The Franklin Wine Festival’s royal court// Photo by Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Hosting the Franklin Wine Festival’s thirteenth year on Friday the 13th was unintentional, said Sarah Beatty, the director of events and communications for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee.
“If you’re on Friday the 13th on your thirteenth year, you call it lucky,” she said.
The event, which raises funds for the nonprofit organization, enjoyed a “record-setting” year: more than 2,200 people strolled the hallways of The Factory sipping wine and munching on food and desserts from local eateries on Friday evening.
Beatty, who has been organizing the event since its inception, said 250 volunteers assisted this year, pouring wine and serving food.
Of the 350 wines available for tasting, local wineries included Amber Falls and Natchez Hills, both located in Hampshire, Tennessee in Maury County. Of course, California coastal and European staples were also on hand.
Food vendors ran the gamut from steak and grits to soup, but the real winners were the desserts: the Cool Cafe’s enormous banana pudding, a chocolate fondue fountain and Five Daughters Bakery’s glazed mini doughnuts stole the show. And for non-vinos, libations included beer, bourbon, and apple cider.
The highlight of the evening, the crowning of a royal court, began six years ago as a way to recognize the grassroots fundraising efforts of individuals.
John Bell and Christi Bowling were crowned the King and Queen of the Vine according to top fundraising numbers; both brought in over $7,000 each.
At the opening of the night, auction chair Connie Harvey, a local Realtor, was honored for her charitable contributions. As the event’s auction chair over the past seven years, Harvey has raised more than $180,000.
“She is a selfless person, she takes it very seriously,” Beatty said of Harvey’s involvement.
The auction, which opened four weeks in advance of the event, included items like a Tennessee Titans guest suite for 32, a Nashville Predators hockey stick signed by the team, and a Dolly Parton signed guitar.
Woody Woodard, who opened Cool Springs Wines & Spirits in 1995, was the impetus behind the original idea, and is still the driving force as one of the event’s main sponsors.
Woodard said he originally chose to support Big Brothers Big Sisters because his daughter, Angela, was involved with the organization, in which mentors help children facing adversity.
A wine tasting was conjured simply because Woodard had the connections in the beverage industry. Woodard said retailers want to come to the event because it’s good exposure for their brands.
“There’s some reason they’re going to pick up this bottle and buy it,” Woodard said of a customer’s consumption. “One reason that they would buy it is that they’ve had an opportunity to taste it.”
See more photos from the event below: