Travel Channel star Kevin Michael Connolly was born without legs — but that doesn't keep him from reaching for new heights in the Great Smoky Mountains.
"Armed & Ready," his new series, chronicles his incredible endurance, feats that even people with two legs couldn't master.
In the episode airing 10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, Connolly tackles the Smoky Mountains and some of the tougher amusements in Pigeon Forge.
He gets into Zorb, in which he rolled down a hill in a sphere that riders usually do strapped in at four points, hands and feet. Connolly also took the human hamster ball on the wet track with no straps and lots of water.
At USA Raft in Pigeon Forge, Connolly sits two feet above the water in a captain's seat with no straps and without the use of the foot bar for leverage and balance as he rows with the oars. It's up to Connolly alone to maintain control of his boat and avoid crashing in the strong currents.
Connolly visited Lumberjack Sports in Pigeon Forge, where he learned about pro-lumberjack athletics. This included ax throwing, log rolling, speed climbing, sawing and chopping.
At Tree Climb, he accomplished something he never thought he would: climbing a 50-foot tree.
A custom rig was created for Connolly, but it had some serious problems during the test run in the arena. Changes were made, but it was up to Connolly — and his worn out arms — to pull himself to the top of the tree.
Connolly's thrill-seeking nature is the basis for his series and takes him to areas around the country to push him to the limit.
Popular Knoxville singer-songwriter Brad Blackwell is dipping his toe in the acting pool, according to his Facebook page.
"Just got a call about a new role opening up on the show 'Nashville,'" he wrote on his Facebook page recently.
"Never acted before in my life (aside from the times when I 'acted' like I was paying attention in class), but there's no sense in not giving it a shot! We'll see."
Blackwell will perform Friday, Feb. 22, at the Bijou Theatre for a CD-release show.
Meet Dolly Parton behind the old chestnut tree.
The singer recently wrote a song to benefit The American Chestnut Foundation, titled, simply enough, "Oh, Chestnut Tree." Parton's uncle, naturist Bill Owens, has long been an advocate of saving the tree.
Proceeds from sales of the song are earmarked for the foundation.
"Dolly's music is rooted in the Appalachians," says Owens. "The American chestnut was once the most important tree in these mountains, feeding wildlife and people alike."
Owens has been instrumental in planting some 70,000 trees at Dollywood, including hundreds of American chestnut trees.
"I grew up hearing stories of how important the chestnut was to the mountain way of life," says Owens. "The importance of the American chestnut to the Smoky Mountain region is hard to overstate, and its loss created considerable hardship."
The new song can be downloaded on The American Chestnut Foundation website: www.acf.org.
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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