In Any Event 

Pick me, pick me! (again)

Whether the draw is entertainment, food, inspiration or the magic of Christmas, it’s important to find a way to stand out in the fall and holiday season when social calendars are full. A successful event at the busiest time of the year requires first getting the attention of your attendees and then keeping them coming back.


An overview of the Fantasy of Trees
An overview of the Fantasy of Trees

Last week, we learned a lot from the Knoxville Area Urban League and Emerald Youth Foundation, two venerable nonprofits whose signature events each draw about 900 people every fall.

Now, in part two of the ‘pick me’ blog entries, we examine two events hosted by organizations that share the common goal of raising funds to help the youngest members of society.

Les Trois Chefs, one of Knoxville’s premier food and wine events, is held in the fall and hosted by Childhelp Tennessee, an organization dedicated to serving the needs of abused and neglected children.

As its name would imply, the event centers on great food prepared by top chefs. Childhelp Tennessee Director Hugh Nystrom says with well-earned pride that, over the years, the event has featured James Beard-award winning chefs. The James Beard awards are the country’s highest annual culinary honor.

Hugh and Angelia Nystrom at a Les Trois Chefs event.
Hugh and Angelia Nystrom at a Les Trois Chefs event.

In a December 2012 Blue Streak blog entry, Cynthia Moxley, a woman who knows a thing or two about exquisite food and great wine stated, “If your idea of a good time is tasting course after sumptuous course prepared by three excellent chefs and paired with great wines by an expert, then a fundraiser called Les Trois Chefs is the event for you.”

In addition to the food, Nystrom credits the event’s long history of success to its collegial atmosphere.

“Our event has the best bar and is the most fun,” Nystrom said with a laugh.

He added that the event is always held at Cherokee Country Club on a Friday evening before a Tennessee home football game, which, in the case of 2014, is Oct. 10 with the Vols hosting Chattanooga on Oct. 11. That helps to ensure that attendees will be in town and reduces the likelihood of a Saturday wedding at the country club, which would make post-event cleanup more problematic.

The desserts are simply splendid at Les Trois Chefs.
The desserts are simply splendid at Les Trois Chefs.

On a serious note, Nystrom said people also are willing to attend Les Trois Chefs because it supports an important cause – helping children who are the victims of abuse. Childhelp is a leading national nonprofit organization that focuses on prevention, intervention and treatment.

Finally, this year marks the 30th anniversary for Fantasy of Trees, the spectacular five-day holiday celebration to benefit East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Although the event is held over Thanksgiving week, it consistently draws some 55,000 to the Knoxville Convention Center.

“Fantasy of Trees is the kickoff to the holiday season for so many in Knoxville and the surrounding region,” said Erica Estep, public relations manager for Children’s Hospital. “It gets bigger and better every year and has become a favorite holiday tradition for many East Tennessee families.”

When asked why people should include Fantasy of Trees on the list of “must-do” events, Estep was ready with a good answer:

"A Christmas Story" scene from the Fantasy of Trees
“A Christmas Story” scene from the Fantasy of Trees

“There is no other event in the region that showcases hundreds of sparkling designer-decorated trees, holiday gift shops, entertainment and family-friendly activities, all under one roof, to benefit a great cause.”

Estep closed by adding that a lot of work goes into the holiday extravaganza that takes place at the Convention Center each year.

“We spend an entire year planning, and it takes thousands of volunteers donating more than 170,000 volunteer hours to make it happen, but it’s worth it,” she said. “Just like Children’s Hospital, Fantasy of Trees is all about children and their families.”

The four nonprofits spotlighted these two weeks have maintained success by identifying what works best and sticking with it. The fact they do important work that people are eager to support also is paramount. They found their niche and became must-attend events.

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.

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