The Daily Pulse:

Mayor's announcement of the Centennial Conservation Expo, an event in itself

On the shore of the lake at Chilhowee Park Wednesday morning, Mayor Madeline Rogero's administration announced the upcoming Centennial Conservation Expo, a one-day (Oct. 12) commemoration of the amazingly big National Conservation Exposition of 1913, with a splash.

The event, attended by maybe 50, dominated by dignitaries and press, opened with the youngest barbershop quartet we've ever seen, Powell High School's group Common Time, singing a few period numbers.

There'd been a hint that our top officials would arrive in a conveyance appropriate to the occasion. And then,  across the lake, preceded by a police-motorcycle escort, appeared a Model T, driven by collector Dr. Hobart Akin, bearing Mayor Rogero, County Mayor Tim Burchett, and a fellow in formal wear who was introduced as former Mayor Sam Heiskell. That was in itself remarkable, given that Heiskell has been dead since 1923.

The presentation took some pains with authenticity. The crank-start vehicle, all original at least in style, was a 1914 model, actually manufactured in late 1913, the same autumn at the exposition. It belongs to Dr. Akin, the surgeon who lives in Louisville.

Burchett, Rogero, and former Mayor Dan Brown, now councilman for Chilhowee Park's district, spoke. "Generations of dedicated East Tennesseans have accomplished great things in conservation during the past 100 years," Rogero said. "From the Great Smoky Mountains to Ijams Nature Center, we have worked to preserve and protect wild areas, wildlife, air and water. The Centennial Conservation Expo will be an opportunity to showcase much of the work that has been done during the past century, and the work that is still being done."

Mayor Heiskell spoke, too, remarking on the Arnstein building, now nearing completion of its elaborate renovation downtown; it was one of the prides of his administration, when it was the tallest building in Knoxville. He remarked that, spending most of his time at Old Gray, he doesn't get around as much as he'd like, but seemed impressed with the city, and remarked, gesturing towards Mayors Brown and Rogero, that "mayors seem to come in a great deal more variety than they did in my day."

The once-slender mayor, who has filled out a little in the last century, bears a strong resemblance to actor Vania Smrkovski. Our old colleague Jesse Mayshark, the main planner of October's Expo, assisted as speechwriter.

A high point of the morning, for this reporter, was the rare opportunity to ride back to Knoxville with Mayor Rogero in the Model T, waving to the dozens of people who happen to be out walking, shopping, ambling, playing with kids in a playground, on Magnolia on an April morning. It's underestimated as one of the most pedestrian-friendly streets in town.

Dr. Akin kept it down to about 25 mph, out of respect for the police escort, but said he can take the machine up to 60 mph. "I can blow you out of this, if you want me to," he said. 25 was just fine.


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