Ralph’s Donut Shop a local Cookeville landmark for coffee, pastry and community

Cynthia and Mark Pullum operate what may be the sweetest spot in Putnam County. Ralph’s Donut Shop rolls out well over 5,000 yeast and cake donuts a day, which rounds out to about one-and-half million a year.

Five-year-old Charlotte knows exactly what she wants when she goes to Ralph’s. (Photo by Ken Beck.)

The wife-and-husband team has been the guardian of the legacy business for the past nine years, as they took the reins after the death of Cynthia’s father, the eponymous Ralph Smith who started it all.

The only downer about Cynthia and Mark’s success is that they rarely sample these delicious, deep-fried hunks of sweet dough.

Asked how many donuts he eats a day, with a smile on his face, Mark answered, “None. My wife doesn’t either. The donut shop is run by two diabetics. I might eat one a year.”

Nevertheless, they know about everything there is to know about donuts. Ralph’s Donut Shop was voted the best in Tennessee in a 2015 online “Donut Brawl” poll, and its glazed donut was selected one of best 25 donuts in America in 2016 by The Daily Meal.

Ralph and Evelyn Smith opened Ralph’s Donut Shop in September 1962 with only six stools. Today the sweet spot boasts 26 stools around two, long U-shaped counters and a small table that seats three. Ralph made the donuts, and Evelyn did the waitressing. This vintage photo rests on a shelf in the shop. Before the donut shop moved in, the building was home to Haskell Grogan’s grocery store and then a Greyhound bus station.

(Believe it or not, the average American is estimated to eat 31 donuts a year, while U.S. donut shops make more than 10 billion donuts annually.)

Much of the credit for the success goes back to Ralph, who was born in Carthage and grew up on a farm in the Smith County community of Buffalo Valley.

The World War II veteran and his wife, Evelyn, owned and operated the shop for 48 years, until Ralph’s death in 2010 at the age of 84.

Describing her dad, Cynthia said, “He was kind of gruff. He scared a lot of people with his voice, but he was jolly and loved to have fun. He was a big cut-up and loved to be the center of attention.”

She shared that their donut recipe was concocted by her father and Dallas Frazier, who also worked at the shop 48 years.

“My dad and Dallas came up with the recipe themselves. Dallas is every bit as important as Ralph,” said Cynthia.

Ralph and Evelyn sold their first donut in September 1962, and Ralph’s nephew, James Smith, was an eyewitness to the transaction.

“I can remember going up there the day they opened with my parents and my two aunts. One of the aunts said, ‘I want to be the first customer.’ She orders up a donut and a carton of milk, and it was less than a dollar. Ralph took that dollar bill and laid it on the counter beside the cash register and said, ‘That’s not going in the register.’ Later they had it framed and put on the wall,” said Smith, who lives in South Carthage.

“That place was a blowing and going back in the ’60s. Ralph and Evelyn put in some hours. A lot of the success was because of their willingness to work. Ralph was always smiling,” added Smith, noting that his uncle would not sell a donut over 24 hours old.

At first, the shop held only six stools for customers to sit in while they fueled up on donuts and coffee. In 1974, the couple remodeled the shop, and the result was 26 stools parked around two long U-shaped counters. Most mornings before 9 a.m. or so, it is not unusual for every seat to be filled.

From its inception until 1992, the donut shop operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nowadays it is open 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Nobody knows how many donuts have been produced here over 57 years, but Frazier, who also made and decorated cakes, takes a guess: “I’d say it’s up in millions or billions.”

He recollected that his first day on the job, Ralph told him there was a little problem.

“Ralph said, ‘I’m working two types of donut mix. I cannot get a good one out. One’s too tough, and one’s too slack.’ I asked, ‘What are you mixing?’ He said, ‘Eighteen pound of each mix.’ I said, ‘Let’s mix nine pound of each dough and see how it comes out,’ and that’s what they’re running today,” said Frazier.

