Fair weather

We are blessed in Lawrence County with the tradition of the Middle Tennessee District Fair, celebrating its 104th year September 28 through October 4, 2015.

Early Fairs were simple events where farmers and homemakers displayed their best produce and homemade products.  The first Fair was held in the community of Leoma; other locations included Lawrenceburg’s public square and space across Lafayette Street from Lawrence County High School, now E.O. Coffman Middle School.Fair on Lafayette St. Oct. 6-9, 1926 fixed

The event was moved to “Fairview Park” in the 1930s, and under the direction of E.R. Braly offered more carnival attractions and “free acts,” circus-style presentations by trapeze artists, animal trainers, and the like. Advertisements through the decades promised a “bigger and better” Fair every year.

Fairview Park is now Rotary Park, and the county fair is now the Middle Tennessee District Fair, drawing visitors from all surrounding counties. The Lawrenceburg Rotary Club has sponsored, organized, and directed the Fair since 1950, and they combine the best of the old and new for an event that does get bigger and better every year.IMG_0230[1]

Rotarians and the City of Lawrenceburg were partners in the construction of a 4,600-seat arena that opened in 2014. Nightly arena events include a demolition derby, truck and tractor pulls, motorcycle and ATV racing and an Trace adkinsannual concert that this year features country star Trace Adkins. Other performers through the years have included Dolly Parton, Ronnie McDowell, Reba McEntire, Lee Greenwood, the Beach Boys, George Jones, and Garth Brooks.

Grandstand at Fairview Park 1926

“Miss Fairest” beauty pageants in five age categories precede the week at the historic Crockett Theatre. Thursday is always “Senior Day,” when admission is reduced for senior citizens and they enjoy a free lunch and entertainment. Friday’s “School Day” is another tradition, when Lawrence County schools are closed and students and teachers are admitted free of charge.  A highly-anticipated drawing on the final Sunday afternoon of the Fair gives the winner his or her choice of vehicles. A new MTDF concert series offers a range of entertainment every night on the midway.aunt martha

Lining that midway are carnival rides and games by W.G. Wade Shows, a longtime partner of the Middle Tennessee District Fair. Vendors offer goodies that are an attraction unto themselves: fairgoers can enjoy classic carnival treats like cotton candy, funnel cakes and candied apples, or a meal of beans & cornbread, chili, burgers, sausages, catfish, barbecue, ribs, or even shrimp etouffee.

The Middle Tennessee District Fair serves as the major annual fundraiser for many local organizations. Lawrenceburg and Loretto Lions Club members man a food booth, for example, and Kiwanis Club members handle and earn proceeds from public parking.

IMG_0229[1]The Fair also supports the work of the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club, including the year-long upkeep of Rotary Park. The club has its own scholarship program and sponsors the Lawrence County school system’s Heroes Banquet that recognizes top students and educators. It supports the work of Rotary International and its Polio Plus program, which has virtually eradicated that crippling disease in the world. Lawrenceburg Rotarians have given financial and hands-on support to life-changing projects in Honduras for the past decade.

No matter the changes over the years, the Fair has stayed true to its agricultural roots. Homemakers and farmers still vie for blue ribbons, along with fine artists, winemakers and photographers. Cattle, goat, sheep, rabbit and poultry shows are scheduled through the week.1896814_10203142210583800_4603048704964157859_n

With the Fair, Lawrence Countians enjoy traditional fun and support good work that goes on year-round. The Fair is as basic to the local calendar as Thanksgiving or Halloween, and has become synonymous with autumn and cooler weather.

To learn more about schedules and admission prices, visit MTDFair.org.

New Prospect & Ethridge Home Demonstration Club Fair Display 19

Historic photos courtesy Lawrence County Archives, others from MTDFair.org

Lawrence County History

We are blessed in Lawrence County to be recognized far outside our borders for kindness shown to those who were once our enemies.

