Symphony in the Park: soggy but still swell!

Stephen Lyn Bales, a senior naturalist at Ijams, and Olivia the possum greet guests at Symphony in the Park. Olivia can’t survive in nature because she has a deformed hand.

It never rains on Symphony in the Park. Not in 33 years. Somehow, the major fundraiser for Ijams Nature Center, an outdoor dinner featuring music by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, has dodged the wet stuff.

Until this year.

But the folks at Ijams are professionals, and they were prepared. They moved the silent auction into the Visitor Center and provided several huge tents for dinner service and the concert.

In addition to the always stunningly beautiful music of the KSO, this year’s event featured several pieces by R.B. Morris and his band members, Greg Horne and Daniel Kimbro. Alan and I are fans of R.B. Morris, Knoxville’s first poet laureate, but for many in the crowd, it was their first exposure to his haunting melodies and moving lyrics. Morris brought the chatty audience to appreciative silence. (There’s a sample of his set at the end of this post.)

Cindy Hassil, Ijams’ development director, left, and Amber Parker, the park’s executive director.

In brief remarks, Amber Parker, Ijams’ executive director, called Ijams “the green heart of Knoxville” and said that last year the park added 15 acres to its some 300 acres of protected habitat, doubled its programming and opened the first “nature preschool,” wherein 3-to-5-year olds spend 80 percent of their time outdoors exploring trails and participating in other activities.

In the coming year, Parker said, Ijams will construct the first green exercise space which will use a boulder field, logs, trees and trails to help people increase their workout intensity in a natural setting. Stay tuned.

Symphony in the Park, one of the most fun money-raising events in Knoxville’s crowded fundraising calendar, benefits from the major sponsorship of Stephen and April Harris. Other major sponsors are Home Federal Bank, Jupiter Entertainment, Pilot Flying J and Thermal Label Warehouse, LLC.

First up: what my friend Bill Lyons calls “standing around time.” (It’s actually a reception and silent auction!)

From left, Poli and Bruce Gress with their daughters, Amy Canfield and Perri Craig.

Randy Humble, left, with Bruce and Monique Anderson.

Sean and Adele Sensing.

Neil and Maureen Dunn McBride, left, with Beth Ford and Mike Driskill.

Here’s one of the silent auction items: “Palm Trees” by Beth Meadows.

And this lovely Cane Bay wrap.

Dawn and Richard Ford.

Joan and Victor Ashe with Carol Evans, center.

New Knox County Commissioner Larsen Jay and his wife, Adrian.

Mardel Fehrenbach and a dramatic sculpture.

Michael Searcy and Cheryl Light.

R.B. Morris with Maureen Bosch, left, and Birgit Clark.

Appetizers, anyone? Caterer Nancy Kendrick, who always does a tremendous job with this event, and Jason Grahl.

Yum.

Mary Kathryn Kennard and Bill Bruce.

Neil McBride, left, and Tom Ford.

Rick Stone and Angela Howard.

Soon, it was time to sit.

The crowd filled two big tents.

Dinner here is always served family style. Loved the grilled chicken.

But my favorite thing was this delicious quinoa dish.

Alan’s plate.

From left, Gabe Bolas, Mintha Roach, Tarah Bolas and Jon Roach. Mintha is retiring as president and CEO of Knoxville Utilities Board next month, and Gabe will be taking her place.

Jon found a good place for his hat!

Stephen and April Harris.

Bo and Anya Harris.

Stephen and Nancy Land.

Terry and Rachel Ford. She’s executive director of the Knoxville Symphony.

Ruth and Joe Fielden.

From left, Sally, Beth and Bo Townsend.

From left, Theresa Stone, Alexa Riley and Monique Hanrath.

Penny White.

Natalie and City Councilman Marshall Stair.

Jim and Dee Dee Brogan.

Jeanne and Jim Scott.

Dottie Arnett, left, with Kim and David Hutchins.

Debbie and Ron Watkins.

Dessert: Damn! It was great.

Strike up the band!

By the time the music started, it was raining like crazy!

But they still sounded great!

R.B. Morris, center, with Greg Horne, left, and Daniel Kimbro delivered a stunning performance.

After the show. Mark Tucker, left, and Gary Sperl.

Percussionist Michael Combs with Monique Anderson.

KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian and Amber Parker.

Aww. R.B. Morris and his daughter, Oona Pearl.

See you next year!  (Maybe it won’t rain on Symphony in the Park for another 33 years!)

Here’s that sample of R.B. performing.

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