Aiken County students expressed their creativity this summer

The Aiken County Public School District (ACPSD) in South Carolina invited 190 third- to 12th-grade students to participate in a free fine arts curriculum program at Langley-Bath-Clearwater (LBC) Middle School from June 5-July 11.

The acGATEWAY program – which stands for Aiken County Gifted and Talented Education with Artistic Youth – has provided students with an intensive, practical education in creative writing, dance, drama, instrumental and vocal music and visual art courses for more than 30 years.

Director Randy Hood said, “These kids had to audition; therefore, they are the top kids in their particular area. And that’s why we can be so concentrated…. We can get a year’s worth of work done in six weeks.”

In fact, high school participants earn a fine arts credit if they successfully complete the program and meet the faculty’s evaluation benchmarks. Students of all levels “must maintain at least a B average in the acGateway program to attend and continue to attend in the following years.”

Sherry Kong used the batik technique of wax-resist dyeing to create a large-scale art piece on fabric. (Photo: D. Krahulek)

Hood, who is also the ACPSD Fine Arts Coordinator, said, “We are using our top teachers across the county who teach in specific areas, and we are able to afford supplies for this program that we can’t afford in our budgets at each individual school. So, therefore, these kids are going to be able to do things they’re not able to do at their schools.

“We have a kiln here and Ms. [Mabry] MacGregor, one of our visual art teachers, is actually going to do Raku firing of ceramics and that, to my knowledge, has never been done here, and it’s not done in the schools either. That is a unique opportunity for our visual artists.

“And I could go on and on and talk about each an every area and what they have that we don’t have to offer [otherwise].”

MacGregor and Sandra Weeks assigned visual art students projects in painting, sculpting, sketching, making pinhole cameras and experimenting with photography. These middle- and high-school level students even created textile art with batik and bagru techniques.

Zachary Dobbs has worked with summer fine arts programs for several years. He said, “Many enter the program a bit under prepared from their regular school programs but learn extremely fast. Their progression is remarkable.”

Dobbs also said, “Students tend to maximize their potential when they are surrounded by other talented and enthusiastic students. Each student wants to be involved and, therefore, are motivated to learn.”

The acGATEWAY faculty challenged students to design a T-shirt that would be worn by all of the students and teachers. Jillian Boys, Angela Johnson and Taylor McGee contributed to this winning submission. (Photo: D. Krahulek)

Steven Cheek, Kelsey Knight and Sonya Terry not only prepared the elementary musicians and vocalists for large ensemble performances, but also developed the students’ self-confidence by having them sing solos in front of their supportive peers. These students also learned how to play rhythm instruments for the showcase on June 28-29.

Music teachers Dobbs, Charla Coffin and Stephanie Threlkeld prepared students for instrumental and vocal performances and taught classes in conducting, music history and music theory.

Fifteen-year-old Leann Deal, who will attend North Augusta High School in the fall, auditioned for acGATEWAY to improve her performance skills for the high school orchestra and, ultimately, audition for college scholarships.

Deal explained her conducting class, “We can take any of our songs or songs we listen to on the radio. We can conduct to them because [Mr. Dobbs] taught us the beats. Like for the march when Darth Vader comes out [in Star Wars], it’s real rigid. And for like “Hallelujah,” it’s really connected and smooth. We’re learning those kinds of things.”

Dobbs added, “This gets them opportunity to be in front of the group instead of just inside the ensemble. I think that they will take some great lessons back to their school programs and be better students after having to be the leader.”

Dr. Christina Hardin taught visual art this summer to the elementary school students. She said, “I’m really proud of them. These fourth- and fifth-graders are stepping up and performing like 15- and 16-year-olds on their activities.”

Bubble gum
Visual art students experienced painting on oversized canvases during the acGATEWAY program. (Photo: D. Krahulek)

Hardin, Kimberly Fontanez and Bruce Sweeting challenged their art student to produce more observational drawings, to paint and etch with different mediums, to use clay and to make plaster casts.

Meghan Gray, 11, said, “I’ve learned about light sources and shadow…. I’ve learned a lot about pottery in Ms. Fontanez’ class.

