VItoP Travel Journal

VItoP Amazed by history of Berea KY & Oak Ridge

An autumn excursion into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains brought beautiful weather for the Peoples Bank VItoP Club as they settled in at Boone Tavern located in Berea,KY. As they approached in the motor-coach, the travelers were pleased to see the pristine and appealing exterior of this hotel on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of the Historic Hotels of America. After a warm welcome by a staff member, they checked into their guest rooms featuring classic handcrafted cherry and walnut furniture made by Berea College Student Crafts over the past 100 years. A stroll through this artsy area to the Berea College Log House Craft Gallery was enjoyable for David & JoAnne Taylor and Barbara Coleman. The Fudge Shop had some really delicious candy that Billy & Jean Nolen couldn’t resist while Larry & Elouise Blackwelder were intrigued with the superb handcrafted dulcimers in the woodworking shop.

In the private Cole Gathering Room, the VItoP guests had pre-ordered their menu selections for a delectable dinner served by Berea College students, all of whom participate in the labor program in addition to their full academic load. The performance following dinner by Retro Renfro was one of the highlights of the trip. Their renditions of the legendary songs of favorite country music artists were crowd-pleasing, and after an interlude of hilarious humor, the vocalists/musicians took request after request. Jayne Krocthko came up with “I was born in Renfro Valley” which was a staple in the group’s repertoire but, of course, their rendition of “Rocky Top”went over with much applause from William & Sandra McLain and Steve & Krystal Carter, UT fans. Gina Eason, Peoples Bank hostess, was with her mother,Linda Richardson, called for several favorites such as Farther Along.

A scrumptious breakfast buffet got the next day off to a good start followed by a tour of the town of Berea and the Berea College Campus, the first inter-racial, co-ed school in the south before the Civil War. Connie, the local tourism coordinator, was on the coach pointing out the stately education buildings and relating the history of this unusual college.Ronald & Judy Brown and Elaine Foutch were impressed that no student pays tuition and the 1600 undergraduates represent nearly every state and more than 60 countries.

In Old Town, an area of shops and workrooms of local artisans, ONeal and Carolyn Stanford were looking at the handmade pottery, ironwork, and blown glass for Christmas gifts. On such a beautiful day, Virginia Tinin, Lillie Brewer and Willodean Lipscomb relished being outside where the streets and parks were accented with 5 ft. “Helping Hand” statuary created in various mediums by resident artists. A full lunch with menu choices was included at the Kentucky Artisans Center featuring more juried arts & crafts. Early afternoon found the group at Whitehall Historic Site, the 44 room Italianate home of Cassius Clay, famous abolitionist, large contributor to Berea College, & Minister to Russia, and the first brick house west of the Alleghenies. Joyce & Kenneth Garrison, Norman Brown and Gail Brown noted it to be a very different style mansion with exquisite architectural details and unique floor plan. Later in the afternoon, Susan Tomes, who had entertained the Peoples Bank VItoP at the Boone Tavern the previous night, welcomed everyone to the KY Music Hall of Fame. She did a few songs, well-received by Barbara Conner &Diane Weaver, and then invited everyone to tour the facility. The costumes, musical instruments and personal artifact displays of Kentucky artists such as Montgomery Gentry, Dottie Ramboand other familiar names were of interest to Mel Davis, and Jim & Catherine Ross, Peoples Bank hostess.

Dinner was included in the Renfro Valley Entertainment complex before the high energy jamboree performance showcasing local talent. Martha Mitchener and Patricia Pigg particularly liked the lead female singer; Sharon Crawley & Pauline Johnson enjoyed the musician who played several instruments including the bass guitar and fiddle.

Another favorite venue visited was the American Museum of Science & Energy in Oak Ridge, which was built under a cloak of great secrecy during WWII. People in nearby Knoxville had no idea a house was being constructed every 30 minutes to accommodate a peak population of 75,000 people. Sammy & Vickie Martin and Thurston & Ellean Harper learned that none of the workers were allowed to talk about their job and did not know they were working on the bomb that would eventually end WWII. An included lunch was soup & sandwich in one of the historic buildings original to the complex.

