Cause for Paws: Animals make any event fun!

Brittany Bailey, one of the main sponsors of Cause for Paws, gets up close and personal with a puppy.

Despite a last-minute weather cancellation and a change of venue, spirits remained high — and so did the bids in the charity auction — during the annual “Cause for Paws,” a critical fundraiser for Young-Williams Animal Center.

The threat of thunderstorms and high winds derailed plans a few weeks ago to hold the popular event — now in its seventh year — under a tent at Historic Westwood. Instead, it was held last week indoors at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

The live auction featured everything from dinners and stays in downtown Knoxville to adoption of a number of sweet animals, including puppies, kittens and rabbits.

King Purnell, chairman of the board of Young-Williams Animal Center, said the official shelter of the City of Knoxville and Knox County is experiencing record numbers of intakes and record numbers of adoptions while still maintaining its “no-kill” status, meaning that more than 90 percent of the animals that come there are saved. In fact, the current “save rate” is 94.8 percent. Continue reading

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Great party and pithy insights from Lamar Alexander

Former U.S. Sen. and Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, left, with former Knoxville Mayor and U.S. Ambassador Victor Ashe. (And Sharon Pryse executing a friendly photobomb!)

It looked like a capacity crowd last week at a $500-per-seat dinner honoring former U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander as “East Tennessean of the Year” during a fundraiser for the East Tennessee Historical Society. Familiar faces from all phases of Alexander’s public life filled Cherokee Country Club to honor him, causing a half-hour-long traffic jam that blocked Lyons View Pike and delayed the start of dinner by 30 minutes.

Nobody minded. We were in a jovial mood, fueled no doubt by the joy of the occasion and the extended cocktail hour. “Lamar Alexander is the only person I know who has been a governor, president of a major state university, U.S. Secretary of Education, presidential candidate and United States Senator,” said Roy Kramer, retired commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and himself a past East Tennessean of the Year award winner.

Alexander used the occasion to discuss the value of teaching history. “History is important,” he said. “The good and the bad need to be taught. Even the embarrassing  parts.” Continue reading

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Marble City Market: vast array of choices (and fun!)

Keith Wilson, center, is the general manager of Marble City Market. Polly Fisher and Daryl Johnson joined him during the preview party.

If you can’t find something you like at the newly opened Marble City Market in Regas Square, you aren’t hungry! More than 300 folks showed up last Wednesday for the preview party for the new food hall, which features 11 eateries, a big bar and two Topgolf Swing Suites. And a whole bunch (including me!) showed up again when the venue opened for real on Friday.

At the preview party, guests were served sample sizes of some of the best offerings. On Friday, the portions were actual sized!

You know how Knoxville loves a new restaurant. I guess the giddiness on display Wednesday night just shows what happens when there are 11 new restaurants opening at the same time!

Marble City Market is operated by Hospitality HQ, a culinary consulting and management company helmed by award-winning chef Akhtar Nawab. Continue reading

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‘Bach at the Botanicals’ beguiles in brand new way

Violinist Rachel Loseke introduces a piece to be performed in The Secret Garden, which was the third stop of our evening.

“Bach at the Botanicals” was a new endeavor by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra this year, but it was such a success that you can expect to see it again.

Held at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum on a beautiful, clear Thursday evening, it offered guests the option to bring their own chairs and experience small ensembles performing in seven different locations in the garden. It was free of charge.

“This was the first time we’d performed at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and it was a really fun, new way for the  KSO to engage with the community,” KSO Executive Director Rachel Ford said. “The multiple settings were varied and gorgeous. The highlight of the evening was the moon over the Dogwood Center while the KSO played. Just stunning!”

The excellent feedback from patrons is what makes it almost certain to be a recurring event, Ford said. Our group thought it was fun to try to make it to all seven stops during the hour-and-a-half time frame.

Luckily, as you will see, we had a very serious time-keeper to keep us on track.

Continue reading

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A relaxing rendezvous at Rivershack Farm

A view of the Holston River and rolling farmland made for a great setting for a Knox Heritage “Summer Supper.”

Knox Heritage scaled back the number of its popular fundraising “Summer Suppers” this year due to COVID-19 considerations, even making a couple of them virtual. But the ones they did have in person — generally in outdoor locations — continued to be the crowd pleasers they always were. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Historic preservation, Knoxville | 5 Comments

UT Coach Josh Heupel and Athletics Director Danny White charm crowd at welcome event as season kicks off

UT Director of Athletics Danny White, center, chats with Pilot Founder Jim Haslam and CEO Shameek Konar during the reception. To White’s right is his wife, Shawn.