CHOCOLATE OR GLAZED? These are but two of 40 donut and pastry choices at Ralph’s Donut Shop, a Cookeville landmark that served its first donut 57 years ago. The donut shop has been operated by Ralph’s daughter, Cynthia, and her husband, Mark Pullum (seen here), for the past nine years. Ralph’s Donut Shop was voted the best in Tennessee in 2015 and its glazed donut named one of the best 25 donuts in America by The Daily Meal in 2016. (Photos by Ken Beck)

As for how Ralph entered the donut business, Cynthia shared the details.

“My mom’s brother, my uncle Bill Elam, had opened a donut shop in Dayton, Ohio, in 1960,” she said. Bill’s Donut Shop is in fact still in business, run by two of his children and now located in Centerville, Ohio.

“Mama and Dad went up to Ohio for seven months and learned how to make donuts. Then they came back, and he drove a gas truck for Apple Oil Company. They saved their money and opened in September of 1962,” she said. “I remember telling my dad when I was 8 years old I was ready to come to work, and he put me on a Coke case washing pans every Saturday.”

Mark did not get his hands into the dough until 2010, the year they married.

“I got plunged into it. My wife and her brother [Jimmy] inherited it. She called me and asked me if I would run it. I been here ever since,” Mark said.

Mark actually made his first visit to Ralph’s with his mother more than half a century ago  — literally before he was born. “She was eating donuts here when I was in the womb,” he said.

As a boy, Mark would come with his dad to town on Saturdays, and his father would give him a quarter and send him to get a donut. “I would buy a donut, and Ralph gave me my quarter back and would say, ‘Don’t tell your dad.’”

As for what it takes to make a great donut, the donut man said “patience and learning how to work with the dough.”

The shop, which employs a staff of 20, turns out 40 varieties of donuts and pastries. Their best-seller is the butter twist, followed by a tie between the apple fritters and lady fingers.

Cynthia holds a day job in the Putnam County clerk and master’s office, but works at the shop on Saturdays panning donuts and waitressing while Mark tends to farm chores.

She says the best thing about owning a donut shop is “watching somebody who has never had a donut before they take their first bite.”

About their tasty, doughy morsels, Mark said, “We just try to take our time and do it right. It’s all done by hand. Nothing has changed since it started. We’ve added a few things [to the menu], but otherwise it’s exactly the same as when Ralph was here.”

Retired donut guru Frazier explains that he had to bargain with Ralph before he was hired.

“I was working at a donut shop up the street, and he sent for me to come down there, and he wanted me to work for him. So I told him, ‘I got a job.’ He said, ‘Well, I need you.’ I said, ‘What do you pay?’ He said, ‘I can pay a dollar and a quarter an hour. I said, ‘Naw, I’m making that where I am. I have to have a dollar thirty anyway.’ He said, ‘I can’t pay that.’

“I started for the door, and Evelyn said, ‘You better call him back.’ He said, ‘I’ll pay you.’ I went to work for them about a week later.”

Donut maker Cletus Spivey, hoisting a batch of chocolate twists, is a third-generation employee at Ralph’s Donut Shop. His mother, Michelle, worked here 32 years and his grandfather worked here before he was born. (Photo by Ken Beck.)

On a typical morning, Cletus Spivey works with gusto in the kitchen making chocolate twists and cinnamon rolls. The Cookeville native clocks in between 1 and 2 a.m. and hits the ground running.

Spivey and his family have seen a lot of donuts come and go, too.

“I’m a third-generation employee,” he said. “My mama [Michelle] worked her for 32 years, and my grandfather Harry worked here before I was born.”

Dana Garrett of Bloomington Springs provides another veteran hand in the shop.

“I worked here 15 years ago for Ralph and then went to work at the car wash. Every time Cynthia came by she said, ‘Come back and work for us.’ I’ve been back about six months now.”

In her estimation, the old-fashion buttermilk donut is “the best by far,” she says. “I eat about two a day.”

