Museum of Appalachia founder John Rice Irwin with Elaine Meyer, the museum’s president and Irwin’s daughter.
Well, here’s something you don’t often see on my calendar: barn dance. But I’m glad it was on there on a recent Friday evening.
What more appropriate fundraiser could the venerable Museum of Appalachia in Norris have come up with? It was perfect (except for the awful chardonnay). The music and dancing were fun, the company was convivial, and the auction items were authentic and interesting. But best of all, it was wonderful to see John Rice Irwin, the former school superintendent of Anderson County and, even more important, the founder of the museum, enjoying himself and socializing with everyone. He’d come over from his retirement community across the street.
Irwin, who founded the museum in 1968 and was the recipient in 1989 of the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius award,” as it is commonly called, also is the author of eight books. But one of my favorite things he’s written is this, a description of why the museum is so important.
“We simply cannot appreciate where we are today, or understand where we are going tomorrow, unless we understand where, as a culture, we’ve been in the past,” he wrote as an introduction to the collection of some 30 original log buildings and many thousands of artifacts from rural Appalachia located on 63 acres about 16 miles north of Knoxville.
“These are our people. They are world renowned, unknown, famous, infamous, interesting, diverse, different, but above all, they are a warm, colorful and jolly lot, in love with our land, our mountains, and our culture. May their memories ever be preserved – not so much in reverence to them but as a gift to us and to generations to come.”
On this recent Friday, the museum’s supporters did a great job of saluting that unique culture.
It was a beautiful night for a barn dance.
Clearly, we were in the right place.
Before we even got our name tags, Marti Bailey approached bearing mini meatballs. Talk about Southern hospitality.
And Manda Pyatt brought refreshing strawberries and blueberries.
We followed the sound of beautiful music and found our friends Ruth and Morgan Simmons!
And we met Daisy, a goat who paints pictures.
See? Good job, Daisy.
Our friend John Niceley was giving folks wagon rides.
He and his wife, Martha Kern, run Strong Stock Farm in East Knox County.
More food. Here’s Jane Otto with a variety of roll-ups.
Former Knox County Commissioner Larry Stephens and his wife, Kenna, chat with my hubs, Alan Carmichael, right.
Music was everywhere.
Lauren and James Gass.
We decided to check out the auction items and loved this cute owl created by my friend Manya Pirkle.
This dulcimer was attracting some attention.
I loved this hanging and wanted to give it to some friends who have a cabin where it would look great. But some other determined bidders beat us out for it.
Here’s a different painting by Daisy the goat. It went for $75.
I was determined to win this beautiful red velvet cake made in the kitchen of the Museum of Appalachia. And I did! For $80! (This one was really a stand-in. The one I took home for a dinner party the following night was being kept in a refrigerator inside.)
Bonnie Hedrick, left, and Carole Evans were very involved in examining this blanket.
Alan with state Sen. Becky Massey and her husband, Morton.
Here’s John Trotter and his girlfriend, Megan Long.
Mindy Troutman was wearing my favorite outfit of the evening.
Linda Cox-Collier was getting a big kick out of this fabulous Dale Evans purse.
With John Rice Irwin are, from left, Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch, Johnny Pirkle and Ed Meyer, Irwin’s son-in-law.
The centerpieces were very appropriate.
As was the food, by Calhoun’s. (This is not my plate!)
I loved this tobacco basket decorating the buffet table.
It was a festive crowd under the tent.
Including the Grieve family. From left, Heather Grieve, her uncle, Knoxville City Councilman Duane Grieve, his wife, Marsha, and his brother Bill.
I loved how the dessert options were announced!
Here’s the lemon blueberry cake.
And, of course, chocolate.
Johnny and Manya Pirkle.
Megan Venable and Benny Smith.
Steve Dean and John Rice Irwin’s granddaughter, Lindsey Gallaher, were co-chairs of the Barn Dance Committee.
News Sentinel columnist Sam Venable, left, was master of ceremonies. He’s here at dinner with Jack Williams.
Former Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan and his wife, Kay Brookshire.
Here’s Steve Dean with his wife, Nancy.
Dancing music was by the Hogslop String Band from Nashville.
A view from the stage shows that the Museum, in its frugality, painted the “Barn Dance Tonight” sign on the back of its “Fall Homecoming” sign! Good move. (Photo by Alan Carmichael.)
Click on the 15-second videos below for a taste of the Hogslop String Band — and some real people barn dancing! (But not me!)
For a great interview with John Rice Irwin, click here.
Very cool! Let us know about this next year — we would love to support it.
This was a fun event. I think the goat wanted to eat the painting after it was painted.
I want a goat. And that blueberry cake.
Katie: Will do! It was a lot of fun. I couldn’t believe we saw so many folks we knew.
Maria: I want a goat, too! Daisy was adorable — and had a very sweet disposition. (You’d have to fight Alan for that cake!)
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