What makes Lookout Mountain home

What's on your summer bucket list? A hike to Glen Falls? A mountain bike ride on the Cloudland Connector Trail? Or maybe a road trip to Nashville to see Alan Shuptrine's new watercolor exhibit?

The season has already kicked off with Community Movie Night. There's another in August and here's 5 reasons you can't miss it. Get ready for the fun, because summers on Lookout are anything but lazy!

Why I Love Lookout: Michelle Coakley

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Sometimes you don’t go searching for change; it finds you. That was the case for Michelle and Sean Coakley. The two never imagined they would leave Michigan – a state in which they both grew up, went to college, got married and had kids. When a head hunter contacted Sean about an opportunity in Chattanooga, the initial thought was “no thanks.”

“We loved where we lived,” says Michelle. “We were both happy in our careers, our kids were happy in their schools. We definitely were not seeking change.”

And then, he asked Sean to describe the perfect city for his family. The list of requirements included a place that was outdoorsy with big-city amenities, a family-friendly environment, and a climate with four seasons but milder winters.


When the Coakleys discovered such a place existed, they began to seriously consider relocating to Chattanooga. They looked at several neighborhoods, including Riverview and Signal Mountain, but something about Lookout Mountain immediately struck them.

We loved the quaintness,” recalls Michelle. “When we first looked at houses, people were out in the neighborhood. You could tell the strong sense of community and family.

On one of their visits, the Coakleys happened to catch Lookout Mountain School Principal Ruth White as she was leaving for the day. She turned around and gave them a tour. “She was so excited to talk to us,” says Michelle. “We were really impressed.”

In July of 2011, the family moved into the very first house they toured on Lookout. Within a few weeks neighbors were knocking on their door, offering play dates for their kids to meet future classmates.

This is the most personable place I’ve ever lived,” says Michelle. “Everybody knows everybody and genuinely cares about their neighbor. When you take all of that and drop it into a place as naturally beautiful as Lookout, I think it makes it one of the best places in the world to raise a family.”

The Coakleys jumped right in to life on Lookout. They joined the Fairyland Club and Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church, where Michelle serves as president of Parish Council. She is also heavily involved at LMS, serving this year as PTA president.

While they sometimes miss their home state, they don’t miss their snow blower, which is currently in storage collecting dust according to Michelle.

“Every time we get people down here to visit from Michigan they say, ‘Ok, I get it,’” she smiles.

Why I Love Lookout: Krissy and Will Hirtz

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Krissy and Will Hirtz had never lived anywhere but Houston, TX. In fact, Will’s family has lived there for six generations. Their boys, ages 8 and 11, were happy in their schools and the couple’s jobs were tied to the area (Krissy in real estate and Will in the oil business). And then, they moved to Lookout Mountain.

“It’s completely insane how the whole thing happened, start to finish,” says Krissy.

It all started last summer when the family took a whirlwind trip across the Southeast, traveling from Houston all the way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Along the way, they fell in love with the cool mountain air of North Carolina and for the first time started to consider life outside of Texas.

While thoroughly ensconced in Houston, the family had ties to the area. Krissy’s mom moved to Lookout more than 20 years ago, her aunt lives a few doors down, her sister is on Signal Mountain and her brother is in North Chattanooga. When they left last August, everyone was in tears and the kids were begging to stay longer.

When they visited Lookout again at Thanksgiving, they looked at houses. As an afterthought, they put in an offer. The deal came together on their drive back to Houston and their moving day was December 23. The only thing they had that first Christmas was their beds and a tree they had ordered from the Barn Nursery.

“We found the Christmas lights at about 4:00 in the morning,” recalls Krissy. “Luckily Santa brought Kindles to the boys that year, which kept them occupied as we tried to make sense of all the boxes.”

Leaving Texas wasn’t an option until Will’s side business turned into a full-time gig, allowing him to work virtually from anywhere. His business still takes him back to Houston on a regular basis, but already his heart remains on Lookout.

He was just in Houston last week and came home saying it was so miserable with the traffic, congestion and nothing pretty to look at,” laughs Krissy. “He got in and out as fast as he could.

