UPDATE: Obion County Celebrates Another Step Closer to I-69

Route 690, part of the future Interstate 69, is officially open in Obion County. A group of local business leaders gathered in Discovery Park of America’s Cooper Tower on Wednesday to celebrate the first cars and trucks utilizing the new route. After the work had been halted because of a lack of federal funding, the Tennessee Department of Transportation later decided to complete an approximately 45-mile portion of I-69 running from the Kentucky line to Dyersburg using state dollars. Eventually, it will connect with I-155, a spur that crosses the Mississippi River and extends to I-55 near Hayti, Missouri. The remaining portions of the planned I-69 route through West Tennessee, including parts in Lauderdale, Tipton and Shelby counties, are currently on hold pending funding.

Coverage of Wednesday’s Opening Celebration:

WPSD Local 6, Businesses excited for influx of traffic as State Route 690 officially opens

WBBJ, 7 Eyewitness News, State Route 690 opens for travelers in Obion County

Thunderbolt Radio, Much Anticipated State Route 690 Four Lane Open in Obion County

Paducah Sun, Businesses excited for influx of traffic as State Route 690 officially opens

Future home of Interstate 69 is now open

Today, Discovery Park employees and members of the Obion County Chamber of Commerce celebrated the opening of the portion of the future I-69 that travels from Fulton, Kentucky through Union City, Tennessee with lunch in Discovery Park’s Cooper Tower.

“Robert Kirkland first picked this spot for Discovery Park nearly 15 years ago in anticipation of this day. It’s fantastic to see it finally open, “said Scott Williams, CEO of Discovery Park. “Now, we can all look forward to the completion of the final leg south toward Dyersburg. That is really going to be a game changer for tourism and industry in this entire region.”

TDOT crews made the transition from the current roadway to the new roadway direction on Wednesday morning. The section from west of SR 21 to south of SR 5 in Obion County has taken multiple projects over a decade and an investment of over $220 million.

The US 51 interchange with US 45 in Tennessee, stretching into Kentucky, is identified for funding in TDOT’s 10-Year Project Plan, with construction scheduled in Fiscal Year 2028. Once completed, I-69 in Tennessee will be connected to I-69 in Kentucky.

West Tennessee Chapter of the American Advertising Federation Hosts February 2024 Program, ‘Impact of Blue Oval in West Tennessee’ at Discovery Park of America

West Tenn.– The American Advertising Federation West Tennessee, a chapter of The American Advertising Federation (AAF), will be hosting their February 2024 program featuring Marianne Purcell Dunavant, Ford’s community relations manager, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Discovery Park of America. The program, sponsored by Discovery Park, is free for members and students and $10 for non-members. Lunch will be provided. Register at AAFWestTennessee.com.

The planned $5.6 billion Blue Oval City campus in Stanton includes Ford’s Tennessee Electric Vehicle Center, which will help build out its next-generation electric truck, and the Blue Oval SK battery plant, will help produce EV batteries for future Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

During this program, Dunavant will share what West Tennessee rural communities can do to benefit from and support this new development that is anticipated to create 30,000 jobs across the region.

Marianne Dunavant’s focus is local government and community relations in support of Blue Oval City. Dunavant previously served as a State Outreach Director for Victims’ Rights since 2020, and previously served as the District Director for 8th Congressional District U.S. Representative David Kustoff from 2017-2020.

AAF West Tennessee serves as a networking resource and tool for keeping up with the latest trends in advertising, technology, creativity and communication, especially for those working in West Tennessee’s rural communities.

Who: AAF West Tennessee February Meeting

What: “Impact of Blue Oval City” featuring Marianne Dunavant, Blue Oval City’s community relations manager

When: Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Where: Discovery Park of America, 830 Everett Blvd., Union City, TN 38261

How to register: Register at AAFWestTennessee.com

Free for members, $10 for guests.

To join AAF West Tennessee, visit AAFWestTennessee.com.