The knowledgeable official historian for the Oak Ridge laboratories was the step-on guide for Peoples Bank and took the group to see the footprint of the enormous K-25 plant that covered more than 1500 acres. He related the story of John Hendricks that was recently featured in The Tennessee Magazine; John Hendrix was considered the “Prophet of Oak Ridge’ as he predicted after a self-imposed isolation around 1900 that such a facility would be built in the Valley. His vision was remembered by locals who knew him when the bomb was dropped and the extent of the Manhattan Project became known. Mike & Carolyn McDonald enjoyed the visit to the Y-12 Plant, the facility vital to our national security for the manufacturing, processing and storage of special materials. While there Shirley Maniss with her husband, Bob, saw artifacts that played a role in the successful treatment of her cancer as a young adult. The early research done at this facility provided the newly developed chemo that was used for Shirley and, since the war, hip joints, flu vaccines, touch-screen computers and dental x-ray shielding has also come from this plant. Peoples Bank VItoP Club came home to Wayne County well-informed about the Manhattan Project National Historic Park, which was inducted into the national park system in 2015, and also having enjoyed some great music and other historical sites in eastern Kentucky.

VItoP Opry Birthday Bash 2016

The annual Grand Ole Opry Birthday Bash trip is always fun and popular for the Peoples Bank VItoP Club with many returning fans each year. Jerry Brawner, with his wife Diane, won the Opry trivia quiz on the coach en route to Nashville. An Opry word search game and crossword puzzles were handed out along with snacks by Pat Holder and Catherine Ross, Peoples Bank escorts. Caney Fork River Valley Grill near the Opry House was the dinner venue with bountiful plates of fried fish, roasted chicken or smoked ribs. This was the first visit to Caney Fork for some Lawrenceburg fans:Ernest & Alice Jones, Ronald & Judy Baker, Jo Franklin & Judy Baker who was celebrating a birthday that day. Another birthday recognized was Regina Littrell’s: she wasthere with her cousin, Mike Farris, for her first Opry visit. Great service along with a tasty meal was pleasing to Bobbie & Mildred Stephenson, and the uniquely decorated interior featuring a pickup truck and a fish pond interested Betty Choate & Jayne Krotchko, also making their first visit to the Grand Ole Opry.

Security has been tightened at the Opry House in the last month so entry was through a scanning device for the first time. The gift shop was crowded and one of the performers, Mo Pitney, was signing copies of his new CD on the Plaza while Cathy Pearce was performing in another area. Both these young new performers appealed to teenagers, Ashlynn and Alli Franks and Will Vanhoose, all guests of Carolyn Franks, and to Karlie Seltzer attending with her grandmother, Cathy Seltzer. The welcome salute in the Opry House to Military Veterans found former Marine Paula (Sunny) Barnhart to be one of the few women veterans in the crowd.

Connie Smith, a 50 year veteran of the Opry , was the hostess for the first segment opening with the Opry Square Dancers, always a hit with opry regulars, Billy & Dean Stegall,Shirley Dalton & Reba Riley. The Whites, who appear often on the Opry, sang an old favorite, San Antone, followed by Bobby Osborne &the Rocky Top X-Press. After their rendition of Love’s Gonna Be Here Again,they got a rousing response to Rocky Top from Adam & Cindy Coleman, Kathleen Godwin, and Phyllis Bullard. Newcomer Mo Pitney sang one of his hits, Country, and Riders in the Sky presented their entertaining typical Western Cowboy songs.Jackie Brewton, Julie Garrett, and Jeff & Denise Brawner enjoyed the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with their rendition of BoJangles & You Get a Line, I’ll Get a Pole. Nellie Arnold, Lucille Talley, Diane Staggs, and Bill Free applauded another high energy appearance of the Opry Square Dancers. Headliner Brad Paisley was certainly a crowd pleaser and really connected with the crowd, including Paula Treadwell attending with her mother, Paulette Crowell, and Lisa White who had surprised her mother, Jean Nutt, with the trip to the Opry. Paisley performed some of his popular hits, I’m Gonna Miss Her, familiar to fan Vicky Lineberry with her mother, Villa Sue Holder. Another hit, She’s Everything to Me, had the audience singing along with Brad on the chorus. He brought back onto the stage many of the evening performers and “jammed” with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for a grand finale. With the crowd on it’s feet, this musical evening was ended by the appearance of the giant birthday cake and release of the multi-colored balloons. Reluctant to leave and wishing to stay for the later show were Geannine Eaves, Paul Franks, Nina Rose, and Nancy Warren. Names were drawn for door prizes, a Brad Paisley CD and also a Opry Gospel CD along with a box of Nashville’s famous Goo-Goo Bars. The ride home went quickly with a hilarious comedy DVD that brought lots of laughter to finish an entertaining trip to the Opry.


