'My Friend the Sunsphere' gives East Tenn. kids pride between the lines
Whether you live in Knoxville or have only visited, you've seen its most iconic structure—the Sunsphere was created as a 266-foot symbol for the 1982 World's Fair. Almost impossible to miss, it's been an iconic part of downtown for some 35 years.
Now, a local author is using the symbol to teach local kids life lessons.
"My kids love coming down to the Sunsphere, so it's kind of a treat for us," Paige Severance, a Knoxville mother, said.
The skyline sight is now, and forever, a 24-karat gold symbol for Knoxville.
"Built for the 1982 World's Fair, is the only one of it's kind, and we're inside it!" Danielle Asher, local author, said, standing inside the top of the structure.
The Sunsphere is one of only two structures left from the World's Fair. During the fair, the elevator ride that would take folks inside the golden globe would cost a whopping $2.
"The beauty of it, the height of it, going up in it, seeing the landscape of it, it was new and exciting when I was a kid," Asher said.
That excitement stuck with Asher—so much so, that she was inspired to write a children's book about it.
"It uplifts children," she said. "It gives them a sense of empowerment to feel listened to and respected instead of lectured at."
The book, titled
is about more than just the architecture you see peeking above the skyline of downtown.
"I wrote it with the intention of having kids fall in love with Knoxville, whether they're grown up or just visiting, and the Sunsphere being such a big part of Knoxville, you can see it from so many places," Asher said.
The story teaches kids to be inclusionary, and that everyone has their place in the world.
"Just for the sense of pride of where they are, and the sense of community, and a sense of belonging, so they feel like they belong somewhere with their family and with their friends," Asher said.
That idea has since made a difference in the way kids grow up in East Tennessee.