On the day of the city’s centennial — March 2 — the Kingsport spirit was clearly alive and well.
“We all came together as a community with a common cause, for the good of all,” Mayor John Clark said of the Kingsport spirit on Thursday, before a standing room only crowd at the downtown Farmers Market.
Clark, along with several thousand residents, city leaders, elected officials and a few centenarians, came together to celebrate Kingsport’s centennial — the day the city was officially re-chartered by the state of Tennessee, becoming one of the first planned communities in the United States.
A 6-foot-tall birthday cake greeted everyone on Thursday, while visitors could enjoy cupcakes, purchase centennial memorabilia and learn about the history of the Model City by reading the 10 history displays lining both sides of the Farmers Market.
Kids enjoyed a number of activities, painted rocks to take home and rode the nearby carousel, which offered free rides for all.
In attendance and recognized were two former city managers (John Campbell and Pete Connet), four former mayors (Gardner Hammond, Ruth Montgomery, Jeanette Blazier and Dennis Phillips) and four centenarians (Sarah Louise Dickson Hawk, Josephine Morrison, Gladys Paladino and Violet Yates).
“Today means everything to me,” said former mayor Blazier, noting her time at Kingsport Tomorrow and how volunteers worked on visioning for the city through 2017. “And I made it,” she said. “We have a lot to be thankful for that came out of that vision. It’s special to celebrate.”
Phillips appointed the centennial commission two years ago to come up with plans for how Kingsport could celebrate its 100th birthday. On Thursday, he described the turnout as simply outstanding.
“It’s unbelievable the amount of people who turned out for this,” Phillips said. “It just goes to show when people are happy, they’ll come out and love these events. With the leadership we have, I think we’re leaving the city in capable hands.”
Mr. Kingsport himself, City Manager Jeff Fleming, said people came to the Model City for one reason — to have the opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families in a community where everyone was a newcomer.
“Our family, like so many others, inherited a city with exceptional schools, incredible parks, strong volunteerism, charitable conviction, civic-minded businesses, an infectious community pride, and a can-do attitude,” Fleming said. “I am reminded of the impact this city has had on so many souls. Like so many others, my family’s life was changed because there is a Kingsport.”
Though the party may be over, the celebration of Kingsport’s centennial will continue throughout the remainder of the year.
The city plans to host an expanded Independence Day concert on July 4 and then in November cut the ribbon on Centennial Park, the legacy element of Kingsport’s centennial celebration. The park is currently under construction and located on Main Street beside the train depot.
Centennial Park will include green space encircled by a history walk, an interactive water feature, a flexible stage area, landscaping and a commissioned Santa Train sculpture titled “Spirit of Generosity.”
For more information about Kingsport’s centennial and other events scheduled throughout the year, visit kingsport100.org.