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Venture to new celestial horizons and explore the Universe’s darkest mysteries at Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium. A full slate of planetarium and astronomy programs will keep any space-lover busy this spring.

“Exploring New Horizons” returns as the planetarium’s alternate feature this March. This in-house production takes an exciting look at the New Horizons spacecraft’s flyby of Pluto. The planetarium operator will follow the show with an update on New Horizons’ recent flyby of Ultima Thule, the farthest Solar System object to be explored. Perfect for the whole family, this show focuses on planetary exploration and discovery and how it affects our understanding of the Solar System. The show is followed by a live tour of the current night sky.

The main feature through May, “The Dark Matter Mystery,” explores questions that researchers all over the world are trying to answer. What keeps galaxies together? What are the building blocks of the Universe, and what makes it look the way it does today? Approximately a quarter of the Universe is filled with a mysterious glue—dark matter. Scientists know it’s out there, but what it’s made out of is one of the biggest questions in contemporary astrophysics. In this planetarium show, join scientists on their hunt for dark matter with experiments in space and deep underground. Will they be able to solve “The Dark Matter Mystery?”

Beginning on March 2, “Exploring New Horizons” will play Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. “The Dark Matter Mystery” plays Tuesday through Friday at 4 p.m. and weekends at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Catch these fascinating show before their run ends on April 28. Both shows last approximately 35 minutes.

For those that prefer a more hands-on experience, Bays Mountain Park’s free outdoor observing sessions return this spring. “SunWatch” and “StarWatch” are great opportunities to learn about stars both near to and far from our planet.

Witness the Sun in close detail at “SunWatch” every clear Saturday and Sunday from 3 to 3:30 p.m. at the dam. A member of the planetarium staff or the Bays Mountain Astronomy club will help guests look safely through a telescope at the Sun. Keep an eye out for dark patches—those may be Sunspots larger than the Earth!

On Saturday evenings in March and April, the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club hosts “StarWatch.” This free program gives guests the chance to observe the night sky in all its splendor from the top of the mountain. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, an alternate activity will be held in the planetarium theater. “StarWatch” dates for this spring are March 2 & 9 at 7 p.m.; March 16, 23 & 30 at 8 p.m.; and every Saturday in April at 8:30 p.m.

All observing sessions are free, though Park entrance fees apply. Planetarium tickets are $5 per person. Children ages five and younger receive free admission with a paying adult, and Park Association members also receive free admission. For more information on Bays Mountain’s planetarium shows or group ticket costs, please visit baysmountain.com or call (423) 229-9447.

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Mountain biking is a great way to exercise while connecting with nature—but hurtling down a mountain on a bike might seem intimidating if someone has never done it before. This March, Bays Mountain Park is offering the Beginning Mountain Biking Series to teach participants the tips and tricks every beginner needs to know.

This three-session series will give each participant the opportunity to learn from experienced riders, ask questions, and develop their skills. The first two sessions will start in the Discovery Theater before moving outside to learn a skill. On March 17, learn about the equipment needed for mountain biking, bike language and trail types and etiquette. The March 24 session covers additional equipment and equipment maintenance, what to wear and what to pack.

The last session on March 31 teaches about where to ride and how to build a trail. Participants will end with a six-mile group ride along Chestnut, Big Oak and Chinquapin Trails, with experienced riders sharing trail and maneuver tricks to keep everyone moving safely.

Beginning Mountain biking is provided in part by Reedy Creek Bicycles LLC and Achieving Balance Mountain Bike Skills Instruction. By the end of this series, participants will be able to navigate Bays Mountain Park’s 32 miles of biking trails with ease and confidence.

All sessions run 3 to 5 p.m. and are free to Park members (must show membership card at the gift shop) and $3 per session for non-members. Preregistration for the Beginning Mountain Biking Series is available at Eventbrite.com. There are 56 spots per session, and 28 are open for preregistration. Everyone must check in at the Nature Center gift shop for each session, regardless of preregistration.

For more information on Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium, please visit baysmountain.com or call (423)229-9447.

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The first weekend in March marks the grand opening of the Inventor Center, a new community space for Kingsport’s creators, makers and artists of all kinds.

The festivities kick off at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 1 with a ribbon cutting. Return to the Inventor Center on Saturday for classes taught by YouTube influencers, and again on Sunday for an open house.