Sometimes Mother Nature can turn a planned travel tour into a challenging adventure, especially in the higher elevations, but the Peoples Bank VItoPs exhibited stalwart and enthusiastic resolve to maximize their enjoyment of the Yellowstone National Park recently. The premature snowfall in the park was a thing of beauty but required some ingenuity on the part of their tour director,Clay, for access to the many wonderful sights available. This year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and fifty-one people Joined Peoples Bank tour of top-rated Yellowstone.

The group flew into Salt Lake City where they enjoyed a tour of the pristine city with its wide streets and of the Utah State Capitol with paintings on the ceilings depicted the history of the state. As the group departed there, Clay explained the Mormon migration to this area and also pointed out old copper mines in the Basin Range of the Wacach Mountains that surround the city. The group enjoyed an included dinner in the city that evening. The next day, the route to Yellowstone was through Idaho with gorgeous views of the Basin Range. In Idaho Falls the group got an overview of the unusual waterfall spectrum on the Snake River. Upon arrival in West Yellowstone, a Giant Screen presentation of the National Park prepared the group for the couple of days ahead in Yellowstone. That evening they explored the town, finding a typical Western exterior of rustic weathered boards on the McDonald’s, quite different from the usual facade of the Tennessee ones. A fine dusting of snow on the gold autumn foliage greeted Nina White, Carolyn Patrick, and Bayward & Barbara Coleman the next morning as they boarded the coach to visit the Grizzly Bear/Wolf Discovery Center. There the timber wolves, one black, one white, fascinated Joyce Hankins. Billy Nolen with wife,Jean, captured photos of the wildlife inhabitants while hoping to see a moose in the wild. Upon entering the Park, Richard & Kathy Bivens and Larry & Sharon Bain braved the snow to see the curious hydro-thermal features like the bubbling Artists Paint Pots & Mud Pot. Bill & Judy Goodyear, Jeff &Denise Brawner & Robert & Melanie Lee tread the boardwalks to view the grandeur of the Midway Geyser Basin featuring the world’s largest concentration of active geysers, as well as fumaroles, and hot springs. Of course, Old Faithful is the world’s best know geyser and erupts about every 40 minutes. Mark & Phoebe Wayne, who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, Susan Kolakowski and Diane Broadfoot watched several eruptions in spite of the cold, 4-6 inches of snow and a fog shrouding the area. Bobbie & Doris Stults found a deserted area with a window in the lodge to watch the eruption more comfortably. Two nights were spent inside the park at historic lodgings, one at Old Faithful & the other more rustic lodges at Lake Yellowstone, both these having to be reserved at least a year in advance.

