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In an effort to encourage students to learn about and develop an interest in agriculture and where their food comes from, the Kingsport Farmers Market in partnership with Kingsport City Schools, is hosting Agriculture Literacy Week May 6th – 11th.

Throughout the week, in celebration of Agriculture Literacy Week, volunteers from the City of Kingsport, Kingsport City Schools, Kingsport Public Library and Keep Kingsport Beautiful will read a book with an agriculture theme to second and third graders at Kingsport City Elementary Schools. After the reading, the book, Right This Very Minute, will be donated to each school’s library for the students to check-out and enjoy.

The Kingsport Public Library is also joining in on the celebration with their story time series. Their Preschool Storytime on May 7th and Time for Two’s Storytime on May 9th, will be centered on the agriculture theme. Both story time sessions will be from 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. For more information about these offerings, please visit http://www.kingsportlibrary.org/.  

Other activities will include Kids at the Market day on Wednesday, May 8. Here the students will engage in activities at various booths provided by:  Kingsport City Schools, Dobyns-Bennett Agriculture class, Dobyns-Bennett Culinary Arts class, Sullivan County Extension, Keep Kingsport Beautiful and Kingsport Farmers Market. 

For more information on the Kingsport Farmers Market, or to sign up for our monthly newsletter, please visit kingsportfarmersmarket.org.

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There are few things more valuable to a fresh college graduate than hands-on work experience. Recently, the City of Kingsport’s Information Technology Department partnered with Northeast State Community College to give students just that.

“You’re always going to get that question at job interviews, ‘What kind of experience do you have?’” said Tom Huskisson of the city’s IT Department. “This partnership is a great way for students to get that experience.”

At Northeast, students in the Computer and Information Sciences program have to complete a capstone course and project to earn their associate’s degree. Huskisson, who taught at Northeast from 2008 to 2017 and continues teaching as an adjunct professor while working for the city, always wanted to give students an opportunity to work on projects that were more than theoretical.

So he decided to bring the students to work with him.

Huskisson coordinated with Dr. Donna Farrell at Northeast to bring 33 of her capstone CIS students to work with Kingsport’s IT Department. From February to April, the students assisted on all kinds of projects from extracting data from police databanks to manning the IT help desk. Huskisson wanted to give the students a cross-curriculum experience, not just in their particular concentration such as networking or cyber defense. In a small department like Kingsport’s—which has six people—you wear a lot of hats.

“We’ve done work like this in lab settings,” student Tony Feathers said, “but when you go and do it hands-on, that’s very different. I would always say, ‘Man, I hope we get to do some cool stuff today.’”

Huskisson said that the students were a great help to the department, allowing them to complete tasks they might not normally be able to with their small team. It’s also important, Huskisson said, for students to get a chance to learn “soft skills.” It’s one thing to know how to fix a problem with fiber cables; it’s another skillset entirely to be able to communicate with your team and ask questions.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned from this project,” student Steven Jones said, “is that these people that are employed are learning every single day. They admit when they don’t know everything, and that was the experience that affected me the most.”

Huskisson hopes to continue this partnership—and grow it even more. The IT Department is in early stages of developing a networking apprenticeship position in partnership with Northeast, which would be the first apprenticeship of its kind in the state of Tennessee.

Farrell’s goal with her capstone students, in this and every project, is to make her students well-rounded, competitive job applicants. She and Huskisson said their goal is to get other local organizations and companies to facilitate similar collaborations with Northeast to give students and businesses even more opportunities to grow and benefit from one another. “We have great students at Northeast,” Farrell said. “We have intelligent students with experience who can do this work.”

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Load up the mountain bikes and head to Bays Mountain Park this weekend for two back-to-back biking days.

On May 4 and 5, Bays Mountain Park and SORBA Tri-Cities bring you two exciting events perfect for bikers of any skill level looking to get out and have some fun. Whether you’re familiar with Bays Mountain’s 32 miles of biking trails or hitting them for the first time, it’s sure to be a great time.

