Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Jesse Fox Mayshark of Compass Knox.
If you were looking for anyone from Knoxville’s arts and culture crowd last night, chances are they were at The Mill & Mine music hall. That’s where Ashley Capps and his colleagues from the Big Ears Festival were making a major announcement.
Seems that acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma has asked Big Ears to spearhead a Knoxville appearance in May of Ma and some of his friends for a cultural extravaganza called “Our Common Nature: An Appalachian Celebration.”
That announcement — plus the fact that this year will be the 10th year of the Big Ears Festival — was enough to justify a gathering featuring music, huge puppets, interesting food and a smattering of politicians.
“Big Ears is one of my favorite cultural events in the city of Knoxville,” Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “It’s the arts that get us through hard times and help us celebrate the good times.”
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said the Big Ears Festival is so successful partly due to Knoxville’s friendliness. “It’s where mountains meet music, where culture meets cuisine, but where nobody meets a stranger,” Jacobs said.
Ashley Capps, left, executive and artistic director of Big Ears, with Alan Sims, who writes the downtown blog, Inside of Knoxville.
Capps, for his part, could not agree more. “Knoxville is the secret sauce,” he said. “Big Ears is successful not despite the fact that it is in Knoxville, but because it’s in Knoxville!”
The Austin consulting firm AngelouEconomics estimates the economic impact of the Big Ears festival is $36.1 million annually.
Many downtown eateries and retailers say the weekend of Big Ears is their biggest in sales the entire year. Capps said downtown hotels are essentially booked for this year’s festival — to be held March 30 through April 2 — and visitors are now booking rooms in the Merchant Drive and Cedar Bluff neighborhoods.
The Yo-Yo Ma event will be May 26 at World’s Fair Park, where a festival atmosphere will be set up with storytelling, puppets, dancing, food, art, and square dancing. Ma will be joined by musicians Chris Thile, Rhiannon Giddens and Edgar Meyer. In addition, Thile will play the Bijou Theatre on May 25 and Giddens will perform there May 27.
Tickets to the Yo-Yo Ma event go on sale Friday, Feb. 3. Here’s the website link: click here.
Sponsors include The Roy Cockrum Foundation, The Boyd Foundation, Natalie and Jim Haslam, Visit Knoxville (which also co-hosted the party), the Tennessee Arts Commission, the City of Knoxville and Knox County.
Philanthropist and sponsor Roy Cockrum, left, with Aram Demirjian, music director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.
Artists Tommie Rush and Richard Jolley. She’s on the Big Ears board of directors. (Full disclosure: so am I.)
Evie Andrus, left, brought to the party a top-notch group of bluegrass musicians.
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs with Kim Bumpas, president of Visit Knoxville.
And a big crow!
Amy Elias, director of the UT Humanities Center, with Jack Neely of the Knoxville History Project. She’s also a member of the Big Ears board.
Casey Fox, director of development for Big Ears, left, with Kyndra Brewer, director of special events for the city of Knoxville.
Knoxville City Council member Tommy Smith brought his family.
The food, from Tako Taco next door, was great.
Knox County Commissioner Larsen Jay agreed!
From left, Trianne Newbrey, Rachel Ford and Alan Carmichael. Trianne is director of communications for the Knoxville Symphony; Rachel is the symphony’s CEO. Alan is a supporter!
Former Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, left, and Katharine Pearson Criss both are on the Big Ears board.
The Yo-Yo Ma project was announced by video.
The East Knoxville youth group Drums Up, Guns Down performed.
Along with this talented young dancer.
Maureen and Neil McBride.
Paul James, left, of the Knoxville History Project, and Scott Barker of Compass Knox.
Jeffrey Pappas, director of the University of Tennessee School of Music.
Artist Mike Berry with Sherry Jenkins, executive director of Dogwood Arts.
Mark Grayson, a Big Ears board member, left, with Duane Grieve, executive director of the East Tennessee Community Design Center.
Kukuly Uriarte performed with her new band Rica Chicha.
As did Adeem the Artist.
Claudia Caballero, left, president and CEO of Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, and Angie Wilson, senior marketing director of Visit Knoxville.
From left, Julie Braude, Scott Schimmel and Lisa Sorensen. Scott and Lisa own Bliss & Tori Mason Shoes.
Downtowners Cliff and Jacque Hawks.
Ashley Capps giving an interview.
Aram Demirjian, left, with Patrick Roddy, who worked with Ashley Capps at AC Entertainment for eight years.
Amy Elias with David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art.
Yikes! It sneaked up on me!
What a night!