A small video company that makes award-winning documentaries on the natural and cultural heritage of the Southern Appalachians has turned its cameras on Cades Cove, the most popular attraction in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
"Voices of Cades Cove, Part 1: A Sense of Place," is the latest release from Kate Marshall Graphics Inc., the northern Georgia company that previously released the highly acclaimed four-part "Season of the Bear" series about black bears throughout the South.
"Voices of Cades Cove" is the first of a multipart documentary series featuring interviews with more than 50 people, many of them former residents or descendants of Cades Cove. The stories they share speak to the day-to-day life in the Cove years before, and after, the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the early 1930s. Some of the oral histories are bittersweet, while others are warmhearted and funny.
When completed, the entire DVD set will span over 100 years of Cades Cove history.
"Going around the Loop Road will never be the same once you've seen this program," said Kate Marshall, who runs Kate Marshall Graphics with her husband, Al.
"Voices of Cades Cove, Part 1: A Sense of Place" premieres at 4 p.m., Saturday, July 12, at the Heritage High School auditorium in Maryville. The event is free and is hosted by the Cades Cove Preservation Association.
One person who plans to attend is 61-year-old Judy Myers Johns, who was born in Maryville but grew up in Cades Cove. Johns' parents, Hugh Lee Myers and Verna Lee Burchfield Myers, were born in Cades Cove, which today draws about 2 million visitors a year, making it the most visited destination in the most visited national park in the United States.
Hugh Myers raised cattle on 1,000 acres leased from the park. From 1965 to 2008 the family operated Cades Cove Riding Stables, providing hay rides and guided horseback tours to generations of park visitors.
Judy Myers Johns remembers how as a child she and her siblings would pick tomatoes and watermelons from the family garden and sell them to tourists. Johns, who appears in the two-hour documentary, said she approves of the way the film uses storytelling to breathe life into the history of Cades Cove.
"I think some of the older residents were a little suspicious, but when they see the film, they'll realize it's a good thing, Johns said. "I think what Kate (Marshall) is doing is preserving memories. Even some of my momma's favorite stories are beginning to fade."
In addition to Cades Cove residents and their descendants, the documentary series also features interviews with leading authorities including T.J. Holland, cultural resources supervisor for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Robert D. Hatcher Jr., distinguished scientist and professor of geology at the University of Tennessee.
Fifty-percent of the profits on all the DVDs sold at the premiere will go directly to the Cades Cove Preservation Association to maintain Cades Cove's historical structures and the Cades Cove Museum at the Historic Thompson-Brown House in Maryville.
Contact Morgan Simmons at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-342-6321.