Tennessee Mountain Stories

Clarkrange Soiree

Seventeen years ago, Mike and Barbara Cross wanted to have a few friends over, roast hot dogs and shoot off some fireworks on the Fourth of July.  The fifty to sixty person crowd in 1998 consisted mostly of their family and a few close friends.  Last Friday the annual event drew over three thousand people. 

While the first little cookout was designed mainly for the Cross’ grandchildren, subsequent gatherings were expanded to include the whole neighborhood then the Clarkrange community.  Now, it is the largest community event in the Upper Cumberlands and attracts folks from all around the tri-county area. 

After a couple of years, Mr. Cross was involved in a mobile bar-b-que business and with the expertise and equipment so readily available, it naturally became a part of the annual party.  Now, instead of a simple weaner roast, they are offering a full bar-b-que meal.  Of course, that means his wife began making gallons of potato salad, baked beans and cole slaw.  This year, she and just a couple of other ladies cooked two days straight to provide the sides for 2,500 plates.

Three years ago, Judge Todd and Tracy Burnett joined the Crosses as hosts.  Both couples said that this is their opportunity to give something back to the community.  In fact, I thought Judge Burnett expressed it very beautifully when he said they felt so blessed to be part of the community and that the people had done a lot for them and their families through the years and they want to do something in return.   

While both gentlemen are involved in county politics, they have never allowed the Soiree to be a political event.  Various Representatives, Senators and Judges attend each year, but no campaign speeches are given and no one’s agenda is advocated.  Even close-knit communities can be divided by elections and the hosts’ commitment further underscores the sense of community in this annual affair.

I’ve been talking all year about visiting and getting re-acquainted with neighbors and friends.  Well, the spirit of these hosts absolutely exemplifies my point.  From opening their own home to organizing the expanded event at the local park, they are willing to put forth an enormous amount of energy to serve and entertain their community.  The Soiree allows us to get to know our neighbors, renew old friendships and forge new ones.  I saw people there that I haven’t seen in years and resolved to keep in better contact with them. I had to ask names for more than one person and met a number of new friends. 

For the first time, this year’s Soiree was held at the Park in Clarkrange and there was something for everyone there.  From food and music to bouncy houses and face painting, no age group was forgotten.  The playground equipment as well as athletic fields at the park, heightened the entertainment level with pickup basketball and touch football games and lots of laughter from swings, slide and sandbox.

The fun culminates in an incredible display of fireworks that seemed to punctuate all of the afternoon’s events.

Photo courtesy of Amber Key

Photo courtesy of Amber Key

UPDATE:  Originally, I posted a video clip of the fireworks.  However, my web host required me to post that using You Tube.  Unbeknownst to me, You Tube followed up my clip with suggestions for other You Tube videos.  Please know that I in no way made those suggestions, nor did I have any control over them.  I surely hope I caused no offense to any of you dear readers and if I did, please accept my heartfelt apology.      BD