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Partnering in a time of change Rural telecommunications providers are working together to save money and bring enhanced products and services to their subscribers By Stephen V. Smith, Editor
here is an old fable about a dying man who challenges each of his sons to break a bundle of sticks. Only when the bundle is untied and the sticks are separated can the young men break them. The father knew his sons were facing a future of uncertainty and change, and he wanted them to understand they could accomplish so much more if they would work together. Like those sons, the telecommunications industry is looking at a future of unknowns. Changes in government regulations are retooling the very mechanisms that determine how telecommunications companies make their money. And just like the lesson of the bundle of sticks, telcos are finding ways to increase their strength by joining forces with their fellow utilities.
The age of partnerships
“Partnerships are an absolutely essential tool for reducing costs that can’t be reduced any other way, if certain services are to be maintained,” says Fred Johnson, general manager of Farmers Telecommu-
2 | January/February 2013
nications Cooperative (Rainsville, Ala.). Johnson serves on the Industry Committee of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA). This group of telco leaders from across the country reviews developments and recommends policy affecting technological developments, industry structure and member needs in federal and state regulatory matters. Levoy Knowles is also a member of this committee. “Our industry is going through monumental change,” says Knowles, former CEO of Ben Lomand Connect (McMinnville, Tenn.). “In the past, when we were launching a new service we did it all ourselves. We must get out of that mindset and work through partnerships with other companies in order to be efficient enough to launch new products and services.” Jason Dandridge, CEO of Palmetto Rural Telephone Cooperative (Walterboro, S.C.), serves with Johnson and Knowles on the Industry Committee. “For better or for worse, the Federal Communications Commission has made up their mind and they’ve set an agenda to where they want
to see industry consolidation,” says Dandridge. “There are definitely some synergies we can take advantage of for small companies to partner and share resources to be more cost efficient.”
Rod Ballard is a principal with Jackson Thornton, a certified public accounting and consulting firm based in Alabama. He oversees the firm’s telecommunications division. “Telcos are looking harder than ever at the concept of cost-sharing through joint ventures,” Ballard says. “Customer billing is one area where telcos are working together. “We’re even seeing joint ventures between telecommunications companies and electric cooperatives,” he adds. “FTC already shares video headend facilities with a number of other companies,” says Johnson. “Other industries, such as airlines, railroads and automotive, have experienced the same type of changes we are facing. Companies learned they could share certain costs with others in their industry and thereby provide a
better product at a more efficient price. We are just following that model.” Another example of partnerships in the telco industry is Telecom Management Services (TMS), a group of centrally managed companies that includes WK&T Telecommunications (Mayfield, Ky.), Ben Lomand Connect and Ardmore Telephone Company (Ardmore, Ala. & Tenn.). Knowles transitioned from his role at Ben Lomand Connect two years ago to that of chairman of the board for TMS. “We are leveraging the knowledge and expertise of employees across our companies,” explains Knowles, “to allow us to operate more efficiently, benefit our members and bring new products and services to our service area without adding a lot more staff at our different locations.” Not only do the TMS companies share employees skilled in areas such as marketing, human resources and technology, but they are also leveraging their collective buying power to create partnerships with vendors to save money for each company.
A partnership tradition
The idea of partnering with other telcos is not a new one. For more than 20 years, five East Kentucky telcos have enjoyed the benefits of partnering through the East Kentucky Network (EKN). “It was a very positive move,” says Allen Gillum of the formation of EKN. Gillum is the general manager of Mountain Rural Telephone Cooperative (West Liberty, Ky.), a partner in EKN. “For 22 years we’ve had the same five partners, and we each own 20 percent interest.” Through EKN, the partners have built a fiber ring that connects all their service areas to provide greater reliability for their customers. The partnership also operates Appalachian Wireless, a regional wireless phone service provider. Owning a wireless company is critical for these rural telcos, as consumer phone habits continue to shift. “It’s very important to the future of our company that we have a piece of that wireless pie,” says Keith Gabbard, general manager of partner company Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative (McKee, Ky.). “Wireless
accounts for an increasingly substantial portion of our revenues.” In South Carolina, Spirit Telecommunications is a long-time partnership between the state’s independent telcos. “It was originally set up to help us get better long distance rates,” says Dandridge, “but has morphed over time into a robust statewide fiber network that allows us to compete on a statewide level for state contracts, with schools or other state entities.”
The magazine you hold in your hand is the latest example of partnering in the industry. For the first time, telcos across the Southeast have come together to jointly publish a magazine that brings company and industry news to their subscribers. “Like many other telcos, we have long seen the value of staying connected with our members through a print publication,” says FTC’s Johnson. “Through this regional partnership, we will end up with a better product at less cost for each participating company.” Knowles of TMS agrees. “We can now communicate with our subscribers through a top-quality, professional publication that none of us had the time or resources to do alone,” he says. “This publication is a shining example of what we can accomplish by coming together as partners.”
