Slate of week-long events pays tribute to county’s history
By Sabrina Bates
Weakley County turned 200 years old on Saturday, Oct. 21. Downtown Dresden was the host site for the birthday bash event, which offered guests a concert by Grammy award-winning bluegrass group Appalachian Road Show, food trucks and free balloons and cupcakes. The event concluded with a fireworks display along the court square.
Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum described the efforts by volunteers who served as Bicentennial Committee members as instrumental for a successful series of events, paying tribute to the history of Weakley County. Bynum said the goal was to host an event in each of the incorporated cities throughout the county. The committee was established pre-tornado in 2021, with a goal to begin celebrating the county’s bicentennial beginning in 2022.
As the county mayor’s office became a response center after the tornado event in downtown Dresden in December 2021, planning the birthday bash officially began in January of this year. Committee members met once a month to plan out events centered around the county’s history, community engagement, education and sponsorships. Funding for some of the planned events came from a federal grant, while the Community Foundation of West Tennessee served as the pass-through organization for accepting tax-deductible organizations.
Bynum described his role as the person leading the charge, but credited the members of the committee for making all of the visions a reality.
Bicentennial events leading up to Saturday evening’s birthday bash began last Sunday with a living-history event. Volunteers gathered on the courthouse lawn to reminisce about the county’s history. The program was mirrored in the Sharon School, offering an overview of Weakley County’s past to the younger generation.
On Tuesday evening, former and current elected officials were invited to tribute event, which recognized historic leaders responsible for the growth of the county. From city mayors to UT Martin chancellors to directors of the school system and county officials, community members gathered at Blake’s in downtown Martin for a celebratory dinner.
The next day’s event took community members to Gleason for countywide Faith and Community Night. Musical talent from across the county provided guests with gospel music, while Will Norrid delivered an address highlighting how Weakley County is grounded in faith and its importance to the last 200 years of the county’s history.
Thursday was a tribute to agriculture and its importance as the largest economic driver. Weakley County has 34 designated Century Farms. Yeargin Farms hosted representatives from the county’s Century Farms, with 15 of them front and center, with about 70 people in attendance. Dr. Keith Carver, former UT Martin Chancellor, made a return visit to Weakley County to tout the benefits of agriculture for the community. Dr. Carver has a position with the University of Tennessee System’s Institute of Agriculture.
Final celebratory events rounded out Weakley County’s official birthday on Saturday, Oct. 21. Guests were treated to free cupcakes, balloons, a massive cardboard birthday-cake display, food trucks and fireworks.
Through WK&T Telecommunication’s sponsorship, Grammy award-winning bluegrass group, the Appalachian Road Show. Dolly Parton provides an opening message for the group. Bynum said it was amazing hearing Dolly’s voice in downtown Dresden that night.
There were approximately 500 people who turned out for the downtown Dresden celebration. One food truck owner, Jason Foust, with Squatch BBQ, said he sold out of food products before the event was over.
“It was a great night, something we can take a lot of pride in. It takes a village. I just happened to be the guy leading the charge. None of this would’ve been possible without all of the individuals who helped organize this and our event sponsors,” Bynum shared.
He expressed special thanks to the following Bicentennial Committee members:
Ann Marie Norrid
For event highlights, visit the Weakley County Bicentennial Facebook page.