White Lightning Trail launched in Knoxville
Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 8:01 pm
The Tennessee Departments of Tourist Development and Transportation, in partnership with the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation and tourism organizations in nine counties, has officially launched the White Lightning Trail.
The fourth of 16 self-guided driving trails in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program, White Lightning features 160 tourism sites in Knoxville, Knox County and eight counties and features the East Tennessee Crossing Byway, one of Tennessee’s five National Scenic Byways.
Led by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the White Lightning is the result of multiple state agencies working together, as well as city and county officials in Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Hamblen and Union counties.
The special launch event was held at Calhoun’s at Bearden Hill in Knoxville, which is the trail’s final stop, and included remarks from Tourism Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Spence, Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely, Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, Director of Special Events for the City of Knoxville Mickey Mallonee and Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation Kim Paul Bumpas.
The White Lightning Trail is a mapped driving route that gives point-by-point directions to local gems such as arts and crafts shops, quaint restaurants, five state parks, 15 marinas, Tennessee Valley Authority’s first project, Norris Dam, as well as their record-breaking construction of Douglas Dam, in addition to numerous scenic spots for outdoor adventure.
“Green space and recreational areas are very important to Knoxville, serving as economic and community drivers for the city,” said Mallonee. “White Lightning helps showcase Tennessee backroads in our area, pointing visitors to incredible outdoor experiences and highlighting pieces of history at locations such as Knoxville’s Market Square and Old City.”
The trail kicks off in Knoxville and guides tourists to ample local attractions on the way to cities such as Clinton, Jacksboro, Tazewell and Dandridge. The featured National Scenic Byway, East Tennessee Crossing, with noted history as the Cherokee Warriors’ Path, Wilderness Road, the Dixie Highway and Thunder Road, has been used since prehistoric times by travelers, hunters and tourists alike.
“Tennessee’s roadways and trails travel through areas rich in history and character,” said Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “To ensure visitors receive everything this trail has to offer, our team will be placing 150 signs over more than 300 miles of the trail by the end of August.”
Music is a constant presence that lives within the sights and sounds of the trails and throughout Tennessee. White Lightning travels through the hometowns of some of country music’s biggest stars, including Roy Acuff, known as “King of Country Music”; Chet Atkins, born in Luttrell and an Opry regular; Carl Smith, known as “Mr. Country”; and award-winning artist Kenny Chesney. The trail also offers a glimpse of the homes of historical figures such as James White and William Blount, a taste of great local restaurants such as Hoskins Drug Store & Soda Fountain in Clinton and Clinch Mountain Lookout Restaurant in Thorn Hill and a connection with the region’s mountain ancestors at the Museum of Appalachia.
“We’re so appreciative for the state’s combined efforts in showcasing our region through this trail,” said Kim Paul Bumpas, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation. “With the help of both departments and the support of regional partnerships among the nine counties, White Lightning is truly a team effort.”
The trail takes visitors on a journey of living lore, filled with tales of bootleggers, moonshine and fast cars combined with breathtaking views of the Cumberland Gap. Visitors will travel some of the same routes rebel bootleggers used to transport moonshine, a distilled corn whiskey also known as “white lightning.” Under the cloak of darkness, moonshine runners quickly transported on winding backroads their untaxed liquor during prohibition in the 1920s. To outrun tax collectors, bootleggers altered their cars from the original factory design so they could reach much higher speeds. For sport, bootleggers challenged each other to high-speed races in fields and pastures, known as “stock car racing.” Their fast and furious rides later paved the way to the start of NASCAR.
“The White Lightning Trail is another great example of how a regional approach is the best way to go,” said Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale. “The unique and exciting tourism sites along the trail will bring economic benefits to each of the nine counties represented and stimulate rural development within our county and beyond.”
In addition to popular attractions such as the Knoxville Zoo and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, other unique stops include Clinton’s Green McAdoo Cultural Center, where exhibits honor the famed “Clinton 12,” the 12 African-American students who first desegregated a state-supported high school, and Daniel Boone Visitor Information Center at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, whose namesake helped clear the way for as many as 300,000 settlers seeking “new” lands. The trail also highlights several agritourism locations ranging from a pick-your-own-berries farm to corn mazes.
Published in The Messenger 7.28.10