Here are the YouTube maker stars appearing Saturday, March 2:

  1.  Izzy Swan – https://www.youtube.com/user/rusticman1973
  2. Johnny Brooke, Craftedhttps://www.youtube.com/user/craftedmagazine
  3. Fred Sexton , Redneck DIYhttps://www.youtube.com/user/blazingnailgun
  4. Nathan Elliot, Out of the Woodshttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiPGkIebcT4QmEw6P6Lkubw

Located at 118 Shelby Street, the Inventor Center adds to Kingsport’s developing entrepreneurial ecosystem. Places like RCAM, Streamworks, D-B Excel, SyncSpace and now the Inventor Center give Kingsport citizens a place to learn new skills, foster community or build a business.

The Inventor Center comes from a public-private partnership led by the City of Kingsport with Engage Kingsport and the Model City Makerspace. This new facility is a premier makerspace that provides makers the space to develop a variety of skills, as well as unique, specialized equipment they will rarely find anywhere else.

More than just a space to create, the Inventor Center is a place to learn. Through programs and classes for inventors, entrepreneurs and employers, the Inventor Center is focused on creating opportunities that benefit Kingsport as a whole.

Keep reading to learn more about the Inventor Center’s six focus areas.

Makers
Where craft meets science, this group has a strong connection to making (and breaking) things to see what they can create next. This includes woodworkers, engineers, sculptors, hackers, and more.

Community Arts
Here we cover traditional arts and crafts. Whether professional or hobbyist, all painters, printmakers, ones who sew, sculptors, and other traditional artists are welcome.

Social Impact
A primary goal for the Inventor Center is to improve the lives of others. Every class and program gives our community new opportunities to better themselves and build a stronger future.

Entrepreneurs
The Inventor Center aims to cultivate Kingsport’s entrepreneurial spirit by connecting mentors to business owners and startups. Mentors provide advice and guidance, and entrepreneurs can create physical prototypes of their device or product.

Employers
The Inventor Center offers Kingsport employers programs ranging from workplace and equipment training to electronics development and community investment. All programs are designed to strengthen employers and their ability to recruit and provide amenities and training opportunities to employees.

Education
Curiosity, learning, and making are all at the heart of the Inventor Center. Programs designed for elementary to higher education are a top priority.  The Inventor Center aims to connect with other community organizations to provide access to classes and more for students.

The Inventor Center offers a variety of classes for all skills levels, as well memberships for makers, artisans and innovators. Visit http://theinventorcenter.com/ to learn more.

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The Kingsport Aquatic Center will begin construction on a new outdoor pool this year.

The City of Kingsport Board of Mayor and Alderman approved the design and construction at its February 5 business meeting. The pool comes as part of a larger expansion, which includes a shaded pavilion outside, additional outdoor restrooms, an administrative area, and other amenities.

“We’re really excited about this project,” said Community Services Business Manager Sid Cox. “This is something our customers have requested, and we expect people to really enjoy it. It’s going to make the overall facility more attractive and more adaptable beyond just swimming.”

The new outdoor pool is will cater to adults and teens. With a 180-person capacity and a four to five foot depth, it’s designed for multipurpose use. The pool will include three 25-yard lanes for outdoor lap swimming, a circular social area with hydrotherapy jets, a seated bench area for outdoor water aerobics classes, and an area for water basketball and volleyball. Around the pool, there will be room for additional seating of up to 60 lounge chairs.

The new pavilion will provide shaded seating at 16 picnic tables for waterpark guests to enjoy their lunch, or simply get out of the sun for a while. It will attach to the existing roof of the outdoor lifeguard office/gate area. This building expansion will include a new walk-in freezer for the Oasis concession stand, as well as three family changing restrooms.

An extension from the Aquatic Center’s Legion Room toward the parking lot will provide a centralized office space for operational, programming and support staff.

The Kingsport Aquatic Center first opened in 2013 and committed to the mission of providing year-round swim programming for all ages and abilities. This new expansion will help the Aquatic Center better cater to its existing customers and new ones alike.

Lose & Associates, Inc., the company that designed the Kingsport Aquatic Center facility, provided design services for this expansion. The BMA awarded the project bid to BurWil Construction Company in the amount of $2.04 million. As part of the bid, BurWil Construction will clearly mark the designated construction area to ensure that guests visiting the Aquatic Center or YMCA will stay safe despite the project.

The Aquatic Center expects to complete this expansion in time for its 2020 summer season.

