic events. A vote was taken in 1892 to officially select school colors for the University of Tennessee. The students chose orange and white by a narrow margin.Ayres HallIn 1904, Dr. Brown Ayres became President of the University of Tennessee. He assumed leadership of an institution that was deeply in debt. The buildings were antiquated and overcrowded. Heretofore State funding had been virtually non-existent. It was vital that change, if the University was to thrive. Around 1917 he approached the State Legislature with the idea of erecting a great academic hall on The Hill. Uncharacteristically, the State appropriated the needed funds. In May, 1918 a Chicago firm of architects were employed to design the building. When it was announced that Old College would need to be demolished for construction to proceed on the new structure, an uproar ensued. The trustees were bombarded with angry letters from alumni. Finally, the trustees agreed to attempt to move Old College if the Alumni Association would raise the needed $15,000. In truth the 91`year old, 10 room building was no longer needed. Neither did it possess any architectural beauty. Only $2,000 of the $15,000 needed to move the building was contributed and Old College was taken down. Blanche Bingham, a sophomore from Bell Buckle, Tennessee laid the first brick in the new structure, November 26, 1919. The building was completed, and dedicated June 6, 1921. The new academic hall cost $690,500 which is a little over eight million dollars in today’s currency. Dr. Brown Ayers, who had conceived the new building and guided it into being died before the building was completed. President Harcourt Morgan, who succeeded Ayres as President, recommended the building be named to honor Ayres. The Board of Trustees agreed and the new building which crowned The Hill became Ayres Hall.Ayres or Ayers?One interesting bit of trivia related to The Hill surrounds the plaque attached to the Cumberland Street entrance. Chicago Ornamental Iron Works was commissioned to design a plaque for the new building. It was to contain a raised likeness of Old College and of Dr. Ayers. Also listed were several names connected to the construction of the new edifice. Several changes were made in the original design submitted by the Chicago firm, but at last President Morgan approved the final design. However, when the plaque was delivered, Dr. Brown Ayres name was spelled “Ayers.” It is unknown why the University did not insist the error be corrected, but the plaque was attached to the building entrance and has remained there for 98 years. The name of the man in whose honor the building was named is misspelled.Play BallWhile the preservation efforts for OldCollege were in full swing, a competingfund raising effort began. Several influential people in Knoxville felt the Universityneeded an athletic field. Col. W.S. Shieldswas President of Knoxville’s City Bank. As well, he was a member of the University Board of Trustees and also a member of the Building Committee for Ayres Hall. Whilethe Alumni Association was trying to raise funds to preserve Old College, Shields led in a campaign to create an athletic field. The goal for the athletic field was $35,000. The money was raised in one week. Shields contributed $23,000. When Old College was demolished, 15,000 cubic yards of dirt was graded from the top of The Hill to make way for Ayres Hall. This dirt was moved to the proposed site of the new athletic field. In April, 1921, faculty, staff, and students spread the dirt from atop The Hill to create Shields-Watkins field.The field was named to honor the principle benefactor and his wife. The field is now surrounded by Neyland Stadium, the fifth largest college stadium in the Nation.The CheckerboardRobert Neyland became Tennessee’s football coach in 1926. Shields-Watkins field was 5 years old. Bleachers had been installed on the west side of the field that could seat 3,200. Neyland immediately noticed something. There is a checkerboard design in the tower of Ayres Hall. In those days, the tower was clearly visible from the football field. When his team had the ball, headed toward the north end zone, Neyland would encourage them to “Run to the checkerboard!” He also urged them to “Charge the checkerboard!” Doug Dickey became the coach of the Volunteer team in 1964 and decided that the design in Ayres Hall would become the design in the Neyland Stadium end zones. Now, when the team is headed in either direction, they can, “Run to the checkerboard!” The checkerboard design is also visible at the end lines of the basketball court in Thompson Bowling Arena. The design has also been incorporated into the exterior of the new Student Union Building.The ClocksOld College was demolished after 91 years of use. In 2008, Ayers Hall had been in use for 87 years. No thought was given to its removal, but it was in desperate need to repair and updating. In that year a twenty-three million dollar renovation project began. It was completed in 2011. The renovation maintained the building’s grand architectural design and added one noticeable feature to the exterior of the building. The original design envisioned clocks in the tower of Ayres Hall. They were not installed due to a lack of funds. Now, almost one hundred years later, the clocks are in place. Their addition enhances the beauty of Ayers Hall.It is hoped this brief glimpse into the always fascinating history of the University of Tennessee, will deepen your appreciation for the University, and the Hallowed Hill on which it stands where “The stately walls of Old U.T. rise glorious to the sight.”