“I also love the part about how Mr. Sweeting lets us draw what we want,” said Gray, who will attend Aiken Middle School in August. “It’s not forced…. And overall it’s just really fun for me.”

Lauren Gehr has been teaching creative writing with acGATEWAY for eight years.

Gehr focused her instruction on helping students develop literary elements like theme, imagery, symbolism, tone and structure into their poetry and learn how to critique each other’s works.

Gehr said, “[My students] set the bar really high each year that I have them, and, this year, they did the same thing again – by creating better and better stuff.”

Student writers also designed their own altered books around a central theme of their choosing.

Antonio Scales directing
Professional actor Antonio Scales teaches drama with the acGATEWAY program. He also choreographed the musical “Hamilton” for the showcase on July 10-11. (Photo: D. Krahulek)

Teryn Harris, 14, said, “This is my first year. Mrs. [Charla] Coffin, the chorus teacher, … every year when she talked about GATEWAY, she would say, ‘Teryn, you should do it.… But this year I was like, ‘Yea, I’ll do it.’”

A rising ninth-grader at Midland Valley High School, Harris registered for the chorus program, played percussion with the full band and played Aaron Burr in the musical “Hamilton” at the showcase on July 10-11.

Hood said, “We don’t offer theater and drama at every single school, so it’s nice to be able to bring somebody with the talents and the education and the experience that Mr. [Antonio] Scales has for our students to put on a proper production.”

Harris recommended the acGATEWAY program to other ACPSD students: “They have dance, creative writing, art, orchestra – well, all the music department is tied together – but really they should apply so they can learn different skills through it.”

The acGATEWAY program concluded for the summer with special showcases by both age groups.

Elementary visual arts students displayed their paintings, sculptures, pottery and casts in the LBC Middle School on June 28-29. (Photo by D. Krahulek)
Elementary visual arts students displayed their paintings, sculptures, pottery and plaster casts in the LBC Middle School cafeteria on June 28-29. (Photo: D. Krahulek)

Elementary students performed for their Disney-themed showcase on June 28-29 at LBC Middle School. This program included vocal and instrumental pieces, several types of dances and a drama called “The Light in the Library.” Young people involved with the visual art curriculum displayed their paintings, sculptures and etchings in the school cafeteria.

Performances by middle and high school students culminated with a showcase on July 10-11. The faculty organized performances to alternatively highlight music, dance, creative writing pieces and a drama called “Unmurdered!” in the auditorium and invited guest to view the entire range of visual art pieces in the cafeteria.

All upper-level acGATEWAY students in creative writing, dance, drama and music participated in a finale that featured six songs from the musical “Hamilton.” Visual art students helped make costumes.

For more information about the acGATEWAY program and details about the application and audition process, click here.

‘A Time 4 Paws’ seeks help for move during last week of July

The animal welfare organization A Time 4 Paws (AT4P) is moving to 594 Cook Rd., in Crossville, Tenn., by August 1.

AT4P’s founder and president Karen McMeekin said, “We are currently looking for volunteers who can help us out during our last week of the move from our old adoption center location to our current, new location.”

During the week of July 27-31, AT4P must have everything transferred out of its current facility at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy. This process involves finishing kennels and cat rooms at the new center and disassembling and moving equipment from the old center before the animals can be transported.

McMeekin said that she still needs people who can:

  • dig holes for and construct fencing
  • fix water lines
  • transport equipment and supplies
  • disassemble
  • paint
  • garden
  • landscape
  • clean

She also said, “We’re still in need of cleaning supplies, bleach. We need sponges that are sort of like rough – the green scrubby pads. … We need some new mop handles, which are for industrial mops where we can change the heads out, … paper towels, toilet paper.

“We need donations of dog food: Diamond Natural chicken and rice dog food. You can buy that at Petsense. You can buy that at Tractor Supply. That’s very important because we have some very large dogs, and we’ve had them for several years. … So we’re going through bags of dog food – 40-pound bags of dog food – very quickly.”

Miranda McNeil started volunteering with AT4P to fulfill eight hours of community service for her Tennessee Promise scholarship. McNeil helps at the adoption center with socializing the dogs and other tasks as needed, and she plans to continue helping the organization long-term.