Jackson Symphony hosts weekly string classes at Discovery Park of America

The Jackson Symphony Orchestra will host string classes at Discovery Park beginning in January 2024. Bethany Ostenson will be teaching a beginners and intermediate string class with the bass, cello, viola and violin. The classes are free for students in fifth grade and older.

Ostenson will host a parent information night on Monday, Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. The classes will begin the following Monday, Jan. 15 and continue through Monday, May 20. The beginner’s class will meet at 6 p.m. each Monday, with the intermediate class following from 7-8 p.m. Students should provide their own instruments although the symphony has grant money that can be used to help families that do not have sufficient funds.

The goal is to enlarge the size of the current Jackson Symphony youth programs and also to bring classical music and performing experiences to kids in our rural area.  Students in the Northwest Tennessee region will attend the classes in Union City and will travel to Jackson for rehearsals and performances throughout the year.

Beth Ostenson has been with The Jackson Symphony Orchestra since June of 2013. The mission of The Jackson Symphony Music Academy is to expand access to rehearsal and performance opportunities for young musicians across West Tennessee.

To find out more, contact Ostenson at 731-514-5882 or bethostenson@gmail.com. Click below to register or join us for our parent meeting and information night:

Date: Monday, Jan. 8
Time: 6 p.m.
Place: Discovery Park of America
Find out more: https://www.thejacksonsymphony.org/music-academy

Northwest Tennessee Tourism Gears Up for a Dynamic 2024 with New, Fresh Website

(Northwest Tennessee, January 2, 2024) – As 2023 draws to a close, the Northwest Tennessee Tourism Association (NWTTA) proudly reflects on a year marked by significant achievements and renewed momentum. From impactful advocacy efforts to a revitalized digital presence, the organization solidified its commitment to promoting the region as a premier tourist destination.

Year of Progress:
NWTTA was able to execute the first-ever Northwest Tennessee Legislative Breakfast with resounding success. State legislators, tourism stakeholders, and community leaders gathered at Discovery Park of America to discuss the critical role tourism plays in Northwest Tennessee’s economy. The breakfast solidified NWTTA’s role as a champion for the industry, paving the way for future advocacy efforts. Save the date for this year’s event as they cap off National Travel and Tourism Week, on Friday, May 24, 2024!

Committed to operating with efficiency and transparency, the organization undertook a comprehensive overhaul of its bylaws. The updated bylaws streamline governance, promote member participation and influence, and set the stage for continued organizational growth.

In a testament to the organization’s growing influence and impact, NWTTA reached its full board capacity for the first time ever. This diverse group of leaders from across the region brings a wealth of expertise and perspectives to the table, ensuring well-rounded decision making and a commitment to representing the entire area.

A Digital Refresh:
Buckle up and get ready to navigate Northwest Tennessee like a pro with our completely revamped website (www.nwtntourism.com)! Thanks to
a partnership with Tencom Services of Dyersburg, Tennessee, the site launches in January 2024, and will be your one-stop shop for planning your authentic getaway to our corner. Viewers can explore hidden gems, discover local flavors, and delve into captivating stories of our people and places. Our intuitive interface and user-friendly features will make planning any trip a breeze, whether you’re a seasoned traveler, a first-time visitor, or even a local.

New Year, New Goals:
Looking ahead, Northwest Tennessee Tourism is setting ambitious goals for 2024. These include the launch of a comprehensive marketing campaign, hosting several exciting events throughout the year, and building membership by strengthening partnerships with stakeholders across the region.

Northwest Tennessee Tourism Executive Director, Kasey Muench, states, “We are incredibly grateful for the support of our members, partners,
and the entire NWTN community for making 2023 a year of tremendous progress. Our board and I have laid a strong foundation, and we’re excited to continue building upon it in 2024. I’m anxious to keep connecting the dots across the region by continuing to be a resource for our members and telling our story through cohesive marketing initiatives. Every business, organization, and individual with a stake in our region’s success has a place at our table.”

