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City receives state tourism grant
Warmth and joy were in the air Thursday at Sallys Alley as state officials presented the city of McMinnville with a ceremonial $28,500 check. Pictured, front row, from left, are Darlin Dawg, Pat Bigbee, Jody Sliger, Wally Bigbee, Matt Feno, Mandy Eller and Sara Beth Urban. Back row, Scott McCord, Trevor Galligan, Kevin Dunlap, and Scot MacDonald.

The city of McMinnville is one of 29 communities across Tennessee selected to receive a grant as part of a first-year program to enhance tourism.
State officials allocated $1 million to be given away, with McMinnville’s check written for $28,500.
Local and state representatives gathered Thursday afternoon at Sallys Alley for a ceremonial check presentation near the Barren Fork River. Sallys Alley is a remote park being established by the city, in conjunction with volunteers, to provide another access point to the river. It’s located off Beersheba Street near E-Z Money Pawn.
“We developed this grant from listening sessions we had around the state about the best ways we can help communities,” said Jody Sliger, ThreeStar director for Tennessee. “Tourism development is economic development.”
Sliger said the state funded projects until the $1 million was gone. She said the state received 61 grant applications and was able to fund 29 of those requests.
“Tourism works hand in hand with retail development for the overall betterment of a community,” said Sliger.
Chamber of Commerce president Mandy Eller said of the $28,500 received by the city, $10,000 will go toward a master tourism plan. Other funds will be spent on improvements to Sallys Alley and additional signage for tourism attractions throughout the area.
Wally Bigbee has spearheaded volunteer efforts surrounding Sallys Alley. This includes developing River Trail East, a walking trail at the park.
Bigbee says an estimated 600 volunteer hours have been spent on Sallys Alley over the past 18 months. This has included substantial brush clearing and laying a foundation for the walking trail.
Bigbee, a retired doctor, is an active lifestyle advocate who says controlling weight is a key to overall well-being.
“For every one person in this state we can keep from getting diabetes, it saves the state $200,000,” said Bigbee.
In announcing the grants, Gov. Bill Haslam said, “We want to congratulate all 29 communities on receiving Tourism Enhancement Grants. These grants showcase how great the partnership is between tourist development and economic development. With the support of these grants, each community will be better equipped to succeed in our state and I look forward to seeing these communities thrive.”
 An advisory committee selected the 29 grant recipients. The grants awarded:
 • Anderson County - $40,000
• City of Bolivar - $50,000
• City of Brownsville - $50,000
• Carroll County - $50,000
• City of Cleveland - $50,000
• Decatur County - $43,000
• City of Etowah - $50,000
• Fentress County - $27,000
• Town of Gainesboro - $45,270
• Greene County - $44,898
• Hamblen County - $7,000
• Hamilton County - $20,000
• City of Henderson - $5,250
• Johnson County - $47,168
• City of Lafayette - $50,000
• Lauderdale County - $20,000
• City of Livingston - $50,000
• City of Manchester - $41,510
• City of McMinnville - $28,500
• Meigs County - $20,000
• Metropolitan Lynchburg - $50,000
• Monroe County - $20,000
• Robertson County - $5,050
• Scott County -       $48,707
• Smith County -   $50,000
• City of Tiptonville - $31,262
• Unicoi County - $20,000
• Wayne County - $25,000
• City of Winchester - $35,000