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Madelyn & Chad

It all started with a photo shoot in Charleston, Madelyn was hired to model and Chad was a wedding cinematographer. They met on a warm day in the low country, flirted throughout the photo shoot and thus was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that evolved into a timeless love story. As is true for all great love novels,the stars of the script are the bride and groom, however, for this story it gets much bigger with Joe and Kathleen Atkins of JOPHOTO.The co-stars were the reason the couple met, their first thought for photographing the wedding and after the engaged couple visited the Atkins home, it was the perfect setting for their love to be displayed. Chad and Madelyn were looking for wedding venues, Joe and Kathleen had just purchased a home on the lake with the intent of hosting small weddings and the stars aligned to make a magical moment.The day of their wedding was an absolute dream. It was warm and sunny with the most amazing orange and purple sunset. As Chad and Madelyn Cunningham were saying their vows, the sun dipped over the mountains and the sky began turning the most gorgeous pastel colors. A day of intentional honesty in expressing the couple with a reflection of all the people they love. “This day was more than we ever imagined, and we are so thankful to our family, friends, and everyone who was a part of the best days of our lives”, reflected Madelyn, “Our photographs were taken by the couple who introduced us, hosted at their beautiful home, we will never forget this day.”

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Brittany & Brett

It was love at first sight or at least it was love when they finally met! Brett Hawkins and Brittany Wheeler had lived less than a mile from each other for five years before meeting while working together briefly in the last few months of college. It may of taken time to actually be introduced, but they have made up for every minute of it since that moment. Officially becoming a couple on March 8, 2018 while visiting Asheville, NC, getting engaged on December 26, 2018 atop Anakeesta in Gatlinburg and married on March 9, 2019 in the bride’s hometown and place they first met, Johnson City.Brett followed the traditional rites of passage by asking his soon to be bride’s family blessing on the union. The engagement ring is perfected and centered by a diamond from the wedding ring of the bride’s grandmother. The wedding planning was seamless and fully designed by the bride, Brittany and her mother. A beautiful day with family and friends, each detail carefully aligned with their personalities, joining the families of Wes and Kim Wheeler with Tony and Elaine Hawkins. A day of love, union and beauty in an unmatched setting of elegance.Taking place at The Gallery, the gorgeous chandeliers and large fireplace are focal points of this exceptional venue, along with hardwood floors, exposed brick and windows overlooking downtown Johnson City with spectacular sunset views. Candles and rose pedals filled the space, a special touch of the couple for the enjoyment of all and captured in timeless photography by JOPHOTO. Followed by a fun-filled honeymoon to Disney World and Clearwater, Florida, the couple now resides in Knoxville. Congratulations Brett and Brittany.