Bike @ Bays – Saturday, May 4                    
This annual mountain biking festival begins at 10 a.m. and lasts till 3 p.m. Join SORBA for all kinds of fun, educational mountain biking activities including demos and group rides. This event also commemorates National Women’s Mountain Bike Day. Bays Mountain Brewing Company will be on site selling beverages, and Texas Roadhouse and a food truck will be on hand for your hunger needs. Free admission to event participants. For more information, visit sorba-tricities.org.

Aiyana XC Mountain Bike Race – Sunday, May 5
Sponsored by Reedy Creek Bicycles, All Trails Cycling and Achieving Balance, Aiyana XC is a cross-country mountain bike race held at Bays Mountain Park. The course is six miles—five of fast, flowy single track and one mile of gravel road. Staggered start times offer riders of all ages and skill levels a chance to race, whether you’re trying for a medal or just for fun. Please register online by visiting usacycling.org, or register on-site up to 15 minutes prior to the start of each race. Registration costs vary for each race. For more information, please click here.

To learn more about mountain biking at Bays Mountain Park or for a full schedule of race times, please visit baysmountain.com.

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The Kingsport Farmers Market officially welcomes you to its 2019 season this Saturday, May 4. To celebrate its grand opening, the market is kicking things off with a day full of live music, kids’ activities and more.

Starting on May 4, you can find homegrown produce, handmade crafts and baked goods at the Kingsport Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. through November.

The market kick-off is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. at 308 Clinchfield Street. It’ll be a celebration of all things local, so grab some friends and family to come out for a great day.

The Kingsport Farmers Market’s Kick-Off schedule of events is as follows:

  • 9 a.m. – Dobyns-Bennett High School’s Agriculture class is sponsoring tomato planting for kids. The first 100 kids will take home a free tomato plant!
  • 9 a.m. – STREAMWORKS will have kids activities.
  • 9:30 a.m. – Market Jams featuring Big Like the Ocean

Returning for the 2019 season are your favorite programs:

  • Market Jams, a Bluegrass/Americana music series, runs every first Saturday of the month from May through October.
  • The Homegrown Gardening series, sponsored by Keep Kingsport Beautiful, will teach you how to grow delicious produce in your own garden.
  • Saturdays with the Chef will return every Saturday in June and July so you can learn from great local chefs how to turn that fresh market food into something great.

New for 2019 season is:

  • Evening at the Market – in partnership with Visit Kingsport, every second Thursday of the month June through September will feature a live Bluegrass concert in conjunction with a full farmers market.  The event will run 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Carousel Park is now open right next door!
  • Recycling Imitative – Keep Kingsport Beautiful and the Kingsport Farmers Market want to promote good stewardship of the land, so that’s why we are teaming up to bring a recycling initiative to the farmers market! In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic bags used in Kingsport, Keep Kingsport Beautiful, through a grant award, will be providing vendors with a supply of small paper bags and larger paper shopping bags for market customers. In addition, one of the dumpsters at the farmers market will be converted into cardboard recycling. The market also has reusable Kingsport Farmers Market shopping bags for purchase.

For more information on the Kingsport Farmers Market, or to sign up for our monthly newsletter, please visit kingsportfarmersmarket.org.

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Relive the excitement of the first-ever Moon landing in the year of its 50th anniversary by visiting Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium this summer. Bays Mountain Park welcomes two new shows to its planetarium theater beginning this week and will celebrate Astronomy Day on May 11.

“First & Farthest,” the main feature, begins April 30 and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing. “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth,” said President John F. Kennedy to Congress on May 25, 1961. This show covers the Space Race and the Apollo program that would make that goal a reality on July 20, 1969. The show runs approximately 35 minutes and will play through the end of August.

The alternate show for May and June will be “Appalachian Skies – Spring.” This live presentation is about the current spring night sky. Learn what fascinating constellations and planets you might be able to see from your own backyard. This program highlights the spectacular Carl Zeiss ZKP-4 star projector instrument, which generates a fiber-optic star field that’s stunning to see. The show runs approximately 35 minutes.

