Latin America takes over downtown Knoxville


Entertainment at the HoLa Festival.

Locals’ five senses were tingling as colorful clothing, tasty treats, tons of vendors, mouth-watering smells, and vibrant music dominated downtown Knoxville. The 19th annual HoLa Festival was a two-day party celebrated on September 29th from 4 to 10pm and September 30th from 2:15 to 6pm. Both days offered locals plenty of entertainment, shopping, and food. The large crowds flooding the area was proof the festival continues every year to be a success in celebrating and educating on Hispanic culture.

“….grab a partner and move to the Latin grooves.”


The president of the HoLa Hora Latina and organizer of the festival, Pedro Tomấs, told Knoxnews that Saturday alone had over 4,000 people packed in Market Square dancing and singing to the music. He said, “It was the biggest Saturday night we’ve had…” A contribution to this success was also the charismatic MC of the night, Andy Maldonavo. A man with a loud voice and cool shades, he kept the crowd excited and awake the majority of the night. Coupled with some amazing musical acts and beautiful ballroom dancers from Salsa Knox, it encouraged many people, experienced or not, to grab a partner and move to the Latin grooves.


MC speaking to the crowd.

To kick off the second day Market Square had representatives from numerous countries hold a parade. This was a chance to see more of the traditional clothing worn in Hispanic culture. Sunday was also more of a kid-friendly environment too with acts like a puppet show and a lively ventriloquist. Located on the corner outside of Urban Outfitters there was also a chance to hear a street performer playing the steel drum. He was willing to take requests and could play a variety of different songs from “Under the Sea” to a more traditional Caribbean beat.


Street performer playing the steel drum. 

The HoLa Festival is a key foundation of the HoLa Hora Latina organization and does a great job educating the public and showing the influences of Hispanic culture in the US. If you loved the festival or missed out on the fun, continue to support the organization through their other cultural and educational programs they offer throughout the year. It is an excellent way to keep celebrating the US’s National Hispanic Heritage Month!


Want to support HoLa Hore?

Visit their website:




Visit their headquarters:

100 block of S. Gay Street at the Historical Emporium Building

UT Gardens 2018 Plant Sale


University of Tennessee’s faculty, staff, and students got an early bird special for UT Gardens’ 2018 Plant Sale. Saturday, September 29th will be the day the sale is open to both the public and UT affiliates. Tennessee recognizes UT Gardens, part of the UT Institute of Agriculture, as the state’s official botanical gardens. They are accessible to many in the state, with locations in Knoxville, Jackson, and Crossville. According to UT Gardens’ website, “4,000 annuals, perennials, herbs, tropical plants, trees, shrubs, vegetables, and ornamental grasses are evaluated each year.” The gardens’ missions are to educate and inspire the public to learn more about plants. At this year’s plant sale, customers can choose from a healthy selection of edibles, conifers, shrubs, and trees. Along with each plant comes with instructions on how t care for your new green friend. If the instructions are not clear enough, there are plenty of UT Gardens’ associates and master gardeners who can answer your questions.


UT Gardens’ suggest this is a great time to stock up on plants. The cooler temperatures of the fall weather combined with the higher chances of rain are agreeable conditions to start planting. Some plants the sale will feature are the extremely colorful ‘Double Play Candy Corn’ Spiraea, the bright yellow and red ‘Mt. Airy’ Fothergilla, and other gorgeous plants.


If you happen to be a member of UT Gardens all purchases will have a 10% discount. Signing up for a membership and all the sales of the plants will directly go to benefit the gardens. Funding is important for the gardens as their mission is to educate and inspire the general public about plants. UT Gardens offer workshops all year, and some of those include holiday wreath making, taking care of succulents in your home and other plant-care subjects. The gardens also provide chances for field trips, charity events, and rentals. Again, being a member pays off as there is a discount for a majority of their events and items.

The sale will last from 9am-2pm on Saturday, and will only be at the Knoxville location. It is a great way for green thumbs and curious planters to gain more plants and knowledge about Tennessee’s gardens.


Here’s a complete list of all plants that will be sold:

Hidden Gems: Cherokee Fall Festival


Cherokee Man

Sept. 8th – Sept. 9th, the 26th annual Cherokee Fall Festival was underway to celebrate the rich history of the Cherokee tribes. Located at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, Cherokees from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation in North Carolina came out to share their culture. I went on the first day of festivities where I experienced a dive into the natives’ past.


One of the blow gun contestants.

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Showing the dart to the crowd. 

One activity that was fascinating was a demonstration of the blowgun or ‘tugawesti’. The blowgun is a tool Cherokees used for hunting. It is a hollow pole made to shoot darts composed of thistle. Perfect for hunting tiny targets like birds and small mammals. Young boys would often start out with this weapon in order to work themselves up to an arrow and bow for bigger prey.

At the festival, the Cherokees showed off their skills with the blowguns in a contest. Two contestants from a tribe would aim at stationary targets. Similar to the game of throwing darts, the key to winning is shooting the darts at the bullseye. Many people crowded around for this event as the awe of the blowguns in action were irresistible.

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Kids trying to master the blowgun. 


A Cherokee stand selling homemade pottery. 

If watching the blow gun competition wasn’t enough, there was also a station set up to learn how to blow your own blow gun. Seeing the rookies test their luck with the darts was as fun as watching the Cherokees. Cherokee arts and crafts, shopping tents, and music sessions were all around the grounds too.


Cherokee woman with daughter. 

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Cherokee tools. 