A reception at David Lipscomb’s Beaman Library preceded a program about the letters at the University’s Swang Business Center on Thursday, September 10. About 300 people attended.
A reception at David Lipscomb’s Beaman Library preceded a program about the letters at the University’s Swang Business Center on Thursday, September 10. About 300 people attended.

About 400 pieces of correspondence from former German POWs to a Lawrenceburg family are now part of the special collections at David Lipscomb University’s Beaman Library. A recent program at the University honored that donation and the friendships those letters represent.

“The relationships underlying the words are precious,” said Dr. Charlie McVey, a German professor who has worked with his students to translate the letters from “old” German.  “It’s clear that the prisoners experienced American kindness, Southern (Lawrenceburg) hospitality, and Christian love.”

Displays at Beaman Library and the Swang Business Center
Above and below left: Program guests saw several displays about the letters and former POW camp.

In April, 1944, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp just west of Lawrenceburg’s downtown was converted to a holding area for 334 German prisoners of war. The local newspaper announced, “Nazis to be here soon,” but before they left in March, 1946, the same paper called them “German boys.”

The prisoners were put to work. They cut wood for Dickson, Tennessee’s Wrigley Chemical Company and were field hands for local farmers, including landowners James Stribling and his daughter and son-in-law, James Lois “Jim” and Delmer Brock.

IMG_0132The family became very close to the young German men. One example of that friendship, said local Historical Society president Curtis Peters, is a painting that remains in the Stribling-Brock family collection. Delmer Brock purchased oil paints and brushes for one prisoner, and passed them to him through the camp fence. The POW used a starched piece of bed sheet as his canvas, and painted a battle scene from the North African coast, where most of the prisoners had been captured.

Curtis Peters, president of the Lawrence County Historical Society and member of the Stribling-Brock family, shares the stage with a painting done by a German POW while in Lawrenceburg.
Curtis Peters, president of the Lawrence County Historical Society and member of the Stribling-Brock family, shares the stage with a painting done by a German POW while in Lawrenceburg.

Peters also said that the evening before the Germans left Lawrenceburg, six who had spent the most time with the local family broke out of the camp, walked to the Brock house to tell the family goodbye, then sneaked back into camp.

When the war was over, the Stribling-Brock family corresponded with about 30 of the former prisoners. Early letters tell of harsh conditions in post-war Germany, and offer thanks for gifts sent from Tennessee friends.

A letter dated December 15, 1947 from Erich Thimann reads in part:

“Dear Mrs. Brock:

“Today I have gotten around to writing you a small letter. I have a special reason for this since I received your wonderful package on Wednesday, December 12.  I thank you for this wonderful Christmas present. I have seldom been so richly gifted. The things you sent me fit very well, except for a pair of pants that I will have to have made a little smaller. The shoes also fit very well.

“You cannot imagine how happy I am. All these things are seldom available here in Germany, and only on the black market. Above all, I would like to point out that the shoes you sent me just don’t exist at all in Germany any more. There are some that are made out of rubber, but none out of leather. I am so happy that I now once again can dress acceptably, and for this reason I must continue to be grateful to you all, my dear Brock family.”

Pow letters 2
One of the 400 letters written by the former POWs to the Stribling-Brock family. This one by Erich Thimann also included a photo of his wife and three-month-old daughter. About 30 men corresponded with the Lawrenceburg family from 1946 until the 1970s.

The men shared “everyday things” about their lives, a sign of true friendship. A letter from Thimann two years later, accompanied by a photo, relates:

“You were no doubt surprised when you opened the letter. As you see, I have a little girl. The little 3 month old is on the picture. She was born on January 23, 1940. She brings us great joy. She got her first teeth a few days ago . . . .”

The correspondence dates from 1946 to the 1970s. Jim Brock stored them in a cornflakes box, which was discovered among her estate in the 1980s. A chance meeting in Lawrenceburg between Curtis Peters (who is also a member of the Stribling-Brock family) and a Lipscomb history professor in 2013 led to the donation of the letters.