Even so, moving has been an adjustment, including an unprecedented winter that brought two weeks’ worth of snow days. “When we first moved up here it was a complete and total culture shock,” Krissy recalls. “I didn’t know how to drive in snow and ice. I think we survived that first winter on Fairyland Country Club, Café on Corner and the Mountain Market.”

But nothing beats Lookout Mountain’s quality of life, she says. While they lived in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Houston, their house was surrounded with security cameras, they never were in the house without the alarm set and several neighbors had been held up at gunpoint during early morning jogs.

“We wanted to be away from that – it’s no way to raise your children,” she says. “We’re absolutely loving it. My husband and I are kicking ourselves thinking, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’ Although I don’t know if we would have appreciated it.”

My husband and I are kicking ourselves thinking, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’

When they made the move, neighbors came together to welcome them. “Alicia Oliver – who we didn’t know before – put together a gigantic play date for the boys to meet other kids in their class before school started,” says Krissy. “In Houston I was always the one to do that kind of thing for people. It was a different feeling. But selling real estate for so long, it made me appreciate what my customers went through when relocating.”

Her son, William can probably sum it up best, however.

“The next door neighbor asked him ‘How are you liking it?’” says Krissy. “He responded, ‘Oh, I love it; I’m living here until I die.’”

How Do You Give Thanks?

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Community Thanksgiving Service
Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church
Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

This week millions of Americans will sit with loved ones to break bread at the Thanksgiving table. But before you meet your family, why not celebrate with the entire community? Every year the churches of Lookout Mountain come together for the Community Thanksgiving Service, a nondenominational opportunity to reflect and give thanks for the blessings of the year.

Started years ago by Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, this year is the first time the service will be held the evening before Thanksgiving (rather than morning of). Organizers hope the new time will encourage even greater participation. It’s also the first time in many years that Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church will host.

"Church unity among all denominations is a particular interest of mine,” says Father Tom Shuler, who gave last year’s homily at Lookout Mountain United Methodist Church. A relative newcomer to the mountain, he is particularly thankful for his placement at Our Lady.

“I think Lookout Mountain is probably as close to heaven as I’ll get in this life,” he says. “It’s exactly what I was looking for in terms of landscape as well as people.”

Another recent Lookout Mountain resident, Reverend Mac Brown, Assistant to the Rector of Church of the Good Shepherd, will deliver the homily. Priests and Pastors from all of Lookout’s communities of faith will be present and/or participating.

“In days when we can get lost in the stress, anxiety and hurry of the holidays, it’s imperative to our walk in faith to gather – regardless of divisions – and celebrate our complete and utter reliance upon the grace of God and His creation," says Brown. "We are all children of God, and we are all called to give God thanks.”

We are all children of God, and we are all called to give God thanks.

In addition to prayer, scripture readings, meditation and thanksgiving, Rebecca Whelchel, executive director for Metropolitan Ministries, will speak briefly about their work. As the “financial emergency room” of Chattanooga, MetMin assists those living on the edge of homelessness – often covering a utility bill or medical expense that could cost someone their home.

The end of the year is a particularly important time for the agency, and the offering from the service will be donated to their cause. Learn more about their work.

Mountain Spotlight: Rick Dockery

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For more than 30 years, Rick Dockery has been coaching Lookout Mountain’s youth. He was not far from a kid himself when he started, hired in 1981 as an intern his senior year at UTC. His advisor said he had a “special place he wanted him to visit” and introduced him to then Recreation Director Buck Stamps. He was hired virtually on the spot.

He barely interviewed me but I remember him asking, ‘Can I expect you to take care of this place as if it were your own?’" recalls Dockery.

His answer was yes, and he’s been doing so ever since. In addition to overseeing all after-school rec sports such as wrestling, football, basketball, baseball and soccer, he’s also Physical Education Director of Lookout Mountain School. While the pace is hectic, to say he loves his job is an understatement.

“In 30-something years, I’ve never had a day when I didn’t want to come to work,” he says. “I recently had a former student visit from Washington state. He sat in my office with his fiancé and told story after story. That’s the best part of the job – to know you helped create some good memories.”