The shop might be compared to the “Cheers” bar from the famed TV series, except Ralph’s regulars are hooked on donuts and coffee rather than beer and pretzels.

About the early morning crowd, Mark said, “We have a lot of old guys cutting up, aggravating everybody. We try to have fun with the customers. The older customers are like family. I’ve got a lot of their phone numbers, and if one of them doesn’t come in after a few days, I call them.”

Mark said his favorite moments at work are when the youngsters come in. “When they look at that showcase and see sprinkled donuts, they just light up,” he said.

Meanwhile, some of his most loyal customers make pilgrimages to the shop from many miles and even many states away.

“I’ve got one lady who comes from Knoxville once a month and gets 14 dozen that she takes back to her office. And there’s a lady from New Hampshire who comes every Christmas. Last time she brought me maple syrup. She wants me to open a shop in New Hampshire,” said Mark, who has no plans to make donuts in New England.

Dallas Frazier, Ralph’s right-hand man across five decades, provides some final words. He
stops by the shop every now and then and admits, “Oh, yeah, I eat a donut, but I don’t pay for anything.”

Asked what made Ralph’s Donut Shop such a popular place, he answered, “It’s got to be the merchandise. If you make something bad, people are not gonna buy it, but if you got something that’s good, people will keep coming back. They do make a good donut.”

The state Department of Agriculture is renaming one of its divisions, and in the process restructuring it under the hopes of better helping agriculture- and forestry-related businesses grow and prosper in Tennessee.

The Agriculture Advancement Division of the department will now be known as the Business Development Division.

A press release issued from the department this week indicated the newly reconfigured and rebranded division will “prioritize agricultural economic development by increasing profitability and viability of farm and forest businesses, which are vital to Tennessee’s rural and overall economy.”

The Business Development Division‘s areas of focus will include both farm-direct marketing and international commercial promotion. The division will also administer crop and livestock subsidy programs.

Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher said the division’s primary strategic emphasis is fortifying ag and forestry’s economic roots in rural Tennessee counties.

“With this renewed focus on business development, we will work to expand opportunities for agricultural innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship — areas that are crucial to any state’s future success in the agriculture industry,” Hatcher said.

Keith Harrison, a long time veteran of state agriculture department marketing and outreach programs, will lead the division.

Upon taking office in January, Republican Gov. Bill Lee declared that stimulating rural economic growth is a central priority to his administration. One of Lee’s first official acts as governor was to assign all state agencies to develop initiatives to improve how they serve rural communities.

“Despite such growth and prosperity, Tennessee’s rural citizens face challenges unique to their geography that often require a unique response,” Lee declared in his first executive order, issued Jan. 29.

Press Release from the Office of Republican Tennessee Congressman John Rose, May 10, 2019:

Rose Fights for Small Businesses in Rural Communities

Link: https://johnrose.house.gov/media/press-releases/rose-fights-small-businesses-rural-communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wednesday, marking the midpoint of National Small Business Week, Congressman John Rose (TN-6) advocated for the proud small business owners in rural communities of Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District at the House Financial Services Committee meeting. He strongly encouraged his fellow committee members to support his proposed legislation that would allow entrepreneurs in rural communities to receive the capital formation technical assistance available to many other small businesses across the state and nation.

“Small businesses are truly the engine of growth in rural communities,” said Rose. “The vast majority of the 19 counties in Tennessee’s Sixth District are rural, and the workforces in these communities depend on job opportunities provided by entrepreneurs who build their businesses from the ground up. The men and women who operate and work for these enterprises are some of the hardest working people I have met. Startups, family businesses, and local companies in rural communities are often overlooked. Yet, their challenges deserve the same attention other innovators and job creators would receive. This is commonsense reform and a great step toward empowering entrepreneurs by leveling the playing field for small businesses in all types of communities across the United States.”

