What an impact – Natalie Haslam lauded for life’s work

Natalie Haslam accepting the East Tennessee Community Design Center’s Bruce McCarty Community Impact Award.

Every year, the East Tennessee Community Design Center recognizes a local leader with its Bruce McCarty Community Impact Award, named after its founder. “It is presented with the goal of celebrating and perpetuating both the quality of life in East Tennessee and the qualities of the leadership of Bruce McCarty,” said Rick Blackburn, chairman of the Community Design Center’s board of directors.

This year, that award went to philanthropist and art and history enthusiast Natalie L. Haslam. It was presented during a lovely sold-out dinner at The Foundry on World’s Fair Park.

Natalie Haslam’s commitment to East Tennessee is born from her love of it. A native Knoxvillian, she graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1952. She was the first woman to be president of the Knoxville Symphony Society and has been president of the East Tennessee Foundation and the East Tennessee Historical Society. Continue reading

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Opera Ball knocked ’em dead! Here’s why.

An actual opera singer at the Opera Ball! How about that? Mezzo-soprano Catherine Daniel made a grand entrance into the Ann and Steve Bailey Hall at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

So, what’s the secret to having a sellout black tie fundraiser? The folks at Knoxville Opera know the answer to that. Here are some things they did right to make the annual Opera Ball — dubbed the Ruby Ball this year — a hot ticket:

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Knoxville Garden Club decks out Blount Mansion: another darn good reason for a party!

Blount Mansion “gets dressed” for the holidays. This pretty mantel was decorated by the Knoxville Garden Club, which also takes care of the grounds on the outside of the historic structure.

Blount Mansion, known to Native Americans when it was built in 1792 as “the house with many eyes,” is a special Knoxville space.

Designated a National Historic Landmark, it was built by William Blount, a North Carolina politician and land speculator and one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution. He was appointed by President George Washington to be governor of what was then known as the “Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio” (not the most creative name I’ve ever heard), part of which later would become the state of Tennessee.

Today, Blount Mansion, located downtown at 200 W. Hill Avenue, is recognized as the oldest museum in Knoxville and is dubbed the birthplace of the state of Tennessee because, not only did Blount, his family and his 10 slaves live there, but his office was there, from which he governed the young territory. Continue reading

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Cookies have been swapped! Let Christmas begin!

Michelle Hardin arriving at the cookie exchange with gingerbread people!

After 15 years, I guess it is a true tradition! I am speaking, of course, of the annual cookie exchange my friends and I have each December. It has become the unofficial kickoff of the Christmas season for many of us.

I am attaching a copy of this year’s invitation to the end of this post. A whimsical design by Katrina Roberts of Moxley Carmichael, it contains all the “rules” for the event. Although, if your group is like ours, you probably don’t care if folks follow all the rules. (One person actually brought bakery cookies this year, but we pretended not to notice!)

Just put out some good brunch or lunch fare and add Bloody Marys, mimosas, red wine, white wine and beer (from Cherokee Distributing Company, of course) and stand back as your friends swamp the cookie table selecting their favorites. This is an awesome way to spread cheer in this special season. Do try it! (Note: All but one of the photos on this blog post were taken by Moxley Carmichael’s digital storyteller, Pam Rhoades. The one that she didn’t take is the one that she is in. She set the lens and asked Susan Brown to press the button! Thanks, Pam!) Continue reading

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Company name change is great party excuse!

Marty Gibbs, vice president and general manager of The Christman Company’s Knoxville and Chattanooga operations, left, with Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett at the party.

It’s actually been four years since The Christman Company, based in Lansing, Michigan, acquired Knoxville’s Rentenbach Constructors Inc. in a merger of the two privately-held firms. But Rentenbach had continued to operate its offices in Knoxville and Greensboro, North Carolina, under the Rentenbach name.

Until last month.

From now on, the company will operate under The Christman Company name. To celebrate that milestone, the company recently hosted a fun cocktail party in downtown Knoxville. It was a huge networking opportunity, as is often the case when people with mutual interests come together. The Standard event venue was filled with folks attached to the construction industry in some way. And politicians, of course. You could tell by the noise level that people had plenty to talk about. Continue reading

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Cute puppy and the Rolling Stones help animal cause

Abby Ham, a popular anchor at WBIR-TV Channel 10, was emcee of the evening. Here she poses with Travis May.

An evening gathering called “Cause for Paws,” held in Steve and Ann Bailey’s beautiful Sequoyah Hills garden, recently raised $70,000 for Young-Williams Animal Center. It didn’t hurt that an adorable puppy and a guitar autographed by members of the Rolling Stones were on the auction block.

