A celebration on hiatus returns to Fountain City

Beth KinnaneFountain City, Our Town Stories

It’s been 40 years since I was an active participant in Honor Fountain City Day in the Park, the annual Memorial Day celebration that began in my youth but has been on hold since 2019. As a member of the Central High School Bobcat band, it was just one of those things we did.

Of course, this was back in the days of Knoxville City Schools, when the academic year didn’t begin until after Labor Day nor end until about a week into June. We had our own Stormin’ Norman long before the rest of the world had heard of Schwarzkopf in band director Mr. Woodall. It wasn’t firmly required that everyone participate in the event at Fountain City Park, but he firmly encouraged it. At least we got to wear our band T-shirts instead of our marching uniforms.

Since it’s been a minute, I can’t recall exactly everything we played (the CHS’s Bobcat Company performed as well), but for sure there was the Star-Spangled Banner, Red & Black, Rocky Top and the CHS Alma Mater. Pretty sure we threw in some Stars and Stripes Forever for good measure. The day in the park was one of the many extra things we did with the band like the Fountain City Christmas Parade (ahem!) or a gubernatorial inauguration.

The idea for the community celebration was hatched from the Fountain City Town Hall (founded in 1972) and inspired by Huntsville, Alabama’s Honor America Day. Sponsored by the hall and various civic groups, most notably Lions Club of Fountain City, the day was, of course, for honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country. But the hope was to also “revive a cohesive spirt among the area’s residents.”

Sometimes there was a parade, there was always music, vendors and activities for the kids. hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream, lemonade, cakes and pies were on deck. There were also the honors for Fountain City’s man and woman of the year. In 1986, country music legend and CHS grad Roy Acuff was scheduled to appear, but wasn’t able to make it to receive his award due to illness. For the better part of those years, Mary Lou Horner was on hand, and no doubt fussing at someone for referring to the lake as the duck pond (probably me).

Covid-19 has put the quietus on the party since 2020. It’s finally back on the calendar for Monday, May 27, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This year’s theme is “Honoring all Essential Workers.” The Community Awards Ceremony begins at 3:15 p.m. with the keynote address by Ashley Adams, host of B97.5’s the “B” Morning Show. The Memorial Day Ceremony begins at 4 p.m. as WBIR’s John Becker presents Service and Sacrifice and will include the East Tennessee Veterans Honor Guard. In case of rain, ceremonies will move to the Lions Club building.

The Town Hall has put out a “last call” for local businesses to participate in the silent auction. Live entertainment includes The Crowe Family Band, Logan Murrell (vocalist and guitarist), K-Town Sound, The Bearded, and the Tennessee Wind Symphony and Jazz Ensemble. There will be free children’s games with prizes as well as food and craft vendors. And, of course, Fountain City T-shirts will be for sale. Anyone wishing to volunteer or participate can reach the Town Hall here or here.

The return of Honor Fountain City Day will occur just a few days before the second anniversary of the loss of our friend and colleague, Dr. Jim Tumblin. I think it’s safe to say he would be pleased.

Beth Kinnane writes a history feature for KnoxTNToday.com. It’s published each Tuesday and is one of our best-read features.

Sources: Fountain City: People Who Made a Difference by Dr. Jim Tumblin, Knoxville News-Sentinel digital archives/Knox County Library and Fountain City Town Hall

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