With the fun and games came the history of the Cherokee people too. Set up in a chronological order, the Cherokees built stands lined up from the 1400s to 2000s. People could learn more about the day-to-day lives of the tribes.

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John Standing Deer.

One of the Cherokee tribe members, John Standing Deer, spoke about the narratives of his people. He explained to listeners that the way his people survived as colonizers began to encroach on their lands. With the items displayed before him, he described how the Cherokee used each object. One of the objects he talked about was guns. At first, the natives did not know how to operate guns so after a battle or capture they would trade their enemies’ guns for supplies.


Cherokee man holding native tool.

The introduction of these western tools did not mix well in Cherokee society. Standing Deer noted that even today there are aspects of modern society that do not bode well in their native culture. The ever-increasing rise of fast-paced technology is not a perfect fit with the natives’ deep-rooted ties of nature-based beliefs. Standing Deer noted, “That’s one of our problems in living in this modern day world, and we are paying for it.” Nonetheless, he assured that Cherokees today have been able to function in present-day society while keeping the practices of their culture intact.

The Cherokee Fall Festival was an enlightening experience. It is an event everyone should consider adding to a list of places to go.


Do you want to help maintain Cherokee culture?

Visit the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum or visit their website and ask about their membership packages!




Give directly to the Cherokee Nation through their website!

The Businesses of COLOR-AMA puts on their Party Hats
COLOR-AMA Building

A block party was in full swing Sept. 8th in downtown North Knoxville. Baking shop, Magpies Bakery, and yoga haven, Glowing Body Yoga & Healing Arts, commemorated 10 years of successful operation in the COLOR-AMA building. To share this recent milestone the shops invited Knoxville locals to come and make a toast with them.
Magpies Bakery Table

Magpies Bakery celebrated by sharing what they do best, baking. The shop had a table laid out with free samples of their delicious treats. A popular selection of the evening was their slices of pumpkin spice cake. The tasty fall treat was a perfect complement to the delicious assortments of Highline Coffee offered at the adjacent table.   

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Highline Coffee Sign

Celebrating 10 years of service was not the only milestone the shop had on its list. Magpies Bakery was recognizing a recent change in ownership. Peg Hambright, the former owner, sold the shop to her niece, Elizabeth Smith, earlier in the year. Sudden changes to a beloved business can be worrying to locals, but the new management and its customers are doing just fine with the change. In an interview with Knox News, Smith assured she was “not making any major changes… there is a reason people love Magpies.”
The crowded Glowing Body & Healing Arts Building

The party showed no signs of slowing down at Glowing Body Yoga & Healing Arts. Packed with people and the sounds of excited chatter, tranquil rooms did not exist in the studio that night. Flyers of their various healing and yoga sessions were all along the walls for the potentially interested yogis. If the print advertisement was not your cup of tea, the studio also cleverly set up a photo booth. It invited visitors to take photos of themselves. The pictures could later be retrieved on the Glowing Body’s Facebook page.

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Cook to be Well Stand

Apart from the images of peace and relaxation, another notable sight was a food stand. Cook to be Well, a health-conscious café located inside the studio, was celebrating their grand opening. They are a plant-based café focused on colorful presentation with a promise to pay attention to your well-being. The eatery seemed to win over the night as the place remained packed with hungry patrons for hours.     

The businesses of COLOR-AMA showed that day the power of what local support and hard work can do. Hopefully, these shops can continue to celebrate these milestones with their supporters for years to come.  

City Dwellers: Laura Still


Dressed in all white roaming the dark city streets, telling eerie tales of the dead to the living. This is how I met the creator of Knoxville’s walking ghost tours, Laura Still.

While Still might have resembled a ghostly woman in white, she happens to be quite alive. Just a passionate history buff with a fascination for the darker side of Knoxville’s past. Still’s interest in our city’s history started at her part-time job working at Visit Knoxville. During her time working at the center, she noticed a demand for something that the center did not have.


People would come up to Still to ask her where they could find history tours in Knoxville. Without any structured tour available, the best Still could muster for the inquisitive folks was suggesting possible places to check out. Upon experiencing these frequent requests for tours Still asked organizations for help. One of those sources was the executive director of the Knoxville History Project, Jack Neely. A history buff himself, Neely was all in for the idea but did not have time for the tours. Consequently, the spotlight turned to Laura Still.

To prepare herself for leading these tours, Still spent 6 years reading about Knoxville’s history. Some may view this as a long time to study up on our history, but Still insisted the necessity of it. She accredits Jack Neely to telling her, “The biggest mistake you could make is to try and do one tour that tells all about Knoxville because we have too many good stories.”

By the time she finished studying in 2012, she had two tours ready to exhibit to the public. One of the first original tours was a haunting walk through downtown Knoxville called Shadow Side Ghost Tour. These tours were obviously a hit as she has gone from two tours in 2012 to now having 10 tours available in 2018. Still is currently in the works of making number 11! She believes the tours are so appealing simply due to human nature.

“I always zone in on the people and to me, that’s what connects you to the history… that’s what makes us human… all the stories we tell.”

Right now there are no plans to expand the tours outside of Knoxville, but already there are requests of having her walking tours in other parts of East Tennessee. Still plans to guide these tours as long as she can. She has confidence, “this is the job where I was meant to be.”


Want to support Laura Still?

Take her walking tours for yourself! Check out some of the variety of walks she offers.


Proceeds from the tours goes towards these organizations and in turn they support her projects of spreading Knoxville history!

Knoxville History Project

Old Gray Cemetery

Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum