Editor’s Note: The entertainers featured in this story are referenced by their Drag names instead of their real names for privacy reasons.
Social media manager by day, Chattanooga’s favorite cocktail by night – Gin Von Tonic expresses her creativity through the art of drag and has gained a new community along the way.
“Performing is my favorite thing. I really love just being on stage. I love being the center of attention on my own terms,” Gin said.
With 15 years of dance experience, Gin has always appreciated performance art, but it wasn’t until she started going to shows at the Palace Theater five years ago that she discovered her passion for drag.
From the sweat dripping down a runner’s back to the endorphins rushing through their veins, racing is an activity many would describe as euphoric, including married couple Chris and Michelle Ray. Knowing how empowering a runner’s high feels, the Ray’s made it their mission to share the unique experience of racing with the disabled community by founding a nonprofit organization, Addie Ray Racing.
The inspiration behind this was Chris and Michelle’s 16-year-old daughter Addie who was born with Angelman Syndrome. After taking her along for her very first race and seeing the joy that it brought her, they knew this was something that needed to be shared with the people of Chattanooga.
Editor’s Note: This article uses the pseudonym ‘Bill Johnson’ in place of the CUS founder’s actual name in order to maintain anonymity.
Written By Sarah Chesek
Anonymous. Urgent. Civic Action. Under no authority but their own citizenship, the Chattanooga Urbanist Society dropped off “illegal” benches and repaired bridge guardrails. Tired of watching the city’s infrastructure go unaddressed, the founder of CUS realized the cost of inaction—someone possibly falling–—was far worse than possibly being caught.
“Chattanooga Urbanist Society is a group that exists to take direct action to protect and uphold the rights of pedestrians, cyclists, and make the public realm a better place to experience in Chattanooga,” stated Bill Johnson, founder of Chattanooga Urbanist Society.
If you happen to be rolling down Brainerd Road on a Saturday afternoon, you may find multiple generations of the Taylor family packed into their food truck, stirring up some authentic cajun cuisine.
Tacia Taylor, affectionately called ‘Miss Nola’ by some in the community, runs Nola Girls Gumbo while also working a nine-to-five and running a nonprofit organization. Taylor is no stranger to the food industry; her parents opened their restaurant in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans when she was just thirteen years old.
Like many others, Brayden Guerrette and his older sister Sydney have had their fair share of their mental health struggles since they were young. Back in their hometown of Portland, Maine, during a very intimate exchange on their kitchen floor, Brayden Guerrette finally opened up to his parents and older sister about his dealings with depression.
“We were just sitting there and he was just in tears, and as someone who is watching a family member and someone that they love go through something like that, it’s always very difficult because you don’t know what to do most of the time,” Sydney says. “All you can really do is be there for them continually.”
After this exchange, the Guerrette family took a leap of faith for the sake of their family’s mental health and sold their house, bought an RV and started their journey across the country in hopes of a healthy, fresh start.
For nearly two years, Marianna Cooper has worried about bringing her work home with her.
As a nurse in the float pool, Cooper has been working around patients with COVID-19 since the pandemic originally began in the U.S. Already, that would be more than enough to gnaw at anyone, but like countless others in her position, she has had more than just herself to worry about.
From the beginning, Cooper’s three children turned her 12-hour night shifts at Parkridge into 24-hour ones as she was faced with the possibility of bringing home the deadly disease every time she walked through her door.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” she said. “You worry about doing simple things like giving your child a kiss on the cheek because… what if you’d had an exposure and you didn’t realize it, and now I’ve exposed my child.”
Adrienne Long, a Chattanooga resident, raises $1,105 while hugging a walnut tree for 10 hours.
Story by: DeWayne Bingham, Haili Jackson, Nessa Parrish, and Sierra Wolfenbarger
How to raise over 1,000 dollars by hugging a tree?
Chattanooga resident Adrienne Long broke the Guiness World Record on September 19th for the longest consecutive tree hug and raised $1,105 for the Chattanooga Audubon Society. Adrienne said it was a New Year’s resolution and a way to honor her mother’s strength. The event took place at Heritage Park from 8 a.m to 6 p.m., where Adrienne wrapped her arms around a black walnut tree for 10 hours and 5 minutes, breaking the previous record of 8 hours and 15 minutes.
The Chattanooga Audubon Society is a nonprofit organization that helps preserve and protect various sanctuaries around Chattanooga. Long said the nonprofit had been “hit hard” without donations and volunteers because of COVID-19. Long said that when she mentioned the world record to Sarah Medley, friend and owner of the all natural Chattanooga salon Studio 59, Medley suggested turning it into a fundraiser to benefit the Chattanooga Audubon Society.
Adrienne said tree hugging was a way to honor her mother because they were always outside and active together. Long’s final message to everyone was to “get outside and enjoy Chattanooga,” because that was something she and her mother loved doing together. Following the event, Adrienne said, “I feel grateful because it was a goal of mine that many people helped me achieve. I feel equally happy because it was something I wanted to do in a small way for my mom, and I think she would be happy.”
Adrienne has plans to break her own record in the future.