Friday, July 21, 2017

Celebrate Tomato Sandwich Day in Decatur, Alabama

My Deep South mother grew up eating tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches. She convinced me to enjoy chopped black olive and mayo sandwiches (which are actually really good) but not the former. Still, when I heard that the Morgan County-Decatur Farmers Market in Decatur, Alabama, was hosting its annual Tomato Sandwich Day on Saturday, July 29, it made me smile. The market will be offering free tomato sandwiches — tomatoes on white bread with mayo — from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and hosting a new contest where chefs are invited to enter their favorite tomato pie recipe using tomatoes purchased from local farmers at the farmers market.

Tomato pie I can wrap my head around. That sounds yummy.

The tomato pie contest will be judged by local farmers. Contest registration is required and the entry fee is $10 per person. Prepared entries are due at the market at 2 p.m. for judging.
In addition to tomatoes, there will be jams and jellies, fresh-baked goods, local honey, local artisans and fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables including okra, squash, green beans, cantaloupe, watermelons, onions, peppers and peaches.

The Morgan County-Decatur Farmers Market is located at 211 First Ave. SE in Decatur; call the Morgan County-Decatur Farmers Market Manager Elizabeth Thompson at (256) 476-5595 for more information or visit or their Facebook page for the latest updates. Not a tomato lover?

The Market celebrates Watermelon Day on August 19.  

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves weird and unusual things, but maybe not a tomato sandwich. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Solar Eclipse, Part III: South Carolina, Georgia

By now you’ve likely heard — or read since this is part III — that the first total solar eclipse in 26 years will be visible across the United States, with the path of totality in several Southern states. While everyone in the country should be able to see a partial eclipse, only those in the direct 100-mile wide path will witness the total blockage of the sun. The path of totality will cross parts of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri. The last solar eclipse to cross the continental United States was in 1918 and the next solar eclipse will take place on Aug. 12, 2045. And that next one won’t be as good. So, we suggest you pack some clothes and hit the road to find one of the best places to watch this historic event.

We’ve already mentioned the Smokey Mountains region and Rabun Gap, Georgia, but here are a few more places to consider, thanks to Katie Reeder and Ruth Sykes at Laurie Rowe Communications.

Capital City/Lake Murray Country, South Carolina
This region of South Carolina is conveniently located off several major interstates in the central part of the Palmetto state, so it’s easy to access and an ideal vantage point. Lake Murray will have the largest viewing area, at both park sites of Lake Murray Dam (Lexington and Irmo sides), and Columbia and its surrounding region will have the longest viewing of the eclipse on the East Coast. The path of the eclipse will pass through Lake Murray at 2:30 p.m. and Columbia at 2:41 p.m. for 2 minutes and 30-36 seconds.

Throughout the long weekend of Aug. 18-21, there will be special eclipse-related events. Events include:
·      An old fashion Drive-In Movie night at the Historic Columbia Speedway festival grounds
·      Carolina Fireflies game
·      Benton Brewing’s Carolina Blackout release
·      Congaree National Park wilderness eclipse experience

For more information, visit and 

Alpine Helen-White County, Georgia
This quaint little mountain town 90 minutes north of Atlanta resembles something found in Europe, and while you’re enjoying the fun boutiques, restaurants, wineries and Alpine architecture, you can view the eclipse beginning at 1:06 p.m. with the path of totality at 2:35 p.m. for 1 minute and 41 seconds. In nearby Cleveland, the partial phase will begin at 1:06 p.m. and the path of totality will pass through the area at 2:36 p.m., lasting approximately 38 seconds. Special events include:
·      Touring the strasses and platzes of the Alpine Village in a horse-drawn carriage
·      Golfing, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, tubing, rock climbing, zip lining and horseback riding 
·      Helen’s seven wineries and tasting rooms
·      Artisans – quilters, woodcarvers, potters, glass artists.
For more information, visit

Blue Ridge, Georgia
Another sweet little village about 90 minutes north of Atlanta is Blue Ridge, with its blend of art, outdoors and great eating. The partial phase of totality will begin at 1:04:55 p.m., with totality starting at 2:35:07 p.m. Plan to catch the eclipse in totality at 2:35 p.m. for 35 seconds. 

The town of Blue Ridge is on the southern edge of the shadow, so totality, when the moon's shadow fully blocks the sun's light, only lasts for 35 seconds.  However north and east of Blue Ridge in Fannin County, in McCaysville and Morganton, the totality lasts longer. In Morganton, the partial phase start will begin at 1:05:05 p.m., with the totality phase beginning at 2:34:45 p.m. and lasting 1 minute and 10 seconds. In McCaysville, the partial phase start will begin at 1:04:43 p.m., with the totality phase beginning at 2:34:08 p.m. and lasting 1 minute and 34 seconds.

Try one of these locations for the best viewing spot:
·      Chamber Visitor Center at 152 Orvin Lance Drive - 55 seconds of totality at 2:34:50 p.m.
·      Lake Blue Ridge Dam - 1 minute 2 seconds of totality at 2:34:50 p.m.
·      Morganton Point Recreation Area - 1 minute 8 seconds of totality at 2:34:50 p.m.
·      Horseshoe Bend Park in McCaysville - 1 minute 31 seconds of totality at 2:34:15 p.m.
·      Downtown McCaysville - 1 minute 35 seconds of totality at 2:34:10 p. m.
·      Ocoee Whitewater Center - 1 minute 46 seconds of totality at 2:33:45 p.m.