She said, “Not a lot of people understand the need these places have. I never knew how important volunteers were until I started volunteering.”

McMeekin said, “If [you] are new volunteers who have never been a part of our organization in the past, [you] can email me at … We can set up a time. We’re generally here from eight until three everyday. And the big moving days will most likely be Thursday and Friday and probably Saturday.”

Giving some of your time during the week of July 27 to August 1, will help AT4P meet its moving deadline.

“Our grand opening won’t be until September,” said McMeekin, “but, in the meantime, we need all of this completed for the safety and the health of the animals and for the volunteers.”

Additionally, the group needs help daily at its adoption center and its thrift store at 1201 West Ave. If you are interested in long-term volunteering and interaction with the animals, be sure to fill out a volunteer application.

Be a lifesaver by volunteering with A Time 4 Paws

The non-profit organization A Time 4 Paws (AT4P) has requested the help of volunteers to prepare its new adoption center, which will be located at 594 Cook Rd., in Crossville, Tenn.

Founder and president Karen McMeekin said, “The grand opening will be in late July. We will transfer the animals over to the facility sooner, but, … the end of July is the projected date for the opening for the public to come and experience the new adoption center.”

AT4P’s new center will have 16 heated and air-conditioned indoor/outdoor kennels for dogs. Cats will also live in temperature-controlled rooms with climbing ramps and the ability to move outside into a protected space.

McMeekin said that the AT4P team needs volunteers with a variety of skills to help with the transition to the new location.

To continue work on the Cook Road property, AT4P needs volunteers to donate supplies and gift cards, clean, paint, landscape, do regular lawn care, build fences and pressure wash.

McMeekin said, “We’ll need people who know how to work with chain link fencing, wood fencing, basic carpentry skills – just to donate their time – and we can put them to work.”

Look for the blue barrel at Food City to donate food and supplies to the AT4P AniMeals program. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek)
Look for the blue barrel at Food City to donate food and supplies to the AT4P AniMeals program. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek)

“With the nine and a half acres,” said McMeekin, “there is a pond where we have been excavating and cleaning … to create walking trails. The walking trails will be available for our volunteers to walk the dogs that we have in our programs.

“The walking trails will be designed and created with the help of the trails group from Fairfield Glade, so more volunteers donating their time.”

AT4P also wants to line up people who can transport the animals and who can move equipment from the current adoption center to the new one.

McMeekin added, “We are seeking a full-time kennel manager who has a minimum of three years experience managing a kennel to be our adoption center manager on site.”

AT4P has been promoting the no kill philosophy for 10 years in Cumberland County.

“Our goal,” said McMeekin, “is to turn the entire community and county shelter into a no kill community. … With that philosophy, animals lives are saved. Animals are treated humanely. Laws are followed. Laws are improved.

“A Time 4 Paws wants to educate people – educate them on how to become a no kill community, how to take care of animals, how to be kind to them, have them be a part of their family, spay and neuter them, teach the children responsibility about animals, treating them humanely as God’s creatures – not just as discarded, unwanted animals.”

Donations to AT4P's AniMeals program can be made at Kroger. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek)
Donations to AT4P’s AniMeals program can be made at Kroger. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek)

In addition to help with the new adoption center, AT4P needs volunteers with many day-to-day and special activities.

McMeekin said, “We need volunteers for our events. We transport animals to and from adoption events. We have people we need to socialize the animals.

“We have cleaning … opportunities. We have the thrift store which we need people to process items – and very desperately. We need people who can pressure wash on a daily basis. We need people who can mop floors, clean. We just always need an extra hand.

“We need an events coordinator. I need a marketing person, and I also need a grant writer. And all of these are volunteer positions at this point.”

To learn more information about AT4P and the no kill philosophy, the public is invited to a volunteer orientation meeting that McMeeking hosts at the Art Circle Public Library on the second Saturday of every month. The next meeting will be June 13, at 10 a.m.

To volunteer your time and skills, call 931-456-6906.

Donated items for the thrift store and/or the adoption center can be left at both locations. The A Time 4 Paws Thrift Store is located at 1201 West Ave., and the current adoption center is at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy.

