Of course, folks came to the Big Ears Festival, held last weekend in downtown Knoxville, for the music. And, this year in particular, for the films and poetry. But we had another great asset on display, as well: our food and our fantastic chefs. With a wine tasting (covered here), three brunches and an after party, Knoxville’s diverse culinary smorgasbord was on full display.
All the brunches — one hosted by Visit Knoxville for out-of-town journalists and public officials; one for folks who paid $50 to add it onto their weekend passes; and one for folks who bought VIP tickets to the Festival — were held in a huge heated tent erected on The Mill & Mine’s big lawn on Depot Avenue.
Tennessee’s Commissioner of Tourist Development Kevin Triplett attended the Visit Knoxville brunch.
“Thanks for giving me an excuse to come home,” said Triplett, who is from Bristol, also in East Tennessee. “I love music and I love things that bring people to Tennessee.”
Triplett pointed out that, while many folks think of country music when they think of Tennessee, actually seven genres of music call Tennessee home.
That led to the development of the department’s official slogan: The soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.
“Knoxville is a critical part of our music heritage and our current music scene,” Triplett said.
Wayne Bledsoe, a longtime entertainment writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel who now writes for Blank and hosts shows on WDVX, was effusive in his praise for Knoxville’s music scene and for Ashley Capps, the founder of the Big Ears Festival.
“Over the past 20 years, Knoxville has turned into the city I’ve always wanted to live in,” Bledsoe said. “A lot of that is due to Ashley Capps. He promoted shows no one else EVER would have promoted. Ashley always had big ears! And Knoxville musicians have always had big ears. They play different genres. They get along. The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra is one of the best jazz orchestras in the South. And the Knoxville Symphony’s new conductor is injecting new life into the local classical musical scene. It’s wonderful and inspiring.”
Mayor Madeline Rogero said, “Art feeds our souls and our minds, but it also drives our economy. Big Ears is great for Knoxville. And Knoxville is great for Big Ears.”
And Capps echoed those sentiments when he made brief remarks. “One of the untold stories is about how arts and culture drive economic development,” he said. “Art and music help individuals and groups develop certain skill sets — like problem solving and deferred gratification.” That got a chuckle. “In Tennessee, we’re turning the tide,” he continued. “We are realizing the importance of our own indigenous culture.”
OK. Enough with the speeches. On to the food!
Saturday seemed to dawn early! It was back to the tent at The Mill & Mine.
Sunday was something completely different. Chef Jesse Newmister, pictured at the top of this blog, served make-your-own noodle bowls. They were to die for.
And much, much later, at The Standard, was the Big Ears after party. It started after 10 p.m.