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!

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.

The New Fairyland Gateway

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Paris has the Arc de Triomphe. St. Louis has the Arch. It’s time Fairyland got its own grand gateway, but it can’t happen without you.

“This is an incredible opportunity for members of our community to pull together,” says Beautification Commissioner Taylor Watson. “It’s about beautifying our community and encouraging citizens to take pride in what we’re doing. I’m just thrilled about it.”

This is an incredible opportunity for members of our community to pull together. It's about beautifying our community and encouraging citizens to take pride in what we're doing.

The Georgia City Council has commissioned architect Garth Brown to create a master plan for the Fairyland Gateway. His renderings include a beautiful stone pillar entryway at the top of Red Riding Hood Trail and a timber frame outdoor pavilion in the accompanying green space.

The plan must happen in phases. Phase one is purchasing the property on the corner of Lula Lake Road and Red Riding Hood Trail. The Lookout Mountain Methodist Church across the street currently owns the lot; the nondescript brown house used to serve as their parsonage but turned into a rental property years ago. Noticing it was on the market, David Bennett, Vice Mayor and Police and Fire Commissioner, approached the church last spring with this idea.

The city already owns the property on the other side of the street, which features a gazebo and sidewalk winding through daylilies and hydrangeas – all maintained by the Lookout Mountain Beautiful Garden Club. The new stone pillars would stand on either side of Red Riding Hood.

The church has graciously given the town until December 31 to raise the $150,000 it will take to purchase the lot and demo the house. With current budget constraints, 100 percent of the money must come from private donations, says Bennett.

So far $25,000 has been raised, and city council members urge people to dig deep by the end of the year. Once the goal is reached, fundraising for phase two will begin. The city will need an additional $125,000 to complete the Fairyland Gateway as envisioned by Brown.

The City Council has established a special fund through the Chattanooga Community Foundation and donations should be designated to the “Fairyland Beautification Fund”. All contributions will be tax-deductible.

“We hope people will reach down in their pockets to help us get this dream started,” says Watson. “With Christmas around the corner, let your donation be a gift in someone’s honor.”

Please mail contributions to the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, designated as “Fairyland Beautification Fund.” If your donation is in the form of financial securities, please contact Rebecca Underwood at the Community Foundation, 423-265-0586.

Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga
1270 Market Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402

Why I Love Lookout - The Garvichs

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Brady Garvich has always been one to do something different. When he and his wife Whitney were looking for houses they looked on Signal Mountain, where Brady grew up, and in North Chattanooga, which he called home for several years as a bachelor. But having several close friends on Lookout, they decided to give it a try.

“We’ve been blown away by how generous people have been,” says Brady. “The day my dad was helping us move, we were driving down the mountain and he said, “I understand why y’all moved up here; it reminds me of the Signal you guys grew up in.’”

We’ve been blown away by how generous people have been.

Whitney had a similar impression. “Everywhere we went people wanted to know why we moved up here, they were so excited,” she says. “That really was my first impression of the community. That sealed it for me. I thought, ‘I want to be a part of this.’”

Having lived in seven cities since college, Whitney longed for a place like her hometown of Hudson, Ohio – a small town 40 minutes from Cleveland. Growing up, the streets were filled with kids and the community revolved around whatever activities the school held.

“Everybody watched out for everybody else’s kids – that’s how Lookout is,” she says. “Everyone looks out for each other.”

There hasn’t been a day that they’ve second guessed their decision. “From the time we moved up here it’s been really easy,” says Brady. “It bucks the convention that Lookout Mountain is pretentious or closed.”

From the time we moved up here it’s been really easy. It bucks the convention that Lookout Mountain is pretentious or closed.

Their smooth transition says a lot about Lookout. When they moved in 2013, it meant a new school for daughter Kailey, who had just finished first grade at Normal Park. They also had recently welcomed a new addition, Reilly, who now attends Good Shepherd School. This November the couple will add one more to the fold.

“The schools have been one of the best things, just in terms of grounding us in community,” says Whitney. “You really see how the community comes together to support every student and whatever functions they have going on.”

With such a hectic pace, convenience is important to the Garvichs.

All of your needs are met within one mile from home,” says Brady. “There’s great churches, great schools, social life. It’s just really easy to connect with people.

“Now especially that we have such a great group of friends up here, it really feels like we’ve got a second family,” adds Whitney.

While they both find Lookout “surprisingly convenient” to downtown, the Garvichs like the quiet retreat that Lookout offers. “It’s almost like you’re disconnecting up here,” says Brady. “You get up here and can turn everything off because you’re not in the city.”

3 Sisters Festival Returns to Ross' Landing

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They say the best things in life are free. That certainly holds true this weekend when some of the best bluegrass bands in the country convene at Ross’ Landing for the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival. The completely FREE event is a gift of the Fletcher Bright family.

Bluegrass runs deep for this Lookout Mountain family thanks to patriarch, Fletcher Bright, who’s been playing in the Dismembered Tennesseans for nearly 70 years. The idea for a free concert has always been a dream of his son, George, a talented guitarist. But the name came from the sisters – Lizzer, Ann, Lucy – who admittedly have no musical aptitude.

“The music gene was sexist in our family,” laughs Lizzer Graham. “My youngest brother Frank is a professional pianist. So the name is sort of tongue in cheek."

While she’ll never play more than an elementary song on the piano, Lizzer has a deep appreciation for good music, with memories of her dad playing the fiddle going back to when she could barely walk. This year she’s particularly excited about Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Steel Drivers, The Devil Makes Three and, of course, the Dismembered Tennesseans who will play both nights. But the best part, she says, is the atmosphere.

I love being outside with friends and family and seeing everybody come together to celebrate the music,” she says. “It’s like a big family reunion.

Now in its eighth year, organizers hope they will continue their streak of not having a single rain drop during the festival. In addition to hats and t-shirts, this year they will sell limited edition letterpress posters by local talent Brian Murphy, who hand letters all of 3 Sisters signage.

Beer, wine and delicious food will be served from vendors such as Lupis, Good Dog and The Grilled Cheese Emergency food truck (so coolers are discouraged). But bring your blanket or chair and plan to enjoy some extremely talented musicians.

“The great thing about bluegrass is it isn’t synthesized or digitized like most of today’s music – it takes a lot of talent to play,” says Lizzer. “I think it takes me back to a simpler time.”

I think it takes me back to a simpler time.

Friday, October 3, 6:00 - 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 4, noon to 10:00 p.m.
Full Performance Schedule

Community calendar