Dr. Frank Gray: surgeon, music lover, friend

Dr. Frank and Anna Gray at their residence last year where they hosted an afternoon of music and champagne as a fundraiser for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

I just can’t believe that Dr. Frank Gray is gone. The retired orthopedic surgeon, music lover and fixture on Knoxville’s social scene has been a regular on the Blue Streak since its inception. That’s because he was passionate about so many things.

Dr. Gray, who passed away last Friday after a battle with a rare cancer, was among Jim and Natalie Haslam’s best friends. Jim Haslam spoke on behalf of the couple this week when he said, “It was a blessing for us to know and interact closely with Frank. He was a real Renaissance man. He was at home in the operating room, at the piano, in the kitchen or in his garden. He will be missed by many.”

I knew Frank best due to our mutual membership on the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s board of directors. He was president of the board for two terms and even filled in as executive director when that post was between occupants. He taught me by example how to be a better board member, and he was my mentor and my cheerleader when I became president of the KSO board several years ago. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Knoxville, Music | 6 Comments

Debating the staff of life: free bread with dinner?

Joseph Lenn, chef-owner of J.C. Holdway, brings a skillet of cornbread to the table.

My husband is a bread lover. Raised in North Knoxville, Alan Carmichael says his family had bread at every meal: biscuits, cornbread, dinner rolls — or just sliced store-bought white bread stacked on a plate in the center of the table.

We have enjoyed traveling quite a bit around the United States, Canada and Europe and we’ve noticed that at many of our favorite out-of-town restaurants, customers are greeted with baskets or plates of the most amazing breads. Free of charge. With excellent butters or other toppings. Alan is always in heaven when this happens!

Not long ago, we asked ourselves, “Why don’t the restaurants in Knoxville have wonderful complimentary bread on the table?” So, we consulted with some of our favorite hometown chefs and proprietors and here’s what we found out: it’s complicated.

Randy Burleson has some of the best restaurant brands in East Tennessee. We are regulars at his upscale Bistro By the Tracks in Bearden, the Sunspot on campus and all the Aubrey’s locations. He told me recently that deciding whether to have complimentary bread service is problematic. Continue reading

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Expert has advice for local non-profits: Carefully reschedule events and consider joining forces

Jerry Askew, president of the Alliance for Better Nonprofits, says organizations should recognize that the current pandemic has forced everyone to try to cram a year’s worth of events into the last half of this year. This will put stress on the donor community. In an interview with the blog, “In Any Event,” Askew offers some suggestions. That blog post, written by Moxley Carmichael’s Maria Cornelius, is re-posted here. -Cynthia

Jerry Askew

“This, too, shall pass.”

Those encouraging words come from Jerry Askew, the president of the Alliance for Better Nonprofits (ABN), which helps organizations in East Tennessee stay strong and sustainable.

Nonprofits have been battered by COVID-19 because of the postponement or cancellation of primary fundraisers, many of which occur in the spring months.

A survey of 400 nonprofits in the region by ABN and the United Way of Greater Knoxville asked about revenue loss and received 203 responses. The results revealed an eye-popping $12 million loss among those 203 nonprofits.

Askew also has some advice: “Get your event on EventCheck Knox now.”

EventCheck Knox, which was started by Moxley Carmichael in 2014, reminds event planners to “Look Before You Book.” The calendar focuses on galas, dinners, luncheons and other fundraisers for nonprofits. Read the About information and then Submit Your Event.

Continue reading

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Warm memories of last dinner at Blackberry Farm

Blackberry Farm’s Bramble Hall, which opened in 2016, was inspired by the timber-framed barns and rural halls that once dotted rural Tennessee and hosted everything from harvests to meetings, dances and weddings. That’s where a few hundred of us last month had our last dinner at Blackberry Farm prior to the coronavirus.

When news came yesterday that Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain will reopen on May 14, it made me wistful for the last dinner we had there. It was for the sponsors of the Knoxville Museum of Art’s annual L’Amour du Vin fundraiser. L’Amour du Vin means “for the love of wine,” so it was appropriate that this year’s featured vintner was in attendance, as you will see from these photos. The featured winery was Arista in California’s Russian River Valley. Continue reading

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Remember eating, drinking and dancing together?

Annie and David Colquitt at this year’s Symphony Ball. He’s on the KSO board. The theme of the ball this year was the “Roaring Twenties!”

Greetings! Hope everyone is holding up during these stressful times of social distancing. I decided to haul out a not-so-long-ago memory of the Symphony Ball when we all gathered to eat, drink and even dance together. It makes me smile to even think about it.

I have gone to many Symphony Balls in my time on the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Board. And I can tell you the event has been immensely improved since the Knoxville Symphony League, which puts it on, has included a performance by the actual Knoxville Symphony as part of the evening’s festivities.

The date change of the ball has enabled a Symphony performance to be possible. In the old days, the event was set on the first Saturday in December — and the KSO was always tied up playing for “The Nutcracker” performance. Now that the event is in February or March, that’s not an issue. This year, the ball was on Feb. 29 at Cherokee Country Club, only a few weeks before the coronavirus shut down most of our social activities. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Knoxville, Music | 10 Comments

COVID-19 is worst party crasher ever

This is a guest post by Maria Cornelius, a writer/editor at Moxley Carmichael who is in charge of the events calendar called EventCheckKnox. Her blog on that site is called, “In Any Event.” I thought readers of the Blue Streak also would be interested in this post. -Cynthia

Keeping the color-coded EventCheck Knox calendar updated has felt like a game of Twister as events moved hither and yon in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Dr. Frank Gray and Natalie Haslam at a past UT Gardens Gala. (Blue Streak photo)

The month of April ended up with every event either canceled or postponed, with the exception of Mayor Indya Kincannon’s “State of the City” address to reveal the 2020-21 budget on Friday, April 24. That is usually a well-attended gathering of elected officials and business and community leaders, but it instead will be done with a video message and the budget posted online.

