After months of extensive restoration, the much-anticipated grand opening of The Gathering at Milton, a historic event venue will be celebrated Saturday, Oct. 13, with a Fall Market and Craft Fair.
The nearly 120-year-old building at 12026 Milton St. sits near the Milton Post Office. Formerly, it was Manuel’s Cajun Country Store, where catfish and music were served, and earlier Cherry’s Market, which reportedly had one of the community’s first television.
The vision of new owners Alanna and Phillip Vaught, to bring back a place for people to gather, comes alive from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., for a great autumn day of making memories in Milton. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12-and-younger.
Nestled 15 miles northeast of Murfreesboro, just off state Route 96, the rural hamlet will buzz with music, (Texarkana performing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) food trucks including Good ‘Ol Sloppy Top” and carefully selected vendors.
Booths will be set up inside and outside on the adjacent lawn, with mouth-watering baked goods, high-quality goods and crafts, original artwork, clothing, vintage items, antiques and more — plus, the first 100 people arriving will receive a fresh and hot, sugar-cinnamon mini-doughnut from The Dapper Doughnut.
“This was the heartbeat of the community, where family and friends gathered. Thinking about that is how I came up with our name,” said Alanna Vaught, an instructor with Middle Tennessee State University School of Agriculture. “We want it to continue to be the gathering place at Milton, where people come and make memories for the next 100 years.”
The backstory of the undertaking began on a cold rainy morning in February 2018 when Phillip Vaught, an agriculture entrepreneur, made a spontaneous stop at the auction of the property. It was never his intention to make a bid. However, after the final gavel fell, the couple were the owners of the former store building, the house and lawn next door and began nearly a year of tedious work, bringing back the century-old structure which had sat empty for almost a decade.
“Maybe I’m a little crazy,” he said. “But I like a project and part of me hated to see a piece of history slipping away. Alanna and I are both passionate about the potential of this area. We are raising our family on a farm nearby and we think there is a great future here.”
The couple says amid all the dust, dirt and cobwebs they encountered, they knew the building still had a soul and a story yet to be told.
“Regularly, cars turn off of Highway 96 and slow down to drive by the building or people walk up and say hello. So many folks have good stories and experiences in their lives associated with it. There is a growing excitement here in Milton about the building reopening,” said Phillip Vaught.
During the fall market and craft fair, Shirley McKee and Teresa Davenport will be sitting at a table to gather the many memories and stories people have about Milton. Davenport is writing a book about the community to celebrate its upcoming bicentennial.
Charming details such as an overhead twine dispenser that provided string to wrap purchases, an alcove where a sturdy desk-style phone probably once sat, the original exterior lap siding, the large and cheery storefront windows and beadboard ceiling and a welcoming front porch are some of the treasures that have been preserved and awaiting guests at The Gathering at Milton.
The venue has an interior capacity of 99, perfect for an intimate wedding, birthday and anniversary celebrations, reunions and parties. It can expand for larger groups, utilizing the outdoor space. Additionally, there is a serving kitchen for caterers.
More than 50 Fall Market and Craft Fair vendors will pack the location to the brim and include: Brown’s Mill Bakery, Milton Metal Works, local artists LaDonna Bell and Donald Ray Alexander and Sparta, Tennessee, wood-working artisan Kenneth Gunnell. Also attending will be Linda Asberry and Rick Clendenon with The Painted Farmhouse in McMinnville, Tennessee, The Olive Branch and its hand-crafted macaroons, plus others who can be found on the venue’s Facebook page.
Children will be sure to enjoy a petting zoo provided by Mill Creek Farms, a John Deere tractor-themed bounce house and slide plus face painting by Oakland High School FFA.