Martinis at the Mansion: Cheers to William Blount!

Gayle Burnett enjoying a martini — I think it was a bourbon martini! — and a cigar in the cigar garden!

I love a martini. Especially if it’s for a good cause!

So “Martinis at the Mansion” was the perfect place for us last Thursday. It was a fundraiser for Blount Mansion — “the birthplace of Tennessee” — and it was a low-key good time. Blount Mansion is located in downtown Knoxville at the intersection of Hill Avenue and State Street, a few blocks from our condo.

Around 1792, work began on Blount Mansion which was to be the home to William Blount, one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution. Blount had been appointed by President George Washington to govern the Southwest Territory, which Blount shepherded into admission to the Union as our nation’s 16th state, Tennessee.

In addition to a family home, this fine wood frame dwelling also served as the territorial capital. Blount Mansion is Knoxville’s only National Historic Landmark and the city’s oldest operating museum, opening in 1926.

Over the years, we’ve been to quite a few fun parties at Blount Mansion, the building referred to by the Cherokee as “the house with many eyes!” Click here for a little more fun facts about Blount Mansion. But scroll through this post to see more recent fun times! Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Historic preservation, Knoxville | Leave a comment

Museum supporters celebrate vibrant upcoming year

Hosts Dorothy and Caesar Stair III.

Members of the Knoxville Museum of Art’s Collectors Circle gathered last week for an evening of art and conversation to kick off the group’s new year of activities.

Held at the lovely Lyons View Pike home of Dorothy and Caesar Stair III, the party offered a preview of upcoming events as well as a couple of hours to experience the best view in Knoxville, if you ask me!

The Collectors Circle, which is designed to expose members to art experiences outside the museum’s walls, also provides funds to purchase new art for the KMA. Curator Stephen Wicks said the group has funded the acquisition of 60 pieces over the past 30 years, including the museum’s first work by Knoxville native Beauford Delaney.

Upcoming Collectors Circle events include a December visit to the home of artist Jered Sprecher, who will provide a painting demonstration; a January discussion of the ways the KMA’s signature “Higher Ground” exhibit can be expanded; a March tour of Case Antiques during which owner John Case will discuss how AI technology has revolutionized ways to detect art forgeries; and a May meeting to discuss a new purchase.

In addition, members of the Collectors Circle are planning a trip to Urbino in Italy. Continue reading

Filed under: Art, Events, Knoxville | 6 Comments

A progressive dinner for history

Here’s the “progressive” part of the progressive dinners! You walk between four different downtown condos for the four courses. This is our group walking east on Church Avenue headed toward the dessert course at The Glencoe condos at the corner of Church Avenue and State Street, facing State Street. The walking also makes you feel a little less guilty about the calories you are consuming!

A group of downtown friends has been hosting progressive dinners for more than 10 years now. It started as a way to enjoy each others’ condos and invite guests to come see what downtown living was like. We usually had a “target” person or couple we were trying to recruit into moving downtown and we used these dinners to try to entice them!

Last year, we came up with another idea. We began offering these little moveable repasts to non-profits that we supported to auction off to raise money. So far, we have done this for the Knoxville Symphony League twice, the Knoxville Botanical Garden twice, and the East Tennessee Historical Society once. This post will show you our latest, held last month for the Historical Society.

We’ve decided to take a little break from the charity offerings for a while and go back to our purely selfish purposes. But, here’s the good news. Other folks are picking up the idea. We know that a group has signed up to put one together for the Symphony League’s upcoming “Elegant Dining” series. I know I’m going to try to snag a ticket! It will be fun seeing it from the other side! Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville | 8 Comments

Tremont party raises $325,000 for new “living” campus

Dr. Marianne and Brian Wanamaker at the cocktail hour of the Tremont celebration.

Talk about a successful event! Between sponsorships, ticket sales and a live auction, the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont raised $325,000 on a beautiful Saturday night at Marblegate Farm in Friendsville.

The evening was designed to launch Tremont’s “Keystone Campaign,” which will raise $27 million to create the first phase of a new “living” campus. This new educational facility will be located on 194 acres bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It will be Tennessee’s first “Living Building Challenge” project.

According to Tremont’s president and CEO, Catey McClary, this facility will meet key goals to promote the responsible use of water, materials and resources. It will feature clean energy technologies, generating more energy than it uses; treating water on site and putting clean water back into the watershed; and restoring critical habitat.

Tremont’s mission is to connect people and nature and to deliver “experiential learning” for youth, educators, and adults through programs that promote self-discovery, critical thinking, and effective teaching and leadership.

Pretty ambitious, huh? But exciting.

And, so was the party. The best part? The dinner portion was presented in a huge air-conditioned tent, a great relief on a sweltering evening in East Tennessee. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food | 3 Comments

‘Lobster Roll Night’ at J.C. Holdway: damn good!

Chef Joseph Lenn delivers the first course of Lobster Roll Night! The chef’s counter is where the action is at J.C. Holdway, located at 501 Union Ave.

I am writing this blog post against my better judgment. I like to share great Knoxville experiences with everyone. But, on the other hand, when those experiences are very limited, I don’t want to create so much demand that I can’t get in on them myself! Selfish, I know!

But, here goes.