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Santa Claus Indiana

A long, long time ago in a land far, far away… well not really…just 60 miles outside of Evansville, Indiana. The town of Sante Fe needed, desperately wanted, a Post Office to mail Christmas letters. But word came from the federal government that Indiana already had a town with the same name, so there would be no post office unless a new name was declared. The town gathered at the 1852 Christmas Eve service to discuss a new town name; suddenly, the church door blew open, and the sound of sleigh bells was heard. The adults were shocked, as there was no one outside; however, the children screamed with excitement, “It’s Santa Claus!” That is what they say, it is the legend of how Sante Fe became Santa Claus, Indiana. But no matter how it happen, it is a real place with a Post Office.The town has a population of about 2,500 and reflects the Christmas spirit all year round. There is Christmas Lake, Santa Claus Hardware, St. Nick’s Restaurant, Lake Rudolph Campground and Santa’s Lodge. The streets are named accordingly: Silver Bell Terrace, Candy Cane Lane and Prancer Drive, just to name a few.It is Christmas all year with the Holiday World Theme Park and Splashin’ Safari Water Park open in the summer, but as you can imagine, it is beyond festive in the winter. Enjoy breakfast with Santa, and visit the Santa Claus Museum… it’s free! Stop by Santa’s Candy Castle for old-fashioned candies, plus hundreds of Pez dispensers and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. There is even a ‘Toy Test” area where kids of all ages are encouraged to play while browsing what’s new and fun at Santa’s Toys.The holiday season brings the annual Santa Claus Parade and the Santa Claus Land of Lights at Lake Rudolph. Special storytelling happens at the historic 1880 church, and everyone is encouraged to write a letter to Santa. As the only “Santa Claus Post Office” in the world, a different picture postmark is used annually, designed by a local high school student, a tradition since 1983.Special events and holiday traditions take over the town and provide a very merry getaway, from festive shopping to cozy lodging. It’s a trip of a lifetime for any age and the perfect family holiday memory. Visit santaclausind.org for more information!

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Chelsea & Drew

It’s not the typical love story for the mother of a boy to set up a blind date, but that is the case of how Drew Bowlin met Chelsea Harris, his mother set them up on a date. Turned out that Chelsea’s University of Tennessee cheerleading coach, Joy had watch Drew grow up and when the time came for him to propose, his mom and Joy would assist in making it extra special.

That particular day, Joy was out of town and spent the day issuing orders to her assistant coach, Chelsea. It was an exhausting and stressful day being made better by a planned date with Drew later than evening. That was until the insisted text from Joy sent Chelsea to Neyland Stadium with Mascot Smokey to search for something. Through many twists and turns they finally found what they were looking for and Chelsea found Drew standing in the middle of the field with a heart made of pom poms. Unable to move and breathless, Chelsea looked up to the Jumbotron seeing a picture with the text…Will you Marry Me?

The engagement photos show the story of merging of two worlds, Drew Bowlin,former minor league pitcher for San Francisco Giants and Chelsea Lee Harris, former UT Cheerleader. He pitched his loved which she secured with a glove.

On Saturday, December 9, 2017 at Castleton Farms in Loudon, the two became one and forever will be known as Drew and Chelsea Bowlin. The holiday themed wedding was captured in photography by Melanie Fritz, with personal touches of floral arrangements done by family members. Cascading poinsettias highlighted the six tier wedding cake, perfectly matching the decor of a spectacular day. The perfect venue with
all the right details for a blessed and beautiful union.

No matter where baseball takes Drew, his favorite cheerleader Chelsea will at his side.

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Kaitlyn & Andrew

For Kaitlyn Parrish, when something feels meant to be, it’s probably because it is. When she met her husband, Andrew, they both knew immediately it was destiny. She saw him and felt an instant connection without even realizing that, from across the way, he was experiencing the same feeling. They began dating in high school and never looked back.

One aspect of her special day where Kaitlyn did not trust her initial instincts was regarding her wedding dress. She grew up saying she would never wear her mother’s dress. When the time finally came for her to walk down the aisle, however, she couldn’t imagine wearing anything else. Sally Harmon at White Lace & Promises worked wonders, updating the dress to a more modern style with an elegant scooped back. According to Kaitlyn, “You can’t put a price on the sentimental value of the dress.”

When it came to selecting a wedding venue, the choice was easy. Kaitlyn had already been following Dancing Bear on social media because she was a fan of their Appalachian Bistro. When she saw a picture of their outdoor cathedral and showed it to Andrew, they immediately knew it was the place. Dancing Bear coordinated rentals, provided seasonal catering, made vendor recommendations…they even created a custom cocktail for the event called the Perfectly “Paired” Mule.

While the venue and vendors all did a fantastic job, it was the cherished memories that truly made the day special. In addition to reusing her mother’s wedding dress, Kaitlyn was able to use her grandfather’s impeccably restored 1931 Model A Rumble Seat Coupe as their “getaway car.” And years from now, as they celebrate significant anniversaries, they will have bottles of wine to enjoy with heartfelt messages from friends and family shared on their special day.