In addition to the AL-MS-TN Rural Tourism conference held in Obion County in October, NWTTA will host several events of its own. The details of those upcoming opportunities will be exclusively released through their monthly newsletter. Stay up-to-date on all the exciting happenings in Northwest Tennessee by following @NWTNTourism on social media and subscribing to their newsletter through their new website: www.nwtntourism.com. We can’t wait to welcome you to our corner of the world in 2024!

About Northwest Tennessee Tourism:
Northwest Tennessee Tourism Association is a dedicated organization committed to promoting the nine counties of Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion, and Weakley. We work to showcase the region’s unique attractions, rich history, and vibrant culture, inviting visitors to experience the authentic charm of Northwest Tennessee. If you’re interested in becoming a member of NWTTA, simply log on to their website (www.nwtntourism.com) or email Kasey Muench at kasey@nwtntourism.com

Contact:
Kasey Muench, Northwest Tennessee Tourism Executive Director
kasey@nwtntourism.com, www.nwtntourism.com

Free admission for children throughout the month of January 2024

We’re excited to share a look ahead at just some of the fun and exciting things happening at Discovery Park for you and your family in 2024.

Thanks to a partnership with Magnolia Place Assisted Living, children 17 and younger will receive free admission to Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee throughout the month of January 2024. There are also many other unique exhibits, experiences and programs taking place during the year.

A series of sculptures built with more than 250,000 LEGO® bricks will be on display throughout Discovery Park’s 50 acres from May 3 to September 2, 2024, with the award-winning traveling exhibition “Sean Kenney’s Nature Connects® Made with LEGO® Bricks.” Featuring works created by artist Sean Kenney, “Nature Connects” presents 18 displays of sculptures made from LEGO bricks that were specially curated to enhance a visit to Discovery Park. This one-of-a-kind LEGO exhibit is brought to you by Leaders Credit Union. Leaders is insured by the NCUA.

For more than 15 years, Kenney has been creating contemporary sculptures with LEGO bricks for high-profile clients including museums around the world. His multiple-award-winning traveling exhibitions have been touring globally since 2012, he has authored 9 children’s books and guest-judged the hit TV show “LEGO Masters.”

Included in this collection is a monarch butterfly built with 60,500 LEGO bricks that took 377 hours to build, a life-sized gardener built with 37,400 LEGO bricks that took 320 hours to build and various giant plants, animals and insects. An educator guidefor the exhibit is now available online for parents or educators who would like to provide lessons before or after experiencing the exhibit. The temporary exhibit will be free with admission or membership, and there will be several week-long Lego camps this summer.

The newest permanent exhibit, “Duck, Duck, Goose: Waterfowl of the Mississippi Flyway,” will be open in 2024. Created in partnership with Ducks Unlimited, the $1.1 million exhibit uses artifacts, interactive elements and hands-on experiences to tell the story of waterfowl hunting, conservation and the ecosystem of the Mississippi Flyway. It’s located both inside Discovery Center and outside in The Settlement at the William A. (Bill) Homra and Allen Homra Lodge and Landing.

This is not the only place waterfowl can be found at Discovery Park in 2024. Now through Jan. 21, 2024, a temporary exhibit, “Capturing Waterfowl: Seth Dortch Photography,” takes viewers on a waterfowl hunt through a collection of photographs taken by photographer and outdoorsman, Seth Dortch of Union City, Tennessee. The photography showcased will provide snapshots into the world of waterfowl hunting and provide a visual journey through the eyes and lens of Dortch. 

From Feb. 27 to Aug. 11, 2024, the Southern Artist Showcase will feature the art of Jubie Henderson. A self-taught artist and cabinet maker from Fulton, Kentucky, Henderson was an artist with a disability whose paintings and carved birds of the southern United States won accolades and fans among art collectors and others. Although bedridden for many years, he found art was a way to remember the hills and farm country where he lived. He also painted many scenes of Reelfoot Lake as he remembered it from his youth. Henderson died in 1999 leaving behind an impressive collection of artwork.

A unique opportunity will occur on April 8, 2024, when a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States and Canada. An alternative to traveling to Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Paducah, Kentucky or one of the other nearby points of totality, is experiencing the eclipse at 12:41 p.m. at Discovery Park where there will be 99.2% sun coverage. There will be fun activities and educational opportunities to provide a comfortable space for families to witness the eclipse and learn more about the science behind it.