Curtis Peters (right) with Linda Sue Andress, daughter of Captain Jesse Andress, captain of the guard at the camp. She was born in Lawrenceburg, and wore a locket made for her by a POW. She says the young German men sang lullabies to her and her older sister.
Curtis Peters (right) with Linda Sue Andress, daughter of Captain Jesse Andress, captain of the guard at the camp. She was born in Lawrenceburg, and wore a locket made for her by a POW. She says the young German men sang lullabies to her and her older sister.

The story of the letters has been told by NBC Nightly News, Yahoo.com, USA Today and the London Daily Mail. A letter from the German consulate in Atlanta that was read at the Lipscomb program called the collection “another milestone in the friendship between Germany and America since the horrors of WWII.”

Friends of the Beaman Library are erecting a historical marker at the site of the former POW camp.

Photos by Randy Brewer and David Lipscomb University staff. Top image was developed by the university and used on all materials related to the September 10 program.

At home with nature

We are blessed in Lawrence County to be close to nature and the wildlife that live in our woods, streams, and skies.

Deer and wild turkeys can be spotted on a drive through David Crockett State Park, located near the western city limits of Lawrenceburg. You can spy even more if you stop for a picnic, walk the park’s six miles of hiking trails, or take a spin on the paved bike path.

DSC_1518reducedYou can extend your stay at one of seven LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) cabins near Lake Lindsey, where a healthy flock of Canadian Geese are permanent residents. Be closer to the great outdoors at one of the park’s two RV campgrounds, or be part of it at a primitive campsite.
DSC_1595pp6pyeYou can also get up-close-and-personal with a few creatures that can no longer live in the wild. The Park office is home to three snakes and two box turtles who are accustomed to people and petting. An aviary near the Park museum houses two Red-tailed Hawks and a Barred Owl. Visit the museum itself (admission is free) to learn about David Crockett’s life in Lawrence County and see two native Screech Owls.

Our county is crisscrossed with streams that are filled with fish and are a magnet for a variety of mammals and birds. You can share the water when you swim or wade in it, or get a great view of creek banks – and fish below – from a canoe or kayak. Shoal Creek Canoe Run in southwest Lawrence County offers rentals for as little as three hours or as long as four days.

DSC_1689ppThe Buffalo River is designated a State Scenic River in Lawrence County. It begins near Henryville, and public access is located one mile east of that community on the Turnpike (Highway 240).  Tennessee’s “Watchable Wildlife” website says 85 species of fish have been observed in the river and mammals including deer, beaver, and muskrat “abound on its banks.” Bird watchers can observe Double-crested Cormorant, Mallard, Wood Duck, and Belted Kingfisher. “Green Herons and Great Blue Herons are often flushed from its banks in spring and summer.”

Also featured at TNWatchableWildlife.org is Laurel Hill Wildlife Management Area, a 14,000-acre preserve managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The Natchez Trace Parkway crosses Lawrence County’s extreme northwest corner, and most of it lies within Laurel Hill WMA.blue bird dad

The website states that “Neotropical migratory bird species are common in summer, including Summer and Scarlet Tanager, Worm-eating Warbler, and Kentucky Warbler. Cerulean Warblers also nest here, one of the few locations in the western highland rim where they can still be found nesting. Loggerhead Shrikes are rare, but can be found nesting in the area. Great blue Heron, Eastern Bluebird, and Belted Kingfishers are regularly seen year-round. DSC_0780gooseadultbabiesreduced

“On Laurel Hill Lake, common Loons, Mallards, Gadwall, Wood Ducks, and Bufflehad can be abundant in winter. Wild Turkey, White-tailed Deer, squirrel, rabbit and other game species are abundant. Spring migration can yield a wide variety of migrant birds including Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Bay-breasted Warbler.”

DSC_1559ppreducedBecause Lawrence County is primarily rural, most of us share our backyards with wildlife of some sort. It is a gift to be so close to the natural world and the beautiful creatures that are part of it.

Photos by Tom Hill, OakRidge48@gmail.com