Well, football season has started with the team producing a win on the field, thank goodness. We witnessed another win, as well. Both Tennessee Head Football Coach Josh Heupel and Director of Athletics Danny White absolutely charmed a crowd of well-wishers at a recent welcome reception. Continue reading

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‘Wanderlust at Westwood:’ eating, drinking and partying through four decades in Knoxville!

Gatsby ladies, from left, Jennifer Roche, Kyle Anne Lang and Marilyn Cheek, staffed the refreshment table at the Great Gatsby Garden Party portion of the event. Cute!

It was a sellout at $150 per person a few Saturdays ago when 50 guests partied through time — four different decades to be exact — at Historic Westwood to benefit Knox Heritage.

One of the organization’s popular Summer Suppers, “Wanderlust at Westwood” as it was called, featured food, drink and entertainment from the Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties, the Nifty Fifties and present day Knoxville — all experienced as it would have been like at the historic Kingston Pike mansion that today houses Knox Heritage.

At a time when the COVID numbers seemed to be waning a little, it was a delight to get out and experience music and camaraderie in the name of a good cause. I pray that people in our community opt to act responsibly and get vaccinated and follow the CDC guidelines so we can continue to have wonderful events and meaningful experiences. (Note that this event, mostly outdoors, was held prior to the CDC recently recommending wearing masks while indoors and practicing social distancing.) Continue reading

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KSO conductor makes Knox debut on cello during magical evening (Plus: a little scoop!)

KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian chats with hostess Ruth Fielden prior to a performance in her living room last week.

From the Better Late than Never Department is a wonderful item to which Alan and I purchased tickets at the Knoxville Symphony Ball — in 2019!

It was Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Music Director Aram Demirjian’s Knoxville debut playing the cello — along with a wonderful dining experience at the fabulously renovated Cherokee Boulevard home of Ruth and Joe Fielden. (She’s a member of the KSO’s board of directors.)

The event was supposed to have been scheduled in 2020, but you know what happened to 2020. We were just happy that circumstances permitted the very special evening to occur last week. 

Most of us know Aram Demirjian as the charismatic young conductor who joined the Knoxville Symphony in 2016 as the KSO’s eighth music director. He has won numerous accolades for his conducting prowess here. Most recently he was the 2020 recipient of The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award from The Solti Foundation U.S. 

He is in demand nationally as a guest conductor, frequently taking the baton in front of The Philadelphia Orchestra. 

But even before he was a conductor, he was a musician. He played cello both in his high school and at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. And he still plays — although not publicly. Last week marked his first time for that since coming to Knoxville five years ago. He was joined by Brian Salesky, artistic director of the Knoxville Opera, on piano and by KSO violinist Sean Claire. Continue reading

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COVID respite allows for downtown progressive dinner

One of our regular hosts, Bruce Anderson, right, with our guests for the evening, Mark and Cathy Hill, during the first stop of our recent progressive dinner.

It was a couple of weeks ago and it seemed that the COVID numbers had leveled off. All of our regular progressive dinner club members had been vaccinated and so had our friends, Mark and Cathy Hill, who recently joined us as urban dwellers.

We like to have a guest couple for our progressive dinners, and we knew they were good sports and would like to see how other downtowners lived.

We needed a theme and we picked “French” since Bastille Day had recently passed — and we couldn’t think of any better idea. Besides, who can argue with an excuse to drink French wine, anyway?

Fast forward to today when, thanks to half the population that has stubbornly refused to get vaccinated, the COVID numbers are surging again. Pushed on by the highly contagious delta variant, it’s even infecting some who have been vaccinated, although not as severely. Many of us are starting to curtail our public activities again. So, I am particularly grateful that we got to have our progressive dinner when we did. Continue reading

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‘Wine & Shine’ — two tasty beverages for a good cause

The widow and daughters of longtime VMC supporter Don Sproles — after whom this fundraiser was named — seemed to know almost everyone in the room. They are, from left, Amanda Thompson, Karen Sproles and Lauren Karnitz.

We knew we would enjoy the camaraderie and the wine and moonshine tastings on a recent Friday night at a fundraiser to benefit the Volunteer Ministry Center. But we didn’t know we’d love the music so much!

The 9th annual Don Sproles Memorial Wine and Shine was held at the Crowne Plaza downtown and, in addition to the tastings, featured a silent auction and a super successful live auction conducted by our friend Bear Stephenson. The emcee was another buddy, News Sentinel columnist Sam Venable.

The invitation had just said “live music to be announced.” It turned out to be a fun old-time string band called the Tennessee Stifflegs. I will include a sample of their performance at the end of this post so you can get a feel for how much fun they are!

The wine tasting was conducted by Dr. Carol Costello, professor emerita in the University of Tennessee’s retail, hospitality and tourism management department, and the moonshine was provided by Sugarlands Distilling Company. Tastemaker Ben Grierson led us through that. Continue reading

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