The public can also donate pet food and supplies to AT4P’s AniMeals program at the Crossville locations of Kroger and Food City.

Monetary and gift card donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 2982, Crossville, TN 38557.

Donating + Shopping = Saving Lives with A Time 4 Paws

A Time 4 Paws supports not only an adoption center, but also a thrift store and a pet hotel in Crossville, Tenn.

Volunteers man the AT4P thrift store, located at 1201 West Ave., Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. One hundred percent of its profit helps the organization maintain the animals and operational expenses of the no kill animal adoption center, located at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy.

Karen Arnold has volunteered with AT4P for four years and at the thrift store since it opened in September 2013. She said, “Everyday we have different specials. Then we’ll throw an extra one in. … We want the customers to feel special. We want them to come back, and we want them to … have an idea of what we do [at A Time 4 Paws].”

Pearl Jaco, who also works at the thrift store, said, “People will give money, supplies. They donate everything we get in the store. People are really good about that. Some days we get big donations. … Other days we might only get two or three, but, in general, we have donations everyday of some type.”

At the entrance to the store, customers will find an information table with a photo album of adoptable pets, a wish list for donated supplies and other information about AT4P’s mission. AT4P volunteers also help rescue homeless and abused animals and create educational programs and literature about the no kill philosophy, which all require funding.

Arnold said, “I’m just really inspired by the things going on, and I want other people to see what we do and what we have done and what we’re going for the future with.”

She said that AT4P president Karen McMeekin is looking for 100 acres to create a sanctuary for animals that are never adopted, based on the model created by the Best Friends Animal Society near Kanab, Utah.

In the meantime, the organization uses the thrift store to help with veterinary bills and to fund the various programs it has in place to help people and their pets in the community and homeless and abused animals.

By shopping at the AT4P thrift store, consumers find inexpensive household, décor, clothing and pet supplies, as well as toys, books and holiday items. At the same time, they will be supporting AT4P’s efforts to save, find homes for and create a sanctuary for homeless pets in Cumberland County.

Feral cat trap-neuter-release programs increase shelter space and decrease killing of healthy animals

Nathan Winograd, founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center based in Oakland, Calif., established an 11-point “No Kill Equation” plan to guide municipal shelters into becoming no-kill facilities.

His first strategy is the organization of Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs for feral cats.

Alley Cat Allies of Bethesda, Md., explained that TNR programs involve safely trapping feral cats and taking them to veterinarians who will neuter and vaccinate them. Once the animals have recovered from surgery, “the cats are returned to their home – their colony – outdoors. Kittens and cats who are friendly and socialized to people may be adopted into homes.”

Whether feral cats are born in the wild or run away from domestic environments, no kill advocates support the cats’ right to live – just as they would support the live-and-let-live response most people have to raccoons, squirrels, birds and the like.

As more communities recognize the benefits of the TNR strategy, local governments are legislating these programs to ensure that shelters provide feral cats with an alternative to being killed when captured by animal control.

No Kill 101,” published by the No Kill Advocacy Center, says, “The decision to end an animal’s life is extremely serious, and should always be treated as such. No matter how many animals a shelter kills, each and every animal is an individual, and each deserves individual consideration.”

Feral cats know how to survive in the wild, so animal lovers do not need to worry about their survival. Returning spayed and neutered feral cats to their chosen habitats will reduce the number of animals euthanized in shelters because they are not breeding. Additionally, rescue groups typically foster these cats during their recovery and take care of the medical costs related to surgery and vaccinations.

While cats are under anesthesia, veterinarians clip off a quarter inch of the cats’ left ears to show that they have been neutered and vaccinated. This universal symbol allows treated cats to be left alone.

While Winograd strongly advocates for TNR programs, he also believes that that people should choose to spay and neuter their pets based on actual statics – not exaggerated ones. He contends that the main reasons to neuter dogs and cats are to reduce the number of animals that enter shelters and to stop needlessly killing healthy, adoptable animals.

Best Friend Animal Society in Kanab, Utah established itself as a no-kill facility in 1984. Best Friends is the “largest no-kill sanctuary” in the U.S. and has been a “flagship for the no-kill movement” for 30 years.

