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“You are just who we are looking for!”  This was the phrase that we had been looking forward to hearing since early 2009 when the East Tennessee Wanderers came into existence.  From four charter members, the club membership has grown to 65 and has provided an opportunity for Fun, Fitness and Friendship that wasn’t here before.  Oh, the fourth F, Food, frequently plays a role in our varied activities. 

Our club conducts two events per month with a combination of fun walks, club walks, and traditional events.  The walks are of various distances and locations, and are geared toward the members who are not yet into the AVA/IVV “stamps in your book” thing. 

One of our favorites is our annual progressive picnic.  We pre-stage cars along a walk route.  We walk to the first car and have hors d’oeuvres, walk to the second car and have the main course, and walk to the final car for dessert.  Believe me, this is a popular walk.  We also did a fun walk that ended at the Tennessee River for an evening dinner cruise. 

Our club walks are typically group walks of our YREs.  In our three years we have set up six walk YREs and the only bike YRE in Tennessee, and we are adding two more walks next year.  Traditional events have been a challenge.  While we are putting on quality events, we aren’t drawing the crowds of walkers that I remember from years past in other areas.  We are working hard to expose our sport to the public and draw more participation.

We have looked for opportunities where we can do something special and gain some public visibility.   For example, we formed a team to walk the Knoxville Marathon.  While delays in training resulted in converting to the half marathon, all of the team members wearing our club shirts finished with respectable times.  We formed another team and participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.  Our team had a booth showcasing our club, Volkssports, and the AVA.  By the time the relay ended, everyone who was involved knew the East Tennessee Wanderers.  We were pleased to have raised funds for the American Cancer Society, and raised awareness about Volkssports to a lot of new people.    While our team was small, we were surprised when we came in 3rd. 

Most recently, we participated in the Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge.  We spent two days running our booth, handing out AVA and club info, and conducting group walks.  We were told 20-30,000 people visit this annual festival.  That was a lot of visibility for our sport.  And that is when we heard the phrase, “You are just what we were looking for.”

The one area that we have worked hard on, but haven’t yet seen the success is on traditional events.  We have conducted two or three each year and learn something new each time.  Our focus has been a club challenge to walk in all 18 of the state parks in the East Grand Division of Tennessee over the next five years. 

On October 20 we walk in Cove Lake State Park, just north of Knoxville.  This is a special walk, not just because it is National Volkssport Month, but because it’s a memorial walk, in memory of one of our members, Cheryl Quinn, who was killed in a tragic house fire.  Because of the connection with National Volkssport Month, we are organizing some special public relations efforts to draw more attention to the Fun, Fitness and Friendship.  If you are in the area on October 20 join us as we walk in one of Tennessee’s beautiful state parks.

Find info about our club and activities at www.easttennesseewanderers.org, and on Twitter and Facebook. 

Source: The American Wanderer, August/September 2012, Page 14

Oak Ridge

East Tennessee Wanderers at the Secret City Festival.

(lLeft to Right)  Club Mascot Bear, George Jennings, Kathy Nash, Kathy Swartz, Eileen Jennings, and David Bonewitz. 

Updated 12/26/18

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