The next morning was spent in the winter wonderland of the Norris Geyser Basin and the Porcelain Basin where Vada Barnett, Ava Barnett & Elaine Foutch appreciated the pristine blue pools steaming in the white ground. James Frank & Sherry Bundrant and Connie& Billy Lay added a little excitement by engaging in a snowball toss. After lunch in Canyon Village, a rare sighting of Trumpeter Swans brought oohs & aahs as the motor-coach traveled to the upper & lower falls of the Yellowstone River. This area, referred to as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, has yellow rock walls which gave the park its name.Lots of wildlife from two large horned whitetail deer to herds of bison and an male elk with his harem kept Richard & Frances Rains, Richard & Carolyn Lacher, and Sharron Hopper with her son, Guy Hopper, on the alert as they crossed the Continental Divide, an elevation of 8000 feet. The coach traveled along the Rockefeller Memorial Highway with grand views of the Snake River and then south toward the panoramic Grand Tetons rising above Jackson Lake. During a break at the Jackson Lake Lodge, Peoples Bank tour director, Clay,who is an accomplished musician, surprised everyone with an impromptu piano interlude enjoyed by George & Cathy Latham and Pat Holder, Peoples Bank hostess. Jenny Lake and also the tiny Church of the Transfiguration were great photo opts for Bettye Miller and her niece, Julie Brown. Perhaps the paramount experience of the whole trip was the Snake River float that started out with warm sunshine and ended with a cold thunderstorm. Even clad in rain ponchos, Jo Ogg, Marion Joiner and Stan & Patti Cross emerged from their rafts pretty much soaked but laughing at the unexpected turn of events. The guides who maneuvered the rafts while everyone hunkered down were praised by Evelyn Tharp, Linda Tucker,and Teresa Ricketts, Peoples Bank hostess. Warm showers and a good meal invigorated most to shop & stroll the streets of Jackson Hole viewing its stunning antlers arches.

Leaving the snow behind, autumn leaves of red & gold brightened the drive through Star Valley and Logan Pass, the route the Mormons took to settle in the Great Salt Lake valley. Astop at Afton, home of the world’s largest Elkhorn, brought on a treat at a great chocolate shop. Later in the day another perk was raspberry milkshakes while enjoying a scenic overlook of Bear Lake. After checking into Little America Hotel, which was termed a beautiful experience probably compared with the rustic lodging in the park, dinner was at the Lions House, former home of Mormon leader Brigham Young. Afterwards the group walked through the Tabernacle Gardens while viewing the spectacular Mormon Tabernacle. The grand finale for the Peoples Bank VItoP tour, especially enjoyed by Carolyn Hall, was attending the evening rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, including instrumentals on the huge pipe organ and a full string orchestra. An early morning flight home to Tennessee brought the adventure to an end but the memories of the Yellowstone winter wonderland, the exciting Snake River rafting, and many other unforgettable moments would linger on for the Peoples Bank VItoP Club travelers.


Thunder over Louisville is the kickoff for the Kentucky Derby. “Thunder” is a huge airshow followed by the largest fireworks show in North America. With a lot of other interesting inclusions, this Peoples Bank tour sounded like a memorable experience for the VItoP members and guests who boarded the motor coach for Louisville. Images of horses named for Kentucky Derby winners and attached to paint sticks were raced down the aisle of the coach by the roll of dice, and those who had selected the winning horse were awarded prizes. This game drew a lot of laughs and was a good introduction to the weekend ahead. 

After a stop in the neat little town of Glendale, KY, for ice cream and some quick shopping, the first stop in Louisville was the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, an award-winning attraction that celebrates the legacy of Evan Williams, Kentucky’s first distiller. Dinner followed at the Troll Under the Bridge, a site of several early business establishments that were flooded by the Ohio River in 1837. After digging out mounds of dirt, this restaurant opened in 2011. The salted caramel pretzel dessert was a hit recalled with words like “Yummy” long after it was consumed. Accommodations were suites at the Galt House located on the Ohio River. Its location on the river is the show center for Thunder Over Louisville; the perfect place for this amazing trip!

Day two started out with a bountiful buffet breakfast on an elegant private yacht, the CQ Princess,cruising along the Ohio River. A local entertainer singing and playing his banjo serenaded the group while several of the men including Billy Nolen, who was familiar with the river, visited with the Captain in the pilothouse.