The legislation, H.R.2409, adds rural small businesses to the mission of the Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation and will require the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to consider any adverse effects of regulations on rural small businesses. It was introduced on April 30, 2019 and reported favorably out of the House Financial Services Committee on May 8, 2019. Congressman Rose introduced the legislation with Reps. Cynthia Axne (IA-3), Alex Mooney (WV-2), Nydia Velázquez (NY-7), Chris Pappas (NH-1), and Denver Riggleman (VA-5). The Senate companion bill was introduced by Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Doug Jones (D-AL).

Congressman John Rose represents Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District and resides in Cookeville with his wife, Chelsea, and their son, Guy. The Sixth District includes Cannon, Clay, Coffee, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, White, and Wilson counties as well as portions of Cheatham and Van Buren counties.

Press Release from Tractor Supply Company, May 8, 2019:

Tractor Supply Market Day Highlights Local Artisans, Producers and Craft Makers
Free event invites community to shop homemade, homegrown goods on Saturday, May 18

Carthage, TN (May 2019) — Carthage is full of skilled makers, bakers and producers, and the Carthage Tractor Supply store is bringing these talented individuals and businesses together for a community-wide, family-friendly event.

On Saturday, May 18, from 8:00am until 4:00pm, the store will host its annual Market Day event featuring local vendors and their homemade and homegrown goods.

Market Day is a free event, featuring items such as crafts, candles, produce, baked goods and more in tents outside the Tractor Supply store, located at 59 Dixon Springs Hwy.

This year’s vendors and community partners include:

New Creations by Amanda Morales
On site 8:00am to 4:00pm

SCHS Band Boosters
On site 8:00am to 4:00pm

“As members of this community, we strive to do whatever we can to support our neighbors,” said Catherine Chapman, store manager of the Carthage Tractor Supply store. “Market Day allows us to highlight and support the great talent we have here, while creating a fun event everyone can enjoy.”

Local artisans, farmers and craft makers interested in selling their goods are invited to register at TSCeventpartners.com or visit the local Carthage Tractor Supply store before May 15. While participation is free, all vendors are responsible for complying with state and local ordinances. Contact the Carthage Tractor Supply store at 615-735-2684 for more details or information about participating in the event.

To learn more about Tractor Supply Company and Tractor Supply Market Day, visit TractorSupply.com/MarketDay.

About Tractor Supply Company

Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ: TSCO), the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the United States, has been passionate about serving its unique niche, as a one-stop shop for recreational farmers, ranchers and all those who enjoy living the rural lifestyle, for more than 80 years. Tractor Supply offers an extensive mix of products necessary to care for home, land, pets and animals with a focus on product localization, exclusive brands and legendary customer service that addresses the needs of the Out Here lifestyle. With more than 29,000 team members, the Company leverages its physical store assets with digital capabilities to offer customers the convenience of purchasing products they need anytime, anywhere and any way they choose at the everyday low prices they deserve. At March 30, 2019, the Company operated 1,775 Tractor Supply stores in 49 states and an e-commerce website at www.TractorSupply.com.

Tractor Supply Company also owns and operates Petsense, a small-box pet specialty supply retailer focused on meeting the needs of pet owners, primarily in small and mid-size communities, and offering a variety of pet products and services. At March 30, 2019, the Company operated 176 Petsense stores in 26 states. For more information on Petsense, visit www.Petsense.com.

News Release from Tennessee Tech University, April 5, 2019:

Link: https://www.tntech.edu/news/releases/18-19/day-on-the-hill.php

State leaders learned more about Tennessee Tech University’s Rural Reimagined Grand Challenge, an initiative that will accelerate rural innovation and collaboration across the state, at the recent Tennessee Tech Day on the Hill at the state capitol.

Tennessee Tech representatives carried the message of the grand challenge, which is an effort with ambitious but achievable goals that harnesses the capabilities of a campus while inspiring imaginations.

Rural Reimagined focuses on developing and supporting success throughout rural areas in Tennessee that can be replicated to help rural areas throughout the country and the world.

Tech President Phil Oldham shared his excitement for the work that was led by faculty leaders and more than 50 other work group members to shape the priorities and actions of the university. Tech’s director of its Center for Rural Innovation Michael Aikens says the university will focus on harnessing all academic disciplines to transform rural living.

