Shopper Blog: It’s fall, y’all! Oakes Farm open again for family fun in Corryton


It’s fall, y’all! Oakes Farm open again for family fun in Corryton

Ali James, Shopper News

This year’s theme is “Fall Traditions” at Oakes Farm in Corryton. Now in its 22nd season, the farm at 8240 Corryton Road has become a family tradition, too.Owners Ken and Dena Oakes shared some of the favorite features, with a few fun surprises.

The Corn Maze

“The was as good as it ever has been, with plenty of rain in July and early August for the corn stalks,” said Oakes of his eight-acre professionally designed maze. The “Fall Traditions” theme has been incorporated into their famous maze.

Look out for pumpkins, corn and hayrides in the design.

“New this year we have hidden checkpoints in the maze with the answer to 12 ‘awesome’ Dad jokes,” said Oakes, who confessed he is a big fan of Dad jokes. “Everybody gets a copy of the map, and it marks the checkpoints where you will find the answers to the jokes.”

It is pretty much one big maze and has more than one way in and out. “You can spend as much or as little time in it as you like, especially if the kids get tired,” he said.

Pick your pumpkins

Next to the maze is a kids’ story trail where kids can read three to four stories as they make their way through it.The hay wagons have been circled for forays into the pumpkin patch. “You can purchase a handpicked pumpkin for $6,” said Oakes. “We have a lot of specialty stuff outside the General Store – white, small to large, and a lot of different colors: yellow, pink, blue and brown. The gourds came in all shapes and sizes, even snake gourds. There are probably 20 different kinds to decorate.”

In addition to fall and farmhouse-style décor and gifts, the Oakeses have added a PickTN wall of local products, including Tennessee-themed jigsaws made right here in Tennessee.

“My wife pulled all of that together. We tried to find products that we thought would be of interest,” Oakes said. “We have 12-15 vendors and hope to add more next year.”

Fun and games for kids

There are around 25 activities for the kids, all included in the admission price. On a sunny fall day, kids (and parents) were testing out the quad slides, giant slide, hay bale pyramid, jumping pillow, bounce pad, giant sand play areas, tire horse swings, corn box, giant bubble making, horse tire swings, the ball zone and the ball wall.

The super popular pedal kart track is back, and new this year is the combine slide.

“It is an old John Deere combine that was usable; you take the guts out of it and make a 20-foot slide,” said Oakes. “It looks really cool and it’s close to being finished.”

Animals, too

Stop by the Critter Corral and purchase some feed for $1. “Maybelline the Llama is back, plus there are bunnies, chickens and goats,” said Oakes. “There is one sheep and a young cow called Gidget.”

There is no pumpkin cannon to disturb the peace this year.

Food and flowers 

Food can be purchased at Uncle Bill’s BBQ & Ice Cream, Pappy’s Southern Fixin’s, Grammy’s Sweets & Treats. The Snack Bin is a relatively new addition housed in a giant old silo and sells fresh-squeezed lemonade, apple cider slushies, kettle corn, pretzels and more.

“We rebranded the Farmers Grill and it became Uncle Bill’s, and Pappy’s has more traditional fair style food,” said Oakes.

Visitors can enjoy the three acres of flower fields, purchase a vase and fill it with as many sunflowers and zinnias as they like to take home.

Do not forget to take photos of your happy fall memories – there is the oversized rocking chair and a big porch swing that can fit the whole family – as well as flower fields, pumpkin wall, big pumpkin tree and the flower field or pumpkin patch.

Each year the Oakes Farm hosts field trips, church and business groups. There are five event tents available for party rentals. Oakes Farm has extended hours for fall break: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, Oct. 10- 14.

General admission is $14.95 online or $17.95 at the gate (weekdays); $17.95 online or $20.95 at the gate with discounts for groups of 20 or more. Children 3 and under are free.

More: 865-688-6200; events and special promotions can be seen at or follow on Facebook at Farm is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturdays; noon-7 p.m. Sundays.


West Hills demolitions spark memories

John Shearer, Shopper News

A tangible piece of West Hills and Knoxville dining history – particularly for baby boomers – has disappeared recently with the tearing down of a midcentury building at 7355 Kingston Pike.

It is one of several buildings in this commercial block that have been torn down in recent weeks, with two others near Wesley Road also demolished.

The 7355 building, which in recent years had housed The Alley bar and eatery, had initially been the site of a Shakey’s Pizza Parlor from its construction in the late 1960s until the early 1980s. Shakey’s had been the nation’s first pizza chain for sit-down diners and at one time had hundreds of restaurants around the country.

It was a post-World War II concept that had also been successfully used by Pizza Hut and later by pickup or delivery-based chains like Domino’s, Papa Johns, Little Caesars and others. However, Shakey’s had carried the idea one step further by adding some pep to the pepperoni in the form of early jazz and Americana-style music performed by uniform-donned employees.

Nancy Richer, a longtime West Hills resident, remembered the restaurant well. “I remember Shakey's in the shopping center with Lottie's Shoes and my favorite clothing shop, the Villager,” she said. “Shakey's was popular.”

While she was familiar with freshly prepared pizza – her father, Sol Richer, had learned how to make the delicacy during military service in Italy and Sicily – for many other Knoxville residents, it was a somewhat newer concept better than frozen or mix-made pizzas.

Bob Luper, who later operated the popular Naples restaurant in Bearden, worked there beginning as a high school student in its early years doing everything from making pizzas to bartending to janitorial work.

“It was about the last place on the right going out of town,” he said, recalling that it was owned and operated by Jess Ward. “It was a moving place, especially on football weekends.”

He said that it featured picnic style tables and was generally a family-style restaurant, although sometimes college kids would come there on the weekends, and it might get a little livelier. It served special glass beer mugs and pitchers, and sometimes an employee like Calvin Shipe would have to watch for people wanting to take them home, Luper added with a laugh.

Although a singer interested in studying voice in college, Luper said he was never one of the Shakey’s musicians, but people like singer and guitarist John Patrick and pianist Bob Lee were.

According to some old city directories on file at the McClung Historical Collection downtown, the first year Shakey’s is listed is 1968. The first manager was Ernest Teems.

Shakey’s had been founded in Sacramento, California, in 1954 by Sherwood “Shakey” Johnson and Ed Plummer. Johnson – who earned his nickname from nerve damage due to malaria suffered during World War II – also entertained by playing Dixieland Jazz.

By the time the Knoxville Shakey’s opened, nearly 350 Shakey’s could be found around the country. A directory from the 1970s also lists another Shakey’s at 5640 Clinton Highway, which Luper said was smaller.

By the early 1980s, the Shakey’s on Kingston Pike closed, but Luper said it had its time of popularity. “It was just a fun place,” he said.

A Shakey's Pizza Parlor sign. The pizza parlor operated two locations in Knoxville in the 1960s and '70s.
A Shakey's Pizza Parlor sign. The pizza parlor operated two locations in Knoxville in the 1960s and '70s.

After it closed, a Trivia A People Place restaurant began operating at the site. The building eventually became a place for a variety of bars, with outside decks and seating added on to the original Shakey’s building.

Other tenants before The Alley included Rumours Night Club in the early 1990s and Wild Horse Saloon in the mid-1990s. More recently it housed Ray’s and then Doc’s All-American Grille.

While the number of Shakey’s nationwide has been reduced over the years, the chain still operates, in California, Washington and the Philippines.

Two buildings at 7000 and 7004 Kingston Pike across from the Wesley Road entrance to West Hills and between Markman’s jewelers and McDonald’s have also recently been torn down.

Signs for such businesses as Custom Blinds, Custom Radio and Westside Coins were recently still there, but over the years the 7000 building had also housed Crossroads Real Estate and Papa Johns pizza. The 7004 building had also been the location of such businesses as Blazer Financial Services and Video Movies To Go in the 1980s and ‘90s when the movie rental business of VHS tapes was booming.

Prior to the 1980s, a Chevron service station had been there at an address given as 7010 Kingston Pike. By the late 1970s, Custom Radio and A&B Electronics Stereo Installation were at the 7010 facility.

The 7000 site is scheduled to become an Express Oil Change and Tire Engineers, while plans for the Shakey’s site have not been announced.


Scoffing at misfortune, are we sitting in the wrong seat?

John Tirro, Shopper News

On my way out of church to do a home visit or maybe just go home, I flipped the scan button on my car radio, and it landed on a man mocking needle exchange programs. I don’t know if it was national or local. I didn’t listen long. And who knows, maybe if he happens to read this I’ll have my moment of being mocked too, but in this time in our nation I think there’s another moral question to address.

I think a lot of us are sitting in the wrong chair. Here’s what I mean.

John Tirro
John Tirro

There’s plenty of room for disagreement about best practices and faithful responses to show kindness, lower hepatitis and HIV/AIDS rates, and provide support to people suffering from addiction, but what came to mind in that moment was God’s instruction, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers…” (Psalm 1:1).

That’s not tucked away in a hard-to-find corner of scripture. It’s verse one of Psalm 1, the prayer book of ancient Israel and, of special interest to Christians, of Jesus. It’s like a guidebook to the guidebook of spiritual life. It’s a really big deal.

I hear self-identifying Christians mocking people all the time, not often in my immediate circle, praise God, but in the media quite a bit. And granted, the whole point of Christianity is we all fall short of the grace of God. We all – Christian or no – crucify the image of God, who is love, in ourselves and each other, but Love comes to us anyway, unites with us in Jesus, and calls us to rise again.

I wish, as I write this, that I could call the radio person directly, but I don’t know what station it was, as my tuner landed on it randomly, then moved on, and I flipped off the radio – well, flipped the switch off – and never saw what number it was. But I’m not trying to call a particular person out. I think this is just one example of a problem we all have, of mocking someone, even if only in our minds, rather than treating them as the image of God, who is love.

Back to the psalm, it makes clear that scoffing is a problem. Look at the people described and how they behave: “the wicked… sinners… scoffers.” That’s rough company. “Happy are those who don’t follow the advice” of the first, “take the path” trod by the second, or “sit in the seat” of the third. Note the progression of temptation. You follow the advice, example, or influence with your mind, then with your body, then sit right down and make your home in it. It starts small but becomes a habit, like other damaging addictions.

Scoffing – like a dirty needle – is a dangerous thing. Even if you’re trying to deliver healing medicine, it can cause great harm.

John Tirro is pastor of music at St. John’s Lutheran Church.


Family-run Charles A. Wells Tile Co. going strong at 100

Al Lesar, Shopper News

Whenever Charles A. Wells hired someone to work in his tile company, the speech was the same: “There’s a right way and a wrong way and my way. Guess which way you’re going to do it,” said Richard Shanton, Wells’ grandson. “That was no joke. It was the truth.”

There was something to Wells’ way of doing business. It had to do with quality, honesty, and a personal touch.That approach to the job has stood the test of time. Wells opened Charles A. Wells Tile Co. on Aug. 15, 1922, in Fountain City. The business relocated to Powell (7421 Clinton Highway) in 1976, and this summer celebrated its 100th anniversary.

The Shanton brothers – Rick (who started full time in the early ‘70s), Charlie (1977), Richard (1980) and David (1982) – have carried the business since Wells stepped away in 1977 and their father, Fred, retired in 1997.A sister, Elizabeth Shanton, worked for a while in the ‘90s. Nathan, Rick’s son, has been learning the business the past 11 years while Chaz, Charlie’s son, is seven years into his second tour with the company.Rick and Charlie have stepped away from the day-to-day operation.

Tough times

The company is thriving, with a customer base focused on bathrooms and kitchens for residential builds and remodels, as well commercial buildings and hospitals.

Early in the company’s existence, Wells’ plan was to cast a wide net where there was no competition. He did business as far away as southern Kentucky; Cleveland, Tennessee; and Crossville. At its peak, the firm employed between 25 and 30 people. Today there are five besides family members.

Richard Shanton wasn’t quite sure how his grandfather kept the business afloat during The Great Depression (1929-39), but he knows his own bout with the recession that started in 2008 was a challenge to handle.

“We didn’t have much work,” Shanton said. “We had a lot of people retire because we didn’t have any work for them. Nobody was spending money to remodel. If I had known (the recession) was going to last as long as it did (still feeling the impact in 2016), I’m not sure we would have kept it going. At the time, it was pretty scary.”

Growth ahead

Today’s business climate is much different than it was 10 years ago. Everything is done on computer. It takes a bit more of an aggressive nature to bid on jobs with builders.

Richard Shanton said supply chain issues have not impacted the business a bit. Besides having a dozen tile producers in Tennessee, the company does business with others anywhere in the world.

The anniversary was somewhat low-key, another day of taking orders and making bids. But still, it did carry some meaning.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Richard. “The four of us (brothers) have worked together well for a lot of years. We all accepted the fact that you had to have the intensity to run the business.”

“It was an unbelievably long time to get along,” said Rick Shanton. “(During the lean times), we lived on our own for a long time.”

While others may fear the current economic situation, the Shanton brothers don’t flinch.

“There’s an expectation of 10-year growth in the Knoxville area,” said Richard Shanton. “That means there will be a lot of homes built. Homes need tile. We don’t see a slowdown.”

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'Bump in the Night' tells both sides of the scare in author’s latest book

Ali James, Shopper News

Donna L. Martin started writing 50 years ago when she was 8 years old.

“As funny as it sounds, I am always surprised when people say they like what I am writing. I think all writers struggle with this,” Martin said. “I have 15 different books, whether I contributed to, co-authored or wrote, and published both traditionally and independently.”

Years ago, Martin wrote several picture books including “A Bump in the Night,” but could not find an illustrator who was both affordable and could bring her vision for the books to life.

“When you are an indie publisher, everything falls on you,” she said. “It is the most expensive part of the book, so I had to wait until I found a graphic designer, who is now my project manager, and they connected me to my illustrator, Nimra Junaid.”

The premise of “A Bump in the Night,” according to Martin, is that there is a boy named Jack who is afraid of the thing in the closet, and there is Monty, a monster in the closet, who is afraid of the lump in the bed.

“They both decide they are tired of being afraid of the unknown,” Martin said of the picture book she released in August. “Most picture books will talk about the child being afraid, but very few take on both characters. They decide that they are going to gear up with protective gear, and the conclusion is a very big surprise for both of them when there is ‘a bump in the night.’”

Martin is available for book talks and school visits and often brings her mascots “Amelia Earmouse” from her History’s Mysteries series and Finnigan the frog, her Story Catcher publishing company’s mascot. A recent addition to the group is a custom-made Monty from “A Bump in the Night.” He was handcrafted by a friend and fellow author in Australia.

Inspired by her work as a reading tutor, Martin published her first children’s picture book, “The Story Catcher.” Through the book, she wanted to give hope to those kids who see letters swirl and dance. Soon after, the publisher closed, and Martin became an independent publisher and launched

Martin has published three books in her History’s Mysteries historical fiction chapter books and plans to release a fourth called “President Lincoln’s Balloons” at the beginning of December.

“A lot of people may not realize he created the first Air Corps with 15 hot air balloons, to track where the South’s troops were moving and send telegrams to the officers on the ground,” Martin said. “I take little known historical events and base my stories on historical and fictional characters with a little bit of mystery thrown in for extra spice. Each book takes place in a different historical era.”

Just as many adults as children read Martin’s books. “They give a nice read as well,” Martin said. “I have a blog that is read in more than 20 countries, so of course they would buy some of my books, too.”

