The happiest party of the year!

Natalie Dowling rocked one of the most unusual hats at the Hats in Bloom fundraiser. She bought it in London.

Question: Do hats make people happy? Or do happy people wear hats?

The answer really doesn’t matter. The upshot is that Hats in Bloom, an annual fundraiser and hat sale benefiting the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum, is the happiest party of the year. I mean folks are absolutely giddy at this luncheon.

The fact that it’s one of the first events of spring — and that there are unlimited glasses of champagne, mimosas and Bloody Marys — could also be factors. Hats off (ha) to the few brave men who also attend this mostly female occasion.

A couple of fun facts about this year’s Hats in Bloom. It was a sellout with more guests, sponsors and money raised than ever before. Congrats to co-chairs: Jenny Bushkell, Victoria Daniel-Cape, Jacque Hawks and Gay Lyons. And to past chair and honorary co-chair Jackie Wilson, who helped found Hats in Bloom back in 2013. It’s been making us smile ever since.

Milliner Patricia Frankum, left, with Linda Haynes, center, and Jackie Wilson, the founding chair of the Hats in Bloom committee. Each year, Frankum brings her new collection of designer hats for folks to try on and purchase.

Margie Nichols was browsing some of the beautiful chapeau offerings.

So were Kent and Kim Lauth.

Servers were passing the signature appetizer from caterer Holly Hambright: candied bacon!

Nikitia Thompson gave it a try — and approved!

Rick Fox, left, and Ralph Cianelli were members of the 2023 Hats in Bloom Committee. Rick is past chair of the Botanical Garden. The two provided each top level donor (about 30 of them) with an heirloom peony plant from the centuries-old collection at their historic Middlebrook home and garden.

City Council Member Janet Testerman, left, with her mother, Janet Testerman Crossley.

Carolyn Leahy, left, and Terri Brawley.

Other passed appetizers at the reception: smoked salmon and tomato relish in phyllo cups and herbed falafel phyllo cup with tzatziki.

Allyn Purvis Schwartz, left, and Sheena McCall.

I loved the beautiful mannequin heads used to display the hats. (That may be my Bloody Mary that got caught in the photo!)

More pretty heads — and hats!

Phyllis Driver, left, and Marty Begalla.

Pandy Anderson.

Gay Lyons, left, and Natalie Dowling.

Kim Trent with Jim Richards, the soon-to-be retiring executive director of the Botanical Garden. He’s done a fantastic job.

Debbie Emery, left, and Robin Smith.

Melanie Wood, left, and Susan Farris.

Kathryn Frady, left, and Kim Henry.

It was crowded under the tent where the hats were being offered. That’s Maria McHale of Moxley Carmichael in the pink outfit.

Inside, the tables were lovely. Centerpieces, donated by Sevier Blumen, were for sale. I bought this beautiful bowl of tulips. The tables were pre-set with desserts: lemon custard tarts with fresh blueberries.

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, center, with Celia Winchester and Charlie DeBevoise.

Judith Foltz, left, and Cindy Mayfield.

Monique Anderson, left, with City Council Member Lynne Fugate.

Meghan Wilson, left, with her mother, Kathy Brennan.

Sandy Martin, left, and her mom, Mary Frances Tucker.

Beverly Kerr provided beautiful tunes.

Marisa Moazen, left, and Christy Rowe, a new account associate at Moxley Carmichael.

Susan Arbital.

Cathy Campbell, left, and Jenny Bushkell.

From left, Ellen Bebb, Jacque Hawks, Barbara Apking and Carla May Paré.

From left, Theresa Stone, Harriet Hodge, Rose Moseley, Matt Keaney (chair of the Botanical Garden board) and Annelle Neel.

Dino Cartwright, left, with Megan Stair and Reece Rose.

Stephanie Burrage, left, and Maureen McBride. Stephanie has just been named the new CEO of the YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley.

From left, Jenny Kitts, Debbie Jones and Melanie Carter. Melanie’s hat was the talk of the party because she made it herself — out of a place mat!

Barbara Furlong, left, and Diana Zeltner.

Jerry Kruse of The Pour Guys bartending service with former Knoxville First Lady Joan Ashe.

From left, Tammy White, Laura Cole and Andrea Flanders.

From the “If it Ain’t Broken, Don’t Fix it Department,” this lunch was such a hit last year that the Hats in Bloom committee decided to serve it again this year. I second that thought because it was fantastic: Mediterranean style chicken breast with feta, spinach and artichoke hearts and red pepper-garlic vinaigrette on a bed of orzo salad with roasted cauliflower, tomatoes and zucchini with pine nuts and basil.

I had a great time sitting with these fun folks at the Moxley Carmichael table! From left, Paige Muirhead, Leslie Bateman and Tina Knight.



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9 Responses to The happiest party of the year!

  1. Allyn Purvis Schwartz, on April 25th, 2023 at 1:15 pm said:

    Still one of the best parties in K-town! I love a good reason to wear a hat! I have never missed one!! Thanks, Cynthia, for all the great photos!

  2. Jackie Wilson, on April 25th, 2023 at 1:27 pm said:

    Thank you for your support of Hats in Bloom and the Knoxville Botanical Garden for all these years. It’s always great to party with the Moxley Carmichael crew at this event.

  3. Natalie, on April 25th, 2023 at 1:58 pm said:

    Was SO FUN!!

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on April 25th, 2023 at 2:20 pm said:

    Allyn: Agree with you about it being one of best parties in town!

    Jackie: Thanks so much for all your hard work in getting it to where it is today! Appreciate you.

    Natalie: Heck yeah!

  5. Katherine Brennan, on April 25th, 2023 at 2:52 pm said:

    My daughter and I look forward to this Event every year. Such a fun and happy time. Yay Spring!

  6. Gay Lyons, on April 25th, 2023 at 2:58 pm said:

    I love this party! I’ve attended every single one–and you’re right, everyone is always so happy to be there. Great job capturing the joyous ambiance. Thanks for supporting the Garden and this event.

  7. Georgiana Fry Vines, on April 25th, 2023 at 3:40 pm said:

    Love the variety of hats!

  8. Christine Dano Johnson, on April 26th, 2023 at 11:26 am said:

    So gorgeous. This always falls off my radar every year for some reason, and I regret missing it every time! The Dogwood Center is one of the prettiest venues in town — we’ve used it for a ton at UT to rave reviews.

  9. Cynthia Moxley, on April 28th, 2023 at 3:00 pm said:

    Kathy, Gay and Georgiana: Totally agree. One of best events in Knoxville!

    Christine: Don’t forget next year! It is a ton of fun!

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