Looking to the future
In a future where traditional revenue streams are being disrupted, partnerships will be “critical for the success — and maybe even the survival — of these companies,” says Leo Staurulakis, executive vice president of JSI. His telecommunications consulting company celebrated 50 years of service to the industry last year. Staurulakis sees a future where an increasing number of rural telecommunications providers form partnerships to develop and market new products and services, as well as to operate more efficiently. “By combining operations and leveraging each other’s networks, back office systems and human resources,” he says, “we can reduce the cost of operations for everybody.”
Lifeline Service When you need help paying for telephone service Is your annual household income at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of its size? Do you or someone in your household participate in any of the following low-income government assistance programs? If so, you may qualify for Lifeline Service. • Medicaid • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) • Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA) • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) • National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program To find out whether you qualify for Lifeline assistance, customers must fill out standard forms, available at your local telephone company’s office, as mandated by the Federal and/or State government. Your telephone company is not responsible for determining who qualifies for these programs or who receives assistance. Customers must meet specific criteria in order to obtain assistance with their local telephone service, and qualifying is dependent upon government-established guidelines. To qualify for Lifeline credit, each customer must apply and provide proof that he/she, or a household member for whom he/she is financially responsible, participates in at least one of the programs listed above or that the customer meets the income-based requirements. Additional eligibility requirements may also apply. Customers must choose to apply the Lifeline discount to a landline or a wireless number, not both.
For more details about Lifeline Service and to apply for assistance, please contact your local telephone company.
January/February 2013 | 3
From the CEO
A new year of hope & progress As the calendar turns over and we recover from all the holiday gatherings (and all the food), the new year calls us to a time of reflection. What did we accomplish in 2012? What were the milestones? Where are we headed in the new year? At PRTC, I’m pleased to report that we made significant progress in several areas. One of our more exciting projects is the magazine you are reading now. With so many changes taking place in our industry, and so many things happening at PRTC, we knew we needed to ramp up our efforts to keep you informed. Through a regional partnership with other rural providers, this magazine will update you on our fiber project, share information about our services and shine a spotlight on local people and events. You’ll also find helpful tips, industry news and interesting feature stories from across the Southeast in these pages. Be sure to read Pages 2 and 3 to learn more about the increasing importance of such partnerships. Appalachian Wireless is another example of a partnership that is serving you well, providing reliable wireless phone service to thousands of residents across the region. In 2012, Appalachian Wireless began selling the popular iPhone. We also finalized plans to bring you 4G LTE service. This new wireless technology will be available in some areas early this year, delivering greater bandwidth and faster speeds to those with 4G-enabled phones. Construction continues on our fiber-to-the-home project. Thanks to the stimulus grant and loan we were successful in obtaining, in a very short time all our members will have access to a broadband network that is as fast and reliable as almost anything available anywhere in the country. In fact, many major cities do not have the technology that you will have access to right here in Jackson and Owsley counties. I’m not exaggerating when I say this will change how we live. On Pages 8 and 9 we begin a series of articles exploring how broadband is impacting various sectors of our society. After a few of these articles, I believe you will begin to see just how important broadband is to the advancement of rural America — just as important, I believe, as the arrival of electricity was in the 1930s and 1940s. I’d like to say a special ‘thank you’ to Lowell Wagner, who retired from the PRTC board of directors last year. Lowell was here through some of the greatest periods of progress in the life of this cooperative, serving at times as the board secretary and vice president. He is a good man, a good citizen and a good friend, and we wish him the best as he enjoys some much-deserved down time. Fulfilling Lowell’s term is Pat Henderson. She is loved and respected throughout our community for her giving spirit and her work through church and volunteer organizations. She will be a tremendous asset to PRTC and we welcome her to our board. Thank you for your support of PRTC. As a member, you are an important part of our progress, and the reason we work hard to bring advanced telecommunications to our service area. I’m looking forward to creating a great 2013 together.
is your member-owned cooperative serving Jackson and Owsley counties in East Kentucky. The cooperative is dedicated to using technology to keep its members connected through high-speed broadband Internet, digital and HD television, wireless 4G phone service, local and long-distance calling and beyond.
Board of Directors Don Hughes President Kendall Norris Vice President Wendell Gabbard Secretary Nelson Bobrowski Treasurer Donald Barrett Armel Davidson Pat Henderson Vol. 1, NO. 1 January/February 2013
connection is published by Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative, © 2013. It is distributed without charge to all members of the cooperative. Send address corrections to:
Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative P.O. Box 159 McKee, Kentucky 40447 606-287-7101 • 606-593-5000 www.prtcnet.org Produced for PRTC by: www.WordSouth.com On the Cover: Members continue to see contractors in the community working to build PRTC’s fiber network.