Along with PetsMart Charities, Best Friends started Community Cat Projects in two large cites in the west. Statistics in 2014 show a decrease of cats entering the shelters by 21 percent and a decrease of euthanasia by 84 percent from the shelters’ 2011 numbers.

PetsMart Charities also supports the TNR method for free roaming cats and has published steps to start grassroots programs and provided resources to help growing programs.


The Blount County Humane Society in Maryville, Tenn., – with the help of the Maryville Animal Shelter – currently has a barn cat program in which spayed and neutered cats are placed on farms where they can roam freely and provide property owners with rodent control.

A Time 4 Paws in Crossville, Tenn. is also working on developing this program for Cumberland County.

For more information about how to help with these programs, contact A Time 4 Paws at 931-456-6906 or the Blount County Humane Society at 865-382-7652.

Maryville animal shelter proves ‘No Kill’ model is possible in Tenn.

The Maryville animal shelter, which serves the cities of Maryville, Alcoa and Rockford, Tenn., has the only no kill government program in the state with a save rate of 90 percent or better.

Steve Phipps, the founder and president of the Blount County Humane Society (BCHS), said, “We’ve always been above 90 percent, which is the benchmark for saying that you’re ‘no kill.’ … Ninety percent is just a goal. There’s no reason why you can’t do 96, 97, 98, 99 and even 100 percent. And so we take that seriously. Every dog and cat is an individual.”

Eddie King, the director of the Maryville animal shelter, said, “When I first started doing this [26] years ago … we [were] doing 3,500 to 4,000 a year, coming into the shelter. I’d say … maybe 95 or 90 [percent] of that was being put to sleep. Now if you can imagine that’s what we did everyday here first thing in the mornings. Now fast forward to 2015, we’re not doing anything, and it’s thanks to the Blount County Humane Society.”

Phipps said, “Maryville, Tenn., is the safest community for shelter pets in America today – right now. For 2014, we have a 100 percent save rate.”

BCHS collaborates with the Maryville animal shelter to ensure that all of the animals that enter the shelter are released alive. The Shelter Pet Project team takes photos of any new animals received by the shelter to put on the BCHS Facebook page.

King said, “It’s been a 100 percent blessing because, [for] everything that comes in here, Steve’s group comes in here, takes pictures, information, and it goes automatically that day onto Facebook. And I can’t tell you how many times we found the owner [or] we’ve got an adoption because it’s on Facebook.”

After Phipps created the BCHS in 2003, he was the director of a low-cost spay/neuter clinic but learned specific details of the No Kill Movement when he read ‘Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America’ by Nathan Winograd.

He said, “Changed my whole perspective. Changed my life as it has many people’s as far as their role in animal protection.

“It opened my eyes, and I was like, ‘Well, there aren’t too many pets for the homes that we have in America. As a matter of fact, we have a surplus of homes, and the breakdown is we don’t have a pet overpopulation.’ We have shelter overcrowding due to poor shelter performance. …”

Phipps also started the national No Kill Revolution organization in 2009, to promote the principles and strategies of Winograd’s no kill model of shelter management.

He said, “The moral of the story is pretty much any dog can be rehabilitated to go into a family if you choose the family correctly and with much care. We believe in the no kill movement that pretty much any dog can be rehabilitated, and, if they can’t be, we still have a moral obligation not to kill that dog. And that’s where sanctuary comes in. That’s why it’s so important for us to have a sanctuary for dogs.”

Since the BCHS started working directly with Maryville Animal Control, Police Chief Tony Crisp has initiated several changes on his own.

King said, “Back in the day, it was three days if a stray animal came in, five days if it had a tag on it – or if we knew who it was, we’d hold it five days. Chief stepped up and says, ‘We’re going to do a 20-day hold for all animals. Period.’

“It’s been great. And, again, this really couldn’t take place without the help of Steve Phipps and his group. Because after that 20 days is up, they step in, and they find a home.”

Phipps said, “When we first started, we were working with the domestic dogs and cats. Our secret ambition was to save the feral cats because that’s part of the no kill model. … And so [the chief] approached us again. We had it in the plans to approach them, but they beat us to the punch. They said, ‘We’ll let you have the feral cats under one condition. You cannot release them back into the city limits.’

