The Signal Mountain Playhouse will present “Fireflies" as its winter comedy. “Fireflies” runs February 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 8 p.m. It will Not run on the 24th.
By Michelle Michaud
As restaurants, hotels and even yoga studios become more pet friendly, a Chattanooga resident is hoping to bridge the gap between lifestyle and pet advocacy with a new local website, TheHowl.co.
Dana Shavin launched the full-service pet owner website in October of 2018, with help from her friend Phyllis Mescon. The goal of both gals is to help Scenic City residents fully enjoy their lives with pets and promote pet rescue/ adoption.
The lifestyle website includes things like, “animal-focused book reviews and blog posts, a dog trainer, articles about life with pets curated from across the web, and a gift guide for pets and their people, to name just a few things,” said Dana.
Signal Mountain residents might find the hiking trails information particularly interesting. “What’s cool is that, as a local site, we use reviews (and photos) of dog-friendly restaurants, bars, and trails from locals who have eaten at those restaurants and hiked those trails with their dog and so can speak to what it’s like to be there. Want to know if a certain trail has swimming access for your dog? Go to Thehowl.co and read what fellow hikers have said,” Dana said.
If the name Dana Shavin seems familiar to you, that’s because she is a monthly columnist for the Lifestyle section of the Chattanooga Times Free Press and has written a memoir, “The Body Tourist,” published by Little Feather Books. While writing is one of her favorite past times and even a way she makes money, she has been in love with dogs and pet welfare since the age of eight.
“The first animal I loved was a giant stuffed dog named Scorpio. I was about 8 years old. After that, I had three make-believe horses that went everywhere with me. Then, I loved all our family dogs (to the point that I “married” one of them when I was about 10). My very own first dog came from the Atlanta Humane Society when I was 16, and I had her until she was 16 and I was 32. In all, I have had nine dogs, including my two current rescues, Jada and Theo.”
She admits she can’t rescue all unwanted pets, but TheHowl.co helps her feel like she’s at least working to alleviate the problem plaguing our country. “Here in Chattanooga, our shelters are overly full. Because there aren’t enough local adopters, they regularly transport cats and dogs to facilities up north, where they find certain placement. Thankfully, this is an option. But we shouldn’t have to rely on them as much as we do. Spay and neuter your pets. It’s the best defense against overpopulation,” Dana said.
Dana says the future of TheHowl.co looks great. “Our tagline is ‘”Don’t Google it. Howl it.’ That pretty much speaks to our goal to become the go-to site for anyone wanting to know anything about pet-related stuff in the Chattanooga area. On down the road we have bigger dreams and goals for Thehowl.co, but for now, we are focused on perfecting the site and making it awesome.”
Other features of the site include a community calendar with fundraisers, fun events, spay-neuter clinics, links to local animal rehabilitators, emergency contact numbers, book reviews, gift guides, really cool hoodies, T-shirts and aprons with Thehowl.co logo, and a section on how to be an advocate for animals. It’s a plethora of useful and interesting information!
By Sonia Young
After 32 years as executive director of Chattanooga Ballet, Bob Willie is stepping down and will now assume the title of director emeritus. I first met Bob Willie when he assumed the position of executive director of the Chattanooga Ballet in 1986. I looked at this handsome, athletic young man and wondered what he knew about dance. A look at his resume showed a knowledge of dance, theater and production management, as well as important administrative and leadership skills that the Chattanooga Ballet needed.
A native of New York, Bob began his career as assistant director to Tony-award winning director/producer Joe Layton. He received his B.S. degree from East Carolina University, where he received the Chancellor’s Scholarship for Excellence in Theatre Performance. He continued his education in the MFA Acting/Directing program at the University of Louisville and at H.B. Studios in New York under the tutelage of Uta Hagen and Charles Nelson Reilly.
Founded in 1973 as the Chattanooga Center for Dance by William L. Montague Jr., Barbara Tepper, Tom and Barbara Donovan, Mel Young, Joni McNeil, Deanne Irvine, and Molly Miles, the ballet became incorporated into a non-profit arts organization known as the Chattanooga Ballet in 1975. It was essentially a school for dance with no company or productions. Things changed dramatically with the addition of Bob Willie as executive director.
Bob strongly supported the mission of a school for ballet but added professional dancers to form a ballet company, as well. He initiated the Chattanooga Ballet’s first production of “The Nutcracker” 30 years ago and added a spring concert, which has grown to feature new works by guest choreographers, as well as full length ballets such as “Act III of Sleeping Beauty.”
Bob Willie’s leadership, direction, hard work and vision led to many successes for the Chattanooga Ballet. The school has grown to over 400 students, male and female, and includes full time professional dancers/teachers, plus a number of part time professionals, as well as an artistic director. This group performs two concerts a year, plus many outreach performances and collaborations, including the very popular annual production of “The Nutcracker” that is performed at the Tivoli Theatre.
The Ballet’s outreach programs are extensive. It performs at Erlanger Hospital, CHI Memorial Hospital, many nursing and assisted living homes and schools and the Hunter Museum. In addition, there are many performances with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, including “The Nutcracker,” “Peter and the Wolf,” and others. Under Bob Willie, Chattanooga Ballet has worked with the Girls Choir, Chorale Arts Society, the Dismembered Tennesseans, and has developed an outreach program at the Maurice Poss Homes with Girls Inc.
Bob and the Chattanooga Ballet have not only served students and professional dancers well but have been an important part of this community. Bob has been involved with the Chattanooga Theatre Centre as an actor and director of award winning plays, worked with the UTC theatre department, and with the Center for Creative Arts magnet school on musical productions. He has worked with ArtsBuild and the Tennessee Arts Commission, and is considered a valuable resource and consultant by the TAC.