In 30-something years, I’ve never had a day when I didn’t want to come to work.

Dockery and his Assistant Director Scott Shell juggle as many as 300 kids per sport each season. During the school year they coordinate daily PE classes at LMS; in the summer it’s Commons Camp.

While Dockery doesn’t manage all extracurricular programs such as karate or robotics, everyone goes through him to coordinate space and schedule. Acting as air traffic controller of after-school activities is often the most challenging part of his job.

“Kids today almost have too much going on – they don’t have time to just play,” he says. “We always try our best to do the right thing and consider the whole family when deciding times and length of practices. Everyone needs a little more rest…including myself,” he laughs.

There was very virtually no downtime when he first started the job. In the early ‘80s he and Stamps personally coached every sport, working six days a week for 10 years without a vacation or sick day.

Dockery says he learned his work ethic from Stamps, “one of the most influential people in his life.” But team sports also helped shape his character. Although his parents weren’t athletic, Dockery played almost every sport in middle and high school. After practice each day he’d walk to work then stay up late finishing homework.

Throughout the years Dockery has watched many of his students go on to play collegiate or professional sports. While it’s nice to know he helped play a role, his focus for the Lookout Mountain rec program has always centered on one very important thing – having fun.

Communities all over the country are trying to professionalize kids’ sports,” he says. “That creates a lot of stress and leaves some kids out when the only focus is winning. I’m a big believer in teaching skills but also focusing on making it fun.

Holiday Open House at the Cravens House

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You don’t have to be Ebenezer Scrooge to be visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past. On December 5 and 6 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., the National Park Service will open the Cravens House for a special step back in time.

Rangers will take groups of 12 through the historic home, while living historians in each room will talk about Christmas traditions of the Victorian era. All six rooms will be decorated in Civil War period Christmas decorations, styled by the Lookout Mountain Beautiful Garden Club.

“I got involved when I joined LMBGC nearly 25 years ago and it was always such a highlight,” recalls LMBGC President Eve Soltau. “The Park Service discontinued the tour over 10 years ago, with this year marking the third season since its return. It is a magical night, bathed mostly in candlelight, with the city lights twinkling in the distance.”

It is a magical night, bathed mostly in candlelight, with the city lights twinkling in the distance.

Considered to be the first year-round resident of Lookout Mountain, Robert Cravens built his now-famous home shortly after moving to area in 1838. During the Civil War it served as Confederate Headquarters, but when the war turned in favor of the North, Union soldiers tore out the floorboards and wall boards for firewood, souvenirs and various other purposes.

Cravens rebuilt his home after the war in 1866, where it stands as a monument to Lookout Mountain’s first settlers. The Cravens Holiday Open House is the only time you can tour the home outside of its regular summer hours. Reservations are required due to capacity constraints.

I like that people get to see Christmas from a time period and experience what people did 150 years ago,” says Anton Heinlein, the park ranger coordinating the event. “It’s kind of remarkable to see the similarities from then to now.

To make your reservations, call the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor’s Center at 423-821-7786.

Cafe on the Corner Update

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This Thanksgiving will be very different for Ruth Oehmig. She won’t gather with the Oehmig and Davenport crew at her restaurant – the only place large enough to accommodate the extended families. Still, she has much to be thankful for, like starting construction to rebuild her beloved eatery, Café on the Corner.

No one is more excited than me,” she says. “We’re shooting for a spring opening depending on what kind of winter we have.

In the meantime, you can still get your Café on the Corner fix with a catering order. In fact they’re now accepting orders for Thanksgiving side dishes like Masson’s Oyster Dressing, corn pudding or sweet potato casserole. Or, grab a made-from-scratch pumpkin pie or Triple Chocolate Khalua Cake to take to your gathering (we won’t tell you didn’t make it).

While Oehmig is staying busy with catering, she’s still enjoying some down time compared to her 12-hour days almost 7 days a week at the restaurant. While she’s grateful for the time and opportunity to do some different things, like nonprofit catering requests, she’s ready to be back in her kitchen.

