Fun Fest is over with and time to catch up on a few thanks and memories of this year’s summer festival.

I didn’t participate a lot this year because we’re simply covered up at work. But there were a few things I really enjoyed – especially the Wine Tasting Seminar at Ridgefields Country Club.

In the past, Fun Fest has consumed my time every Summer. I’m not complaining, but our organization has worked with this city-wide festival for several years now and we’re glad to see it continue to be successful.

This year we’re making some changes with our brand and covered up with plenty of interesting projects. We were short on time and resources and took a break this year as a sponsor. This decision allowed me to enjoy one of the events I always missed each year.

Several weeks ago, Pam Cox with Accuforce Staffing Services called to hire my services as background entertainment for the wine tasting at Ridgefields. This was an exciting opportunity for me because these small party/chamber gigs are always one of my favorites because they allow for more improvisation on the piano and the wine makes everyone a bit more forgiving.

Ridgefields was busier than usual.

When I arrived around 6.00, the pool was filled with late afternoon swimmers. The golf course was busy in a haze of heat and the last rays of sunlight were beaming into the west wing of the club.

The pool was filled with late evening swimmers. The golf course was buzzing with carts and there were plenty of people in the parking lot too as some folks were moving toward the gym. Besides that, this was the place for the hottest tickets of Fun Fest on Tuesday.

Ticket prices for this year’s event were among the highest of any event. However the $50 entry was well worth the sampling of some great wines, extraordinary foods and an evening with some of my favorite business relationships.

Pam met me at the door and ushered me to the table in front. The wait staff was running from all corners setting tables and the room was ablaze on the west wing from the late afternoon sun.

In the corner among the long shadows was the Chickering piano. This old piano has been at Ridgefields forever and is banged up from moving around the halls. It’s about time for them to consider something new, but the sound was good enough for me to work out a verse or two of an old Rolling Stones song just to get used to the feel.

By the time the guests were coming in the sun was really beaming over my shoulders. The tables were filling up rather quickly too and the room got louder as people collected themselves in their seats dressed in casual summer dress.

My role as piano player ended when there was a speaker introducing the wines and that meant a place at the table in front of the piano to enjoy the wine and food.

That was good timing too because the introductory wine was a cool, barely sweet Countryside Vineyard Vidal.

Over the years, there have been several times a Countryside wine has caught my attention.

Jim and Annette Thomas along with their family are still caring for a gorgeous hillside near Blountville and you never know what to expect and I will say this – this Vidal was probably one of my favorite wines from the evening. Next to the Riesling, these two wines set the pace even though I prefer reds.

At my table, Matthew and Crystal joined me and Keith Wilson who had a relative and his wife from out of town. A fellow musician, we shared stage stories throughout the night and he challenged me to several requests – I’m always happy to play old Elton John songs. We were also surprised to see Josh and friends from One Stop Wines and The Stir Frye in our company tonight.

Keith officially opened the night’s taste with an introduction of sponsor Larry Nunley and Accuforce. He also recognized an army of fellow business leaders serving as volunteers. Among them Miles Burdine and his wife, Angie Martin, Mike Howle and several others dressed in black and white with bow-tie.

When a wine was announced and the servers began to pour, that’s when I had to be back at the bench. 

I really enjoy playing for small rooms like this – especially with wine and friends. Among them Charlie and Chere Large were a treat to see. They are the sponsors of the taste for Fun Fest and I’ve always appreciated their respect.

The Alleys had a full table too. Proud sponsors of Fun Fest for many years and owner of one of Kingsport’s automotive heritage, brothers Doug and Martin Alley had a full table of family celebrating good times together.  My good friend Diane Hills made my night too when she came from the back to speak with me for a moment.

The food this evening was out-of-this world.

It’s a real delight to witness what is happening at Ridgefields. Kingsport’s country club has recently partnered with The Troutdale Dining Room in Bristol and serving a quality of food that is beyond comparison in Kingsport. It’s unfortunate that I don’t know exactly what I ate.

Those plates were ornate and the food was rich. Most everyone was in a daze from more than the wine too. The flavor and variety of our three course dinner tonight was worth every bit of the ticket price.

Thanks again to the organizers of the Fun Fest Wine Tasting Seminar. I had a ball and eager to do it again next year. Hope you enjoyed yourself as much as I did.