Seniors at Unicoi County High School enjoy a day on Boone Lake. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)
Tan lines, “Dancing with the Stars,” selfies and dream houses were the topics on hand on one of several pontoon boats that navigated the open waters of Boone Lake on Tuesday.
Unicoi County High School seniors had their yearly senior picnic at Winged Deer Park and were given the opportunity to tour the lake all the way to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s dam and back. The event was put on by Carefree and Tri-Cities Boating Clubs as well as the U.S. Sail and Power Squadron, letting the seniors form groups of around nine people to be taken around the lake by a certified captain
Before takeoff, Doug Sams of Carefree Boat Club was asked by Steve Brumit of Tri-Cities Boating Club how quickly the boat could operate. Sams replied with an answer some of the more than 100 seniors enjoyed.
“Wide open,” Sams joked.
Several boats traveled with each other with, of course, the occasional senior prank. Though none hit their targets, several water balloons were tossed on the sunny day from boat to boat. When asked if they were happy to be out on the lake, there was a general answer held by all on the boat, including a teacher.
“It’s better than being in class,” senior Katy Wharton said, seconded by all, including teacher Nick Gouge.
Gouge teaches a technical class for seniors at UCHS and said all his fellow chaperoning teachers taught senior classes as well. He pointed to some of the bigger houses on the lake that he helped work on in past years, something that was a common topic throughout the tour. Each student explained which kind of lake house they’d like to have and why.
“If I wasn’t here, I’d be at school,” Shelby Cade said. “So, I’m glad I’m here.”
She and her cohorts picked a non-fishing boat in the flotilla, with one of the pontoon boats full of seniors hoping to throw their lures out in the water to catch some fish. Thomas Tipton was one of those, eagerly waiting to get out on the lake to not just go fishing, but pull out some monsters.
“We’re not going fishing today, we’re going catching,” Tipton confidently said.
While most of Tipton’s buddies were well-versed on fishing, boats and water-related activities, other seniors were not. Garret Edwards said he’s gone out on them before, but not too frequently, saying Tuesday was a treat. Edwards enjoyed the tour because of the changing scenery.
“Boone Lake is my favorite. I like all the railroad stuff around it and it’s great that we’re headed to the TVA electricity dam,” Edwards said.
Edwards and his classmates were having a blast when going head-on into some of the waves produced by the other boats. As the boat was cruising by Rockingham Marina, Alex Smith said he thought the place looked familiar because about once a year he attends a function through his father’s job on a boat that leaves the marina and is one of his favorite things to do every year. Smith frequently rides on boats, but always has fun each time.
“I’m so glad we’re out here,” Smith said. “I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks now.”
Sue Lockett, captain of one of the boats, said she’s originally from Florida, and though she was raised on boats, she’s not used to having them as accessible as those in East Tennessee.
“TVA lakes are awesome,” Lockett said.
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