A Smoky Mountain Independence Day

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, may be small (only about 4,000 people at last count), but it attracts over 100,000 spectators each year on July 4. At midnight, nonetheless. Yep, that’s right—Gatlinburg boasts the country’s “first Independence Day parade” each year at 12 midnight since 1976. Many people set up their folding chairs as early as 7 a.m. on July 3 to get a spot for the famous parade.


Photo, Gatlinburg.com

While you’re in town, don’t miss the River Raft Regatta at noon. The unmanned floatable race allows “anything that floats” and starts at the charmingly named “Christ in the Smokies Museum & Gardens.” The day progresses with several free concerts and a spectacular fireworks display at dark.


Photo by Zereshk via Wikimedia Commons

Or travel just 6 miles north to Pigeon Forge, home of Dolly Parton’s Dollywood, for the annual Pigeon Forge Patriot Festival with food, crafts, and music throughout the day.

Surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains on three sides, Gatlinburg is the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in America, which attracts more than 11 million visitors a year to this tiny mountain town. Its Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is touted as “the largest gathering of independent artisans in North America.” If you’re looking for a bang-up time for Independence Day with a generous dose of Appalachian charm, make plans to visit Gatlinburg—and be sure to show up the day before to catch the nation’s “first Independence Day parade.”


Photo, Gatlinburg.com




Just when you thought …

Farmers Bob, Lee, and Bobby Jones (clockwise, below) might fit your image of a Midwest farmer, but there’s nothing typical about their Huron, Ohio, farm, just a few miles outside Cleveland.


Thirty years ago, Bob Sr. and his two sons grew soybeans and corn, like many of their Midwest neighbors. They also had a market garden, selling their produce from a farm stand at their home and at Cleveland-area farmers’ markets. But in 1983, a severe hailstorm resulted in a crop failure that forced them to rethink their futures. Enter a chef interested in buying squash blossoms for his restaurant, and a new definition of their family farm was born. They decided to tailor their crops to the budding artisanal farm-to-table restaurant movement. A world of micro greens, micro herbs, heirloom vegetables, specialty lettuces, and edible flowers blossomed—grown without chemicals, using sustainable farming practices—at The Chef’s Garden (Chefs-Garden.com).

“While farming at The Chef’s Garden has evolved ‘back in time,’ using methods employed by our great-grandfathers, innovation and new product development help us remain the leading grower of artisanal produce in the nation,” says patriarch Bob.

They now offer 600 varieties of specialty and heirloom vegetables, herbs, micro greens, and edible flowers to thousands of chefs around the world. “We can’t compete on the commodity market,” says farm spokesman Lee, who sports his signature red bow tie, “But we offer eight stages of bok choy, from micro greens to flowers to petite and baby varieties. Every stage of a plant’s life offers something unique to the plate.”


The farm also now proudly includes a culinary retreat, research, and team-building facility, The Culinary Vegetable Institute, and Veggie U, a nationwide not-for-profit children’s program.

But you don’t have to be a chef to get these unique specialty veggies. They also offer CSA selections through their FarmerJonesFarm website, shipped direct to your door three days a week (a 6-month subscription gets you 8-10 lbs of their unique vegetables for just $27/month). You don’t even have to have a subscription—you can order just one box at a time, or even specialty “add-ons” like golden pea tendrils and popcorn shoots.


The next time you see a “typical” farmer, don’t judge that book by its cover—the contents might surprise you.




Red Tractor Girl

Our very own Winnie (Red Tractor Girl) found a tractor to pose for her in …

Red Tractor Girl

The Netherlands! Postcard-perfect pose. Thanks, Winnie!!!!

World traveler, here’s where Winnie was last seen (and a little bit about the countryside).



Marken is a village in Waterland and Zaan Region, North Holland, Netherlands. It is known for its characteristic wooden houses and traditional costumes. It’s a peninsula in the Usselmeer Lake, but connected to the mainland by a causeway.



This picturesque little village was originally situated on an island. Floods were regular and often disastrous. To protect their belongings and themselves from the water, the inhabitants created artificial dwelling hills on which they build their houses. As fishery became the main economic activity, the population grew rapidly. When the Afsluitdijk was finished in 1932, and the Zuiderzee became the sweet water Usselmeer with no access to the sea, fishery activities came to an end. When the dike between Marken and the mainland was closed in 1957, Marken wasn’t even a real island anymore. Nevertheless, the village still has the looks and feel of a fishermen’s town and an island. For over a century, it has drawn in visitors who wanted a glance at its traditional costumes and picturesque houses.