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Plenty of meat in Bologna Day
McMinnville Alderman Kate Alsbrook, left, speaks with local resident Dana Mullican during Bologna Day on Wednesday in Nashville. They were two of many Warren countians to attend the annual event on Capitol Hill where constituents are invited to meet their elected officials and have a bologna sandwich catered by Praters BBQ.

The perfect storm hit Capitol Hill on Wednesday when Bologna Day and a key debate over the governor’s gasoline tax increase resulted in halls teeming with special-interest groups and people interested in eating a cold-cut sandwich.
“Everybody loves to come by and get a piece of bologna or bologna sandwich,” said Phyllis Prater of Prater’s BBQ which caters the annual event. “They think they’re at a good, ole country store again.”
Longtime state Rep. I.V. Hillis first started what came to be known as Bologna Day back in the late 1970s. It was back then when Hillis, along with friend Raleigh Raper, bought some bologna and cheese and decided to have lunch at Fraley’s on Main Street McMinnville.
Hillis, who served as a legislator for 24 years before retiring in 1994, decided to move the event to Nashville on an annual basis. Thus, Bologna Day had begun, paving the way for constituents to connect with their elected officials in the General Assembly. The annual event fell by the wayside for a short period before it was rejuvenated a few years ago.
McMinnville Mayor Jimmy Haley pointed out attending events like Bologna Day is a great way to educate yourself on how politics work.
“It’s all about connections if you’re going to make the political process work,” Haley said.
State Sen. Janice Bowling, fresh from one committee meeting and on her way to another, made a stop at the event to greet those on hand.
“We are all full of bologna today for sure,” said Bowling, noting lawmakers have a hectic schedule in Nashville. “It (the tradition) makes working up here bearable on certain days.”
Mandy Eller, president of the Chamber of Commerce said McMinnville’s Leadership class and several students were brought to the capitol for a tour and to see how things are done in state government. They also got to meet prominent leaders, like TBI director Mark Gwyn, who are from Warren County and have become successful in leadership positions.
“We generally have about 400 people who come eat lunch,” Eller said. “It’s an exciting event on Capitol Hill.”
Those who attended the event were also treated to a high-profile event at the state capitol as lawmakers debated Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed fuel tax. Some attendees reportedly began camping out at 4 a.m. to make sure they got a seat in the packed-to-capacity General Assembly gallery.
Video highlights from Bologna Day are available on this website in the multimedia section. Videos are located in front of the paywall, meaning they are free for everyone.