WBIR news anchor Abby Ham and her boyfriend, Travis May. She was the emcee of the UT Gardens Gala.
Well, it’s officially garden party season in East Tennessee. One of the first and largest of them is the UT Gardens Gala held in the sprawling UT Gardens — yep, the ones you pass on Neyland Drive on your route between downtown and West Knoxville.
This was the sixth year for the event and its theme was “Thyme to Grow.” This is the 35th anniversary of the UT Gardens, which, along with gardens in Jackson and Crossville, make up Tennessee’s official State Botanical Garden. The UT Gardens are unique in that they combine the beauty and openness of a public garden with a hands-on laboratory for studying, conserving and celebrating the environment.
A highlight of this year’s event was Sue Hamilton, director of UT Gardens, being presented with a proclamation by the Tennessee General Assembly congratulating UT Gardens on its 35th anniversary. She was presented with the proclamation, which was sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, by UT President Joe DiPietro and Chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture Tim Cross.
Natalie Dowling, left, and Natalie Haslam, a garden lover who was the Gold Sponsor of the event.
UT President Joe DiPietro, center, and his wife, Deb, with Steve Bennett during the cocktail hour and silent auction.
WBIR General Manager David Hunt, right, with UT Chancellor Emeritus Jimmy Cheek and his wife, Ileen.
UT Gardens Director Sue Hamilton and husband, Ron.
The water lilies seemed to be thriving.
The UT Student Jazz Ensemble provided tunes. From left, Samuel Adams, Evan Burnett and Jon Hamar.
Music lover Bill Arant was attracted to the jazz.
The iris were blooming.
I loved this sculpture in the garden.
Tom Looney, left, and Kirk Huddleston.
Tom Boyd, left, and Sandi Burdick.
One of the passed appetizers: roasted quail wrapped with Benton’s ham. Wow.
From left, Stephen Miller, Keith Hnilica, Casey Page and Ken Hughes.
Sam Beall and Cathy Briscoe-Graves.
Jo and Sid Blalock.
James Newburn, left, assistant director of the UT Gardens, with Megan Venable of VIP Knoxville magazine and Alan Carmichael.
Roasted tomato, basil and goat cheese crostini with roasted garlic oil.
This event always has the cutest silent auction items. Like this frog.
I loved this serving platter from Glass Bazaar.
This is Donna Davis. She made this pretty bracelet out of leather and lapis.
Kendall and Michael Keller.
Gina and Fred Buffum. He’s drinking the evening’s signature cocktail called, appropriately, “Thyme to Drink!”
Haha! From left, Fran Scheidt, Jim Grossen and Sara Phillips.
Derrick Stowell and Kathy Brennan.
Quinoa and spinach stuffed mushroom caps with romesco sauce.
Carol and Joe Pelliccia.
Ann and Dean Skadberg.
Brandon and Ashley Pace with Duane Grieve, right.
Salad was watermelon radish carpaccio with arugula, feta and golden raisins.
A word about the food at this event. It’s always great! It’s prepared by culinary arts students from Pellissippi State and seniors from UT’s Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management with help from Aramark, UT’s contracted food vendor.
Dr. Jeremy Whaley, seen here with guest Frank Gray, oversaw the food planning, prep and service. Great job.
Karen and Harvey White with Sherri Lee, right.
Marsha Grieve, left, and Cathy Briscoe-Graves.
Lisa Stearns and Norman Hammitt.
Entree was beef tenderloin with a red wine demi-glace and au gratin potato stack served with a red beet puree.
Amber Parker, left, and Cindy Hassil, both of Ijams Nature Center.
Natalie Haslam, center, with Ileen and Jimmy Cheek.
Dessert was puff pastry strawberry napoleons with edible orchids.
Anna and Frank Gray.
Dorothy and Caesar Stair.
Stuart Worden and Lane Hays waiting for live auction to start.
Chancellor Tim Cross presenting the proclamation from the Tennessee General Assembly to Sue Hamilton.
Auctioneer Bear Stephenson with Shirley Elder at the end of the evening.
Andrea Cartwright and Alan Solomon. They, themselves, take care of a huge garden in East Knoxville.
Lucky Duane Grieve purchased the very creative centerpiece on our table. The centerpieces were arranged by Melynda Whetsel and Jessyca Williams.