Grooving at the Maple Grove

Dr. Bill and Laura Pippin enjoying the afternoon. They own Marble City Dentistry and Facial Esthetics in downtown Knoxville and are big supporters of the KJO.

There are few things more relaxing on an early Sunday evening than gathering with friends in a beautiful location, sipping wine, snacking on appetizers and listening to live jazz music. That’s why the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra’s “Jazz and Cocktails” fundraiser is so successful each year.

This event has found a home at the beautifully restored Maple Grove Estate, a historic 10,000-square-foot house located on 15.5 acres at 8800 Westland Drive. The owners, Roland and Karen Shankles, lovingly restored the property in 2018 for use as a wedding and event center. But it’s also a great venue for jazz in the afternoon.

The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra launches its new season next month with the unveiling of the new “NXT GEN series,” an outreach to engage young musicians to produce and perform jazz music in order to ensure the future success of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra. The regular “Big Band” concerts start in October with a champagne reception for subscribers. And the popular “Live at Lucille’s” series, taped before a live audience at East Tennessee PBS, is on sale now, as well. The KJO also will present free concerts every Tuesday in September on the outdoor stage in Market Square downtown. These folks are busy! Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Historic preservation, Knoxville, Music, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Tom Jester: ‘Call me when you’re serious.’

Tom Jester and Jenny Hines at an event at the Tennessee Theatre in 2012.

Ad man Tom Jester’s business card had a drawing of a jester’s hat on it. The slogan on the card? “Call me when you’re serious.” I always loved that.

Jester’s celebration of life was held last week and it was everything — and more than — we expected. It was hilarious and profane and moving. I think he would have loved it.

Jester passed away March 13 after a long, debilitating illness. His wife, Jenny Hines, put the affair together and perfectly captured the sometimes lovable, sometimes rascally nature of his zany and intense personality. Much of it was “R” rated.

Held at RiverView Family Farm — a working cattle operation — the wake was really a party with his friends from far and wide providing the music and the commentary that had us all laughing and crying. WBIR-TV veteran Steve Dean and Jester’s friend Mike Parish put together a video montage and Dean showed a vintage edition of the “The Heartland Series” featuring Jester. Continue reading

Filed under: Knoxville, Media | 8 Comments

Lakeshore Park Picnic powers back

More than 350 people spent an idyllic evening at Lakeshore Park’s HGTV Overlook last Saturday at one of the most relaxing, low-key fundraisers the town has ever seen.

Can you think of a better picnic venue? Or more cooperative weather?

About 135 pre-packed picnic baskets filled with the delicious wares of 15 different vendors were sold (each basket fed two) and another 100 general admission passes admitted those who wanted to bring their own dinners. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Knoxville | 7 Comments

Everywhere you look: a place to have fun

University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd puts his hospitality where his heart is. He and his wife, Jenny, donated a dinner for eight at their personal residence to be auctioned off at the recent UT Gardens Gala to benefit the UT Gardens. (You can see a report on that fun evening here.)

From left, sitting, Jenny and Randy Boyd, Melissa White and Gabriel Bolas; back row, from left, Joey Creswell, Janet Testerman, me, Alan Carmichael, Doug White and Tarah Bolas.

In fact, at the urging of ace auctioneer Bear Stephenson, they agreed to sell TWO of the private dinners. Lucky for me and my friend Janet Testerman, we were high bidders for one of the dinners. So we grabbed our spouses and two other fun couples and headed to the Boyds’ last weekend. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville | 10 Comments

Knoxvillians noshing in New York!

Margie Nichols at Marea, a Michelin Star Italian eatery that we just loved.

We went to New York and we ate like we were in Europe. I swear. Every restaurant we booked was either French or Italian. I’m not complaining, mind you. Just observing.

It was all by choice, after all. Normally, when we go to New York City, we try to discover some great new places. But, since this annual trip that we take with the Clarence Brown Theatre group had been postponed two years, we had a hankering to visit some of our old favorites. They just happened to be Continental in style.

If you’d like to read about the plays we saw, click here for the previous post. This post will cover our non-theater adventures, including a museum, jazz — and food, food, food! (Don’t read this if you are hungry!) Continue reading

Filed under: Food, Travel | 9 Comments

Back to Broadway!

“Little Shop of Horrors” star Conrad Ricamora after the show with Dean Theresa Lee of the UT College of Arts & Sciences.

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, about 45 die-hard patrons of the Clarence Brown Theatre packed up and headed to New York City earlier this month to see plays, eat at great restaurants and meet with some University of Tennessee alumni working and living in the Big Apple.

The beauty of this annual trip is that the good folks at the Clarence Brown Theatre select the plays and get the tickets, arrange for the hotel and a few group gatherings and come along to offer insights and advice along the way.

It is very fun and Alan and I highly recommend you consider this unique experience.

