A friend of mine approached me a few weeks ago to see if I’d be interested in volunteering at the Nashville Antiques & Garden Show—actually, at the Benefactors’ Reception and (immediately following) the preview party. She had various jobs that needed to be done (scanning tickets, will-call ticketing, greeting, handing out drinks vouchers) and at the end of that, we’d be free to wander the show floor. It would open to the general public the next day.
Antiques and gardens, you say? Why yes! It’s oh-so Southern, and the concept works so well here that this show is the largest of its kind in the country. It works out to be a little bit antiques (all very high end), a little bit gardening (a lot of middle and high-end garden shops set up booths, but there are plants too), a little bit interior design, a little bit seminar, a little bit gift shop … with a sprinkling of arts and crafts fair. Oh, right up my alley!
The first A&G show I attended was back in 1995—a friend gave my son and I tickets as a Christmas gift—and we went for several years before he lost interest and I got sidetracked by other things. So I was due. And … wow.
The show is actually a charity event—it benefits the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens & Museum (gardens and antiques—get it?) as well as the Economic Club of Nashville (which supports local charities)—and in its 25 years, the event has raised nearly $6 million. It’s entirely volunteer managed. Enter my friend, who was managing volunteers for the Benefactors’ Reception and the preview party. (Benefactors are those who donate more than $1000; tickets for the preview party are $200 per person.)
It took me about five seconds to tell her yes. Get a look at the show before everybody else? Oh yeah.
But first the fashion show … er, volunteering. 🙂
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote (in his 1926 short story, “The Rich Boy”) that wealthy folk are not the same as us regular folk. “They are different from you and me,” he said. I don’t know about that. Most of the people I spoke to were friendly enough (well, OK, they were on their way to a party and in a good mood). But I can tell you for sure they have better clothes. Mostly in black.
Man oh man, what a fashion show—woman and men too. Old and young. Old Nashville and Music Row. Hipsters who looked like they were straight out of Brooklyn; one guy with his carefully curated beard lying on his chest should have been in a Civil War movie. Seriously. This was some grade-A people watching, and I say that with respect and affection.
My friend Jenny, who shares my interests, came along, as I’d learned more volunteers were needed. We were greeting folks and directing them to will-call, or the coat check, or straight to the door, if they had tickets in hand. And we did this for three hours.
(I am kicking myself for not bringing a camera. What was I thinking? So these less than satisfactory photos were taken with my cell phone. If you want to see more—and better—photos, visit the show’s Facebook page.)
We spent the last hour of the night wandering the show. It was surprisingly easy, because most of the party patrons were clustered around the two bars and the food tables. Score!
There were five or six garden installations to stimilate the imagination, in addition to all the swell shops, which were, as I’ve noted, virtually empty. The last time I was at the show as a ticket-buyer, the booths were packed: the show gets about 15,000 visitors per year. So it was nice to stroll and see everything easily (although the lighting was very harsh).
One advantage to volunteering at the preview party—food. There was lots of it. The partygoers really loved the sliders; every time the servers brought out a pan of them they were gone in about two minutes. Me, I was hanging out for the handmade chocolates. (Yes, I know I’m not eating sugar. I made an exception for the truffles: white chocolate over dark chocolate centers. OMG.)
And I had other favorites at the show. Favorite local vendor? Ash Blue. Favorite fine artist? Meredith Cope. (Loved “Carried Along” but only if you’re buyin’. It was out of my price range.) Favorite booth name at Nashville Antiques & Garden show? PEONY’S ENVY, hands down.
Favorite booth, full stop? On our way out, we stopped at an antiques booth with a display I’d been eying all night.
They’re called “museum bees.” Here’s the blurb on the business card:
Carefully created from antique frames, these ‘bees’ showcase the beauty and variety of frames from the 19th century. We recycle them and add a variety of ornaments, the first of which was Napoleon’s Bee (hence the name). You will find other animals, insects, pre-Columbian fragments (c. 1200 AD) and assorted antique objects. The frames are American and predominantly date from 1860–80, though some are earlier.
“How long did it take you to put this thing together?” I asked. Mr. Mayer got out his smart phone and showed us a time-lapse video he’d made. But how long? Six hours! (Here’s another look—in higher definition—of the museum bee installation. Way cool.) Mayer mentioned that he has a Facebook page and an Instagram account, which was where I found this museum bee representation of the iconic Great Wave off Kanagawa. Dude! You can tell how much I loved these bees!
So … by the time you read this, the Nashville Antiques & Garden Show will be over. And I’ll have started my countdown … for next year. With a better camera. See you then!