In Any Event 

Pick me, pick me!

Social calendars fill up quickly during the busy fall and holiday seasons. How do you make your event stand out from the crowd? We decided to go to the source – area nonprofits who host successful annual events at a time when calendars are clamoring for attention.

In putting together this blog post, it soon became apparent that Knoxville hosts a lot of spectacular, very well attended events, particularly throughout the fall.

Directed by local worship leader John Jackson, the Emerald Youth choir is a highlight of the Legacy Dinner program each year.
Directed by local worship leader John Jackson, the Emerald Youth Choir is a highlight of the Legacy Dinner program each year.

Tennessee football is, of course, a major player on calendars with plenty of other activities also claiming space. Even after culling the events to four, we still had enough information to warrant two blog posts.

In a two-part entry for the EventCheck Knox blog, part one focuses on two big events that take place in the fall at the Knoxville Convention Center. Both honor and spotlight tremendous causes and draw major benefactors and supporters in the Knoxville community.

The Knoxville Area Urban League’s Equal Opportunity Awards Gala event has been held on the fourth Thursday of October since 1976.

Because of this longstanding tradition, President and CEO Phyllis Y. Nichols hesitates to move the gala to another night or a less busy social season, even though the league’s only fundraiser of the year has bumped heads with other Knoxville events.

Knoxville Area Urban League President and CEO Phyllis Y. Nichols
Knoxville Area Urban League CEO Phyllis Y. Nichols

“The Knoxville Convention Center tells us that ours is consistently among the best attended events they host each year,” Nichols said. “We draw sellout crowds and lots of enthusiasm by producing – with the help of Scripps Networks Interactive – an event that is like no other in Knoxville. As soon as one gala ends, people are asking me about the next one.”

Nichols added that she believes the gala’s success is bolstered by the fact it offers more than good food and entertainment.

“The gala is a time to celebrate the Urban League’s Volunteer of the Year, Minority Business, Corporate Leadership and Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement award winners,” she said. “The moving tributes to these champions of diversity and civil rights are always a highlight of the evening.”

Of course, you can’t mention the gala without talking about the entertainment. The gala is well-known for bringing top talent to the Knoxville event.

En Vogue
En Vogue

With music provided by acts such as Jeffrey Osborne, the Whispers, the Spinners, the Temptations, the O’Jays and En Vogue, the gala has its guests dancing into the night and talking about “next year’s entertainment” before they reluctantly leave the dance floor and head for home.

Emerald Youth Foundation holds its Legacy Dinner, now in its sixth year, at the Knoxville Convention Center in late October or early November. The event consistently draws a crowd of 850 to 900 people.

Emerald Youth Marketing and Communications Manager John Crooks credits the strong turnout to the dinner’s focus on the urban youth that the foundation serves, as well as honoring local community leaders who have impacted the lives of area children.

Dale Keasling, left, the 2012 Legacy Award recipient, shares a laugh with Bill Sansom, honoree at the 2013 Emerald Youth Legacy Dinner.
Dale Keasling, left, the 2012 Legacy Award recipient, shares a laugh with Bill Sansom, honoree at the 2013 Emerald Youth Legacy Dinner.

Past honorees have included individuals such as businessman Bill Sansom; Gov. Bill and First Lady Crissy Haslam; and Dale Keasling, president and CEO of Home Federal Bank.

“Our event is inspiring,” Crooks said. “We intentionally provide opportunities for our youth to share personal stories about their experience with our organization and also include a faith component and time of worship featuring the talented 70-member Emerald Youth Choir.”

Crooks added, “People arrive at 6 and leave at 8:30. We work hard to make them walk away saying, ‘Wow! We have some gifted young people in urban Knoxville who are doing great things.’ ”

Curious to know more? Be sure to come back next week when we explore two additional events that dazzle and find the common thread for success among the four.

Michelle Henry is a recovering event planner who now serves in a part-time role at Moxley Carmichael with a focus on writing. When not at the keyboard, you’ll likely find her at the pool or somewhere with her nose in a book.


Michelle Henry is a recovering event planner who now serves in a part-time role at Moxley Carmichael with a focus on writing. She eagerly awaits warm weather and pool days with a good book.

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