“Rural Reimagined is a grassroots effort, and is squarely in line with Gov. Lee’s visions for rural transformation,” said Aikens. “It is important the legislature know about our goals for reimagining the rural landscape, so that they can assist with support, awareness and action in the communities they represent.

“Having the legislature on board with Rural Reimagined sends a message to their constituents and communities that they are committed to helping and improving their rural areas,” Aikens said. “Support from the legislature will legitimize both Tennessee Tech’s efforts and Gov. Lee’s call for action in rural areas.

Besides legislators, Tech officials were also able to interact with other public figures, medical doctors and student interns, helping energize the Tech students who are currently interning on the hill.

“We were able to have discussions with our student interns about development of a student advisory board for the grand challenge,” said Aikens. “It is our hope to establish a diverse set of student voices on this board. We think it is critical that political science majors have a seat at the table.”

Tech has already been assisting rural areas with career readiness certification; a remote area medical clinic; a small business development center; a cybersecurity education, research and outreach center; a STEM mobile unit for K-12 student success; water quality research to monitor and protect natural resources; and, archives of rural history.

For more information on Rural Reimagined, go to www.tntech.edu/grand-challenge.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, April 2, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/news/2019/4/2/local-farms-creating-unforgettable-memories-this-easter.html

NASHVILLE – With spring in the air and warmer weather within reach, farms across the state are offering exciting activities for the upcoming holiday. From riding ponies to getting pictures with the Easter Bunny, you can spend a whole day of family fun making memories that last a lifetime.

According to mental health professionals, holidays can be a time of stress. The thought of cooking and planning activities can be overwhelming.

However, local farmers are stepping up to the plate this Easter holiday. Tennessee farms are providing the ultimate stress relief that is sure to entertain the whole family.

“At our farm, there are no mad dashes — just a day filled with nonstop Easter egg hunts, farm-wide scavenger hunts for older kids, and, of course, pictures with the Easter bunny!” said Jimmy McCulley of Amazin’ Acres in White County. “We encourage you to bring your camera to capture the amazing memories with farm animals, the bee line zipline, the jumping pillow, milking a cow or goat, racing ducks, and more!”

One farmer has been planning events for years. “At Falcon Ridge, our annual Easter egg hunt provides families the opportunity to enjoy a day on the farm,” Bart Gilmer of Hardeman County said. “Our visitors can hunt eggs, get a picture with the Easter Bunny, visit the Petting Zoo, and much more without the work of planning an event.”

Don’t have kids and on the hunt for an adult Easter adventure? Look no further. “It’s time to find your inner child and get hopping to Lucky Ladd Farms for Nashville’s famous Bunny and Brew – Adult Egg Hunt,” said Amy Ladd of Lucky Ladd Farms of Rutherford County. “We will have live entertainment, fun lawn games, pre-hunt lite bites, and all-you-can-drink brew and coke products.”

Don’t get stressed — hop on over to the farm this Easter and let the farmers do the planning. The sounds of laugher and joy of all ages will fill the air making for life-long memories.

Go to www.PickTNProducts.org or use the free Pick Tennessee mobile app to find a farm near you. Follow “PickTNProducts” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about current seasonal recipes, products, and activities.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, March 18, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/news/2019/3/18/grant-program-announced-for-specialty-crops-.html

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP).

“The SCBGP supports specialty crop producers through funding for research, education, marketing, and innovative projects,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “Tennessee is an agriculturally-diverse state producing a wide range of specialty crops that can benefit from participating in this program.”

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture administers the grants, which are authorized through the USDA. SCBGP funds are granted to enhance production and competitiveness of specialty crops, including fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts, floriculture, and other nursery crops.

Universities, institutions, cooperatives, producers, and industry or community-based organizations may submit a proposal for funding. The program aims to support projects that directly affect multiple Tennessee producers and have a positive, long-lasting impact on Tennessee agriculture.

