The Swag: It just keeps getting better

Some friends from Knoxville returned recently from a long weekend at The Swag, and we noticed a number of notable improvements to an already wonderful experience. We are told that even more upgrades are on the way.

From left, Phyllis Nichols, John Winemiller, R.J. Hinde, Jim Nichols and Alan Carmichael toast to a great weekend at The Swag.

The Swag, a breath-taking 250-acre property located just 90 miles from downtown Knoxville, truly is a magical place. At 5,000 feet above sea level, it’s usually about 10 degrees cooler there than in Knoxville. Alan and I try to go there during three seasons — spring, summer and fall — because every season at The Swag offers a totally different experience. Continue reading

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New season of Broadway at the Tennessee excites!

Alex Lugo singing highlights from the Broadway play “Hadestown” at the Tennessee Theatre last week. “Hadestown” is one of six Broadway shows coming to Knoxville next season.

The Tennessee Theatre announced its upcoming series of touring Broadway performances last week to an enthusiastic crowd that applauded and whooped when each of the six upcoming shows was named. Even though “Wicked” had been previously announced, it still received massive cheers.

Notably, every show booked for the 2023-24 season is a premiere in Knoxville — none has ever been performed professionally here before. And, even more notably, every year the number of season subscribers climbs — from 2,597 in 2021 to 7,609 today. And that’s before sales even open to new subscribers for the upcoming season!

The format of the night was designed to be fast-moving and fun. Tennessee Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock and musical theater historian Dr. Kristin Presley, also known as “Dr. Broadway,” introduced the upcoming season and shared a few insights about each play. Short clips of the productions were shown. And three performers who will appear in Knoxville during the upcoming season offered songs from two of the shows.

Afterwards, the invited season ticket holders were guests at an open bar and buffet on the stage of the historic Tennessee. What’s not to like? Continue reading

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The happiest party of the year!

Natalie Dowling rocked one of the most unusual hats at the Hats in Bloom fundraiser. She bought it in London.

Question: Do hats make people happy? Or do happy people wear hats?

The answer really doesn’t matter. The upshot is that Hats in Bloom, an annual fundraiser and hat sale benefiting the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum, is the happiest party of the year. I mean folks are absolutely giddy at this luncheon.

The fact that it’s one of the first events of spring — and that there are unlimited glasses of champagne, mimosas and Bloody Marys — could also be factors. Hats off (ha) to the few brave men who also attend this mostly female occasion.

A couple of fun facts about this year’s Hats in Bloom. It was a sellout with more guests, sponsors and money raised than ever before. Congrats to co-chairs: Jenny Bushkell, Victoria Daniel-Cape, Jacque Hawks and Gay Lyons. And to past chair and honorary co-chair Jackie Wilson, who helped found Hats in Bloom back in 2013. It’s been making us smile ever since. Continue reading

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Symphony Ball ‘springs’ into success!

Symphony Ball Chair Adrian Jay and her husband, Larsen, pose in one of the beautiful settings at The Quarry Venue, where this year’s Symphony Ball was held.

Through a combination of luck and nimbleness on the part of organizers, the Knoxville Symphony League just pulled off one of its most successful Symphony Balls ever. Set for March 25, the important fundraiser originally was scheduled to be held at the recently remodeled Marriott Hotel on Henley Street.

But, just a few weeks prior to the date of the benefit, the hotel notified ball organizers that it would not be possible for them to have valet parking at the formal affair. The hotel staff blamed that situation on the massive influx of hotel and Knoxville Convention Center visitors who would be in town for the Bassmaster Classic, often referred to as the “Super Bowl of fishing,” scheduled downtown that same weekend. The hotel was booked solid with guests and numerous events associated with the Bassmaster Classic.

This bit of bad news caused Symphony League folks to re-think holding the event at the Marriott in any case due to the traffic and other issues the crush of 100,000 fishing enthusiasts would have on downtown. But, what other facility could accommodate the event on such short notice? Continue reading

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Art and camaraderie outside museum walls

Stephen Wicks, curator of the Knoxville Museum of Art, and Nancy Wagner, who with her husband, Charles, opened their home last week to the Knoxville Museum of Art Collectors Circle.

One of the best things about being a member of the Knoxville Museum of Art Collectors Circle is the chance to see interesting and important works and mingle with other art lovers outside the walls of the Museum itself. My husband and I have gone on several extraordinary out-of-town trips with the Collectors Circle, but there’s also a lot to do right here in Knoxville.

Last week, collectors Charles and Nancy Wagner opened their lovely Sequoyah Hills home to Collectors Circle members to socialize and mingle amongst their varied and beautiful art collection. Of particular interest to me were the works of Beauford and Joseph Delaney that the Wagners have acquired.