Keith Gabbard Chief Executive Officer 4 | January/February 2013
Photo by Lelia Martin
PRTC continues work to bring fiber to your home
Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative
A PRTC crew works to install fiber equipment at a member’s home. Picture left to right are: Will Judd, Matt Bingham and James Thomas. contract for each phase. Construction is complete in Phase I (Sand Gap, Clover Bottom, Kirby Knob, South Morrill and parts of Olin and Lakes Creek). Installation is about 90-percent complete in both Phase II (Annville, Moores Creek, Dabolt and Letterbox) and Phase III (Tyner, Hog Camp, High Knob and Union School). Contractors in these areas are continuing the construction process to connect fiber to members’ homes. Fiber installation is about 50-percent complete in both Phase IV (Blackwater, Travelers Rest, Vincent and Cow Creek) and Phase V (Drip Rock, Salt Rock and Russell Flat). Contractors will soon begin cutover in these areas. Utilizing preexisting RUS loan funds, construction is complete and FTTH
Photo by Lelia Martin
eoples Rural Telephone Cooperative continues to make progress in its plans to bring cutting-edge technology to every home and business in its service area. Contractors are installing fiber optic cable every day to move PRTC’s fiber-to-the-home project closer to completion. “We used to think building 100 miles of cable was a busy year. Now we are rebuilding an entire network,” says Michael Stidham, operations manager at PRTC. It took PRTC more than half a century to build the current 945-mile network, but Stidham says they are on track to rebuild more than half of that network (600-plus miles) in just three years. Construction should be complete for nearly 80 percent of our network by the end of 2013, but it could be several years before all members have been cut over to fiber. Fiber cables consist of strands of glass — the width of a human hair — that carry digital information as pulses of light. Unlike traditional copper lines, fiber can carry information at amazing speeds across great distances with no signal degradation. Fiber has such amazing capacity that the information in an entire set of encyclopedias could be sent three times in a single second over just one strand. The possibilities with fiber are endless. Fiber means faster Internet speeds, more video channels, high-definition television, enhanced voice telephone services, increased property values and unlimited opportunities for economic growth. Much of PRTC's fiber project is being funded by a $25.5 million broadband stimulus grant and loan the cooperative pursued and was awarded by the Rural Utilities Service. This covers about 50 percent of the project, Stidham says. An additional preexisting loan will cover most of the remaining cost. Stidham says the stimulus project is divided into five phases, with a separate
service is available in Booneville, LeRose, Sturgeon and Indian Creek (Owsley County), as well as McKee, Gray Hawk, Waneta, and areas of Kirby Knob, Olin and Lakes Creek. Construction is underway in the remaining areas of Olin and Lakes Creek, with complete buildouts in the Three Links and White Oak (Owsley County) remote areas. For this construction now underway, we expect to begin cutover for customers by late summer 2013. “Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative is committed to providing a smooth transition to the fiber-to-the-home network,” Stidham says. “We are excited about the many opportunities this new technology will bring to the communities of Jackson and Owsley counties.” January/February 2013 | 5
Broadband Focus How to outsmart scammers The AARP Fraud Fighters have helped more than 600,000 seniors who have been victims of fraud, says Program Director Jean Mathisen. These volunteers share fraud prevention techniques, such as: • Never share personal or financial information with anyone unless you initiate the contact. If someone calls claiming to be from your bank and asking for information such as account numbers, tell them you do not share such information over the phone. Then call your bank using the number on the back of your statement, not the number on Caller ID. • Don’t make a decision on the spot. “If told you have to decide now, say no thanks,” Mathisen says. • Use a locking mailbox or take your outgoing mail to the post office. “Often, crooks pop open curbside mailboxes and remove outgoing mail that contains checks or applications with tons of personal information,” Mathisen says. “You wouldn’t want that to get into the wrong hands.” • Do not carry your original Medicare card in your wallet. Mathisen advises making a copy of your Medicare card and crossing the number off of the copy but leaving the letter at the end of the number. Carry the copy with you and leave the original in a safe place at home. If you are going to the doctor and you need to take your Medicare card, then retrieve the original just for that day. 6 | January/February 2013
Avoid being a victim of phone and Internet scams
By Nancy Mann Jackson
uring the past few months, FBI offices have received numerous calls from citizens who have been affected by the Reveton ransomware scam, says Supervisory Special Agent Marshall Stone. The scam is activated when a computer user visits a compromised website. Once the virus is installed, the user’s computer locks up and displays a warning that the FBI or Department of Justice has identified the computer as being involved in criminal activity. Users are instructed to pay a “fine” using a prepaid money card service in order to unlock the computer, and are threatened with criminal prosecution if they fail to make the payment. “This is a scam to extort money,” Stone says. “This is not the way the FBI works. Fines resulting from criminal activity are assessed and processed by the court system. The FBI will never demand payment to unlock a computer.” However, a number of citizens across
“Seniors are targeted because that is where the money is, not because we are less smart or competent,” says Jean Mathisen, program director for the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center.
the country have fallen for this scam and lost money in the process. In many cases, those victims are senior citizens.
While telephone scammers have long targeted older Americans, Internet fraud has also become a danger. “As Internet use among senior citizens increases, so does their chance of falling victim to online fraud,” Stone says. According to the FBI website, Internet fraud includes non-delivery of items ordered online and credit and debit card scams. “Seniors are targeted because that is where the money is, not because we are less smart or competent,” says Jean Mathisen, program director for the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center, which provides one-on-one consumer education, victim advocacy and assistance for the financial exploitation of older people. “In addition to having maybe a retirement nest egg, seniors are also more likely to be home, to answer the phone and to be polite. Many
times I hear, ‘I finally gave him the information he or she wanted because I couldn’t get them off the phone.’” In addition to Internet scams such as the Reveton ransomware, Mathisen and her team see a number of other types of fraud such as investment fraud; in-home service fraud; lotteries and sweepstakes; workat-home; “official” business such as IRS, bank or Medicare needing money or information about the victim’s accounts; and “grandparent scams,” whereby the victim is notified that a grandson or other relative has been involved in an accident or arrest, had luggage stolen or something similar, and the victim is being asked to wire cash to save the relative in distress.
