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Mike Wolfe of "American Pickers" and Community Leaders Launch New Project

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American Picker Mike Wolfe is supporting an effort that anchors the Shoals area to a regional movement designed to showcase the benefits of living and working in small towns. The movement, called "Nashville's Big Back Yard" spotlights 13 rural Middle Tennessee and Northwest Alabama communities, a region anchored by 100 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway from Leiper's Fork, Tenn. to Muscle Shoals, Ala.

"This global pandemic is making folks rethink how and where they want to live and work," said Wolfe, a rural Williamson County resident who has traveled tens of thousands of miles and gained millions of fans as the star and creator of HISTORY's "American Pickers" series. "I know first-hand how much rural communities have to offer. Now is the perfect time to think about getting out of the cities, and back to small town Main Streets and open spaces. I'm honored to help shine a light on the communities in Nashville's Big Back Yard."

To help roll out Nashville's Big Back Yard, Wolfe produced a series of social media messages and videos on location throughout the NBBY region. The content will be used on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote rural Middle Tennessee communities — including Centerville, Clifton, Collinwood, Hampshire, Hohenwald, Leiper's Fork, Linden, Loretto, Mount Pleasant, Santa Fe, Summertown, and Waynesboro — as well as the Shoals area of Northwest Alabama.

NBBY is the result of lengthy conversations during COVID-19 spearheaded by Leiper's Fork philanthropist Aubrey Preston and led by community leaders in a region long known as a destination for musicians, artists, and other creative talent.

"While COVID has dealt a devastating blow to our nation's public health and economy, it also has led many people and communities to think about who we are and what we do," said Preston, who has spent more than 25 years working on rural preservation efforts such as the internationally known Americana Music Triangle. "The land is calling people back, and Middle Tennessee and Northwest Alabama have plenty of beautiful open space."

Preston added: "We're just saying, come and check us out. Come and play in our big back yard. Come and experience a simpler life."

"We are pleased that the Shoals area is one of the major anchors for this movement," said Kevin Jackson, executive director of the Shoals Economic Development Authority. "The Shoals area is uniquely positioned for growth as people flee densely populated cities in search of a better quality of life. This movement will draw national attention to our area and will drive more visitors, including investors, here to explore what we have to offer."

"This is a natural fit for us since Leiper's Fork and Muscle Shoals both nurture music and the arts," said Debbie Wilson, executive director of the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation. "Mike Wolfe's willingness to bring national attention to this movement will boost tourism and allow us to share the Muscle Shoals music legacy with a broader audience."

"Both Leiper's Fork and Muscle Shoals are focal points for world-class music," said Debbie Wilson, executive director of the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation. "This is a natural extension of the work we are already doing to cross-pollinate tourists and musical talent between Leiper's Fork and Muscle Shoals.

"Music is the common denominator that draws visitors and unites communities of every size," said Wilson. She added that music factors into a rich quality of life in the rural communities along the Natchez Trace. Most of these small towns have their own versions of music festivals and unique venues."

Many Americans already are heeding the call to explore smaller towns. In spring 2020 researchers at the Harris Poll conducted an online survey that found nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults living in urban areas said they would consider moving "out of populated areas and toward rural areas." The top draws: More wide-open spaces and a more affordable lifestyle.

For more information, go to www.nashvillesbigbackyard.org.

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