“And so we started a barn cat program, which we studied, and learned that it was the next best step.”

In the barn cat program, BCHS finds farmers who want to control rodents in an Eco-friendly way. The humane society has the feral cats spayed or neutered. They place the cats in barns in the surrounding areas of the city in kennels for two weeks to acclimate them to their surroundings.

Phipps said, “We’ve had a really good rate of feral cats staying there. We’ve maybe had five that owners say just took off to parts unknown and never saw them again. But they’re feral cats. They know how to survive, and now they can’t reproduce. So we feel like that’s the model that works for us here.”

Phipps and King believe that the Maryville program is one that can be adopted anywhere in Tennessee.

“Go out there an talk with your shelter,” said Phipps, “and, if they’ll work with you, work with them with the ultimate goal – and this can happen overnight – it’s not a five-year program though I see a lot of communities say, ‘Well, seven years down the road we’re going to be ‘no kill.’

“That’s a cop out. You can achieve no kill in one year or less if you’re serious. And the reason I say that is because it’s been done over and over. There are over 250 communities in America now that have no kill shelters.

Phipps said, “In Cumberland County, it can happen. We’re proof that it can happen, so take heart. Get out there and do the things that it takes.”

A Time 4 Paws, a non-profit organization located in Crossville, Tenn., also wants to establish a long-term community partnership with the Cumberland County animal shelter in order to prevent the killing of homeless animals. The group needs volunteers in a variety of areas to make this plan a reality. For more information, contact AT4P at 931-456-6906, at or on Facebook.

Successful no kill animal programs show change possible for Cumberland County

A Time 4 Pets (

A Time 4 Paws is a non-profit organization committed to establishing the no-kill animal philosophy in Cumberland County, Tenn.

Karen McMeekin, president of AT4P, said that in 2004, the county and city shelters were killing 85 to 90 percent of the dogs and cats they brought in. In order to reduce these numbers, she often transported large numbers of animals to out-of-state no-kill rescue organizations.

McMeekin discovered the book “Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America” (2009). Nathan Winograd, the director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, presents a researched-based plan that can change shelters across the U.S. to increase their save rates to 90 percent or better. He has also produced a movie based on “Redemption” that will be shown in theaters this summer.

Winograd’s text gave McMeekin hope for a new plan for Cumberland County, and, at her own expense, she visited successful no-kill programs in Utah, Texas and Florida to learn how to implement the same initiative in Tennessee.

Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) in Kanab, Utah, has been a prominent model for no-kill animal programs since 1984. Founders committed themselves to sheltering homeless animals until they were adopted and educating the public about the routine and unnecessary euthanasia protocols in U.S. shelters.

Board member Gregory Castle has served as BFAS’s CEO since 2010. However, as a co-founder of BFAS, he has been advocating for no kill animal programs for 30 years. He believes that communities can eliminate unnecessary euthanasia of homeless animals with organized programs. Through No More Homeless Pets in Utah, another organization he founded, his team developed programs for animal care education, low-cost spaying and neutering and pet adoptions.

Austin Pets Alive! in Austin, Texas, is managed by Executive Director Dr. Ellen Jefferson. She has led Austin to be “the largest No Kill city in the United States.” APA! has a 91 percent save rate, which translates to more than 6,000 animals annually. The center regularly plans broad, creative programs to save at-risk companion animals.

Since 1988, the Animal Refuge Center (ARC) in Ft. Myers, Fla., has provided an alternative to euthanasia of unwanted dogs and cats. They ensure that all animals are treated, rehabilitated and given an opportunity to be adopted. For dogs and cats that are never adopted, ARC is committed to providing them with lifetime sanctuary.

Closer to Crossville, the Blount County Humane Society in Maryville, Tenn., has established itself as a no-kill program in Tennessee with a verified save rate of 99 percent in 2014. The group offers a variety of leadership and supporting volunteer opportunities and is very active in promoting its philosophy through social media. Citizens can offer support as on -the-ground members of the Friends of the Animals Advisory Team and financially through the Bark-N-Purr Club.