The FBI says there are several warning signs of telemarketing or Internet fraud.
To avoid becoming a victim, be wary of phrases such as: • “You must act now, or the offer won’t be good.” • “You’ve won a free gift, vacation or prize.” But you have to pay for “postage and handling” or other charges. • “You must send money, give a credit card number or send a check by courier.” You may hear this before you’ve had time to carefully consider the offer. • “You don’t need to check out the company with anyone.” The callers say you do not need to speak to anyone, including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau or consumer protection agency. • “You don’t need any written information about the company or its references.” • “You can’t afford to miss this highprofit, no-risk offer.”
If you or a loved one becomes the victim of a scam, it is important to report the crime. “Often, older people are reluctant to let anyone know,” Mathisen says. “We fear loss of independence, embarrassment, loss of trust and that the family will turn against us. These fears sometimes happen. But it is important to find someone you trust so that you can recover emotionally, if not financially.” For help, call the Senior Information & Assistance program in your area. Seniors and their family members can also call the Fraud Fighter Call Center at 1-800-6462283 for consumer education and victim advocacy.
Click to learn more... www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/seniors
Broadband: Changing the way our world works
Rural telecommunications companies across the Southeast are upgrading their networks to provide faster, more reliable connections to their subscribers. This is creating amazing opportunities for rural communities, changing the way people work and live. Consider these real-life examples: • A single mother in East Tennessee with limited travel capabilities is taking distance learning classes over broadband at a local campus extension. • A fire department in West Kentucky saves travel time and money by connecting with training videos over broadband. • Students in North Alabama have access to remote psychiatric services thanks to a broadband connection to a major university. • An East Tennessee woman has regular video conversations, over her broadband connection, with a daughter who is stationed in Japan.
• The owner of a small tire store in South Carolina remains competitive by connecting to his suppliers over broadband. • A healthcare clinic in a small East Kentucky community uses electronic medical records accessed over broadband to deliver better patient care. • Owners of small shops, restaurants and tourist attractions use their broadband connections to attract customers. • Public safety agencies, including law enforcement and 911 centers, use broadband to achieve faster response times. • Economic developers across the region use the availability of broadband to help attract new jobs to rural communities. January/February 2013 | 7
Fiber revolutionizes education
now days could be a thing of the past for students in Owsley County. Technology may soon bring the classroom directly to students’ homes. “We’re trying to prevent the barrier of bad weather that keeps kids from learning,” says Owsley County School Superintendent Tim Bobrowski. “We are pursuing alternate ways of delivering classwork to the students.” Owsley County is one of three Kentucky counties taking part in the Snow Bound Project, a state-run pilot program designed to bring the classroom to each students’ home computer. The project is made possible because of the high-speed broadband network provided by Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative. Lee and Madison counties also are participating in the pilot program. The project will allow teachers to prepare lessons and present them to students through email or other electronic means, Bobrowski says. It is designed to eliminate the large number of snow days Kentucky students are often forced to make up at the end of the year. Bobrowski says this is the first year the program is available. “We are still in the experimental phase,” he says. Jackson County is making huge strides in technology for education, too. PRTC provided a fiber optic broadband connection to the new 96,000-square-foot school last year. Jackson County High School Principal Keith Hays says he is excited about the new technology, which opens a world of possibilities for faculty and students. “This is about 21st century learning,” Hays says. “If you don’t have the Internet, you are going to get left behind.” Jackson County High School has a computer lab in the library, and the entire campus is equipped with wireless technology so students and teachers can access the Internet from laptop computers. Students are assigned a username and password so faculty members can monitor what sites
8 | January/February 2013
Annika Bingham, a freshman at Jackson County High School, asks teacher Kip Wells about an online homework assignment.
