⊕ Ovation Awards 2015: Excellence in Tourism Promotion


Honoring an effective or unique promotion of tourism related to economic development in a community or region.

CANNON COUNTY | 8280 Short Mountain Road, Woodbury | (615) 216-0830

Short Mountain Distillery.

Still small batch and authentic, moonshine maker Short Mountain Distillery is making its mark in rural Cannon County. It’s a wedding destination, music and event venue, even disc golf course. But with the recent addition of a restaurant on the farm, the Stillhouse Restaurant, an affiliate operation, it seems to have secured itself as a bona fide designation.

“The restaurant really clinches it,” Short Mountain Distillery founder Billy Kaufman said. “We’ve been getting visitors from all over the world. Our business model isn’t really to become a national brand. Instead of spending millions of dollars on a factory so I can ship product to far away places, I’m making it a nicer and nicer place to visit so our core fan base just gets stronger and stronger.”

And stronger it has. Short Mountain, which started making moonshine – the legal way, but using illegal wildcatters, Ricky Estes and Ronald Lawson, who have years of experience – in 2012, recently added bourbon to its repertoire, a first. Kaufman called it a “milestone moment” for a small distillery such as his. And it virtually sold out.

“That was a lot of fun for us,” Kaufman said. “Moonshine takes a couple weeks to make, but bourbon takes a few years. We’re taking of advantage of the things we can do as a small distillery, which is coming out with new, exciting products rapidly. We may not always have it on the shelf, but if someone comes in every six months, they’re probably going to see a new product. It’s working for us.”

Short Mountain Distillery has several new concoctions in process, like a chocolate rye whiskey, a bourbon, and a barrel-aged moonshine. Kaufman says they produce roughly 30,000 bottles a year.

“We are always making as much product as we can,” he said.

SEE RELATED: Distillery earns organic tag


MUDDY ROOTS FESTIVAL OVERTON COUNTY | 115 Waterloo Road, Cookeville | (615) 534-2441

Muddy Roots is in its fifth year. Photo/Mike Fiedler
Muddy Roots is in its fifth year. Photo/Mike Fiedler

Bonnaroo isn’t the only festival in Middle Tennessee that can lay claim to camping, cars and musical acts running the gamut from blues to punk rock. Since 2010, Overton County’s Muddy Roots Festival has meant three days of music, camping, vintage cars, vendors and pinups – all of which converge at the remote June Bug Boogie Ranch each Labor Day weekend. The festival is in its sixth year, and more than 80 acts are slated to play come September.

“We have many classic acts, but this is not your grandma’s bluegrass festival,” said Jason Galaz, Muddy Roots founder. “This is a new generation of rock ‘n roll kids who have grown up and enjoy roots music.”

Galaz said the Muddy Roots experience is designed to be intimate. With that in mind, ticket sales are capped. Less than 2,000 people are on site throughout the weekend.

“I’d say less than 50 (people) from Cookeville are in attendance. It has become a tourist attraction for many,” he added. “Most ticket holders are diehard music lovers from around the world. And most of the musicians camp with the fans, creating a community feeling with late night jams. We believe authentic American roots music is meant to be experienced this way.”


MAIN STREET MCMINNVILLE WARREN COUNTY | 110 S. Court Square, Suite B200, McMinnville (931) 506-5335

Paige Chastain and Brook Holmes.
Paige Chastain and Brook Holmes.

Main Street McMinnville has a new face – two in fact. Co-directors Paige Chastain and Brook Holmes are looking to give the non-profit, which helps revitalize and preserve the city’s historic downtown, a more youthful feel.

The pair, who took over for Carla King last year when she moved out of state, has taken a dual approach to the position. Chastain handles grant activity, while Holmes is more focused on marketing.

Together, they’re targeting a broader audience for Main Street events and activities, the largest of which includes Main Street LIVE!, a free summer concert series held downtown.

“Overall, we’re trying to do things to attract our younger demographic,” Holmes said. “We’re much more active on social media, to bridge the gap between the groups we typically have come out. We would love to get them more vested in the downtown area.”

Most of their work, however, is behind the scenes, Holmes says. Case in point, Main Street McMinnville holds workshops for business owners, helps facilitate grants for façade improvements and is currently spreading the word about a tax abatement program for those who buy downtown properties in need of repair. All efforts have a snowball effect.

“The more people who take advantage of the (façade) program, for example, the better looking our downtown is and the more people who want to come down here,” Holmes said. “We actively try to recruit new business. We try to bring people in and really get the word out about the different things we have to offer.”


ISHA INSTITUTE OF INNER-SCIENCES WARREN COUNTY | 951 Isha Lane, McMinnville (931) 668-1900

Isha InstituteNestled on a breathtaking mountaintop on the beautiful Cumberland Plateau, Isha Institute of Inner-sciences is more than just a yoga retreat. It’s an entirely volunteer-run international nonprofit organization that opens its doors – 365 days a year, mind you – for tours, meditation sessions, overnight stays, weekend retreats, hiking, mountain biking, festivals and more.

The institute, with has acreage in both Warren and Van Buren counties, brings in thousands of visitors each year and is the U.S. headquarters for the Isha Foundation. It also has the largest meditation hall in the western hemisphere on site.


DELMONACO WINERY & VINEYARDS PUTNAM COUNTY | 600 Lance Drive, Baxter (931) 858-1177

DelMonaco Winery.
DelMonaco Winery.

Wineries are big business in Tennessee these days – and a key tourism driver for the Upper Cumberland. An untold thousands flock to DelMonaco Winery each year – some in not-so-conventional ways.

Each year since 2010, for example, the Tennessee Central Railway Museum has brought a trainload of passengers from Nashville to the Baxter business – owner Barbara DelMonaco said seven trips were scheduled in 2015 at roughly 450 people a pop.

“That’s a big draw for us,” she added. “We do the wine tasting on the train, and then when they get here, there’s games and food and music and tours. And it’s a beautiful ride. It’s fun.”

DelMonanco is also the anchor for the monthly Wine, Shine & Stein tours, which includes stops at Calfkiller Brewing Company in Sparta and Short Mountain Distillery in Woodbury, a fellow 2015 Ovation Award winner. DelMonaco is also a member of the Upper Cumberland Wine Trail.

And, of course, there’s traditional tastings and tours.

“We have a unique setup here with 20 acres and vineyards, and we do tours where you can actually go into the cellar and see and learn about the wine making process.”

DelMonaco said they’re currently working to release a sparkling wine this year. The Jammin’ Blackberry Port is a best seller.


About the awards

The Upper Cumberland’s annual Ovation Awards honor the top businesses and individuals in the region. Among the 29 total awardees in 2015, 20 are first timers. Ovations were awarded in seven categories overall, including:


Ovation Award winners are nominated by Upper Cumberland Business Journal readers and selected by the UCBJ staff. The awards were first founded in 2008.

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