Gallatin, Tennessee was gold-starred as "The Nicest City in America," by Reader's Digest in October, 2017.
I may be playing favorites, but from my view as a hometowner, there is an even better story, up close.
On the edge of town, you'll find fields of green. If there is a ball involved, Gallatin likely has a team to match. In those same fields, local Boy and Girl Scout troops often go exploring as they learn how to live with the skills of their own hands.
For those whose hands would rather not get dirty, mats for Ernie Reyes World Martial Arts and Master's School of Gymnastics lay within reach. With a little drive, a few drops of sweat, and a lot of practice, anyone can grow and find a home within a team.
Cheering the loudest you would have heard our very own "Mr. Rogers" from our neighborhoods. A city official whose name is as well known as his humility; his request for anonymity only added to his southern charm.
He passed away recently, but with manners worthy of a cotillion curtsy, he kept us smiling back at him in our newspapers, local television, and online.
His sincere enjoyment in the town was as easy to see as he is: annual events, Boy Scouts, the School Board, recognition dinners, and ribbon cuttings. If there is a reason to celebrate, our own "Mr. Rogers" is there all year round.
Color Helps Tell the Story of the City
If temperature alone doesn't tell you what season it is, the triangle median across from the railroad tracks will. Never a dull spot save for shadows beneath team tryout banners in August.
It houses Valentine's Day hearts, Easter eggs, beach balls, pumpkins, snowmen, and life in between. Walk towards town and you'll find vibrantly colored staked ads for festivals, fundraisers, produce, and yard sales lining our sidewalks like tulips.
Potted flowers dangle from lampposts like children from trees. We let color tell our story.
Colors like red hats, orange footballs, fresh yellow lemonade, green thumbs, blueberry snowcone kissed children, indigo jewelry, and violet handbags lining the sidewalks of our annual Main Street Festival. If it's homegrown, battered, or smoked, it's served. If it's handmade, ruffled, or shiny, it's for sale. All wrapped in a homemade glow of pride.
Go to the door of the library where lovely ladies and home-schooled volunteers await to point your compass to what you seek. Crafting to quilting, how-to, to what was, fairy tales to dreams, it's all within reach.
Reach a little farther and you'll find shooting stars. Homegrown Kimberly Locke and Ben Briley proved it possible. Finishing third and 11th respectively on American Idol, the town popped with popcorn and applause the nights they took the stage. We all felt a little closer to the stars those nights.
Beneath the stars and stripes of the American flag, sits the courthouse at our town's center. Within its walls stands the pillar of Gallatin: Criminal Court Judge Dee David Gay.
From his morning devotional, through his Bible sworn words, to his nightly prayers, he keeps God close to home.
Amy Hawkins will never be forgotten as a hero and inspiration
Home is not limited to our town's borders, ten years ago we rallied behind our Hendersonville neighbor and hero, Amy Hawkins. Her mama bear stare was cashed by a twister as her body shielded her young boys from their crumbling home.
Paralyzed from the waist down, Amy’s heroism was soon thanked in true Southern hospitality style: names, faces, and bricks, paved a yellow brick road to Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
Her broken body was soon matched: 60,000 signatures broke the record for most nominated family, 2,050 people broke the record for most volunteers, 94 hours time broke the record for fastest home built. We thanked, we prayed, we homemade our miracle.
Walking on by this is what I see. In our homes we love. In our people we pride ourselves. In our God, we trust.
Gallatin, Tennessee, where we keep our prayers as freely flowing as our sweet tea.