students are visiting, Hays says. Teachers are also using technology in the classroom, such as interactive boards that allow them to project the Internet or other learning materials onto a screen. Students can use remote control devices to answer questions, giving teachers instant feedback on how well the class understands the lesson. Rhonda Thompson, district technology coordinator for Jackson County schools, says the educational platform known as Blackboard is being implemented into the classroom. “All advanced placement teachers have received training on Blackboard integration,” she says. "They will be using the Blackboard for a blended model of instruction — both in person and online. It will also be used to supplement the course during snow days. “Promise Neighborhood funded the cost of Blackboard for both Owsley and Jackson counties,” Thompson adds. “They have also provided both districts with 75 Lenovo Tablet PCs in order to implement the Blackboard initiative.” As an extension of the classroom, Jackson County schools use a program
that allows parents to log into a website to monitor their child’s grades and have instant email contact with teachers. It also keeps parents and students informed about assignments. “This is a big plus for the parents because they can log on and see how their kids are doing in school,” Hays says. Hays hopes to begin offering dual credit classes, which will allow students to earn college credit for classes they take in high school. That is something Owsley County students already enjoy. Thanks to the Blackboard Learning program, students can sit at their desks in their local school for a class taught from another location. Through video technology, a teacher in Madison County is teaching a course in mythology that is being broadcast over a broadband Internet connection to students at Owsley County High School and other schools. Bobrowski says these opportunities would not be available without access to a reliable broadband network like the one PRTC continues to build. Distance learning allows schools with limited resources to share instruction and Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative
Owsley County School Superintendent Tim Bobrowski is participating in the Snow Bound Project, a pilot program attempting to lessen the effects of winter weather on education. Bobrowski says. “It is only because of technology and connectivity that we are allowed to do this.” Hays knows that a fiber network like the one PRTC is installing in its service area is invaluable. “It is a huge advantage for students to have a high-speed Internet connection in their homes,” he says. “There are just so many resources there for them to take advantage of.” And that is the heart of PRTC’s efforts to connect its members with fiber. “The network we are building is the infrastructure of the future,” says Keith Gabbard,
Photo by Lelia Martin
offer a wider selection of courses, which in some cases can mean earning college credit. “Distance learning has been around for 15 or 20 years, but we are doing it in a whole new way,” Bobrowski says. “This is innovative and truly challenging, but we are proving that it can be done.” Bobrowski says Owsley County High School is also pursuing a video archival system that will electronically catalog video of classroom lectures so students can view instruction they may have missed due to an absence. It will also allow students to review lesson if they didn't understand something covered in class. When these programs began, school officials were concerned that many in the school district did not have a broadband Internet connection. But faculty and staff were excited to learn that 85 percent of students and 95 percent of faculty have Internet access in their home. PRTC’s fiber-to-the-home project will soon ensure that every home in their service area has access to a high-speed fiber optic connection. Both Bobrowski and Hays say none of these opportunities would be available if not for PRTC. “Because of fiber-to-the-home and the vision of Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative, we are one of the few districts able to take advantage of these opportunities,”
CEO of the cooperative. “It will put our students on equal footing with any student in the country. Technology will open up educational opportunities for our kids that would never be possible otherwise, and I commend our school officials for embracing that. We are proud to partner with them to offer our students the best education possible.” For more information about how area schools are using technology to boost learning, visit the Owsley County School District website at www.owsley.kyschools. us or the Jackson County School District website at www.jackson.kyschools.us.
Scholarships awarded Congratulations to nine students from Jackson and Owsley counties who received $2,000 scholarships from PRTC. In the past eight years, PRTC has awarded scholarships totaling $142,000.
LaNeika Baker Jackson County
Morgan Greer Jackson County
Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative
Taylor Johnson Jackson County
Jacob Addison Owsley County
James Becknell Owsley County
Taylor Dye Owsley County
Christian Roaden Jackson County
Kelsey Vickers Jackson County
Christopher White Jackson County January/February 2013 | 9
Photo courtesy Ryman Auditorium Archives
A circle unbroken
Museums across the South trace the region’s musical roots, celebrate the larger-than-life personalities who make the songs come alive and educate legions of new fans. By Cassandra M. Vanhooser
egendary entertainer Conway Twitty may have said it best: “Country music takes a page out of somebody’s life and puts it to music.” Twitty’s words are etched in stone outside the entrance to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville, Tenn., and they sum up the enduring popularity of the South’s favorite music. Simply put, we can relate to it. It’s real music about real people, and there’s no better place to learn about country music than Music City U.S.A.
The sparkling Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum stands as a monument to Southern songs and traditions. Multimedia exhibits take visitors on a journey through the development of this uniquely American art form, from its roots as folk music from the British Isles through its various incarnations to the mainstream country pop enjoyed today. The story is masterfully told with photographs, original recordings and video clips. In addition to two floors of exhibit space, visitors can also peek behind the scenes into the museum’s archives thanks to the glass walls that encompass the staff’s workspace. Artifacts currently on display range from Carl Perkins’ blue suede shoes to Webb Pierce’s 1962 “Silver Dollar” Pontiac Bonneville convertible. Even the building’s architecture helps tell country music’s story. From afar, the windows in the front of the museum resemble the ebony and ivory of piano keys. The swooping arch of the building’s roofline speaks of a ’50s Cadillac fin, while the tower atop the rotunda mirrors the WSM tower that still sits just south of town.
The Mother Church of Country Music
The Ryman Auditorium, just a couple of blocks north on Fifth Avenue, is more of a religious experience. “This building is 10 | January/February 2013
Visitors enjoy the Grand Ole Opry display at the Ryman, where they can see stage clothes worn by stars such as David “Stringbean” Akeman, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. alive,” says museum curator Brenda Colladay. “There is a great vibe to this place. There is no other place like the Ryman.” The soaring stained-glass windows and worn oak pews speak to the building’s past as a church. Visitors can take a leisurely self-guided tour of the many exhibits, or splurge on a guided backstage tour. There’s even an opportunity to have professional photos made center stage or make a record in the Ryman studio. In many ways, the Ryman’s history parallels the story of country music itself. In the 1940s, fans stood in lines that stretched for blocks to get a seat, but by 1974, when the Grand Ole Opry moved to the new Opry House at Opryland, the Ryman was slated for demolition. It survived — barely. The old auditorium was allowed to fall into disrepair, until a crop of young artists embraced their country roots and traditions and lobbied for the Ryman’s renovation and rebirth. Today performers young and old yearn to take the stage at the Ryman, and they come from every musical genre — just as they always have. “Everybody loves to play here,” Colladay says, “and it’s a great place to see a performance because it means so much to the people on stage.”
