Bluegrass USA

Bluegrass USA

August 22nd, 2012 by Joan Garrett McClane in Glimpse 2012-a

A monument honoring Lester Flatt located outside of the courthouse in downtown Sparta

A monument honoring Lester Flatt located outside of...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Don't tell people in Sparta, Tenn., that you've never heard of Lester Flatt. They'll just shake their heads.

Then they'll embark on a history lesson. Flatt, one of the granddaddies of bluegrass, called Sparta his home. He is buried in this city, on the eastern edge of the Highland Rim.

White County also has been home to several other bluegrass legends. You might find them and other fiddlers playing in the informal jam sessions held around town or on the third Friday of every month at the ampitheater.

If you see them, make sure to say "Yert." That's the Spartan word for hello.

-- Compiled by staff writer Joan Garrett

A growing city with roots in the past

• Population: 5,032 in Sparta, 26,066 in White County

• Biggest employers: Jackson Kayaks, Tri State distribution, LTD parts, Sparta Woodworks

• Landmarks or geographic features: Lester Flatt memorial in the town square

• Date founded: 1809

• History: Sparta was almost the capitol of Tennessee. Sparta lost by a single vote in the legislature to Nashville.

• Most famous resident: Lester Flatt

• Unique tradition: People use the word "yert" to say hello or good job. The tradition started during the Civil War.

• Popular event: Come honor Sparta's bluegrass roots at the Lester Flatt Celebration each October.

Source: Jody Sliger, tourism and marketing director for the Sparta White County Chamber of Commerce

Museum hop till you're blue in the face

Sparta has seven museums tracing the area's background in coal mining, the Civil War and bluegrass music.

• The White County Heritage Museum is open Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT. Admission is free. The museum has one of the largest collections of Tennessee state pottery.

• The Sparta Rock House is a famous stage stop along U.S. Highway 70. Andrew Jackson stopped here many times on his way from Nashville to Washington.

Source: Sparta White County Chamber of Commerce

Falling water abounds around this scenic city

White County has more waterfalls than any other county in the state. The best of these, according to locals, is Burgess Falls in Burgess Falls State Park, which is open every day from 8 a.m. until sunset.

• Bring a picnic basket or use one of the park's grills and enjoy the splendor of the 136-foot falls and more than 300 species of trees and plants. A native butterfly garden will make your heart flutter.

• If you've got the waterfall bug, travel to the Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness, a 10,000-acre park known as the Grand Canyon of the Cumberlands. Look for Virgin Falls, which boasts a 110-foot drop.

Source: Burgess Falls State Park