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A new flock of birds landed in Kingsport today—painted birds, that is. The installation of the “Silent Skies Mural Project,” which features portraits of all 678 birds on the endangered species list, began in downtown Kingsport this morning, Tuesday, February 5.

This 24-foot by 50-foot vinyl-printed mural will hang at the corner of Market and Broad Streets, where the “Humanae” mural once hung. The “Silent Skies Mural Project” is a representation of an installation that opened in Vancouver, Canada, last August. That installation featured the original 678 portraits on 8-inch by 8-inch canvases, arranged in a 100-foot mural. Artists for Conservation, a Canada-based non-profit that promotes conservation through wildlife art, launched the collaborative project with an international call for artists.

Kingsport’s own Suzanne Barrett Justis is a Signature Member of Artists for Conservation, and “Silent Skies” features six of her portraits. The windows of her gallery, Suzanne Barrett Justis Fine Art, look out directly onto the wall where the mural will hang. This morning, she was out on the street excitedly taking pictures of the mural installation, which is expected to be done by end-of-day.

“It’s exciting for me as an artist,” Justis said, “but I hope it’s exciting for Kingsport to say, ‘Hey, we have this mural, and one of our own is on it.’”

The idea of printing the mural on vinyl was Justis’ idea. A longtime wildlife and conservation artist who originally studied animal science, Justis believed it was important to bring this mural to as many places and people as possible. While the original installation has hung in Vancouver and Arizona and is now set to travel to China, Justis is working hard to bring vinyl versions to cities and zoos across the country. The Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts worked with Justis to make Kingsport the very first place to host the vinyl installation.

“This mural is bringing awareness to the 678 endangered species of birds,” Justis said. “It’s also letting international artists shine, and it has a call to action to learn more about each species.”

The mural invites people to visit http://www.artistsforconservation.org where they can view each bird portrait online. Prints of each portrait are available for purchase, and the proceeds will benefit conservation education among youth, as well as bird conservation.

The “Silent Skies Mural Project” will hang in downtown Kingsport for six months. For more information, please visit http://www.artistsforconservation.org. To learn more about the Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts, please visit https://engagekingsport.com.

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The Kingsport Farmers Market began accepting online and paper applications for vendors on February 1 for its 2019 season.

Every vendor must reapply for the market each new season. The application is available online by going to https://kingsportfarmersmarket.org and clicking on the “Get Involved” tab and selecting “Become a Vendor.” Those who prefer a paper application can request one during the registration period by calling (423)392-8414.

Before applying, vendors should take time to review the Vendor Handbook on the Kingsport Farmers Market website under the “About Us” tab. This handbook lists the KFM’s policies regarding what types of vendors will be accepted to the Market.

Vendor acceptance, placement and dates granted are at the discretion of the Kingsport Farmers Market staff. All accepted vendors will be notified on or before April 1, 2019.

Though it’s been in operation for more than 40 years, last year marked the first season that the City of Kingsport took over administration of the Kingsport Farmers Market’s seasonal operation. A number of successful programs and festivals made it one of the most memorable years yet, and Tennessee Magazine once again named the Kingsport Farmers Market the Best Farmers Market in East Tennessee.

The Kingsport Farmers Market hopes all its new and returning vendors will help to make the 2019 Market season even more successful.

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This year, the Kingsport Aquatic Center’s 100 Mile Swim Club is setting off on the Ultimate “Swim” Trip, its biggest challenge to date.

The route is set: a 13,580 mile journey that stretches from Acadia National Park in Maine to the San Andreas Fault in California and every major U.S. landmark in between. The Kingsport Aquatic Center is challenging participants to work together to “travel” across the country and hit as many of the 50 landmarks as possible before the end of 2019.

“Some of these places, you might not get a chance to go to,” said KAC assistant director Chassy Smiley. “But with the Ultimate ‘Swim’ Trip, we’ll make it to the landmarks in spirit together and get a chance to learn about each one.”

Participants will swim at their own pace throughout the year, and the KAC staff will keep track of individuals’ miles and the club’s collective progress. A map in the KAC lobby will display the entire route and give information about what landmarks the club has made it to.

If 13,580 miles sounds daunting, remember the 100 Mile Swim Club’s motto: Every mile counts, every yard matters! The Ultimate “Swim” Trip is possible only through collective effort.