Discovery Park recently opened the Farm Credit Mid-America Education Pavilion and two new greenhouses. In 2024, they will provide hands-on opportunities for guests to learn about growing cycles, garden design, soil health and other topics relating to the basics of plant science. 

The popular Canstruction event has been moved to February 1, 2024. This event is open to local students 10 to 18 years of age. Each team will design a 3-D structure, using only canned goods and other limited, approved materials. Teams will receive money to purchase canned food for their sculptures. The sculptures will be judged and awards presented to the winners. They will be on display in the ATA Temporary Exhibit Gallery Feb. 1 to Mar. 4, 2024.

“Pumpkin Village” returns in October 2024 with a section of the park enhanced with pumpkins, mums and other festive fall decorations.

Other popular events will return in 2024 including “Singer-Songwriter Night with Phillip Coleman,” the “Rhythm on the Rails” spring concert series on the Total Tech Solutions Stage, “Discovery Park’s Military Expo,” “The Northwest Tennessee Educational Powwow,” The “Let it Glow” Drive-thru and Walk-thruand more. In addition to the powwow, there will be other opportunities for children and adults to engage in unique ways with specific cultures including the return of Juneteenth and Hispanic Heritage Day.

Timed to be on exhibit during Discovery Park’s annual Military Expo is a traveling photography exhibit, “Vietnam: 2 soldiers. 2 Artists. 2 Journeys Then & Now.” The exhibition, on loan from Monthaven Arts & Cultural Center in Hendersonville, Tennessee, spotlights the work of David Wright and Chuck Creasey. Both were soldiers on the ground during the Vietnam War who wrote about and drew illustrations of their experiences. The exhibit includes these early artworks and works painted later from photos taken in Vietnam during the war and from a trip to Vietnam fifty years later. The exhibition will be displayed in the ATA Temporary Exhibits Gallery from March 6 – May 31, 2024.

The Northwest Tennessee Photography Club Showcase in Art Hall will be updated in June and December 2024.

For a complete list of exhibits, programs and events in 2024, visit DiscoveryParkofAmerica.com/calendar, and for helpful reminders and details about events throughout the year, be sure to sign up for the museum and park’s weekly enewsletters and follow Facebook.com/DiscoveryParkofAmerica.

Discovery Park Featured on The Fowl Life with Chad Belding

Discovery Park’s newest permanent exhibit, “Duck, Duck, Goose: Waterfowl of the Mississippi Flyway” has been featured on the popular podcast “The Fowl Life” with host Chad Belding.

Episode 352 is titled “The Intersection of Conservation and Waterfowl Hunting – Discovery Park Of America.” In the episode, Discovery Park’s CEO Scott Williams, discusses details of the exhibit, the role of the regional waterfowl hunting conservationists and hunters and more.

In each episode of his podcast, Belding follows waterfowl migration, providing listeners with behind-the-scenes experiences relating to waterfowl hunting and conservation and advice on choosing the right gear, new hunting strategies, duck calling techniques, how to prepare wild game and more. “The Fowl Life” features industry leaders, expert waterfowl hunters, professional athletes and others who are passionate about waterfowl hunting.

Born in 1974 in Reno, Nevada, Chad Belding is a lifelong sportsman and outdoors enthusiast whose love of the lifestyle was instilled at a very young age by his father the late outdoorsman Orville “Orv” Belding.

Chad’s passion eventually led him to predator and waterfowl hunting, and soon thereafter he became involved in competitive duck and goose calling in the late 1990’s while attending college at The University of Nevada, Reno. In college, he was a member of the competitive Division I baseball team and studied business, public speaking and history. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree he put his background in business to good use, co-owning and operating several businesses across Nevada, Colorado and Washington.

The call of the wilderness never left Belding, and in 2008 he founded Banded, a video production and merchandising company that specializes in waterfowl hunting gear and accessories as well as a selection of turkey hunting products. He also originated “The Fowl Life” television series, which went to air in 2009. “The Fowl Life” continues today as one of the top waterfowl hunting shows on the Outdoor Channel.