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Executive Chef Shelley Cooper: Soul Satisfaction

A short drive to Townsend is all it takes to find the atmosphere for a unique diningexperience. The Appalachian Bistro at Dancing Bear Lodge is a casual, rustic setting for combining good food and great conversation and making amazing memories for friends and family to cherish. The satisfaction of savory flavors leading to this unique experience is not an accident; it is the purposed life of Executive Chef & Head of Culinary Operations, Shelley CooperShelley brings her passion for simple ingredients and farm-to-table Southern cuisine to each creation. Born in Memphis, the positive Mississippi Delta and Blue Ridge Mountain family influence is the core of what allows the expression of love felt in the dining experience. It matters to her. Every aspect of the process plays a role in preparing for a visual and tasty feast. From the planning of the seasonal gardens on the property to every individual dish prepared, no detail is missed with Shelley participating in every step.Chef Shelley Cooper is exactly where she wants to be. You could say everyday has prepared her for this time in her life. The childhood spent learning the value of taking care of one another through food, traveling the world gathering culinary experience and landing with Dancing Bear’s Appalachian Bistro…it’s a soul satisfied.

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Cades Cove

Here in East Tennessee we live near one of the most beautiful places on Earth: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. People travel from all over the world to experience the Mountains and all that it has to offer. One place in particular draws in tourists all year around, Cades Cove. I sat down with Dr. Drew Crain, a professor at Maryville College, to talk about the best ways to enjoy Cades Cove.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or a novice hiker anyone can enjoy a day at Cades Cove. The park offers several hiking trails, waterfalls and streams, wildlife and old cabins to explore. Dr. Crain explains “The best way to enjoy the park is to get out of your car and explore. Pack water and your camera. It’s important to stay hydrated.” Its also best to avoid peak tourist visitation times which is Spring and Summer, 10 am to 3 pm. Your most likely to run into long car jams during these times.

Dr. Crain says his favorite hiking trail is the Abram Falls Trail, it is an easy trail to hike that is usually not crowded. Hikers turn left to reach the falls and turn right to reach the Elijah Oliver Cabin. The cabin is just one a several structures that can be found in the park. Many families lived in Cades Cove before it was designated as a National Park. Visitors will find old cabins, barns, fences and even a church with a small cemetery.

One of the best things about Cades Cove is its diverse wildlife. King Fishers, Great Blue Herons, Woodpeckers and other birds make it a bird watchers paradise. Other animals such as deer, bears and foxes will can also be found through out the park. If you find a stream and look under the rocks you might even find a frog or salamander! Be sure to return any rocks to the way that you found them before you leave.

The most important thing to remember when visiting Cades Cove is to leave no trace of your adventure. Be mindful of the environment and the animals that live there.

Designated on September 2, 1940, Cases Cove was a key settlement that was included within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boundaries.


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was designated on September 2, 1940, with Cades Cove being a key settlement that was included within the Park’s boundaries. Families moved out of the Cove and park conservationists began trying to restore Cades Cove to its natural

If you want to avoid long car jams, Dr. Crain advises visitors to to go either early in the mornings or late afternoons. Try to avoid peak tourist visitation times which is between 10 am and 3 pm.

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Independence Day Inspiration

Ben Finch of Finch Photo recently collaborated with Castleton Farms to create an amazing wedding photo shoot inspired by the 4th of July. Castleton Farms, established in 2009, is the premier wedding venue in East Tennessee.

The photo shoot took place at the Woodland Gardens. With a stone aisle surrounded by tall trees strung together with lights, it is the perfect place to say “I do”! Ben shot Rachel wearing a beautiful, sleeveless gown accented with an ornate, jeweled belt. Her style was created by Rachel Ridner and Kelly Schmid, and her hair was styled by Bangs and Blush.

The couple kissed under a natural wooden arbor decorated with white fabric and surrounded by lit candles. Sarah’s bouquet of red peonies was matched by the flowers hung over the arbor, arranged by The Katelier Florist.