Where the Bluegrass Grows
The International Museum of Bluegrass in Owensboro, Ky., pays tribute to the “hillbilly music” of Appalachia, that high lonesome sound developed by the state’s own Bill Monroe and now played around the world. A large portion of the first floor is dedicated to telling Monroe’s story, from his birth in Rosine to his recognition as the Father of Bluegrass. Visitors can also access documentaries from the Video Oral History Project, an ongoing effort to record first- and second-generation bluegrass musicians. In addition to preserving the history of bluegrass, the museum
Together Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook are known as Alabama, one of the most successful bands in music history. Since signing with RCA Records in 1980, the group has sold more than 73 million records. They’ve had 43 singles hit No. 1 on the music charts, and 17 albums are Platinum sellers. Eight times they’ve been country music’s “Entertainer of the Year,” and they claim a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Though the band gave its farewell tour in 2003 and 2004, admirers still visit their fan club and museum in Fort Payne, Ala. The museum itself is a modest collection of memorabilia, awards and hit records, as well as a souvenir and gift shop. Tiny Muscle Shoals in the northwest corner of the state has been a hotbed of music since the ’60s. A number of country,
rock and R&B performers have retreated to small-town Alabama to write and record their best. FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio are both still in operation and allow tours by appointment. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame, located in nearby Tuscumbia, offers a glimpse into the lives of artists such as Lionel Richie, Hank Williams, Emmylou Harris, Gold City and Martha Reeves. A favorite exhibit among visitors is Jim Nabors’ Gomer Pyle costume.
Country on the Beach
If not for Myrtle Beach, the group Ala-
bama might still be laboring in obscurity. The boys got their start playing for tips in the honkytonks here. Still, Calvin Gilmore was the one to open the area’s first music theater in 1986. Today, the Missouri-born musician and a bevy of talented performers entertain more than 300,000 visitors each year at the 2,200-seat Carolina Opry. Alabama and Dolly Parton now have theaters on the Grand Strand, too. “I thought when I came out here that it would work,” Calvin says. “I bet everything I owned on it, but even in my wildest dreams I could not have imagined the success we’ve had.” Photo courtesy International Bluegrass Music Museum
is dedicated to educating and training a new generation of fans and musicians to carry on the legacy. Audiences around the world can tune in to Radio Bluegrass International, an online radio station that broadcasts round the clock. The museum offers a Saturday Lessons program that outfits students with instruments and reasonably priced instruction. The museum even sponsors a Bluegrass in the Schools program that takes instructions and information to students around the state. The tiny community of Renfro Valley claims the title “Kentucky Country Music Capital.” This vast entertainment complex is home to the country’s third longest running radio show, Renfro Valley Gatherin’, broadcast every Sunday morning since 1943. The Renfro Valley Barn Dance, a live stage show, is performed on Saturday nights, and other headline acts take the stage throughout the year. The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum, also at Renfro Valley, features an Instrument Room, a fully functional recording booth and a blue-screen studio, where visitors can perform with their favorite Kentucky music stars. Honorees range from Rosemary Clooney and Loretta Lynn to the Kentucky HeadHunters and Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman.
The International Bluegrass Music Museum takes visitors on a historical tour of this uniquely American art form.