After sorting out insurance claims and demoing the burned shell of a building, Oehmig is finalizing plans and submitting bids to contractors. She hopes to begin within three to five weeks.

Originally hoping to salvage part of the 100-year-old building, the damage was determined to be too extensive. Last month workers cleared every brick from the site, which now sits as an empty dirt lot – the perfect blank canvas for an even bigger and better Café. While the building will be new, Oehmig pledges to stay true to the former architecture and style.

It’s going to be beautiful,” she promises. “We’re very excited.

Place your Thanksgiving order by November 19 by calling 423-825-5005 or emailing ruth_cafeonthecorner@comcast.net. For a menu and pricing, visit Café on the Corner’s Facebook page.

Fischer Evans Donates to Lookout Mountain Conservancy

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Diamonds are forever…but so are land trusts. So it’s fitting that downtown jewelry store Fischer Evans chose the Lookout Mountain Conservancy as beneficiaries of their Nanis Jewelry trunk show. The event was a raving success, with owner and designer Lauren Bicego flying in from Italy to showcase her 18k gold, diamond and colored stone designs.

It’s exciting to be able to combine my two passions,” says Taylor Watson, Fischer Evans certified gemologist appraiser and LMC board member. “The things LMC is doing with the Howard Student Program are so incredible that other conservancies across the country are using it as a model.

The almost $4,000 raised by the Fischer Evans event will go toward the landmark program, which connects at-risk high school students with land conservation through a unique paid internship program. All of the work done by the students is going toward LMC’s long-term goal of connecting the Riverwalk to Lookout Mountain.

Long term, the vision is to create a greenway from the Chickamauga Dam all the way to Mentone, Al. Right now that plan is a diamond in the rough, but LMC continues working one parcel at a time toward their lofty goal.

“We’re so fortunate to have community partners like Fisher Evans,” says LMC CEO Robyn Carlton. “Our work is very much a collaborative process, and wouldn’t be possible without support like theirs.”

For women who attended the event, one thing is certain – conservation can be a very beautiful thing.

The Running of the Pumpkins

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Last year's Spring Sprint, now the Great Pumpkin Chase

This Halloween, Fairyland Elementary School students will do a lot more than running door to door for candy. Before the trick-or-treating begins students will convene on the FES field to participate in the first-ever Great Pumpkin Chase Fun Run.

All month students have been asking their neighbors, family and friends to sponsor them in the 35-lap race. Formerly known as the Spring Sprint, the Pumpkin Chase was moved to the fall to replace the usual fundraiser of magazine sales.

“This year marks the first time in decades that all of the money raised from our events will go directly to the Fairyland Education Fund rather than splitting net sales with a distributor,” explains PTO President Caroline Williams. “We chose to focus our efforts in-house so that we may use every penny to bridge the gap between what Walker County provides in funding and what a Fairyland Elementary education actually costs.”

This year marks the first time in decades that all of the money raised from our events will go directly to the Fairyland Education Fund rather than splitting net sales with a distributor.

This is also the first year that all of the prizes have been donated. Learning Express, High Point Climbing Gym, The Jump Park, Starbucks, Target and Carmike Cinemas are all providing ample motivation as part of a “Gift Card Goodie Bag” to the top seller in each class.

The school’s top pledge earner will take home a $150 gift card to Learning Express, and any child who raises $10 per lap in pledges will win a hummer limo ride down to Mr. T’s pizza. On the first collection day, students brought in $5,400 toward their $15,000 goal.

“It’s been great to see the students’ excitement,” says Teresa Campbell, this year’s event chair along with Susan Gentry. “We’re also really fortunate to have such involved parents who are dedicated to the school and willing to volunteer their time any way they can.”

Campbell encourages friends and neighbors to join parents this Friday for the festivities, which will include music, a live emcee and a fall-themed track filled with hay bales, pumpkins and more. The run will occur in shifts starting at 9 a.m.

