Lottie Ryans didn't have to go far to find a diverse place with an arts scene and scrumptious barbecue to raise her three daughters. She settled with her husband in her own hometown.
By Caren Oppenheim
Johnson City, Tennessee
Fun Fact: Nicknamed "Little Chicago" during the Great Depression, the town, a stopover on the route between the Windy City and Miami, is rumored to have been a hideout for Al Capone.
Our Johnson City Family: Lottie and Eric; Emily, 22; Tori, 19; Hannah, 13
I've lived here practically my entire life, except when I was in college, and Eric grew up in a town 10 minutes away. Our cousins introduced us when I was 15 and Eric was 18, and we've been together ever since. We never wanted to move or raise our family anywhere else. It's been amazing to see how much Johnson City has grown—literally and figuratively—yet it's never lost what we love about it.
One of the major changes since I was a kid is the ethnic diversity of the people. To celebrate this, the Umoja Unity Festival was founded as a way of showcasing our differences—"umoja" is the Swahili word for unity. There's delicious food (fried turkey legs and carnival fare), African art for sale, and entertainment. It's in August, and we go to listen to the mariachi bands, African music, and gospel choirs. It's truly inspiring to see so many cultures enjoying the festivities.