The shoot continued with several pictures of the couple with an American Flag, facing each other in a vintage rowboat, and sharing a kiss on a beach bicycle. For the inspirational reception, Cakery Bakery featured a tiered cake decorated in strawberries and blueberries, paired with ice cold lemonade in mason jars.

Bliss, Coldstream Market and All Occasions Party Rentals collaborated to turn Woodland Gardens into a patriotic reception, including a cozy couch between antique wing-backed chairs. Carnations sat in vases of glass bottles and refreshments were served on a reclaimed wooden table. Creative invitations were provided by Liddabits Products.

Ben’s children, Brennan, Knox and Molly Finch, are featured with Rachel and Joey, and added some family fun to the inspirational shoot. Through the collaboration of Finch Photo, Castleton Farms, and many others, the photo shoot was a big success!

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Sequoyah Sweethearts; A Monroe County Wedding

The First Baptist Church in Madisonville, Tennessee, celebrated the wedding of two Monroe County natives last summer. Allyson Mason and Caleb Bowers took their first steps as husband and wife before their family and closest friends on July 18th, 2015.Allyson has attended First Baptist with her family since childhood, she is the daughter of Larry and Karen Mason. Her sisters Andrea and Alicia were her Matrons of Honor, joined by 6 other bridesmaids of close friends. Her niece Sydnie Russell was the flower girl. Caleb is the son of Caleb and Shauna Bowers and Capri Seiber, longtime friend Brandon Webb was his best man. Honorary best man Frankie Watson was killed in action in late 2011, he was remembered by his uniform hat carried by the flower girl. Caleb had 5 other groomsmen of close friends, his cousin Coy Green was the ring bearer.After walking down the aisle, Allyson requested her father, Larry Mason, sing ‘I Loved Her First’ by Heartland before giving her away. First Baptist Pastor Lon Shoopman performed the ceremony, praying over the couple before pronouncing them as husband and wife.Caleb’s parents hosted the rehearsal dinner at their home where the bridal party enjoyed a cookout and fellowship over food and playing horseshoes. The special day began with a bridesmaid brunch hosted by Allyson’s Aunt, Marilyn Moses.Allyson and Caleb met while attending Sequoyah High School, Caleb was a senior and played on the football team, while Allyson was a junior and played basketball. Just before the end of the season, Caleb and Allyson sustained minor injuries, requiring them to sit out of practice. “It gave us time to talk,” Allyson remembers. “We began dating on November 1st, 2007.” On their first date, Caleb took her to a movie then to dinner at the Texas Roadhouse in Turkey Creek. “And the rest is history!” Allyson said. “We both knew early in our relationship that we were meant to be.” Allyson planned to complete her college degree before they were wed, a request that Caleb honored by waiting to propose.Allyson almost ruined the engagement by accident. The couple traveled with the Mason family to vacation at Myrtle Beach, the first time they had been to the beach together. While Caleb assured Allyson that the proposal would be a complete surprise, Allyson unintentionally looked over the exact place where the ring was hidden on the trip. “Apparently I am the hardest person to surprise.” Allyson admitted. But the ring stayed safe, and Caleb proposed on July 16th, 2014. “It was a complete and total surprise!” Allyson said.Allyson and Caleb both enjoy spending time together and with their families. They love being on or around the water and still participate in sports, especially football and basketball. The newlyweds will continue to reside in Monroe County where Caleb works at Alcoa, Allyson completed her Masters of Education from Lincoln Memorial University in December. She is currently the PE teacher at Vonore Elementary and the Assistant Women’s Basketball coach at Sequoyah High School.Shane Hawkins Photography took photos of the ceremony, flowers were provided by Mickye Trentham at West End Florist. Donna’s Old Town Cafe catered the reception and the cake was made by Donna Necessary. Reception rentals were provided by Anderson Rentals, the Tuxedo’s were provided by Savvi’s of Knoxville and the bridesmaid dresses were purchased from Alfred Angelo of Knoxville. Chris Moore sang before and after the ceremony.

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