After the eclipse, enjoy fresh produce at local orchards and sweet treats from the winners of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” and check out the local art scene at the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association and Art Center. The Appalachian Trail is nearby — beginning and traveling through Blue Ridge — but you can also hike the Benton MacKaye Trail, kayak the Toccoa River, boat Lake Blue Ridge or cast a line in the county known as Georgia’s Trout Capital. For more information, visit  

Don’t forget to protect your eyes. Find affordable glasses for a safe viewing experience, here:

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves weird and unusual things, and simply cannot wait until the total solar eclipse.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Solar Eclipse Part II: Blount County, Tennessee

This summer, a rare thing happens. Parts of the United States will experience its first total solar eclipse in 26 years, and the path of totality travels right across the South. While everyone in the country should be able to see a partial eclipse, only those in the direct path will witness the total blockage of the sun. The path of totality — don’t you love that expression? — will cross parts of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Missouri.

This is a big deal, folks. The last solar eclipse to cross the continental United States was in 1918 and the next solar eclipse will take place on Aug. 12, 2045. And that next one won’t be as good.

Where’s a good place to watch the total eclipse? This is the second of many blog posts showcasing totality hot spots. Today, we’re looking at Blount County, Tennessee, thanks to
Cades Cove, Townsend
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host an informal event at the historic Cable Mill in Cades Cove. Visitors for the Cades Cove viewing will have the added educational benefit of docents provided by the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. The Institute is holding a four-day science program for local, under-served, inner city high school students who have expressed an interest and aptitude for science. This science-themed leadership program trains the students to be solar eclipse docents—sharing their newly gained knowledge. There is no fee to participate. Vehicle access may be closed when parking becomes full or roads become congested.    
Cades Cove
Chilhowee Inn, Walland
Chilhowee Inn will offer a three-day eclipse special which includes a three-night stay at the Inn, a picnic lunch the day of the eclipse and ISO CE certified eclipse viewing glasses.

Dancing Bear Lodge, Townsend
Guests of the lodge and members of the community are invited to the Total Solar Eclipse Party, a picnic on the lawn at Dancing Bear Lodge, to witness the eclipse. Lunch will be served “food truck style” on the deck from 1-2 p.m. and the lodge will provide blankets, chairs and eclipse glasses to each guest. The event is free. Dancing Bear Lodge Owner Mark Oldham urges visitors to book reservations by visiting them online or calling 800-369-0111 as accommodations are selling quickly.

Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center, Townsend
The Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center is hosting a Solar Eclipse Tour to one of the best viewing areas, Cades Cove. Guests will depart from the Center at 9:30 a.m. and the $30 per person fee covers a box lunch and a pair of solar eclipse viewing glasses. The tour is limited to 46 guests and can be booked by calling 865-448-8838.

Solar eclipse path over Tennessee
Harmony Family Center, Maryville
For those who prefer to stay in town, the city of Maryville, Tenn., will also offer solar eclipse viewing events. One such event is the Harmony Family Center’s Great American Eclipse Viewing Party in the Montvale community. The pool and basketball courts will be open with food and beer trucks and experts speaking on the details of the eclipse. Tickets to the Harmony Family Center event are $25 for adults and $10 for children and include viewing glasses. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. and will the event will end at 3 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Center’s programs.

Look Rock, Walland
One of the best views of the Tennessee mountains is from the observation tower at Look Rock. The concrete tower is high above the trees and mountains with plenty of parking along Foothills Parkway. The trail crosses the road at the end of the parking lot. It’s a short hike up to the observation tower.

Pellissippi State Community College’s “Tailgating in Totality” event, Maryville
Pellissippi State’s Blount County campus is planning a community and college-wide watch party, Tailgating in Totality, from noon to 3 p.m. The free event is touted as “the largest solar eclipse tailgate in the world.”
River Rat Tubing’s “Totally Tuber Solar Eclipse Celebration,” Townsend
River Rat Tubing will host an afternoon shindig, the Totally Tuber Solar Eclipse Celebration starting at the time of the eclipse, around 1:30 p.m. Afterwards, attendees will enjoy live music and family activities at River Rat Tubing’s main building at 205 Wears Valley Road. The $25 fee includes tubing, a glow in the dark t-shirt and a unique view of the eclipse.

Visitors to Blount County for the solar eclipse have the added benefit of another must-see event: The inaugural Great Smoky Mountain Hot Air Balloon Festival. Taking place two days prior to the eclipse, the festival will feature tethered hot air balloon rides, food, craft vendors and children’s activities. The event will take place from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Townsend Visitors Center located at 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway. For more information on the Hot Air Balloon Festival, visit

For more information to understand and prepare for the solar eclipse, visit the NASA website or

Coming up next: Capital City/Lake Murray County in South Carolina and Blue Ridge and Helen, Georgia.

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves weird and unusual things, and simply cannot wait until the total solar eclipse.