Festival of Lights off to a great start

Mike DonilaOur Town Outdoors

The Holiday Festival of Lights at the Cove has been great! In fact, we’ve had to order more candy “Kanes” to pass out to visitors. We’ve already had thousands walk the trails and enjoy the lights.

As of Wednesday, folks have donated $1,320 in cash and three barrels worth of non-perishable foods. We’re hoping to break some records. Last year’s festival set a record for non-perishable food items donated – enough to fill 16 barrels. A total of $7,428.49 also was donated. The prior year set the record in cash donations with $7,677 and 12 barrels of food.

The family-friendly event runs from 6-9 p.m. through Sunday, Jan. 2, excluding Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It is free and open to the public, though visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate to the Love Kitchen, which provides meals, clothing and emergency food packages for the homebound, homeless and unemployed. There is also a cash donation box and QR codes that accept Venmo payments.

Santa Claus will visit on Fridays and Saturdays, and drop in as available other nights throughout the week. River Sports Outfitters has hot drinks available for purchase most nights. The Cove, which is part of the Concord Park system, has several fire pits available for guests to warm up or roast s’mores. Pets on leashes are welcome. The event is sponsored by B97.5.

Splitting wood for the fire pits at The Cove.

In other parks and recreation news, our Concord Park crew spent some time taking down the soccer goals for the winter and splitting wood for the Festival of Lights (we have several fire pits going throughout the event).

As always, we have ground crews cleaning up leaves and working on boat docks, including the kayak launch at Roy Arthur Stormwater Park off Harrell Road. Additionally, our one-man machine Frank Christian has been installing new signs throughout the system. Here’s what he told me:

“Been doing new signs at Plumb Creek Park, replace stolen signs, cross walk signs on new recently finished Greenway on Northshore and working on Collier Preserve park signs, although I’m not done yet,” he said.

New sign at Plum Creek

Our carpenters are installing a new roof for the workshop, and then they’re headed to Beverly Park to work on the new dog park. As you might recall, in November the Boyd Foundation and Knox County leaders broke ground on the first Knox Neighborhood Dog Park at Beverly Park, making the beginning stages of the first of 10 new dog parks – five in the county and five in the City of Knoxville.

Once the 10 dog parks are finished, Knox County will rank No. 1 in dog parks per capita in the nation. Knox County is currently ranked 29th in the nation. Through a partnership with Knox County, the city of Knoxville, and The Boyd Family Foundation, Knox Neighborhood Dog Parks asked neighborhoods to nominate their communities at knoxdogparks.com in 2020. More than 300 people nominated their neighborhoods and the dozens who qualified participated in the social engagement period to show why their neighborhood needed a place for their pets to play.

The Boyd Foundation awarded five city of Knoxville and five Knox County neighborhoods $50,000 grants to build new dog parks in the following neighborhoods: Corryton/Gibbs, Fountain City, Fourth and Gill, Halls, Holston Hills, Karns, New Harvest Park, Oakwood/Lincoln, Powell, South Knoxville. Right now, the dog park at Beverly will include a fence (small and large dog areas) and some benches. We also might add water fountains in the future.

On the recreation side, I reached out to Jennifer Gentry, one of our sports operation managers, and she said: “Youth basketball started this past Saturday at area school gyms, field prep at several county parks taking place and planning tournament dates and field rentals for 2022 – busy, busy, busy.”

Mike Donila is communications director for Knox County government

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