For board members and other volunteers with AT4P, the goal for a true no-kill animal facility with the Cumberland County government is very realistic. However, they know that they must continue educating the community about the statistics and the proven successes of other programs to counteract the long-standing mindset of pet overpopulation that must be controlled with euthanasia.

Crossville Model Railroad Club shares love of trains with visitors of all ages

The Upper Cumberland Railroad Society (UCRS) and the Crossville Model Railroad Club (CMRC) constructed a railroad museum and an exhibit of various sizes of model railroads in a 4,500 sq. ft. storefront in the Cumberland Outlet Center in Crossville, Tenn.

Steve Rosenstein, who manages public relations for the CMRC said, “This display started about seven or eight years ago. The club started really in people’s basements, as is a typical railway club. They would get together, and the club decided they wanted to something permanent and started looking for a space.”

“And, actually, the building is still going on,” said Rosenstein. “There are some sections of this layout that have been built within this last year because once you run out of space you run out of things to do so you’re always building and building.”

Kendall, 6, and Will, 10, came from Nashville to visit their grandparents in Crossville. This was their first time to see the display. Kendall said, “I like how they have the buttons and stuff, and I like how they have [Thomas the Train] with the candy in it.”

Will said, “I like where you can search for things.” By using a scavenger hunt list located at the front desk, visitors are encouraged to look for items hidden within the railroad scenes created by club members.

“Most of our layouts,” said Rosenstein, “are built with a lot of interactivity for children. … They can press buttons and run trains. They can create sounds.”

Denise (shown with her oldest son Kayden) said, “We’re there every weekend. The boys love it.” (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

The CMRC is uncommon as a model railroad club because its membership includes people who work with various model scales. Rosenstein said, “Most clubs you go to you’re going to see maybe an HO-scale, which is the most popular scale. Maybe an N-scale club. This club has all popular scales in it.”

“I’m a G-scaler,” he said. “I was an HO person until I moved down here [from New York]. I bought a house that had a garden railroad in the backyard, and now I’m a G-scaler.”

The CMRC displays the following gauges (from smallest to largest) at this location: Z, N, HO, O and G. shows a comparison photo of model engines in these gauges with ratios of the model trains to real trains.

This 12-year-old organization has increased its visibility with different methods of promoting the model railroad exhibit. Rosenstein said, “We now have signs on I-40, … so now people can find us more easily. We’re on Facebook. We have a website. We’re on TripAdvisor. … So we get a lot of people here, and a lot of people review us very favorably online. They take photos, and they post their photos. They take videos and put them on YouTube. People are really blown away when they see this display.”

Based on reviews posted on TripAdvisor at the time of this posting, visitors have ranked the model railroad exhibit as the number one attraction in Crossville.

Rosenstein said, “We very carefully track our visitors. Everyone who comes in the door gets counted. We have a guest book where people can sign in. We get upwards of 30,000 people a year, and they come here from all over the world. We look at our guest book. There are people from Australia, from Europe, from South America – people from all over the United States.”

Visitors from all over the world visit this model train exhibit. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
Visitors from all over the world visit this model train exhibit. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

The UCRS hosts model railroading classes throughout the year and has listed upcoming classes on its website for Feb. 2, March 21 and April 11, at 8 a.m. Interested persons must register via contacts on the UCRS webpage.

Rosenstein said, “So you have all of these various skills involved in model railroading which are very valuable to a child. A child has to learn about electricity if they’re going build a model railroad layout. They have to learn how to paint things. They have to learn how to build things. It’s not sitting at a computer starring at a screen, punching buttons to play a video game. We wish more people would get their children involved in model railroading.”

Volunteers work six days a week at the mall to make sure this display is open for visitors. Because the UCRS and CMRC do not charge admission, members are dependent on membership dues and donations to maintain the exhibits.

CMRC member Wayne Lokey said, “This is our big toy box. We come in and play.” However, he explained that repairing equipment and scenery is expensive. Trains that run constantly while the exhibit is open to the public get very hot. He said that new O-scale engines could cost up to $1,000.