Several of their Beauford Delaney pieces were missing, though. They were on loan to Chattanooga’s Hunter Museum of American Art for an exhibition called “Beauford Delaney’s Metamorphosis into Freedom,” organized by the Knoxville Museum of Art. KMA’s curator, Stephen Wicks, who has held that important post for more than 25 years, is an internationally recognized expert on the Delaneys and their art. He put together that exhibit, which will run at the Hunter through May 1. Continue reading

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‘Symphony Soiree:’ a sprightly shindig!

Violinist Sean Claire with his sushi-rice salad. Clever!

One of the best of the Knoxville Symphony League‘s “Elegant Dining” fundraisers is the one every year featuring the culinary talents of the musicians themselves. Held earlier this month in the Great Hall at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral downtown, “Symphony Soiree” was a sellout with a waiting list.

In a low-key and relaxed environment, the musicians bring covered dishes they have made themselves. Members of the League supplement by providing a smorgasbord of desserts. Wine and tea flow. (Mostly wine.) After dinner, everyone sits back to enjoy a variety show of musical talent that might not be what you’ve come to expect from symphonic players.

All-in-all, it’s a recipe for a fabulous time. I think the $85 price tag is too low. Continue reading

Filed under: Knoxville, Music | 3 Comments

Wallace becomes independent real estate agency: ‘We’ve got the horsepower. We just needed to take the reins.’

Anne Williams shows her fellow agents some of the new signage for Wallace Real Estate.

The large gathering in the ballroom of the Embassy Suites hotel on Parkside Drive last Wednesday had all the markings of a highly charged political event. A large screen with the words, “The Big Reveal,” was positioned front and center. Rock music blared on the sound system. A podium outfitted in blue draping was up front. And — get this — a drone hovered overhead!

The room was charged with nervous energy as everyone waited for the company’s CEO, George Wallace, to take the stage and tell them why they had been summoned there. He first told them why they had NOT been.

“Let me first dispel some rumors,” Wallace laughed. “We are not here for me to launch my run for governor!” Big laughs. “And, no, Peyton Manning is not here! And Tony Vitello is not here! And the top producers’ lunch is not going to be held on a cruise ship!” Continue reading

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A retirement that’s hard to celebrate; but we tried!

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Rick Emmett, Knoxville’s downtown coordinator, at one of his retirement parties last week.

Downtowners — residents and business owners — attended a festive party at Radius Rooftop Lounge recently to celebrate Rick Emmett’s retirement from his position as downtown coordinator for the City of Knoxville. But I think I speak for everyone when I say we had to force ourselves to put on a happy face at the event.

Don’t get me wrong. After working for the City of Knoxville for over 30 years under the leadership of five different mayors, Emmett, 67, deserves his retirement. But he’s done such a good job as downtown coordinator for the past 12 years, that many of us are concerned about him leaving. His duties are to be divided among several others at City Hall. Point person will be another friend of ours, Chip Barry, the deputy chief of operations, but downtown coordinating will not be his only job, as it was Emmett’s.

“Rick is one of those rare people who has been in public service a long time, but has no enemies!” Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said at the farewell event hosted by the Downtown Knoxville Alliance. “Rick anticipates problems. But when he comes to me, he doesn’t just bring the problem, he brings a solution.” She added that she always was confident that Rick “had my back.” Continue reading

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Mardi Growl ’23: You can’t stop smiling!

This smiling drum major took first place in the “Vol Spirit” category!

There are few happier places to be in Knoxville than at the annual Mardi Growl parade and festival benefiting Young-Williams Animal Center.

This year’s event was held last Saturday at World’s Fair Park, after a parade from the Old City. Here’s what you need to know if you plan to attend next year: be prepared for your face to hurt from smiling so much! It’s literally impossible not to be happy when you are at this fun event.

Young-Williams is the official animal shelter of Knoxville and Knox County. Mardi Growl is its single largest fundraiser every year. In addition to hundreds of happy hounds and their people, at Mardi Growl you will see about 100 vendors catering to dogs and dog lovers, numerous food trucks and an enthusiastic group of volunteers staffing the adult beverage booth where, we were told, drinks like Bloody Marys and Mimosas out-sold beer by a long shot! Music was provided again this year by an energetic and versatile band called K-Town, which bills itself as “Knoxville’s house band!” Continue reading

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A jaunt to Scotland — without leaving Knoxville

A toast with one of the four Scotch whiskies offered for tasting! From left, Karen and Reinhold Mann and John and Linda Haynes.

A packed Scottish pub. Scotch eggs. Four kinds of Scotch whisky. And Scottish music – with a couple of tangos thrown in for good measure.

That’s what the sold-out “Scotch and Strings” fundraiser at Boyd’s Jig and Reel offered participants this past Sunday as a benefit for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. About 90 people — some in kilts — traveled to Knoxville’s Old City (a lot closer than Scotland!) to celebrate and contribute. The $65 price of admission got you tastes of four Scotches plus a bounteous buffet of Scotch-themed edibles. (Thankfully, no haggis!) Continue reading

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