Macon County Chronicle

Farmers Invited to Participate in Rally Protesting High Gas Prices

RED BOILING SPRINGS, Tenn. (July 21, 2008) - Throughout our nation’s history, the American farmer has never had it easy, but soaring fuel prices are making it even more difficult for them to make a living for themselves and their families while big oil companies are raking in record profits.

On Sunday, Aug. 10, area farmers will get a chance to show their anger at the high price of fuel - as well as at the politicians in Washington who have seemingly turned a deaf ear to their suffering - when a protest rally is held in historic Red Boiling Springs.

Curb Records recording artist Ronnie McDowell, whose recently released single, “Hey Mr. Oilman,” has struck a chord nationwide with listeners fed up with high fuel prices, will lead a parade of farm tractors, horse riders and horse-drawn wagons filled with family and friends through downtown Red Boiling Springs beginning at 2 p.m. (CDT).

McDowell will be joined by American Idol’s Diana DeGarmo, one of the stars of CMT’s hit reality show Gone Country, as well as world champion rodeo rider and entrepreneur Scott Lumley, owner of Nashville’s new American Basketball Association team, the Nashville Broncs. Lumley will be accompanied by the team’s dancers, the Broncs Girls.

The parade will start and end in an open field located at the intersection of Bennett Hill Road (Hwy. 56) and Old Lake Road - the former site of The Colonial Hotel - and will be immediately followed by a pot-luck dinner and then a free concert at 4 p.m. (CDT) featuring McDowell, DeGarmo and other celebrity performers, according to event organizers John and Zach Cook.

“We’re expecting a minimum of 100 tractors and a minimum of 100 horses, but we’re quite confident there’ll be more,” said John Cook, who added that other celebrities who will attend and/or perform at the protest rally will be announced at a later date.
Cook emphasized that the event will be held, rain or shine, as the pot-luck dinner and concert will be held underneath a large open-air tent.

Farmers who would like to participate are asked to pre-register by calling (615) 633-7750. There is no charge to participate, but the parade is being limited to farm tractors, horse riders and horse-drawn wagons.

“If they want to pull a farm wagon behind their tractor for any friends and family members, they’re welcome to,” John Cook said.
Each participant in the parade is asked to display a sign with the first line of McDowell‘s “Hey, Mr. Oilman” - “Hey, Mr. Oilman, we sure could use a break” - followed by a line expressing their own sentiment regarding high fuel prices.

Prizes, including trophies - will be awarded to the farm tractors that came the farthest distance, the oldest farm tractors and the farm tractors displaying the best signs. A prize will also be given to the oldest tractor driver.

In addition, prizes - including trophies - will be awarded to the horse riders and/or horse-drawn wagons that came the farthest distance and the horse riders and/or horse-drawn wagons displaying the best signs. Prizes will also be given to the youngest and oldest riders.

The parade will travel through downtown Red Boiling Springs on Market Street, past Macon Bank & Trust, and follow East Main Street (Hwy. 151) to Witcher Hollow Road, where it will turn around and return to the starting point. Spectators are encouraged to line up along the parade route and show their support.

Everyone attending the protest rally, including spectators not participating in the parade, is asked to bring a covered dish for the pot-luck meal, which will begin promptly after the parade ends.

The free concert will begin at 4 p.m. The video for McDowell’s “Hey, Mr. Oilman,“ which was recently shot on location in McDowell’s hometown of Portland, Tenn., and at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in downtown Nashville, will be shown. Jay Jackson, who portrayed “Mr. Oilman” in the video, will make a special appearance.

Anyone planning to attend the free concert should bring their own lawn chairs and/or blankets.

The event is being held on the banks of the Salt Lick Creek, across Old Lake Road from the Bennett Hill Spring, which is currently owned by Nestlé Waters North America. Nestlé Waters North America purchased the spring from John Cook in 2001 and has been bottling water from the spring at its more than $100 million facility in Red Boiling Springs since early 2004.

The location is also linked to a sad chapter in Red Boiling Springs’ history as it once was the site of the residence of Renah and Jennifer Bilbrey, two young girls who were drowned when flood waters swept their home away in June 1969. A city park located near the site is named in their honor.

Red Boiling Springs is located in eastern Macon County. Macon County was struck by a tornado on Feb. 5, 2008, that left 14 people dead. President George W. Bush visited the site of the devastation three days later.

One of the event’s organizers, John Cook, operated Deerwood Amphitheater in Red Boiling Springs from 1986 to 1994, during which he promoted concerts by such country music legends as Willie Nelson, Tanya Tucker and Dottie West. He and McDowell became friends during the late 1980’s when McDowell - who has recorded numerous hit songs such as “The King Is Gone,“ “I Love You, I Love You, I Love You,“ “Older Women” and “You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation” - became a fixture at the Red Boiling Springs venue, attracting crowds in excess of 10,000.

Cook later purchased the Macon County Chronicle, a weekly newspaper founded in Red Boiling Springs in 1993 by the late Jim Durham, which Cook sold in 2007. He also started up weekly newspapers in three Sumner County communities, including The Portland Progressive in McDowell’s hometown.

The Portland Progressive is a supporter of the protest rally. Other supporters will be announced at a later date.

Out-of-town attendees are being encouraged to come to Red Boiling Springs a day or two early and stay overnight in one of the city’s historic hotels, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

* Armour’s Hotel, located at 321 E. Main St., offers individually decorated rooms with a full country breakfast included in the room price. It is the only facility in Tennessee that offers a mineral bath house. The telephone number is (615) 699-2180.

* The Thomas House, located at 520 E. Main St., offers 14 individually decorated rooms and home-cooked meals served family-style in a spacious 150-seat dining room. The telephone number is (615) 699-3006.

* The Donoho Hotel, located at 500 E. Main St., features 37 guest rooms – including one handicapped-accessible room – and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner by reservation in its 128-seat dining room The telephone number is (615) 699-3141.

In addition, free camping will be available at the event site on the banks of the Salt Lick Creek. However, there is no electric, water or sewer hookup available. Portable toilets will be located on site.

Area attractions include Cyclemo’s Motorcycle Museum, which is located at 319 E. Main St. in Red Boiling Springs. Tennessee’s only motorcycle museum, it is open Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The telephone number is (615) 699-5049.

For more information about the protest rally, or to pre-register for the parade, call John Cook at (615) 633-7750.