Hello from Tennessee, where I’m home for all of two days before heading to Florida for SVV’s birthday and time with friends! I’m fresh off a trip to Boston, where I spoke at my second straight tourism and travel media conference TravelCon and—spoiler alert!—got to meet fellow speaker and writer Cheryl Strayed. If you want to catch up on all the sessions and talks you missed, including Cheryl’s, you can still nab the conference virtual pass, which you have a full year to access once purchased. Let me just tell you, there were some great speakers in attendance, including the Blonde Abroad who outlined how she took a blog and turned it into a million-dollar business.
This past month, I was home for the most part with just seven nights away at hotels, and yet it feels like I wasn’t here at all. That’s probably because of all the company we had—13 friends in a 12-day period!—and the fact that work just seemed to pile up in conjunction with getting the Cedar House ready for the influx of guests. This month is even crazier; my cousin’s kids are currently here for two weeks, kicking off a total of 19(!) family members staying at our house, my mom’s house and my sister’s, including my sweet niece and mother-in-law from California. And I couldn’t be more excited!
But back to June…
Our exposure of the crookedness of Manchester, Tennessee went viral. In the first 24 hours alone, more than 30,000 people read of the injustices we experienced working as contractors for the Manchester city government—i.e. never getting paid the five-figure sum for completed work we’re owed, blatant copyright infringement, political malfeasance, the list is loooooong—and I’m shocked so many of you cared. We had hundreds and hundreds of social media shares and multiple calls from Nashville TV stations wanting to interview us on-air. We’ve declined those so far because we’ve essentially laid out the case in print and in the blog post. We’re still hoping they’ll come to their senses one day really soon when they realize we’re not messing around and how embarrassing it is to have a tourism commission without a functional website. What’s even crazier is this past weekend in Boston, so many tourism and media professionals came up to me and asked me: “what’s going on with your crazy Manchester situation? I’ll be sure and never visit that place!” So, I’d definitely say we put this town on the map, but not in the way we originally hoped when the city asked us for help with tourism marketing. And for those of you who have messaged wanting to know what the response has been from Manchester since we made the injustices known, let’s just say: outrage from the citizens (so many emails, calls, DMs), complete and utter silence from the city (other than some half-baked statement they released that said absolutely nothing of substance). But in a place that runs its government like fifth grade Student Council, I can’t say I’m shocked, just continuously disappointed. More to come very soon.
Speaking of city government, we’re working on our first local campaign. If nothing else, this craziness experiencing small town government and how it doesn’t always serve its constituents has made it crystal clear to us that we need to invest more time and energy into local politics. As such, we’ve been helping our friend Rupa Blackwell out on her run for Tullahoma alderman, both on the marketing and campaigning side (we hosted a meet and greet at the Cedar House last night!). If you’re local, please, please, please consider getting out and voting for Rupa; she’s the best person for the job, the most engaged citizen I have ever met, and early voting runs July 12-27 with Election Day on Aug. 1. I’ll even pick you up, take you to the polls then treat you to coffee afterward if you like! Two things to remember: Local elections are non-partisan—we’re all working toward the same things: better schools, better roads, better infrastructure, more business recruitment—and they are so, so important. Even if you typically only vote in presidential or gubernatorial elections, I urge you to get out to the polls for your next local one and cast your ballot!
Aaaaaaand, we landed a few state grants from the Tennessee Arts Commission for Creative Placemaking! This means, MORE MURALS. And even better: MORE MURALS SOON. In fact, we’re installing our first one later this month. For more information on that, read this great piece in The Tullahoma News. If you’re completely lost, start here on our DMA-events website, which details our community art initiative.
The Wailing Loons came to visit. Our torrent of visitors started with Lemon for a few days, then I traded her for my Minnesotans Emilie and Nicole, and then the rest of the Wailing Loons, who were here playing their fifth Bonnaroo, and several Loons adjacent joined us here and there for a night or so. The Cedar House definitely got warmed! On top of that, we invited our neighborhood and several friends over for a backyard BBQ, and it was a complete blast. I can’t tell you what a difference moving has made on our mood; we love having awesome neighbors and an actual community. (Again, our neighbors in Manchester were all dead … because we lived in a pretty quiet commercial district next door to a funeral home.)
We also did an impromptu concert at the eel mural, which was amazing!
I spent four days in Boston. This was the second TravelCon—a great tourism and travel media conference that rotates locations each year—and my second year speaking. I honestly wasn’t sure if anyone would come to my talk as it was during the same time block as some really big ballers whom I adore and respect, so I was shocked that the room was packed and they stopped letting people in. If you still want to see that talk (and all the others), you can grab the virtual pass here. And bonus: I took my mom with me! So she can finally see I don’t “just vacation for a living!”
SVV and I went to Huntsville. Just an hour down the road from us, Huntsville, Alabama has become one of our favorite Southern cities. We can’t wait to share some content with you surrounding the Apollo anniversary and are headed back to NASA for the actual event!
We also started working with Franklin again. If you’ve followed us for any amount of time, you know that Franklin is a place near and dear to my heart, so it’s a treat to be working with Visit Franklin on a more formal basis! Expect a lot of fun Tennessee content in the months to come.
On the work front… This month was light on print work as I turned down a lot of assignments for more lucrative gigs—mostly, media consulting and digital content projects—but the July/August issue of AAA Living with my Tennessee pages in it did hit mailboxes this week, and I also wrote a trio of pieces about Panama City Beach for the summer issue of Texas Monthly, so it was still a productive traditional media month anyway, I suppose.
We went to our 11th Bonnaroo. This is both a high and a low: a high as we always love going to outdoor festivals and low as it was in complete disarray this year. In fact, we only went one day and didn’t even stay for the headliners. See below…
Bonnaroo was a bit of a bust. There’s no denying that Live Nation’s involvement has stripped our beloved music festival of its authenticity, but it goes well beyond that this year. On the planning side, it was an absolute, utter mess. On the media side, it was a disaster—and we weren’t the only ones who fell victim to the awful planning by the PR team; we spoke to many, many others who had the same experience. What’s even worse is that Live Nation just bought out the rest of Bonnaroo. Jury’s out if we’ll be making it back next, but as someone who has been going to our local festival since the first year, I really hope they figure out a way to bring back the Roo we all know and love. Here are all the past Bonnaroos we’ve attended.