In 2007, Bob was honored by the Tennessee Association of Dance with the Margaret Martin Award for distinguished service and outstanding contributions to the art of dance in Tennessee. He has served as president of Tennesseans for the Arts, chairman of the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Theatre Grant panel, president of the Tennessee Association of Dance and as panelist for the Southern Arts Federation/ National Endowment for the Arts.
Bob’s leadership includes his excellent stewardship of the Chattanooga Ballet’s fundraising and finances. The Chattanooga Ballet has realized financial stability for the past 29 years under Bob’s leadership with a balance sheet that is almost unheard of in the arts world. In 2006, Bob raised the money to purchase and renovate the Ballet’s present location, the William L. Montague, Jr. Center for the Dance in North Chattanooga. Bob has written and received numerous grants for the ballet and contributed personal income, as well.
Bob and his wife, Robbin, created the Chattanooga Ballet’s successful annual fundraiser, Clara’s Boutique, to assist in updating sets and costumes for “The Nutcracker.” Not only serving as production manager for all productions since his arrival, he has helped build and maintain sets, sold tickets, been a part of the “load in” for performances, directed productions and, for most of the 30 years, portrayed Herr Drosselmeyer in “The Nutcracker.”
Bob Willie brought the Chattanooga Ballet to new levels of artistic and professional development, commissioning over 60 new works by American choreographers. He has truly brought a level of professionalism and artistic excellence to Chattanooga Ballet that its founders never imagined. We salute this remarkable man and amazing artist for all that he has done and offer our deepest gratitude and best wishes for his future endeavors.
Jonathan McKenney, a bus driver for schools on Signal Mountain, received an “I Am Hamilton” T-shirt for keeping children safe on the bus ride home from school. The district presents the special shirts to individuals for efforts that positively impact Hamilton County Schools and the children they serve.
A parent wrote Hamilton County Schools to commend McKenney for his quick thinking that kept her son safe on his way home from school recently. The parent said that it was a typical afternoon, and the dogs were “going nuts” because it was time for their boy to get home. On this particular day, the bus stopped, but a car did not – instead it passed the bus right where children normally stand when getting off the bus.
“Mr. McKenney told Charlie to wait because he saw the SUV coming,” the parent wrote. “If Jonathan McKenney had not been watchful or if he had been too rushed, Charlie would have been in the road when the car passed the bus.”
This example of his watchful eye is not isolated. Mr. McKenney rewards the children weekly for good behavior, as well as encourages them to look out for each other and do great things at school. “Words are not adequate to express how thankful our family is to have this dedicated man as our bus driver,” the parent wrote.
“I am Hamilton” spotlights the contributions of alumni, teachers, parents, students, support workers, and community members providing opportunities for children in the classrooms of Hamilton County Schools.
If you know someone worthy of recognition in the “I am Hamilton” series, send a short message that describes the difference the person makes in the lives of children each day in Hamilton County Schools. Include the person’s name, connection to Hamilton County Schools, your name, and your connection to Hamilton County Schools. Your nomination could be the next “I am Hamilton!” Send the nomination to email@example.com.
By Rusty Crump
The sixth annual Lookout Wild Film Festival will be presented from January 24 -27 at the Tivoli Theatre. This event focuses on nature films and documentaries, showing the beauty of nature all over the world, as well as in our own backyard. It actually was conceived in our own back yard, in the middle of the night.
“My son was born in 2012, and I remember he didn’t sleep much that first year, and so I was up with him most of the night. When you’re holding a little infant, you don’t really want to watch anything too violent. So I was checking around on Netflix and Vimeo, and I was seeing a lot of the nature films and outdoor adventure conservation documentaries. Some friends and I then began kicking around the idea of doing some events for Chattanooga that would be centered on the outdoors and decided to give this festival a try,” Festival Director Andy Johns said.
The goal of the festival is basically to make this a good weekend for folks in Chattanooga. The festival’s creators love Chattanooga and were searching for a way to give back. The Lookout Wild Film Festival began as a small event with only a few hundred participants. Over a few years, it has evolved into a vibrant showcase of what are arguably the best nature films in existence.
“Our first year was Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and we had about 300 people in those three days, and this past year we had almost 4,000 people attend. Turns out there’s a whole lot of outdoorsy people in Chattanooga, and we’d like to see them come out in January to swap stories and watch films,” Mr. Johns said.
There are submissions from 38 countries for the 2019 event, including Slovenia, Romania, Turkey, Poland, Costa Rica, Peru, and South Africa, among others. And quite a few from the U.S.
“So, this year we have 8,209 minutes of film, 136 hours of films, that have come in, and I think we’re going to pick about 16 hours-worth of films, give or take. We only choose the best of the best, and there are a lot of films that won’t make it, just because we can’t take 80 to 85 percent of the films,” Mr. Johns said.
All of the films in the competition are memorable, but some stand out more than others. “There are about three or four that stand out to me. One was about kayakers going down the Congo River. It was the first time some of those rapids had ever been run. Another one was called the “Dodo’s Delight,” and it was about these rock climbers that sail up to one of the islands up in far northern Canada. They go climbing on the rocks, but it was about their sailing adventure, in addition to the climbing itself,” Mr. Johns said.
This event seems to change how some people view nature films and nature in general. “Every year, there will be at least a couple of people who come up and say, ‘I’m not outdoorsy, my boyfriend or girlfriend dragged me here, and I didn’t know what it was all about, but we’re staying the rest of the weekend because we really enjoyed it. I had no idea that was what it.’” Mr. Johns said.
So, even if you’re dragging your feet, come check out a little bit of the Lookout Wild Film Festival, but be forewarned: you’ll probably stay for all of it.
Ticket information and more can be found at lookoutfilmfestival.org.