For those who don’t know, the Dogwood Trails were created in response to the words of journalist John Gunther, who called Knoxville “the ugliest city I ever saw in America” in his 1947 book “Inside U.S.A.” According to Dogwood Arts, members of the Knoxville Garden Club and other concerned citizens created the trails to contradict the bestselling book.
In a 2004 Metro Pulse column, Knoxville historian Jack Neely pointed out that Gunther wasn’t the only writer to disparage Knoxville. Belgian novelist Odette Keun called Knoxville “one of the ugliest, dirtiest, stuffiest, most unsanitary towns in the United States,” Neely says, and Susan Harrington famously called it a “scruffy little city” in the Wall Street Journal in 1980.
He went on to say that while Knoxville’s early detractors primarily took issue with downtown’s grime and shabby architecture, Bill Bryson wrote about the “commercial hideousness” of the suburbs (read West Knox County) in his 1998 bestseller, “A Walk in the Woods.” Neely blamed the ugliness of Kingston Pike on “property-rights absolutism.”
In a January 2017 Knoxville Mercury column, Neely wrote about Knoxville’s many improvements since Harrington called the city “scruffy” – more bicycle riders, more microbreweries and better festivals. But he condemned the city (as well as the county) for a lack of “pretty,” citing litter and urban design that emphasizes parking lots rather than appealing architecture.
Why does this matter to Farragut? Because we are ahead of the curve on “pretty,” and we’ve invited everyone to visit during Dogwood Arts time.
The Farragut Dogwood Trail, a 7.9-mile route that passes through Fox Den, Country Manor and Village Green subdivisions, is the festival’s featured trail this year. That means local dignitaries will be in town to cut the ribbon on the trail on Thursday, April 4. Once the trail is open, through April 30, visitors from across the region will come to Farragut to experience our blooms and small-town hospitality.
Even more visitors will attend the town’s two official Dogwood Arts events – Farragut Book Fest for Children on Saturday, April 6 (now at Town Hall), and Farragut Trail & Tour Day, which will feature a screening of “A History of Concord & Farragut” and an open house at the Campbell Station Inn on Sunday, April 14.
Everyone who lives in Farragut knows that we are blessed with abundant natural beauty. Our lush lawns and bountiful blooms are especially stunning in April. Pride of ownership abounds here, so I’m confident that homeowners along the Dogwood Trail will roll out the red carpet, as well as the mulch, to make visitors feel welcome.
Residents should also be proud of the town’s high development standards, which have resulted in a less-cluttered viewshed and a higher caliber of commercial architecture. The first development in our Mixed Use Town Center planning district is now complete, and Jack Neely would be proud that Farragut Gateway showcases attractive architecture rather than a parking lot.
Let’s join together to welcome Dogwood Arts visitors. And let’s show them how to do “pretty.”
Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the town of Farragut.