“This event is such a fun, laid-back and casual evening,” said Janet Testerman, CEO of Young-Williams. “We appreciate so much the Baileys offering to do this for us.”

Food by caterer Holly Hambright and bar service by The Pour Guys guaranteed a fun time. And, in fact, a dinner for 10 by Hambright was the top auction item of the night, bringing $1,900 from guests John and Deborah Welsch. Continue reading

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Twilight in the garden of good and evil

Oh, the shame! Flossie McNabb playing the part of Mrs. E.J. Shepard, knocks on a monument to show that it’s hollow! E.J. Shepard, a funeral director in the mid-1800s, insisted on having for his own grave the newfangled metal monument with plaques that could be unscrewed and removed for updating. Little did he know that moonshiners later would discover this unique feature and unscrew the plaques so they could stash their wares in the hollow memorial for their customers to pick up!

The last of Knox Heritage’s fun “Summer Suppers” was one of the year’s best! And it was held in one of the most historic places in Knoxville — Old Gray Cemetery on Broadway.

Established in 1850, Old Gray contains the graves of more than 9,000 people, including those of some of Knoxville’s most influential citizens. “To walk through Old Gray is to travel through 170 years of Knoxville’s history,” said Knox Heritage’s executive director, Kim Trent.

Most of the graves in Old Gray were dug between 1860 and 1910, a time when Knoxville’s marble industry was in its heyday and when the fashion was for elaborate monuments and statuary. This makes Old Gray a fascinating setting for an evening party on a pretty day.

The event for 60 guests sold out quickly — even at $100 per person. Everyone gathered at the gate and proceeded to the empty fountain for appetizers and cocktails. Then, it was on to a twilight stroll and a delicious picnic supper. Some of Old Gray’s inhabitants actually joined the visitors throughout the evening! Come along and see for yourself! Continue reading

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Lin Christenberry: ‘She might have been an angel’

Lin and Chris Christenberry at Cherokee Country Club in November 2014 at a fundraiser for the East Tennessee Historical Society. Jack Hanna was the speaker.

Even after the ushers had lined the aisles of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral with folding chairs, the memorial service for Lin Christenberry was standing room only in downtown Knoxville last night.

You knew the flowers would be beautiful. Lin, an award-winning floral designer, would have loved the lush arrangements of hydrangeas and cream-colored and pink roses on the altar and adorning the processional crucifix.

“Those were Lin’s go-to flowers whenever she was doing an arrangement,” said Martha McClellan, a member of St. John’s Flower Guild and close friend of Lin and her husband, Chris Christenberry. “Lin loved pink roses of every shade.” The Guild is divided into teams, with each team being assigned to arrange flowers every week at the church. “It was a coincidence that Lin’s team happened to be assigned to do the flowers this week,” McClellan said. “It’s safe to say those flowers were arranged with extra love.” They were stunning. Continue reading

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Gwen attracts diverse support (and fun!) at Holly’s

City Council candidate Gwen McKenzie, left, with John and Sandra Butler at her fundraiser on Tuesday.

Last week was a good one for City Council candidate Gwen McKenzie. She had a very successful — and fun! — fundraiser on Tuesday, attracting almost 100 supporters to Holly’s Gourmet’s Market in Bearden and raising more than $4,800.

She also announced that she has been endorsed by seven of her 12 former opponents for the 6th District seat, as well as by Councilman and former Knoxville Mayor Dan Brown, the current incumbent.

If McKenzie is elected to the position Nov. 7, she will be the first African-American female to hold the post in recent history. If she loses, Knoxville will, for the first time in nearly five decades, have an all-white City Council, a fact that disturbs many civic leaders who worry about the effect that would have on business recruitment. Continue reading

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Chef David Bouley: “Living” food makes a long life

Chef David Bouley talking about his philosophy of food and longevity.

Chef David Bouley was blunt as he addressed the 100 or so folks who had shelled out $400 each to have dinner at Bouley Test Kitchen during the New York City Wine and Food Festival earlier this month.

“I am going to your homes with big garbage bags and I’m going to throw away anything in your kitchen that’s processed!” He was only half kidding. He wants Americans to have what he calls “living” pantries.

“Americans have the least living food in their diets,” he said.

Bouley has studied the diets of people who live in places with the longest life spans. Like Okinawa. What do they eat? Garlic, turmeric, coconut oil, Himalayan salt, he said. He’s a huge believer in fermentation. Also spirulina (algae), apple cider vinegar and cod liver oil. Kimchi, pickles, cultured butter, buttermilk and yogurt. And, thankfully, beer and wine. Continue reading

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