Johnny Cash once said “Be yourself and there are few limitations in life.” Turns out that’s the philosophy of a lot of iconic people and places. Spend some time in Gallatin, Tennessee, and you’ll discover what we’re talking about.
Located about 20 miles northeast of Nashville, Gallatin is that rare town that’s perfectly comfortable with its own place in the world. Sure, the folks in Gallatin love being able to spend time in a very large, very cool city like Nashville whenever they want. But what they love even more is being able to come home to what they regard as their own little corner of heaven — a town filled with true grit and amazing grace that is both remarkably simple and simply remarkable.
The thing is, the people of Gallatin have got some attitude. They would rather focus on enjoying their own lives than worry about keeping up with the Joneses, with Nashville or anyone else. Strong character and strong opinions mean they do things their own way, with an eye toward what works not what’s trending. And they’re refreshingly unconcerned about trying to impress people — which is what impresses so many people who come here.
Maybe Gallatin’s attitude comes from age and experience. The grit and grace sure do. Both have been here for a long, long time. Gallatin is no newly minted suburb or bedroom community; it was established in 1802 as the seat of Sumner County. Even before it was formally incorporated, it served as home base for independent-minded people of legendary grit and courage – from long hunters to patriots – looking to settle Tennessee. That same spirit is alive and well today . . . in hardworking men and women who support their families, their community and their country. You heard right. It’s still cool to be patriotic in Gallatin.
That grit is evident in the tenacity of entrepreneurs who have risked it all for a dream. In the faces of students – whether pursuing a degree or work skills – on the main campus of Gallatin’s groundbreaking Vol State Community College. In the wear and tear etched into the bricks of beautiful buildings hundreds of years old. And the calluses on the hands of blue collar workers and farmers whose strength and will are the cornerstone of the American dream. Not to mention, in the dents and dings on the town’s many trucks (Chevy, of course!) whose work ethic, endurance and ageless style embody the spirit of Gallatin.
Anyone who has ever watched the two local high school teams play football (especially against each other) are familiar with Gallatin grit. Grit is also at the heart of the success of big companies like Servpro, Berreta and the Gap (along with many others) who decided to settle in a small Tennessee town and have reaped the benefits tenfold. Grit truly is that “extra something” that separates successful people and places from the rest. But room to grow, supportive leadership, a prime location, and a lower tax structure don’t hurt either.
For every example of grit in Gallatin, there is a beautiful grace note, too. Most towns lean more toward one quality or the other. That a place known for its hard-working grit would also be filled with such amazing grace makes Gallatin both distinct and distinctly appealing.
Even before you enter the city limits, you’re aware of the natural grace — the abundant trees and rolling hills, sweeping green pastures and the curves of long driveways leading to historic estates – that are reminders of the city’s gracious horse-breeding past. You’ll see it on mornings when the fog rises off the Cumberland River, and in the relaxed beauty of Old Hickory Lake. You’ll hear it in the peals of church bells that ring out every Sunday. You’ll find it in neighborhoods with some of Middle Tennessee’s finest homes, where kids still ride bikes and you can still borrow a cup of sugar. It seems that grace is the gentle glue that elevates neighbors to friends and friends to family.
Most of all, though, you’ll notice Gallatin’s gracious hospitality. No one is a stranger here. In every store, every restaurant, every church or school or event, you’ll be greeted with gusto. In fact, tolerance and a “live and let live” mindset are all part of the Gallatin attitude. Turns out when people are comfortable being who they are, they’re equally comfortable with you being whatever you want to be. Of course, people here don’t really try to analyze it all that much. They just know the spirit is real. If you’re in Gallatin, you’re part of Gallatin. It’s that simple.
Here’s the truth about grit and grace. These aren’t qualities you can manufacture (although many towns have tried). You can’t retrofit them into your downtown or instill them into the character of your people. Grit and grace are as old as the hills that define the Gallatin landscape. They grow from your roots. From your character. And that’s why the people of Gallatin consider themselves so darn lucky. Because they love being able to live with the freedom that arises from that rare combination of grit and grace. It’s Gallatin’s secret sauce. And none of the ingredients are artificial.