But first, here are a couple of things to know about what’s happening in New York’s Theater District right now:

  1. It is very difficult to get a taxi. Uber and Lyft rides are problematic, as well. Even with help from our hotel doormen, we had to cancel at least one reservation because we simply couldn’t get a ride. In another instance, we just opted to walk from the get-go, knowing it would take more than 30 minutes. So, bring good walking shoes and plan accordingly.
  2. The theaters are very strict about mask wearing. The folks in our group were fine with that policy, but be aware and, again, plan accordingly.

Continue reading

Filed under: Theater, Travel | 5 Comments

Just a Tuesday night in Knoxville

It’s always a good night when you run into one of Knoxville’s biggest celebrities, opera diva Mary Costa, center. She was at Cherokee Country Club on Tuesday with her friends Ann Sherbakoff, left, and Leslie Testerman.

When I hear folks say there’s not enough going on in Knoxville, it renders me speechless! There is ALWAYS something going on in Knoxville! Sometimes, too much! Case in point: this past Tuesday night.

Sharon Pryse, a big supporter of the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, threw a sweet little garden party at her Sequoyah Hills home to thank the major sponsors of Hats in Bloom, a major fundraiser for the non-profit garden. Moxley Carmichael was a sponsor of that event, held a few weeks ago, and it’s always fun to go see Sharon’s own beautiful garden, so the first stop of the evening was there. (Click here to see a report on this year’s Hats in Bloom.)

Following that fun stop, I headed back downtown to the Museum of East Tennessee History to celebrate our friend Adrian Jay being named the ninth vice regent representing the state of Tennessee at the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association was the first national historic preservation organization and is the oldest women’s patriotic society in the United States.

More fun ensued there. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Knoxville | 6 Comments

An upbeat Janet Testerman kicks off state House race

City Council Member Janet Testerman launches her campaign for the Tennessee General Assembly.

It was a perfect evening for a campaign kickoff and general get-together at Lakeshore Park Monday evening. The temperature was in the high 70s with a comfortable breeze. Restaurateur Randy Burleson delivered fantastic food to Marble Hall. The Pour Guys were pouring terrific wines and Miller beers.

Janet Testerman, my friend and current Knoxville City Council member, looked beautiful and exuded confidence and sincerity as she declared her candidacy for state representative for District 18 in the Tennessee General Assembly. Eddie Mannis, the current holder of that seat, was in the audience to cheer her on, as were more than 80 other friends and supporters, including Farragut Mayor Ron Williams and her fellow Knoxville City Council member, Lynne Fugate. It really could not have gone better.

“I’m a steadfast believer that when opportunities present themselves, you have to pay attention,” she said, referring to the fact that Mannis decided not to seek re-election to the position. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Politics | 1 Comment

UT Gardens Gala: worm castings and wine!

University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman and her husband, Dennis Duchon, were among the many happy guests at the UT Gardens Gala. Isn’t her dress perfect for the occasion?

The UT Gardens Gala recently celebrated a record crowd — and a record amount of money raised — in near-perfect weather at its beautiful location on Neyland Drive.

University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd and his wife, Jenny, were honorary hosts and Dick Ott, a specialist in the field of interior plant-scaping and a big supporter of the UT Gardens, was a special honoree.

The UT Gardens are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture with locations in Knoxville, Jackson and Crossville. Together, they attract more than 100,000 visitors each year. These three sites constitute the official State Botanical Garden of Tennessee and combine the beauty and allure of a public garden with a hands-on university laboratory for conserving, restoring and celebrating the environment.

The UT Gardens Gala is a great party — mostly because people can’t help but be happy in such a beautiful space. This year was even more special because the Boyds, who own a vineyard and boutique winery in Mendoza, Argentina, provided some of their own wines for the festivities.

In appreciation of their support, the UT Gardens gifted the Boyds with — wait for it — a bench! Read on for the details! (And get over to the gardens when you can! Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food, Knoxville | 5 Comments

A ‘Knoxville’ weekend in Sarasota

An excited Roy Cockrum making remarks during a reception prior to the opening of “Knoxville” at Sarasota’s Asolo Repertory Theatre on Saturday night.

The Roy Cockrum Foundation put Knoxville on the map again this past weekend by underwriting a buzz-generating production of a new play called, “Knoxville,” which had its world premiere on Saturday in Sarasota, Florida.

The Knoxville man who claimed $153 million in 2014 when he cashed in a lottery ticket he had purchased at a Kroger, Cockrum and some friends were in the audience for the premiere.

“I’ve never been more proud to have my name associated with a new play,” Cockrum said after the show.

Reviewers from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and Sarasota Magazine agreed. Carrie Seidman, writing for the newspaper, called the play “an eloquently emotional reflection about what matters most in our lives – the bonds of faith, family and love that sustain us even in the face of our certain but unpredictable deaths.”

Kay Kipling says in Sarasota Magazine,  “As old-style promo show posters might have said, Knoxville will make you cry. It will make you laugh. It will make you care. And it deserves to have a long life in future productions.” Continue reading

Filed under: Art, Food, Theater, Travel | 13 Comments