Co-Authored By: John Deane and Natasha Deane
We had been looking forward to visiting Tullahoma since we decided to undertake our Tennessee listening tour. Until recently, we only knew Tullahoma as a city on the regional weather map on the six o’clock news. We were curious about the area and wanted to learn more than what we heard on the weather report.
Our visit to Tullahoma was on a warm September day. Our agenda was filled with meetings at the South Jackson Civic Center and the Mayor’s office; however, we also wanted to get outdoors and experience some of the area’s natural beauty.
Tullahoma is a micropolitan district (population 20,000) in Coffee County serving over 100,000 in Coffee, Franklin and Moore counties. About 3,000 residents in the area work at the Arnold Air Force Base, which was created during World War II as a training facility for troops headed to Europe, but today is a sophisticated Air Force research and development operation, affiliated with the University of Tennessee Space Institute (“UTSI”). More United States astronauts have graduated from UTSI than anywhere in America. Additionally, Arnold Air Force Based and UTSI have the second largest wind tunnel in the world and hypersonic air planes that can reach MACH 5 speeds or more.
The Tullahoma Airport is the fifth busiest in the state of Tennessee, despite offering no commercial flights. Vanderbilt Life Flight is based at the Tullahoma airport, and skydiving is offered to those who choose to jump out of an airplane in mid-flight. The Beechcraft Heritage Museum is an extensive aviation museum that attracts enthusiasts from across the state and beyond.
In large part due to the influence of Arnold Air Force Base and UTSI, 24% of Tullahoma’s residents have a master’s degree or higher level of education. The public school system here has ranked between third and fifth in the state of Tennessee over the last decade, likely due to strong parent engagement.
We visited the South Jackson Civic Center which operates out of the original historic 1886 Public School facility that houses a 450 seat auditorium for community theatre, music and other events. The Civic Center is led and operated mostly by a highly engaged group of 100 to 200 volunteers, clocking a combined 8,000 to 10,000 hours per month hosting festivals and performing arts events (including well-known Broadway musical revues such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Sweeny Todd,” and “Beauty and the Beast”) and music enrichment. Plans are underway to convert the old public school cafeteria into a black box theatre that will seat 85 and dead space between buildings into a small outdoor amphitheater and event space.
We had to choose between three highly recommended lunch spots, Emil’s Kitchen, One22West and the Celtic Cup. We ultimately chose the Celtic Cup for a healthy salad with quiche and then stopped by the Waters Edge Chocolate shop for some ice cream and chocolates to take home.
Following lunch, we met with Winston Brooks, City Manager, who graciously explained to us the (mostly) advantages and challenges that Tullahoma presents for residents and those in management. Following our meeting with Mr. Brooks, we drove a short three to four miles from town to the 420-acre state natural area known as Short Springs for a hike down to Machine Falls. A great end to a beautiful fall day. Tullahoma, we’ll be back!
Published on November 5, 2018 2:20pm
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