Click or Call for more info... Alabama
Alabama Music Hall of Fame www.alamhof.org 800-239-2643
Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum www.countrymusichalloffame.com 615-416-2001
The Alabama Fan Club & Museum www.thealabamaband.com 256-845-1646
Ryman Auditorium www.ryman.com 615-889-3060
International Bluegrass Music Museum www.bluegrass-museum.org 888-692-2656
Alabama Theatre www.alabama-theatre.com 800-342-2262
Kentucky Music Hall of Fame & Museum www.kentuckymusicmuseum.com 877-356-3263
Carolina Opry Theater www.thecarolinaopry.com 800-843-6779 January/February 2013 | 11
Jackson County golfers make history
he Jackson County High School boys golf team posted a combined score of 319 last September in the Kentucky All ‘A’ State Tournament. Coach Ed Morgan eyed the scoreboard. He was concerned the score wouldn’t hold up. There were still some very strong teams on the course. But at the end of the day the Generals finished with a fourstroke lead and a state title. “It is a humbling experience and a huge accomplishment to go out there and beat some of the top teams in the state,” Morgan says. “Everything we preached to our kids, they did it — and good things happened for us.” In fact, good things happened for the team all season. On their way to the state title, JCHS finished unbeaten in the Southeast Kentucky Golf Conference, then won the All ‘A’ region tournament. They had to outlast 15 other region tournament winners to claim the state crown. “I’m just real proud of how dedicated these kids are and how much they have grown,” Morgan says. “They just fell in love with this game and it shows.” The high school team is not the only Jackson County school receiving state honors for golf. The Jackson County Middle School Colonels won the Kentucky State Middle School Tournament last fall, cementing Jackson County as a title contender in golf for years to come. The middle school team battled wind, rain and near freezing temperatures as Zach Norris went on to shoot a Jackson County golf program record score of 67 and capture the individual state title for middle schoolers. Norris, an eighth-grader, competes at both the middle school and high school levels. Both teams are the first from Region 10 to ever win a state golf title. In the high school region tournament, the team posted a school-record 288, with senior Logan Estridge leading the way. Estridge tied a school record by carding a 69. Several Generals golfers received individual honors, including Estridge and eighth-grader Norris, who were named to the Southeast Kentucky Golf All-Conference Team. Freshman Jacob Anderson was named All-Conference Honorable Mention. The Generals have been dominant all season. And what makes their accomplishments even more impressive is that Jackson County does not have a golf course. “We are 45 minutes from the nearest course. That’s an hour and a half travel time just to practice,” Morgan says. “That’s just how dedicated and hardworking these kids are.” Morgan says he really appreciates the golf courses in the surrounding counties that have worked with the team and allowed them to practice there. “All these area golf courses have been really good to us and let
12 | January/February 2013
The Jackson County High School Generals golf team became the first boys team from Jackson County to win a state title by winning the State All ‘A’ tournament in September. (L to R) JCHS Principal Keith Hays, Zachary Norris, Jacob Anderson, Jarron Hignite, Logan Estridge, Reed Akemon, Coach Edward Morgan.
The Jackson County Middle School Colonels won the Kentucky State Middle School Golf Tournament in October. (L to R) Coach Ed Morgan, Chase Carroll, Tanner Morgan, Reed Akemon, Zach Norris, Tanner Harris and Trey Rose. us play for free or at a reduced rate,” he says. The 2012 team was young, and Morgan is confident the Generals can be contenders for several years to come. Estridge and Casey Cameron were the team’s only seniors. Beyond that, returning golfers consist of freshmen Anderson, Jarron Hignite, and Blake Combs, plus eighth-grader Norris. The middle school team consists of Norris, Reed Akemon, Tanner Harris, Tanner Morgan, Trey Rose, Dylan House and Chase Carroll. “We are stabilized now and building a good program,” Morgan says. “I feel like this next year we will be in a lot of top tournaments.” Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative
Cowboy Up for Christ
offers worship and horsemanship
he Triple R Ranch sits on 89 secluded acres outside of McKee in Jackson County. The horse farm’s rolling hills offer 360-degree vistas of scenic beauty and tranquility. It is hard to imagine that the idyllic setting once served as headquarters of a large drug operation. But Bob Hornsby knew he could turn it into something special. He and his wife purchased the ranch after authorities broke up the drug operation and seized the property. It is only fitting that they used the property to help keep kids off of drugs. “We were trying to give them something to do,” Hornsby says. Today, the farm is peaceful and quiet six days a week, but one night a week the place comes alive. Children are romping about, riding horses, filling their bellies with a hot meal and worshiping together. “We asked the Lord to show us what we could do for some kids, and I’ve never had anything that shows me God’s work as much as this,” Hornsby says. The Hornsbys don’t just help kids. The Triple R Ranch is a non-profit organization and home to Cowboy Up for Christ, a program that offers people of all ages a place to worship and fellowship together. The program is completely free to anyone who attends, and since May of 2012 more than 900 kids and 600 adults have been to Cowboy Up for Christ. Hornsby says about 100 attend each week. The program has grown and now has churches that bring in children to the farm each week. “We never anticipated it would ever get like this. No way,” he says. It begins with prayer every Monday at 6 p.m. Then the youth, and even some adults, participate in a variety of activities that revolve around the almost 50 horses that call the ranch home. Anyone that wants to ride will begin in a small instruc-
Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative
Bob Hornsby, owner of Triple R Ranch, runs Cowboy Up for Christ, a program to help atrisk youth.
Cowboy Up for Christ offers Christian fellowship, horseback riding and a hot meal to about 100 people every Monday night on the 89-acre ranch.