The Great Pumpkin Chase Fun Run Schedule

  • 9:00 a.m. – Pre-K, 1st, 2nd grade girls

  • 9:35 a.m. – Pre-K, 1st, 2nd grade boys

  • 11:40 a.m. – 3rd, 4th, 5th grade girls

  • 12:15 p.m. – 3rd, 4th, 5th grade boys

Exclusive, First-Ever Interview with The Great Pumpkin

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Gilbert T. Stein with his sons, Doug and Taylor

One week from today, one of Lookout Mountain’s greatest mysteries will occur. On Halloween night – as it has been since 1961 – the Great Pumpkin will delight and amaze trick-or-treaters with his transcendent wit and candor.

The Great Pumpkin knows every girl and boy in his patch by name, but his origins and omnipotent powers are shrouded in secrecy. In an effort to shed light on this great mystery, LivingOnLookout.com spent months tracking down the Preponderous Pepita for a first-ever pumpkin/human interview.

(LivingOnLookout.com): So, Mr. Great, uh Mr. Pumpkin, uh… how am I to address you?

(Great Pumpkin): (voice booms with Brobdingnagian Bombast) THIS IS THE GREAAAAAAT PUMPKIN!

(calmer, now, with unmistakable love and compassion): There, there, I didn’t mean to scare you. That was my Halloween voice. When confronted with a mob of hobgoblins it’s best not to vacillate! So many of the little children who come to see me don’t seem to know their own names! I try to set a positive example for them by pronouncing my own name with vigor and authority. Hopefully, as they become adults, they will learn how to stand forth and be recognized. This is one of the great lessons I have come to teach. Through the practice of standing forth, and being recognized, they will also learn a parallel truth of interaction: Everyone Deserves to Be Recognized.

{LOL): So can you tell us a little about yourself?

(GP): Only if you promise to believe it. So many of you humans choose not to believe. I didn’t consent to be interviewed in an attempt to convince non-believers; I consented to be interviewed to deepen the comprehension of those who do believe.

(LOL): How can I prove my belief, besides just saying, “I believe?” How do you know I’m not lying?

(GP): I’ll know soon enough. And you know I’ll know, too. So we’re good. I’ll proceed.

I come from the deepest, most unexplored parts of what is now the Amazon Basin, but in my origin all land on the Earth was one mass, which your scientists call Pangaea. This was about 350 million years ago. I might point out that this same cradle of life for Pumpkins is also the cradle of life for human beings, since the Amazon basin and the heart of Africa were once part of the same central landmass.

At any rate, we have not been able to ascertain one critical point about Pumpkinhood, and that is this: which came first, the Pumpkin or the Vine? And this question cannot be answered any more than you can tell me who it is that instructs your heart to beat. Some call this origin of life God. But whatever we call it, we all come from the same Source.

(LOL): We’re going to have to get you to fly a little closer to the ground, here. How long have you been visiting Lookout Mountain?

(GP): I first arrived at The Kingdom of Marvin Lane in 1961. I had known- through the vine, so to speak- of the creation of a small Kingdom of exceeding sincerity for a couple of years, here on Lookout Mountain. That year, the young son of the first couple to buy a house on Marvin Lane, was sick and could not go trick-or-treating. So I decided to inhabit their Jack-O-Lantern and entertain the little boy. I found there was a need for Pumpkin-Human interaction, so I’ve been doing it ever since.

(LOL): So, there are a lot of questions about you…how you came to be and whether you’re, you know, real, like human beings are real?

(GP): Well, ask away. Maybe you’ll discover you are interviewing a phantom. I sure hope not! I like talking to you!

(LOL): I guess the first technical question is how do you get here, and up on the Stein’s roof?

(GP): We should probably start all of the answers about whether or not the Pumpkin is real by saying this: much of what you perceive about the Pumpkin says more about what’s in your heart than it does about what your eyes are seeing.

I come every Halloween, because it’s a day of great frivolity, and people put masks on their faces, and open their hearts. Although they call it make-believe, it is in reality a day of childhood celebrated and even indulged. Whether I come by levitating my way through the skies as an Amazonian Pepo, or by inhabiting a fiberglass Jack-O-Lantern, is really a matter of your preference, not mine. Either way is fine by me. Whichever you can fully believe.