Interested swimmers can join the club for $10 for KAC members and $20 for nonmembers. All participants will receive a 2019 100 Mile Swim Club t-shirt, and anyone may join at any time throughout the year.

To sign up for the 100 Mile Swim Club, visit the Kingsport Aquatic Center front desk or call (423)343-9758. For more information about the 100 Mile Swim Club, visit https://www.swimkingsport.com/centennial-swim-club/.

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Kingsport Area Transit Service (KATS) will offer free rides on the bus routes all day long Friday, January 18, to celebrate our Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. If you have considered using Kingsport’s public transit service, now is a great time to try it out with a free ride!

KATS is offering a calendar of yearly promotions for 2019 in order to give the community an opportunity to experience the benefits of public transit as well as to thank those passengers who are already KATS transit supporters. Make sure you take advantage of these promotions, and tell your friends and family members! Visit www.kingsporttransit.org or check out KATS on Facebook to stay up-to-date on the monthly promotions!

WHAT: Free bus rides in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday

WHERE: Route buses

WHEN: Friday, January 18th, 2019

For more information, please visit www.kingsporttransit.org.

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This month, Bonnie Macdonald retires from the City of Kingsport, a place that’s all the richer for her commitment to creativity and public art.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in promoting, producing and advocating for the arts in this community and in our state,” Macdonald said. “I have been so blessed by my fellow city employees both in my department and throughout the city as well as our elected leadership, who have been willing to help, advise and encourage.”

For the past 14 years, Macdonald has spearheaded the Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts, where she and her colleagues have worked hard to invigorate and connect the local creative community. In 2007, she and the newly-established Public Art Committee had their first major success when they established the city’s first Sculpture Walk. This installation has continued to grow in the years since, and many of the pieces have become part of Kingsport’s permanent public art collection. Any drive through downtown will show firsthand the impact Macdonald has had on this city.

Another project that Macdonald’s team led could easily be considered public art: the Kingsport Carousel. Though it took years to create, the story of Kingsport artists coming together to learn new skills and craft a carousel essentially from the ground up is one that won’t be forgotten.

Macdonald also oversaw the Engage Kingsport Performing Arts series and the annual Christmas Connection craft show in addition to managing Kingsport’s event spaces like the Renaissance Arts Center and the Kingsport Farmers Market building. She also has a long resume of serving on various boards and committees, from founding board member of the Kingsport Ballet to President of the Board of Directors of Tennesseans for the Arts. She has been married to Dr. Scott Macdonald for 35 years, and together they have two grown daughters.

Though Macdonald’s time with the Office of Cultural Arts is at an end, her involvement in the Kingsport arts scene isn’t. She will continue to work with Engage Kingsport, the Office of Cultural Arts’ nonprofit arm, on forging more creative connections and innovations that Kingsport residents will benefit from for years to come.

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The mysteries and wonders of the universe are within reach at Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium. This January, the planetarium presents two fascinating shows: “The Dark Matter Mystery – Exploring a Cosmic Secret” and “Appalachian Skies – Winter.”

The main feature, “Dark Matter Mystery” explores questions that researchers all over the world are trying to answer. What keeps galaxies together? What are the building blocks of the universe, and what makes it look the way it does today? Approximately a quarter of the universe is filled with a mysterious glue—dark matter. Scientists know it’s out there, but what it’s made out of is one of the biggest questions in contemporary astrophysics. In this planetarium show, join scientists on their hunt for dark matter with experiments in space and deep underground. Will they be able to solve the “Dark Matter Mystery?”

“Appalachian Skies – Winter” is the alternate feature for January and February. This show will take the audience on a tour of the evening sky using the spectacular Carl Zeiss ZKP-4 star projector instrument, which generates a stunning star field using fiber optics. Produced in-house and led by planetarium staff, this show will teach guests what constellations and planets are easily visible in our winter skies. By the show’s end, guests will be able to locate these sights for themselves at home.

Beginning on January 2, “Dark Matter Mystery” will play Tuesday through Friday at 4 p.m. and weekends at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Catch this exciting show before its run ends on April 28. The planetarium’s alternate feature plays Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., from January 5 to February 24. Both shows last approximately 35 minutes.

Planetarium tickets are $5 per person. Children ages five and younger receive free admission with a paying adult, and Park Association members also receive free admission. For more information on Bays Mountain’s planetarium shows or group ticket costs, please visit baysmountain.com or call (423)229-9447.