You can download and list to Belding’s podcast featuring “Duck, Duck, Goose: Waterfowl of the Mississippi Flyway” on his website, Spotify, iHeartRADIO, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud and wherever you listen to podcasts.

This episode is brought to you by Final Flight Outfitters, Banded Brands, Avery Outdoors, Greenhead Gear Decoys, Jargon Game Calls, The Provider, American Almond Beef, Napa Valley Olive Oil, Cowboy Choice Feeds, The Nashville Palace and Corning Ford.

Vintage signs and petroliana items from the Discovery Park of America collection being sold online by Aumann Auctions, Inc.

Several Discovery Park of America items including an assortment of original, vintage gas station signs and petroliana items are being auctioned off online by Aumann Auctions, Inc. All items being auctioned off were from purchases made by the museum several years ago that have been kept in the museum’s off-site storage. By rehoming these items, the museum is keeping with best practices to periodically evaluate and retain a manageable collection to ensure that it can properly care for, store, and display the artifacts within it, as new items continue to come into its possession.

Some of the funds generated from the auction will be utilized to grow and care for the artifacts in Discovery Park’s permanent collection.

Aumann Auctions, Inc. of Nokomis, Illinois was founded in 1962 and conducts over 100 auctions annually throughout the country and online.

The online auction will go live at aumannauctions.com on Friday, Nov. 16, and remain open until Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023.

The second sale of various signage and petroliana will take place on November 22 and remain open until December 18, 2023.

Celebrate 10 years of Inspiration with $10 Admission at Discovery Park of America on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023

Celebrate Discovery Park of America’s 10th birthday with $10 admission at the ticket counter on Saturday, Nov. 4. 2023. Family memberships will also be discounted to $100.

Since Discovery Park of America opened its doors on Nov. 1, 2013, millions of children and adults have benefited from the big idea of Robert Kirkland and the community of Union City, Tennessee to create a place where inspiration would happen every single day.

To celebrate, the entire museum and park will be activated that day. Included free with admission or membership will be:

Schedule:

10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in Dino Hall

Kids Karaoke with DJ Deb

1-2:30 p.m.

Live music with Roger Alexander and Jim Bondurant

3 p.m.

10th anniversary ceremony with the burial of the time capsule that will be opened on Discovery Park’s 50th anniversary

Hosted by CEO Scott Williams and former CEO Jim Rippy

11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Encounters with animals who have been with Discovery Park for 10 years

Other fun activities happening throughout the day:

Living historians, reenactors and demonstrations throughout the park

Hands-on fine art stations to create works of art

Vibrant displays of balloons to add to the celebration

Indulge in delicious cookies specially prepared for the occasion (Free while supplies last)

Premiere of video featuring some of those who were present as Discovery Park was being built

A display of photos, articles and other early memorabilia from the museum and park’s inception

Photo caption: Discovery Park of America under construction.

Discovery Park’s 10th birthday is sponsored by: Leaders Credit Union

Several thousand guests experienced the first Native American powwow held at Discovery Park

Guests and Native American vendors and participants traveled to Northwest Tennessee to Discovery Park to take part in the inaugural Native American Powwow held Oct. 27 – 29, 2023.

This event, unique in Northwest Tennessee, provided a place for Indigenous people from tribes around the country to celebrate their culture while educating Discovery Park visitors on this aspect of our nation’s past, present and future.

Friday’s performances and exhibitions were planned with students in mind and included a “Birds of Prey” demonstration by a ranger from nearby Reelfoot Lake State Park.

The 2023 Northwest Tennessee Native American Educational Powwow included competitions and displays of Indigenous storytelling, drumming, singing and competition dancing. Native American artisans, craftsmen and traders displayed and sold their original work and food vendors provided opportunities for guests to enjoy traditional cuisines like fry bread, tacos and hominy.