(LOL): We see you speak, but your lips don’t move. Why not?

(GP): Whether you see my lips moving or not depends on whether or not someone ever lied to you. You’ve heard the phrase, “you can tell he’s lying because his lips are moving?” I never lie. So if your mind has any hint of mistrust, it will appear my lips don’t move. But little children who have yet to perceive prevarication, see the moving lips of the Great Pumpkin.

(LOL): How do manage to look right at me all of the time? And everyone seems to think you are looking at them, too. How do you look at everyone simultaneously?

(GP): I am the Greeeeaaaaat Pumpkin!

Some may ascribe my perpetual gaze to the physics of geometry, cones, and bolo balls, but I assure you this: I watch you wherever you are, with the attention of a mother, and the intention of a father. I am interested in you, and I love you, forever, always and completely.

(LOL): Wow. When can we see you again?

(GP): This year, as always and forever, I will be on the Stein’s roof at the most sincere of pumpkin patches in the universe, in the most blessed Kingdom of Marvin Lane on Lookout Mountain, in what you human beings call the state of Georgia, but I call the State of Being, Becoming, and Will Be. We start at sundown, with the Confirmation of His Majesty, the King of Marvin Lane, and then proceed to Pumpkin Fest!

New Tennis Courts Dedication this Weekend

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Tennis on Lookout Mountain has a rich and storied past, including local phenom Roscoe Tanner facing Bjorn Borg in the 1979 Wimbledon finals. But things were getting a bit too “historical” with the three tennis courts at the Town Common.

Originally built in the late 1930’s with WPA funds, the crumbling courts hadn’t seen significant repair in at least 50 years. “They’d been patched and had ‘Band-aids’ put on them all these years, but it was time for a complete overhaul,” says Joe Hailey, former Commissioner of Parks and Playgrounds and overseer of the project.

They’d been patched and had ‘Band-aids’ put on them all these years, but it was time for a complete overhaul.

The original plan was to replace the bottom two courts, but an engineering study revealed the top court would continue to impact the lower courts if not completely renovated as well. Poor drainage was putting stress on the retaining walls, causing the courts to migrate slowly down the hill. Construction began in March but weather delays pushed back the projected July completion.

And now, the wait is over. In addition to top-of-the-line lighting on timers, the upper court will serve as a multi-purpose surface with two basketball goals and lines painted for both tennis and four-square. The new courts are built to the exacting standards of the United States Tennis Association, and great pains were taken with engineers to ensure structural integrity.

“Hopefully these courts will last another 50 years,” says Hailey.


On October 18 at 10 a.m., the town of Lookout Mountain, Tenn., will hold a grand opening of the newly renovated courts as well as the dedication of the Marilyn Voges Brown Teaching Court. Brown is a local tennis legend, teaching three generations of players on the Commons lower court.

“I loved the little bitty children,” says Brown, 74. “It was so rewarding seeing them years later. They’d come up and ask me if I still had ‘Charlie Brown.’ That was a target I used to make them hit.”

Several of her students went on to play collegiate tennis, and during her 14 years as GPS’ tennis coach the team rarely saw defeat. Teaching ages 3 through 80, free clinics and private lessons; Brown was on the Commons courts from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. “There were some hot days,” she recalls.

And while she says her greatest pleasure was teaching, she was also an impressive player. Inducted into both the UTC and Lookout Mountain Hall of Fame, Brown was the first woman ever to play on a men’s college team. During her time at the University of Chattanooga, Brown played in tournaments across the country and was even featured in Time Magazine (May 11, 1959).

Of course, none of this would have happened without her older brother, Alan Voges. “He was an excellent tennis player and started teaching me when I was 5 and he was 15,” she recalls. “He worked with me every day and was always so patient.”

Now living in Spanish Fort, Ala., Brown is unable to attend the ceremony due to health issues. Her son, Mitchell and his wife Tina are traveling from Baltimore to accept the honor on her behalf.

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