Churchill Downs was the next stop and was it ever teeming with visitors! After strolling through the museum and visiting the horse-in-residence, the group entered the 360 degree theatre. This visual simulation of Derby Day and Derby history really captivated Barbara Coleman, Judy Goodyear and Janey Edwards. The next activity was Hatitude,a private event to create a personally

designed Derby hat. Even the men got involved making some jazzy hats but the women were really into this activity. Large chiffon or straw mesh hats or tiny fascinators were selected by Jeanine Dixon, Julie Brown, and Bettye Miller who then added their choice of decorative ribbons, flowers or feathers. Assistants helped design and attach the decoration. Everyone came away feeling spiffy in their chapeaus, especially after seeing the professional hats in the Churchill Downs shops for several hundred 



A lunch of Kentucky originals like Burgoo, Kentucky Hot Brown, and Derby pie followed by a local historian providing background info on the Derby. Another private event was a visit to the Command Center that controls the entry of the planes into the performance area and also the pyrotechnical extravaganza happening on the next day. Lillie Brewer & Catherine Ross, Peoples Bank hostess, viewed the technology resources and observed the very young people who were in charge of Thunder over Louisville: they found out these “youngsters” all have lots of experience and electrical engineering degrees! One of the highlights of the trip was a private reception with the pilots participating in the airshow. George Latham, a pilot himself, Suzanne McFall and Sue Hickman were so impressed by the fine young men representing the US and the Canadian military; they engaged in conversation with Peoples Bank group and especially gave advise to an aspiring pilot, Brooke Eason, who was with her mother, Gina Eason, Peoples Bank hostess. Other hotel guests were asking how the VItoP Club managed to access the Command Center and the Pilot Reception so everyone realized what a specialty tour this really was. 

On Saturday the day was free so Larry Roser toured the Slugger Museum & Factory where he watched bats being made using the same technique that he had used in the family hickory handle business. Others chose to visit the Ali Center dedicated to Muhammed Ali or sought out little treasures in the Galt House shops. Pat Holder found the perfect plush rocking horse for her first grandchild soon to be making his appearance in their family. After lunch the VItoP group congregated in the large private boardroom suite with a river view balcony located at the center of the airshow performance area. A jigsaw puzzle of airplanes drew Jean Nolen and others while Sue Hickman organized a lively domino game. At three o’clock George & Carole Freeman, Bobbie & Doris Stults, and Susan Kolakowski positioned their seats 

on the balcony to watch the pilots who kept up six-hours of precision flying, acrobatics and diving stunts. The viewing suite was well stocked with snacks and sodas, flat screen TVs tuned in to the airshow, and comfortable seating. Everyone was given a pair of over-sized BOOM eye glasses as souvenirs of the trip. A surprise happening was the appearance of the Ladies for Liberty, a trio of attractive vocalists attired in the WWII uniforms of the US Waves complete with hairdos of the era. They sung catchy tunes of WWII and asked about veterans in the group. They regaled Mickey Talbott, a Vietnam vet, with more songs and hugs providing his wife, Linda, with fun photo opportunities. Gina Eason kept busy with photos of the afternoon & evenings events posting them to Facebook. Bill Goodyear, as well as Mary McCarter, Revone Clark, & Elaine Foutch , missed hardly any of the 6-hour airshow and enjoyed the fantastic “front row” seating on the private Galt House balcony. Several were witnessing their first air show and were so impressed with the skill and daring of the pilots.

About 9 PM, everyone crowded to the window wall and on the balcony for this pyrotechnical extravaganza considered the largest fireworks show in North America. Nancy Roser agreed with Cathy Latham’s description that it was like seeing the usual firework show’s finale continuous for 28 minutes while Judy Goodyear used the adjective “breathtaking”. Nina Johnson, Carolyn Patrick, and Steve & Krystal Carter found the most spectacular moment to be the “Niagara Falls effect” of a dazzling white waterfall cascading off a nearby bridge closed down for the event. After a late morning departure the next day , Chaney’s Dairy Barn in Bowling Green opened early to accommodate the group with a tasty lunch of their choice, a treat provided by Peoples Bank. Of course, delicious ice cream from the onsite dairy tempted most to indulge.On the drive home, a Kentucky quiz of 45 questions was won by Bobbie Stults and close runner-ups, Mickey & Marty. Carole Freeman won the door prize of a mint julep cup to remind her of this experience while watching the 2016 Kentucky Derby. As Bill said “you would have to experience Thunder over Louisville to believe it” and Linda expressed that “she wanted to do the exact same trip again”. On many levels, Thunder over Louisville brought much excitement & unique experiences for the Peoples Bank VItoP Club.