Quick guide to Bays Mountain’s Planetarium
         Main Show – In May: Tuesday-Friday at 4 p.m. | Saturday & Sunday at 1, 3, and 4 p.m.
            In June: every day at 1 and 4 p.m. | additional show at 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday
          Alternate Show – In May: Saturday & Sunday at 2 p.m.
            In June: every day at 2 p.m.
         Tickets: $5 for non-members, free for members and children under 6

To learn more about Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium or to view a trailer for “First & Farthest,” visit baysmountain.com

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What do you think of, when you think of home? Our mountains, our history, all our people with unique stories—all of that’s home.

It’s hard to put a name to, but that’s why we’re here. We want to create a name for our region that evokes all that pride and common experience—that sense of home—not just for the people that live here, but for people who might want to visit, start a business in or move to our region. We want a name that honors what we have and invites others to come share and help grow it.

That’s why our partners in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia have recently begun a research-driven, community-wide naming initiative to help us stand out as we look to the past for guidance and grow toward the future. And we want everyone’s input, because it’s our region. This process works best when our communities, religious groups, organizations and businesses all unite to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas about our identity.

The best identities are grounded in reality but aspirational in vision. They are uncovered and brought to life through a process that brings people together, and they serve the interests of diverse groups in the community that have varying agendas. By working together, we can ensure that the name we choose will be a true representation of our region, our pride in the past and our hope for what’s to come—of our home.

To bring outside objectivity to this initiative, regional partners are working with Nashville-based North Star Destination Strategies. North Star has helped develop community names and brands for more than 200 communities in 45 states nationwide, including Downtown New Orleans and Johnson City, Tennessee.

To begin, qualitative and quantitative research will paint a thorough picture of where the region is today. This research is underway and includes an assessment of the environment; perceptions of visitors, neighboring communities, residents and stakeholders; and a review of current communications and the competition.

The next step will be our community survey. Anyone can join our process by participating in this survey, which will be released in the next few weeks. Citizen and stakeholder input is critical to the success of the research effort.

The statistically significant body of qualitative and quantitative data we’ll get from this research and opinion gathering will ensure our new name recommendation is informed by the reality of all perceptions—from residents, consumers and stakeholders alike. The more research we do, the more valid the final recommendation will be.

Giving our home a name takes time and effort, and it should—because it’s home, and it’s important. Our hope is that this process will be another strong point for continued partnership and growth in our region that benefits residents, visitors, businesses, and beyond.

For more information and to stay up to date on the region’s naming initiative, please visit www.nameourregion.com.

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Bays Mountain Park would like to notify the public that there will be limited parking for visitors the weekend of April 27 and 28.

On those days, construction crews will be completing paving efforts on the park’s new and updated parking lots. This includes the new lots, the maintenance building/overflow parking area and the road that leads to it, as well as the access road between the observatory and summer day camp cabin.

Chestnut Trail, which feeds into the maintenance building parking area commonly used by mountain bikers, will also be closed during this construction.

The park advises anyone planning to visit on April 27 or 28 to carpool, if possible. Bays Mountain Park appreciates the public’s continued patience and support as it works to improve the park for all visitors.

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The Downtown Kingsport Master Plan has received the 2019 Vernon Deines Merit Award for an Outstanding Comprehensive Plan or Special Project. The American Planning Association’s Small Town and Rural Planning Division awarded Kingsport’s Senior Planner Nathan Woods at the APA National Conference in San Francisco this April.

“The STaR awards selection committee was incredibly impressed with the plan, and felt it embodied the best of small town planning,” Woods said. “The committee appreciated the innovation in engagement shown and the economic analysis that supported the plan.”

The Downtown Master Plan is the city’s guiding document to create a vision that reinforces and magnifies downtown Kingsport’s role as the economic and cultural heart of the community.

