Mar. 22: Sparta Drive-In, Sparta TN

Sparta Drive-In marquee with screen, ticket booth and tree

photo from the Sparta Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 81 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. II drove two hours’ worth of twisty highways from the Parkway Drive-In Theatre in Maryville TN to the Sparta Drive-In in Sparta.

The Sparta is one of the oldest operating drive-ins, but how old? Back in 2013, ABC News had a quote from Tommy Brown, who owned the place, saying the Sparta was built in 1943, so that’s probably the answer. It operated until at least the mid-1980s, and then it closed. I wonder when that was; when I asked, they told me “the early 1980s.” That’s why DriveInMovie.com wrote in 2000 that “For years, the only feature visible here had been the often seen Ravages of Neglect.” The Sparta was heavily renovated and reopened in 2002.

The Sparta has been getting lots of maintenance and care since then. In a 2013 USA Today article, Brown said he was worried about the cost of converting to digital projection, but by the following February, the new projector had arrived. Just last month, they were repainting the marquee sign.

The good news is the Sparta is open for the season, but the bad news is that it’s only showing movies on weekends. So this was another Wednesday night of looking for something interesting on the hotel TV.

Miles Today / Total:  90 / 9690 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 43

Nearby Restaurant: They told me that Yanni’s Grille was the best restaurant in Sparta, and maybe they’re right. I hadn’t expect to find such nice Greek cuisine in a small town in Tennessee, but Yanni’s Grecian Shish-Kabob was worth searching out.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Nudged away from Sparta by some TripAdvisor reviews, I investigated Cookeville just up the road. That’s where I tried the Country Inn & Suites, which was a great stay at a great price. Everything was clean, and the breakfast was overflowing with good choices.

Only in Sparta: The Sparta Rock House State Historic Site is an 1830s stone building that once served as a rest stop and tollhouse on a wagon road between Knoxville and Nashville. Andrew Jackson often stopped by on trips to Washington. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 for its architecture and its historical role as an important rest stop.

Next Stop: Moonlite Drive-In, Woodbury TN.

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