Every now and then — like once a month — J.C. Holdway, owned by Knoxville’s only James Beard Award-winning chef, Joseph Lenn, offers a special “chef’s counter” meal. The chef’s counter only seats six people. So, with two seatings — at 5:30 and 7:30 — only 12 people can get in on them each time. Last night, the meal centered around lobster rolls! (Previous ones have featured hamburgers and fried chicken!)

These meals are not for picky eaters. You must order and pay in advance and you cannot have any dietary restrictions. They consist of four courses and a killer bottle of wine selected by sommelier Jason Drotar to complement all the courses.

And, they are not cheap. Each meal costs $269 — and you have to purchase two meals. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Food, Knoxville | 10 Comments

Design Center honors Mayor Ashe and Veterans Park

Artist Bernard Dorsey created this portrait of Dolly Parton during the East Tennessee Community Design Center party Wednesday night. It brought $650 at a live auction.

It was hot as blazes Wednesday night at Ijams Nature Center. But that didn’t stop 400 folks from showing up to celebrate the East Tennessee Community Design Center as it bestowed awards on a deserving community leader and a deserving community project. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food | 6 Comments

Wine, moonshine and help for our neighbors

Karen Sproles and Charlie Daniel. She’s Don Sproles’ widow and he’s a longtime Volunteer Ministry Center board member.

Volunteer Ministry Center, a non-profit organization founded more than 35 years ago to prevent and end homelessness, has found a way to combine fun and fundraising — and honor a longtime benefactor in the process.

The group recently hosted the 11th annual Don Sproles Wine and Shine, an event that crammed as much fun as you possibly can into a three-hour span! There was a wine tasting, a moonshine tasting, live music, a silent auction, a live auction — and dinner! — in a fast-moving evening. Throw in popular Knoxville newspaper columnist and humorist Sam Venable as the emcee and the lively Bear Stephenson as the auctioneer, and you have quite a night!

The event was named for the late Don Sproles, an avid supporter of downtown Knoxville and the Volunteer Ministry Center, where he served on the board of directors for many years. Sproles loved good food and drink and he would have loved this evening. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville | 4 Comments

Summer Swing ’23: a thankfully cool experience

Dr. Dan Ely, medical director of Choice Health Network & Positively Living, attended with his wife, Moira Kaye Ely.

After a three-year hiatus, Choice Health Network and Positively Living have brought back their popular hot-weather event, Summer Swing. Only this year, they made arrangements for some shade — and air conditioning! That turned out to be a very good decision as temperatures were pushing 90 earlier this month when the event was held.

The venue — the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum — was a perfect location. Food and beverages were served in the climate controlled Dogwood Center while the band — and another bar — were set up on the venue’s outdoor patio. There even was a “cigar bar” outside to accommodate those who wanted to indulge in that activity.

The theme was “Gettin’ Groovy in the Garden” and that will explain the fun ’70s attire in some of these photos.

Proceeds from the event itself as well as those of an on-site auction help fund services for nearly 6,000 individuals and families struggling to survive the challenges created by HIV, homelessness, mental illness and substance use. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville | 4 Comments

Friends gather downtown to support Lynne Fugate

City Council Member Lynne Fugate and her husband, Scott Fugate.

When you look up “community service” in the dictionary, there should be a photograph of Lynne Fugate. The incumbent City Council member, seeking re-election to her second term in At-Large Seat A, already had served two terms on the Knox County Board of Education, where she was elected both chair and vice chair, before she ran for Council.

In “real life” she’s the chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians, which serves girls in three states. Prior to that, she was a banker for 25 years, but interrupted that career to spend five years heading up the regional strategic planning initiative called “Nine Counties, One Vision.”

She’s served on a dozen non-profit boards, including the Knoxville Museum of Art, YWCA of Knoxville & the Tennessee Valley, YMCA of East Tennessee and the Metro Drug Commission. And she’s won a number of prestigious awards along the way, including the 2001 Tribute to Women Award given by the YWCA.

Some of us gathered in the beautiful community room at Regas Square condominiums last week to show Lynne our support. Early voting starts this Wednesday (Aug. 9) and the primary is Aug. 29. If you are a registered voter in the city of Knoxville, you can vote for Lynne, since her position is “at large.” Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Politics | 3 Comments

Just a Thursday: Theater announces season; company celebrates 20th! Knoxville loves reasons to party!

Our friend Terry Turner, the president and owner of All Occasions Party Rentals, couldn’t resist when a band member offered him a tambourine! And why should he? It was a celebration of his company’s 20th anniversary!

If I hear anyone say again that there’s nothing to do in Knoxville, I swear I will slap them. The problem is that there’s TOO MUCH to do! Take last night, for instance. We went to two fun things — and had to miss a third. All were in downtown Knoxville. No telling what was happening in the rest of the city!

First up: The River & Rail Theatre Company, headquartered in the Old City Performing Arts Center, had a fun and unique way to unveil its wonderful 2023-2024 season: A night of trivia and other contests broken up by the individual announcement of each upcoming production.

And, later in the evening, a few blocks away in the new Regas Square Events space on Depot Avenue, the event rentals company, All Occasions Party Rentals, celebrated its 20th year in operation under that name and current ownership. I love their slogan: “Where the Party Starts!” Continue reading

Filed under: Business, Events, Theater | 4 Comments