In August 2021, Martin was part of an author panel at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge. “On November 5, I am going to be at King Family Library in Sevierville that is showcasing 25-30 local authors,” Martin said. “I was invited prior to the pandemic and then reinvited this year. It’ll be an all-day event from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.”

Martin also works full time as program director, center manager, education and summer camp director for Bobby Hargis’s South Knoxville Taekwondo school, not to mention she is a senior qualified taekwondo instructor. “My rank is a four-star fourth degree black belt and I am one testing level away from a master in our organization,” said Martin, who has been practicing for close to 20 years.

A community outreach program that Martin runs provides 500-1,000 books to fulfill South Knoxville elementary schools’ wish lists every year. However, this year she was unable to deliver the 500 books she had prepared and is unsure of the exact reason or policy changes.

Martin’s Story Catcher Publishing books are available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and other online retailers thanks to Ingram Content, one of the biggest book distributors in the U.S. and most of the world. An online store on her website,, should also be up and running by the end of the year. “For those wanting it autographed, they will be able to buy it there,” added Martin.


Hometown pride outside hometown

Leslie Snow, Shopper News

I’m walking down the street in Greenville, South Carolina, taking in the sights. My brother and sister-in-law, who just relocated there from Atlanta, are giving me a tour and showing me all the city has to offer. And while we’re walking, I’m doing my part. I’m enjoying their company and saying all the right things about the city they’ve already come to love.

But sometimes the wrong thoughts pop into my head. Sometimes when I’m oohing and aahing over Greenville’s waterfalls and beautiful bridges, I’m really thinking about Knoxville.

I’m comparing our downtown farmers market to theirs. I’m comparing Gay Street to their main thoroughfare and wondering if Greenville has anything as wonderful as Market Square. I’m assessing their breweries and restaurants. I’m wondering how their park system compares to ours and if their lakes are as beautiful as our area lakes.

And when my brother-in-law shows me the way their minor league ballpark is incorporated into the downtown area, I can’t help but think, “But we’re doing that too. The new Smokies Ballpark should be finished in time for the 2025 season. Or maybe sooner.”

I don’t say any of that out loud. I have enough of a filter to know that this is their tour. My only job is to say nice things about the city and enjoy everything it has to offer. And I do all of that. I play my part perfectly and I mean everything I say.

But sometimes when we’re walking, I see a flash of Tennessee orange mixed in with those ubiquitous Clemson colors, and I can’t help myself. Each time we pass someone wearing the power-T something shifts in me, and I find myself calling out, “Go Vols!” And when I hear those words come out of my mouth, I’m surprised. I’m surprised by my own exuberance and the pride I feel over living in Knoxville.

It wasn’t always like that. I have to admit I didn’t always take pride in our Scruffy City. When we made the decision to move here 25 years ago, I cried. I cried over leaving my friends and the home we’d just built. I cried over every misconception I had about living in the South and every stereotype I’d come to believe about Southerners. I cried when I heard Ed Rupp’s accent during his morning traffic report. I cried when I couldn’t find a Thai restaurant or crusty rye bread. I cried because I was homesick and because everything was unfamiliar.

I’ve come a long way since shedding those tears. My pride in Knoxville and the people here has grown exponentially. Even when I’m supposed to be basking in the glory of another town, that pride comes seeping out.

When I got home from Greenville, which ‒ in fairness ‒ really is a wonderful city, I thought about civic pride and what it means. I thought about seeing all the Vol fans and feeling connected to them. They didn’t feel like strangers. And when we stopped to talk about the importance of the Florida game, we all understood. We understood what it means to be a Tennessee Volunteer, and we weren’t talking just about football.

Being from a place means something. Being part of a community ties us together and keeps us from feeling isolated. Being from Knoxville isn’t just about sports or a particular shade of orange. It’s about being part of something familiar. And on a day when Tennessee finally beat Florida, I understood that pride. Even as I was touring Greenville.

Leslie Snow may be reached at snow

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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Shopper News brings you the latest happenings in your community