tional pen and graduate to a larger ring or even trail riding based on each rider’s skill level. Hornsby emphasizes that children must have a parent or guardian present the first time they come so all the proper paperwork can be filled out. After that, the paperwork is kept on file. Those who come on Monday nights are treated to a home-cooked meal before a devotional, singing and a closing prayer. Most of the income the ranch takes in comes from donations. Many of the furnishings at the ranch, as well as much
of the food they serve on Mondays, also came from donations. Candles, cookbooks and T-shirts can be purchased at the ranch, but money generated from sales doesn’t cover operating costs. Funding continues to be an obstacle, and Hornsby is pursuing ways to raise money so he can keep the Monday night activities free. “When it starts costing more than you can afford, it is time to start looking at all your options,” Hornsby says. For more information about Cowboy Up for Christ, or to learn how to donate, visit www.cowboyupforchrist.com. January/February 2013 | 13
Photos by Nathan Morgan Photography
Southern Kitchens Grits have gone gourmet Grits are as true to the South as sweet tea in summertime. They’re a patch on our culinary quilt. And in these parts, you’ll find the once-thought-of lowly grain in the fanciest of restaurants. I remember my first taste of grits. “No bigger than a junebug” my granddaddy would say about me, as he carried me into our neighborhood diner and put me down on a big round stool. Then he would belly up to the counter and order a platter of pancakes and a big bowl of grits for us to share. Back then, the grits were pretty watery. Nothing that a little butter or gravy couldn’t cure, but for the life of me I really don’t know why I liked them. Then something happened in my adult years. Grits went gourmet, and now they’re showing up on the fanciest of menus. So get your grits going and enjoy them however you want. They’re back in vogue. But really, they never left. Email your recipe and story ideas to Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anne P. Braly Food Editor
14 | January/February 2013
The Chow 45 roadside sign welcomes visitors. Chef Mark Madrey has put Mayfield, Ky., on the culinary map with Chow 45.
Chow down on grits
ith the twist of a spoon or the flip of a spatula, Mark Madrey turns simple grains into culinary creations that smack with a complexity of flavors that only grits can bring. Madrey, chef and owner of Chow 45 in Mayfield, Ky., relishes the glory of grits — particularly their versatility. “You can do just about anything with them,” he says. “You just need to be adventurous. Get them off the breakfast table and eat them for lunch and dinner, too.” Chow 45 keeps grits on the menu with one steadfast, signature item: Cheesy Grit Cakes (crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside). Other grit specials range from lowcountry shrimp and grits — one of Madry’s favorite dishes to make — to gritsstuffed portobellos. Chow 45 opened in an 80-year-old building in May 2010. It’s small, with just 16 tables, but that’s all Madrey wanted after retiring from a lifetime of managing restaurants and moving home to open his own place. During his career, he’s worked with numerous trained chefs and learned from them. “They were all very creative people who were not afraid to think outside the box,” he says. “That’s the whole key. I
like to mix flavors that don’t traditionally go together.” And that’s where grits come into play, enticing customers who might not have liked grits in the past. “I have never been a huge fan of grits,” admits Erin Carrico, executive director of the Murray County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Now she eats at Chow 45 a couple of times a month. “What grabbed me the first time were the shrimp alongside the grits,” she says. “So when my plate arrived, I took the chance and tasted the grits. Bam! I had never tasted grits with such awesome flavor.” “I’m particular about every dish,” Madrey says. “I want every dish that goes out of the kitchen to be special.” He keeps his recipes a closely guarded secret, but was willing to share one of his favorites. “Our grits-stuffed portobellos are really simple, but they’re excellent,” he says.
If you go...
here: Chow 45, 1102 Highway 45 N. W Phone: 270-247-4545 Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Mon. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Tues. – Sat.
Grits: New twist on a Southern tradition 4-5 large portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed 1 tablespoon butter 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 medium onion, finely chopped 2 cups chicken broth Black pepper, to taste 1/2 teaspoon dried sage 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary 1/2 cup grits 1/3 cup English peas (You may substitute another type of pea or corn.) 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley Swiss or cheddar cheese, shredded Parmesan cheese Sauté onions in olive oil and butter until they begin to brown; add the chicken stock, pepper, sage and rosemary; bring to a boil. Gradually add grits, stirring constantly. Turn heat down, cover and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peas during last five minutes of cooking. Remove mixture from heat and stir in the parsley. Lightly brush mushrooms with butter or olive oil. Stuff each mushroom with the grits mixture, then top with cheddar or Swiss cheese and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes. Serve as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to grilled chicken or shrimp. Source: Mark Madrey, Chow 45
Grits-stuffed portobellos make a great appetizer or side dish.
Grits and Greens 1 pound young collard greens, beet greens, chard or kale 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt Good-quality cider vinegar or red wine vinegar 1 recipe hot stone ground grits
Remove tough stems, wash greens and drain in a colander. Heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed 3- or 4-quart saucepan over low heat until butter melts. Add garlic and cook slowly, stirring constantly, until golden brown — about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer garlic to a small dish; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add greens to the pan and cook, tossing frequently with tongs, just until the leaves wilt, about 2 minutes for collards, beet greens, chard or spinach, and about 3 minutes for kale. Stir in red pepper flakes and salt, return the garlic slices to the pan and toss well. Season
Grits are a simple dish, but it’s important they be made correctly. Mark Madrey prefers using stone-ground grits from Anson Mills in South Carolina or Falls Mill in Tennessee. Stone-ground grits have more flavor and texture, he says. Also: Use half-and-half instead of water for a creamy, rich texture. Use more liquid than the recipe calls for. Again, this will make them creamier. Do not overcook your grits.
Photo by Nathan Morgan Photography
to taste with vinegar. To serve, spoon hot grits into a warmed serving bowl or plate and surround with greens. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired, and potlikker. Serve immediately. Source: Anson Mills 15
1080 Main St., S. McKee, Kentucky 40447
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