The Crossville Model Railroad Club does not charge admission to its exhibits. Members depend on donations to maintain equipment and displays. (Photo Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
The Crossville Model Railroad Club does not charge admission to its exhibits. Members depend on donations to maintain equipment and displays. (Photo Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

For more information about membership or to make a donation, contact Steve Rosenstein at 931-742-0151 (after 6 p.m. CST) or at

CHS senior builds mascot skills to follow college dreams

Eighteen-year-old senior Tanner Stockton plans to study political science in college. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)
Eighteen-year-old senior Tanner Stockton plans to study political science in college. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

Tanner Stockton, an 18-year-old senior at Clarkrange High School in Clarkrange, Tenn. has been the school’s mascot – Brutus the Buffalo – for the past two years.

Stockton said, “It’s definitely been a cool experience. You get to do something a lot of people can’t say they do. I mean it’s really an experience kind of like a big secret. You go into a room and come out as a whole new person.”

He also said that the student body has been very supportive of his role at sporting events. He laughed, “Before games people say, ‘Are you going to hop in the suit yet?’ I’m like, ‘Soon. I’ve got another three hours.’ They want me in in early so I can just go crazy.”

“U.S. News and World Report” identified CHS as a bronze-level high school in its annual Best High Schools list. The administration and faculty work diligently to increase academic rigor and encourage students to apply for universities. However, career options are not always obvious in this rural town.

Brutus the Buffalo (Tanner Stockton) helps the CHS cheerleaders on the sideline of the game against Stone Memorial High School in Crossville, on Feb. 6.
Brutus the Buffalo (Tanner Stockton) helps the CHS cheerleaders on the sideline of the game against Stone Memorial High School in Crossville, on Feb. 7. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

Stockton, however, has been researching his future opportunities for some time as a mascot and as a former member of the JROTC program. He said, “I’m planning to major in political science, and then, from there I plan to go to OCS, which is officer training school, and do military law for the Air Force.”

Stockton participated in JROTC for three years and served as a commanding officer with the rank of Cadet Major during his junior year.

During the summer before his senior year, he made a difficult decision to not continue with JROTC.

Stockton said, “I arrived at that decision because I had my normal classes, and I had dual-enrollment classes, so I was taking college classes. And then on top of that we had the busy ballgame schedule, and then everything with JROTC junior year. It was too much to handle. I was exhausted. This year I just decided to take off. … And there’s some mascot scholarships out there which you can try out and make it. You can pretty much go anywhere from there. That’s what I’m hoping to do in college.”

He has attended several mascot camps through the Universal Cheerleaders Association, including one at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. Daniel Drake Fenlon, who is TTU’s Awesome Eagle mascot, was one of his instructors. Fenlon has also won the mascot national championship for the past two years.

Scouts from TTU and from Bryan College have attended CHS games to watch Stockton in action.

Stockton interacts with spectators during half time at the game against Stone Memorial High School in Crossville, on Feb. 6.
Stockton interacts with spectators during half time at the CHS game against Stone Memorial High School in Crossville, on Feb. 7. (Photo by Diahan Krahulek / Full Sail University)

In spite of Stockton’s ambitions to be a college mascot, he said that his job now is to support the cheerleaders and entertain the crowds. He takes pride in making people happy.

Stockton shared one of his favorite memories: “There was one ballgame we had at Jackson County. This little girl was crying all night because she saw me walking by. … And her mom was like, “Don’t be afraid,” so she brought the little girl [where I was standing], and she was hiding behind her mom’s legs. … I just sit down Indian style I just [do a hand gesture to come], and she comes over. And I high five her, and she high fives me back. Well, we start playing paddy cake right there while the ballgame is going on – completely missed the fourth period of the girls game. I’m just playing paddy cake with this girl, and she’s laughing and giggling and she’s starting to warm up. … I was really just focusing on getting that girl to calm her down – get her used to mascots.”

Stockton started a Facebook page for Brutus the Buffalo. He said, “It was originally just meant to inform people. Let them know the next game, the time, when to be there – also for pep club members.

“In two days, we went from having no friends to over 100, and then we had our [Fentress] county executive Mike Cross add us, so that was pretty cool to have him add us. Then I posted on there, ‘I hope to see you at our next game Mr. County Executive Mike Cross,’ and he liked it and commented, so that was pretty cool.”

Stockton’s mascot Facebook page now has 321 likes.