A worldwide pandemic was not in anyone’s planner when event dates were chosen months ago for the spring of 2020. Some events were even scheduled a year in advance (and these planners are some of my favorite people speaking as someone who populates EventCheck Knox).

Some April events that initially were listed as postponed, such as the UT Gardens Gala, have now been canceled in 2020. The good news is that April 30, 2021, already has been selected for next year’s event. Crissy and Bill Haslam, the former first lady and governor of Tennessee, will remain on board as honorary hosts, and the 2021 gala still will honor Dr. Susan Hamilton, the retiring director of UT Gardens.

Continue reading

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Girl Scout cookies: an important excuse for a party. (And you still can nab some!)

The Press Room’s owner, Lori Klonaris, pushes a cart of Girl Scout cookies into place near the bar during the “Cookie Creations” event there.

The sale of Girl Scout cookies provides 70 percent of the entire budget of the local Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians every year. So, you can imagine what a blow it was when the coronavirus forced the organization to shut down its cookie sales a week early on March 16 this year.

According to Lynne Fugate, CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians, the group is in the hole to the tune of $1.5 million, thanks to the early close.

“We just couldn’t have girls staffing cookie booths or going door-to-door with the virus going around and being so contagious,” Fugate said. “We really didn’t have any choice.”

But, to try to make up some of the lost revenue, the cookies are still available for purchase, but online only. “We have a digital cookie booth,” Fugate said. “We still have 237,000 boxes of cookies to sell!”

If you order the cookies online, you can either have them shipped to you; have them donated to first responders; or wait until this virus nightmare is over and have a Girl Scout deliver them at that time. Continue reading

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

L’Amour du Vin 2020: Back when we could have fun!

Sharon Pryse and Dino Cartwright were appropriately dressed at L’Amour du Vin. The weekend’s featured artist, Denise Stewart-Sanabria, often paints lush floral pictures. See the previous Blue Streak post for some examples.

It hasn’t been that long — it actually was just earlier this month — but it seems like an eternity ago. The Knoxville Museum of Art hosted what was one of the last big social occasions many Knoxvillians would attend: its annual wine dinner and auction called  L’Amour du Vin. It was a sellout and raised what surely will turn out to be a record amount of money. The museum has not released that figure yet.

“This was a L’Amour du Vin for the books,” said the museum’s executive director, David Butler. “It was memorable not because the world pretty much fell apart right afterwards — and it was, in fact, the last social thing many of us did for a long time — but because it was such a joyous, seamless, beautiful event. Great food, great wine, the auction was crazy. Perfect. What an evening!”

I think that about sums it up! Check out some photos of the awesome evening. Continue reading

Filed under: Art, Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville | 9 Comments

Wine, food and ‘donuts behaving badly!’

Haha. This oil painting is titled “Sloth: Donuts behaving badly.” I love it! It’s a sample of the work of Denise Stewart-Sanabria, this year’s featured artist at the Knoxville Museum of Art’s L’Amour du Vin weekend. She showed her art during a slideshow at Blackberry Farm.

The Knoxville Museum of Art’s hugely successful L’Amour du Vin fundraiser has come and gone (more on that in a later post), but one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend every year is what’s called the “Artist’s Luncheon.”

Always held on the Friday prior to the fundraiser itself, it offers an opportunity to meet the featured artist each year. My friend Dawn Ford and I have made it a tradition to knock off work that day and head to Blackberry Farm for some daytime drinking and a bit of culture. Not to mention the food, of course. Continue reading

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Jason Drotar: a sweet sommelier looking for love

Hello, everybody. I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting in the 10-plus years of writing the Blue Streak. Sorry about that. The fact is, I still have a more than full-time job in the public relations field and, as you can imagine, it’s been a busy time for all our clients — and thus for us. I hope that you will enjoy the next few posts I put up. They are about events in our community that occurred when we were still allowed to be in close contact with each other. I look forward to getting back to that situation. -Cynthia

Sommelier Jason Drotar holding the massive wine list at The Barn at Blackberry Farm.

Jason Drotar is 44 years old and single. And he’s not that happy about it. “I am so single,” he cracked recently, “that if I stood on the edge of a canyon and shouted, ‘I love you!,’ the echo that came back would say, ‘I just want to be friends!’ ” See, he’s funny, too.

Jason is a sommelier at tony Blackberry Farm in nearby Walland. One perk of working at Blackberry Farm is that four times a year, Jason gets to book dinner for a table of four “on the house.” He only has to pay for alcohol. And, since he is the sommelier, he gets to bring his own wine.

So, what does a seriously single guy do when he’s taking advantage of this awesome perk? He invites three married women to be his guests. Last month, Jason invited Laura Cole, Gay Lyons and me (yay!) to dine with him. Read on and I’ll show you the amazing food and wine we had at Blackberry Farm. And I’ll tell you more about Jason. Maybe if we put our heads together, we can find him a girlfriend! Continue reading

Filed under: Food | 19 Comments