Work began on the extensive plan in November 2017, and the Board of Mayor and Alderman received it in June 2018. The City worked with TSW-Design of Atlanta to formulate the plan. It aims to facilitate the direction, type, location and scale of new development and associated downtown improvements for the next 10 years. For more information, please visit www.downtownkingsportplan.com.

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Below is a note from Jeff Fleming. It will serve as the city’s press release.

I walked into City Hall as an ETSU intern in 1984. The city’s population was 32,027. I never dreamed I would meet and marry another intern and spend the next 35+ years with this wonderful organization — and certainly never  dreamed that I would become city manager. It’s been the honor of my life, especially to serve during the city’s 2017 centennial year. If you know me at all, you know I love this town. The only thing I love more is my family.

The Council Room has been so much more than a meeting room. It’s where we celebrated our wedding shower, baby showers, and so many of life’s milestones with co-workers and community. As much as I’m looking forward to the move to a New City Hall in the prominent location it deserves, it seems fitting that I close this chapter in the only City Hall I’ve ever known. I’ve worked for 6 mayors, 6 city managers, and more aldermen than I can enumerate. It’s time.

During my career, we saw global changes with profound impacts on our planned industrial city. But above all, our community is resilient. We came together and developed a plan to improve access to higher education, eventually building what we would call the “Academic Village” – and received national recognition from Harvard University for our efforts. More than 2,000 students attend classes on the blocks that formerly housed deteriorated buildings. We executed plans to redevelop Kingsport Mall (East Stone Commons), old Mason-Dixon (Crown Point Plaza), new Mason-Dixon (Kingsport Pavilion), Parkway Plaza, and Fort Henry Mall. When Kingsport Press closed, we developed a plan to build a downtown grocery, farmers market, and medical/professional offices. We transformed the public housing project in Riverview and set the stage for others to follow. I witnessed the vote to build MeadowView Convention Center and was assigned to facilitate the physical development of its surroundings for much of the next 20 years. We secured the corporate headquarters of Eastman and improved the signage, gateways, and presentation of our city. We did all of these things while attending to critical infrastructure needs. I’ve had the rare opportunity to live alongside the results of our collective labor and I’m proud of our body of work. There’s more on the horizon, but we have exceedingly capable people in place to get the job done.

I’m proud of the organization and culture we’ve built together. Our award-winning employees excel in their chosen professions. Many have received the highest possible honors from their statewide organizations – and some at the national level. They’ve embraced technology, driven efficiencies, and successfully pivoted any time that economic conditions required. Many can work anywhere they desire, but they choose to work here. I’ve tried to build a culture of respect and appreciation, never missing an opportunity to tell them how much I appreciate them. Let us never take them for granted.

You gave me the opportunity to advance within the organization and I am forever grateful. During the last five years, we grew the ‘rainy day’ fund by 33%, increased annual funding for paving by 400%, absorbed $12.8 million in State cuts, expanded the Greenbelt in both directions, remodeled Borden Park & Lynn View, expanded the Aquatic Center, and began the most substantial reinvestment in Bays Mountain Park since it opened. I’m also proud of the working relationship with Kingsport City Schools, which is the strongest I’ve ever known.

No person is an island. The people who did most of the heavy-lifting are still here. I hope you will afford them the same opportunities for advancement that I was afforded.

At every turn, God has opened doors, put people in my path, redirected me, and closed doors when necessary. I’ve learned to trust and see what the next chapter holds.

Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart,
Jeff Fleming

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KATS will offer free rides on all bus routes all day long Thursday, April 18th in honor of Good Friday and Easter. Please remember that KATS will be closed Friday, April 19th for Good Friday.

Make sure you take advantage of this deal, and tell your friends and family members. If you have never ridden public transportation, this is the perfect opportunity to try KATS at no cost to you. You can learn more about KATS at www.kingsporttransit.org. Thank you for choosing KATS!

WHAT:           Free bus rides on all routes

WHERE:         Route buses

WHEN:            Thursday, April 18th 2019