Emme is a seventh-generation Nashvillian and president of Nelson Baxter Communications, LLC

by Emme Nelson Baxter | Photography by Tiffani Bing

Each spring, Cheekwood serves up a heady cocktail of art and glamour in the name of fundraising.

The Swan Ball and its meta-events—all of which of course benefit Cheekwood—provide a perfect melding of the Old Nashville “Social Register crowd” with new players who have moved to town and immersed themselves philanthropically into our city’s most cherished arts organizations.

Mixed into the great taxonomy of folks making this annual affair into one of the Southeast’s premier white-tie galas is a phalanx of media, servers, volunteers, designers, florists, caterers, entertainers, and the spit-shined and polished guests themselves.

These days, the benefit raises more than $1 million annually for Cheekwood. Plain and simple, it’s big doings.

Alec and Kathleen Estes with Barby and Govan White
Cathy East and Carolyn Taylor
Carolyn Nash
Jennifer Hudson
LaRawn Scaife Rhea
Elizabeth McDonald, Felice Oldacre and Marie Masterson. Photograph by Mary Catherine Glassford
David and Kathryn Brown with Jeweler Paulo Costagli. Photograph by Mary Catherine Glassford
Pamela and Bob Jackson
Tony Rose and Tina Hoffstead

Let’s peek at the 53rd Swan Ball, held June 6 on the estate grounds and chaired by Kathleen Estes and Barby White.

On May 14 some 250 gathered at Belle Meade Country Club for the Swan Ball Auction Party. Ace volunteers Cathy East and Carolyn Taylor took on the intimidating job of assembling choice lots featuring priceless access. Think Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue—a veritable wish book where a trip isn’t a trip unless it includes cocktails with the ambassador of a far-flung land followed by dinner at the most chichi of private clubs.

The week of the ball brought the black-tie Patrons Party to Dudley White’s grand estate, Deerfield, on Evelyn Avenue. Graciously co-hosting the June 3 seated dinner party were Jeanne and Bill Cammack, Ann and Bob Coleman, Alice and Henry Hooker, Frances and Buddy Jackson, and Betty and Jim Stadler. Dinner, which featured Australian lamb, was prepared by dKates Catering. The Tulip Tree handled the lavish florals.

Kathryn and David Brown hosted the June 4 Jewelry Party at their exquisitely renovated home in Belle Meade. Dressed in summer-chic attire, Swan Ball patrons, friends, and jewelry lovers oohed and ahhed over Paolo Costagli’s designs. This was New York-based Costagli’s first collaboration with the Swan Ball.

David and Edie Johnson with Bill and Jeanne Cammack
Wilson Hardcastle and Fran Hardcastle
Joe and Anne Russell with John and Peggy Warner
John Eddie Cain, Barry Caldwell, Tooty Bradford and Wentworth Caldwell
Jack and Jane Jacques with Amy and Frank Garrison
Patricia and Rodes Hart
Barby, Govan and Molly White
Jimmy Granbery, Anne Parsons and Jamie Granbery
Alec and Kathleen Estes
Under the tent at the Patrons Party

Some 650 attended the Ball itself. Manhattan-based event designer David Stark interpreted Estes and White’s vision of “Timeless” using black, white, and deciduous green. Suspended from the ceiling were a magnificent white clock face with moving black hands, white cogs and gears depicting the inner workings of a timepiece, and fabulous oversized lighting with drum shades dressed in foliage-printed fabric.

During the evening, Cheekwood Board President Tooty Bradford and Cheekwood President/CEO Jane MacLeod presented the Swan Award to the daughters of Ann and Monroe Carell Jr. Accepting on behalf of their late parents were Julie Stadler, Edie Johnson, and Kathryn Brown. Shortly thereafter, Kevin Doyle of Sotheby’s NY auctioned off four prized lots. The high bid of the night was $18,500 for the Bahamas yacht trip for eight.

Caterer Kristen Winston provided a top-notch dinner highlighted by filet mignon with roasted jumbo shrimp.

The pièce de résistance, however: Grammy Award-winning vocalist Jennifer Hudson. The pint-sized, pixie-headed bundle of blast provided an hour’s worth of entertainment, much to the delight of the appreciative, smartphone-wielding crowd on the dance floor. Following her set, the Atlanta Allstars took the stage and kept folks moving until 3 a.m.

As the main party unfolded, the younger set enjoyed a Dani Kates dinner under a tent near Botanic Hall. Event chairs Heidi Rose and Grace Clayton had assists from designer H3 Events and Branches. Thirty minutes before midnight, the 300 or so Late Party guests were able to join the rocking Swan Ball up the hill at the Mansion.

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