The event also included several performances by Arvel Bird. With his violin, fiddle, Native flutes and Irish whistles, Bird’s performance featured a powerful and entertaining mix of music and stories.  No stranger to live entertainment, Bird has toured worldwide with Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Tom T. Hall, Ray Price, Louise Mandrell and Clay Walker.

You can see pictures from all three days of the Powwow on Discovery Park’s Flickr page.

Winners of the competition portion of the Powwow were:

 

Men’s Grass 

Dancer: Stephan White Eagle

Dancer: B.C. Daugherty

Dancer:  Tim Clifft

Men’s Straight 

Dancer:  Ronald Monoesessy

Dancer:  Aaron Partin-Rogers

Dancer:  Nick Behan

Girl’s Jingle 

Dancer:  Lena Tsosie

Dancer:  Harmony Bl

Dancer:  Ashtyn Terry

Women’s Traditional 

Dancer:  Jaida Whitecloud

Dancer:  Nicole Pavateo-Santos

Dancer:  Jennifer Tsosie

Men’s Traditional

Dancer:  Kerry Reed

Dancer:  Charles Mesteth

Dancer:  Gabe Cleveland

Women’s Jingle 

Dancer:  Mikah Whitecloud

Dancer Brianna Printup

Dancer:  Roxy Evans

Men’s Fancy 

Dancer:  Adam Bell

Dancer:  Marcus Gardner, Jr.

Dancer:  Robin Jumper

Girl’s Traditional

1st Place:  Skye Poola

2nd Place:  Lauren Jennings

Boy’s Grass 

Dancer:  Eli Poola

Boy’s Traditional 

Dancer: Kayden French

Boy’s Fancy 

Dancer:  Ehren Bell

 

Employees celebrate 5 and 10-year work anniversaries with Discovery Park of America

On Thursday, Oct. 19, Discovery Park of America recognized employees who have celebrated five and ten-year anniversaries with the museum and heritage park. All 10-year honorees received a solid-brass, early Victorian-style telescope. All 5-year honorees received a solid-brass compass in a hand-made wooden box that featured an inlaid compass rose.


These four celebrated their fifth year at Discovery Park.
Left to right: CEO Scott Williams, Kaitlyn Sanders, Sarah Glass and Ginger Ogden.


Here from the beginning, thanks for inspiring others to see beyond for 10 years.
From left to right, top to bottom: David Eastep, Tammy Ursery, Glenn Heatherly, John Watkins, Hugh Wade, Tom Pyron, Art Chivers, Lisa Love, Samantha Simbeck, Gloria Harris and Lisa Sears.
Not pictured: Mary Nita Bondurant, Judy Anding, Mike Ramsey and Jeanne McMillen

Tractors and signage from the Discovery Park of America collection being sold online by Aumann Auctions, Inc.

Several Discovery Park of America tractors and an assortment of original, vintage gas station signs are being auctioned off online by Aumann Auctions, Inc. All items being auctioned off were from purchases made by the museum several years ago that have been kept in the museum’s off-site storage. By rehoming these items, the museum is keeping with best practices to periodically evaluate and retain a manageable collection to ensure that it can properly care for, store, and display the artifacts within it, as new items continue to come into its possession.

The funds generated from the auction will be utilized to grow and care for the artifacts in Discovery Park’s permanent collection.

Aumann Auctions, Inc. of Nokomis, Illinois was founded in 1962 and conducts over 100 auctions annually throughout the country and online.

The tractors from Discovery Park are being auctioned as part of Aumann’s 2023 Fall Harvest auction. The auction ends on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023 at 6 p.m.

Tractors from Discovery Park included are:

Lot 32: Farmall Super M

Lot 33: Minneapolis Moline UTC Highcrop

Lot 34: Gibson Model I – Six Cylinder

Lot 35: Rare Gibson Model E Widefront

Lot 36: Silver King Model 42

Lot 37: John Deere Model BR

Lot 39: Oliver 70 w/ Rare Raby Cab and Widefront

Lot 40: John Deere 630 Row Crop

Details and dates of the assortment of original, vintage gas station signs will be announced soon.