Previous grant funding assisted the Appalachian Region Wine Producers Association’s efforts to designate two American Viticultural Areas in Tennessee, emphasizing the distinction of grapes grown there. The University of Tennessee used grant funds to compare lettuce yield and quality using drip and overhead irrigation on biodegradable mulches.

“The SCBGP has allowed us to address real issues for Tennessee producers,” Dr. Annette Wszelaki, Plant Sciences Professor at the University of Tennessee, said. “From production practices to food safety, the SCBGP has given us the opportunity to provide demonstrations, solutions, and education to our specialty crop growers statewide.”

Eligible individuals and organizations must submit proposals using the 2019 project template. The project template, performance measures, and information required to apply are available online here.

Proposals are due by April 4 and should be submitted by email to tn.scbg@tn.gov. First-time recipients have a funding limit of $25,000. Early submission is encouraged.

For more information about the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, email tn.scbg@tn.gov.

PRESS RELEASE from the State of Tennessee, Jan. 25:

LINK: https://www.tn.gov/ecd/news/2019/1/25/commissioner-rolfe-appoints-sammie-arnold-as-assistant-commissioner-of-community-and-rural-development.html

Arnold will lead TNECD’s efforts to promote opportunities across rural Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced today the appointment of Sammie Arnold as TNECD’s assistant commissioner of Community and Rural Development.

Arnold, a native of Dyersburg, Tenn., has been with the department since 2013 and most recently served as assistant commissioner of Strategy and Legislative Affairs.

“With 80 of Tennessee’s 95 counties deemed as rural, our commitment to these areas of the state is a top priority for our department. In just three short years, the number of high-quality jobs in rural counties increased from 50 percent to nearly 65 percent, and we remain focused on continuing this growth,” Rolfe said. “Sammie’s wealth of knowledge of the state is matched by his genuine ambition to help expand opportunities across rural Tennessee, and I look forward to seeing the great things that will be accomplished under his leadership.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Bill Lee issued his first executive order, requiring all state executive departments to issue a statement of rural impact and provide recommendations for better serving rural Tennessee. It is the first step by the administration to accelerate plans to address the 15 Tennessee counties that are designated as distressed.

TNECD offers a number of programs and grants aimed at assisting rural communities to build assets and prepare themselves for industrial recruitment. Since 2017, the department has provided more than $34 million in funding to rural communities throughout the state. In addition, companies have invested $3.5 billion and committed to create more than 17,000 new jobs in rural communities over the past two years.

In 2018, TNECD landed 127 projects representing nearly 21,000 new job commitments. Of those projects, 54 percent located in rural counties, an increase from 45 percent in 2014.

“I am tremendously thankful for this opportunity. As a rural Tennessean with deep small-town roots, I am incredibly passionate about supporting our rural communities and protecting their way of life,” Arnold said. “Governor Lee has asked us to be aggressive in developing creative solutions to help our rural communities that are struggling. My team and our department are up to the task.”

Press Release from the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, January 18, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/twra/news/2019/1/18/cwd-update-given-at-first-tfwc-2019-meeting.html

MEMPHIS — An update on the status of chronic wasting disease (CWD) was presented during the first meeting of 2019 which concluded Friday at the Duck Unlimited national headquarters.

Chuck Yoest, CWD coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, made a presentation on the agency’s chronic wasting disease response. Yoest informed the commission the agency has sampled more than 4,800 deer this season in Tennessee. Also, he shared that 62 samples from Hardeman and Fayette counties have been confirmed CWD positive.

The agency anticipates more positive CWD results from these areas since it is placing a heavy emphasis on sampling there according to its response plan. Yoest also said that public meeting held in Bolivar earlier in January in regard to CWD, had an attendance of about 400.

Jamie Feddersen, TWRA migratory gamebird program leader, gave a preview of the 2019-20 season. Changes in the federal framework require the TWRA to update its proclamation each year. The changes presented at the meeting were based mainly on hunter input.

