By SAM HATCHERThe Wilson Post
LEBANON -- More than 450 enthusiasts energized and wanting to participate gathered at a special event Tuesday to embark on a new regional campaign to promote Wilson County as “The Place to Be.”
Held at noon on the front lawn of the Mitchell House on the Castle Heights Campus, the barbecue luncheon attracted personalities from all walks of life and even some noted celebrities.
The luncheon concluded with the unveiling of artist renderings of two new school projects, the new Lebanon High School and the new Bryant-Winfree Elementary School.
Wilson County . . . The Place to Be is being billed as a campaign to help promote and attract positive attention to Wilson County in an effort to spur tourism, commercial and retail growth
Five celebrities, one a native and the others who proudly now call Wilson County home, were featured speakers at the event.
However, before introducing the star power on stage, event emcee Randall Clemons, chairman and chief executive officer of Wilson Bank and Trust, called on Brother W.L. Baker to offer an invocation. The 102-year-old minister asked the crowd to rise and then offered a word of prayer for Wilson County and for its special place in today’s world.
Guest celebrities on stage included entertainers Gretchen Wilson, Lorrie Morgan and Tracy Lawrence; WKRN News 2 weather forecaster Lisa Patton and retired NFL and Titan defensive tackle Mike Jones.
Each celebrity gave a personal testimony of what they like about living in Wilson County and generally each account was tied to a common theme related to their neighbors, the spirit of the people who live here and the values held by the community.
Wilson told of her experience of earning her high school graduation credit through the Wilson County Adult Learning Center. She specifically recognized Bernadine Nelson, director of the program, and noted the importance of not only that program in education but also others. She said her daughter attends McClain Christian Academy in Lebanon and complimented the attention the school gives to its students with respect to values and classroom learning experiences.
Wilson said after the first night she spent in her home near Lebanon she knew “I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”
Morgan, taking the microphone after Wilson, said she moved to Wilson County about two years ago living near Lebanon in the gated community Stone Brook Falls.
She described her neighbors as “my new best friends.”
She told the audience about a community garden in which she and several of the kids in her residential area are involved. She described Wilson County as a “caring” community.
Following much along the same theme Lawrence began his remarks saying he was glad that he lived in a community where “we can give thanks to the Lord” and be proud to recognize our country’s flag, referring to the opening of the celebration.
Lawrence, who makes his home near Mt. Juliet and has children who attend Friendship Christian School, said he sees Wilson County as a place “where neighbors help neighbors.”
He said he has seen much progress in Wilson County in recent years noting the growth of retail in the West Wilson area and new jobs and industry across the county. He predicted that Wilson County would be one of the first to rebound from the current ailing economy.
Patton, the only celebrity who is a Wilson County native, said she had seen the area in which she was raised in West Wilson change from “hay fields to shopping malls.”
She got a rousing applause from the audience when she said she makes every effort to spend money in Wilson County in order to keep sales tax dollars at home.
She reminded that we are all part of the same county and that we should keep that in mind when spend our dollars or working for a better Wilson County.
Jones said he moved to Wilson County from Brentwood and has lived here for some six years.
He labeled Wilson as “one of the outstanding counties” in the nation saying he had lived several different areas of the country but found the local area to be among the very best.
He told about his father’s love for Wilson County and that his father insisted on coming back here for his “last days” before his death.
Jones said “I have found my home” here. He said he is particularly proud of the strong community and religious values found here.
Following the presentations by the five celebrities, the artist renderings of the two schools were unveiled.
Clemons noted that the county is about to spend as much as $66 million on new school construction including $50 million or so for the new Lebanon High School and $16 million for the new Bryant-Winfree Elementary. Bryant-Winfree is named in honor of Hattie Bryant, a longtime educator and classroom teacher now retired, and former Lebanon Special School District Director Cordell Winfree.
MainStreet Media CEO Sam Hatcher may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.