Anticipated federal rules will now allow states to have Jan. 31 as the last day of duck season. Previously federal rules prevented states from having duck season any later than the last Sunday in January. Hunter input indicates the desire to end the duck season Jan. 31. The agency recommends the Reelfoot Foot Zone phase 1 season be Nov. 16-19 and the statewide phase 1 season Nov. 29-Dec. 2. The Reelfoot and statewide zone phase 2 season would be Dec. 7-Jan. 31.

For woodcock season, there was support to provide more hunting days in January so the agency is proposing a split season. For crow, there was support for more hunting days in cooler weather, The agency is also proposing a split season for crow.

There was a presentation from Ducks Unlimited representative DU’s Dave Kostersky. On his annual visit from DU Canada, he reported that there was another dry fall and again officials were hoping for a wet spring in the habitat corridor. He annually makes the visit to provide an update on the partnership and conditions in Canada.

Frank Fiss, TWRA Fisheries Division chief, presented an overview of the fish dealer license to address TFWC questions about license requirements. A fish dealer license is required for bait dealers, fish farmers and operators of pay lakes. In Tennessee, anglers who fish at a licensed pay lake are not required to have a fishing license. This exemption is common among most surrounding states.

Dale Hall, Ducks Unlimited chief executive officer, was honored by the TFWC with a resolution. He has been DU’s top official since 2010 and previously served the U.S. Fish and Wildlife for 31 years, the four as its director.

The commission will consider four rulemaking changes. The TWRA is establishing rules regarding public record requests and will consider changes to the fees associated with motorized boat registrations.

The commission’s established a permanent Tennessee’s Native Son license. When initially created, the Native Son license had an expiration date of Feb. 28, 2019. The change allows the TWRA to continue selling the Native Son license into the future.

The commission passed an amended rule in regard to permit and access fees for non-motorized vessels the rule creates a permit for outfitters that establishes minimum operating standards and associated fees.

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE UPPER CUMBERLAND TOURISM ASSOCIATION, AUGUST 28, 2018:

Level of visitor spending in Upper Cumberland climbs to all-time high

Nashville – Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Kevin Triplett announced today Tennessee tourism’s direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached a new all-time record high of $20.7 billion in 2017, up 6.3 percent over the previous year, as reported by the U.S. Travel Association. The announcement was made at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.

For the 12th consecutive year, tourism topped $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue, reaching $1.8 billion. That marks a 7.6 percent increase over 2016, higher than the national growth of travel related state tax revenues of 4.6 percent. Tourism also generated 184,300 jobs for Tennesseans, a 3.1 percent growth year over year.

The 2017 direct domestic and international travel expenditure for the Upper Cumberland region reached an all time high of $420.9 Mil. Overall the 14 counties in the Upper Cumberland saw a 6.3% increase in their tourism spending. Two of our counties see more than $100 Million – Putnam – $132.03 Mil and Cumberland – $121.54 Mil.

Chambers of Commerce in the smaller UC counties operate on very limited budgets and they cooperate with all the 14 counties and the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association on joint promotions.

“It is important to understand that travel & tourism creates jobs, drives economic growth and helps build better societies. The Upper Cumberland of Tennessee is a prime example of this, as our region and its natural beauty is expected to attract more tourists in the coming years” said Ruth Dyal, director of the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association. It will be vital for Upper Cumberland communities and private sectors to work together with the public to ensure that tourism growth is sustainable, inclusive and benefits everyone.”

Commissioner Kevin Triplett said. “The authenticity and Southern hospitality from our communities and partners gives visitors an unbeatable experience and inspires them to return. The numbers show Tennessee is a destination of choice for visitors around the world. However, we would not have these numbers if not for the capital investments, renovations and dedication made by tourism partners across the state to deliver great experiences that create wonderful memories.”

To view the full report, click here. For more information, contact Ruth Dyal, executive director for the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association at 931-537-6347 or by email at uctourism@gmail.com.