Resplendent in plenty of sparkling sequins and soft furs, the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel took a step back in time to the 1920s for the return of The Hermitage Gala. Co-chairs Mary Gambill and Mary Jo Shankle expressed that “it has been particularly exciting and rewarding to see plans finally come together” after taking last year off due to the pandemic. The annual black-tie event was welcomed back with smiling faces and toasts to a return to normalcy.
The hot-club jazz tunes of The Derek Pell Trio moved through the lobby as patrons mingled with wine and cocktails and browsed the silent auction. There were many enviable items up for grabs, including original works of art like “The Hermitage” by Kristen Carpenter and “Presidential Homes,” a set of five pieces by Phil Ponder, and experiences at The Hermitage, such as wine and cheese in the garden, a sunset wagon ride and even dinner on the back porch of the mansion, a prize with a starting bid of $5,000. Guests could also purchase the wire cornucopias — handmade by Mary Hawkins and filled with flower arrangements from Martha and Malcolm Greenwood of Big Events — that served as centerpieces for many of the tables in the extravagant Symphony Ballroom.
Following a short welcome and recognition of the co-chairs by past Regent of the Board of Trustees Bob McDonald, guests enjoyed a delicious dinner of triple-braised short ribs with Yazoo beer-braising jus on smoked gouda grits followed by a salted caramel tart with toffee crumbles, berries, fig and orange-coconut tuile.
After dinner, Bob, Carol Yochem and Dick Cowart were presented with hickory walking sticks for their efforts and involvement with the Andrew Jackson Foundation. The evening concluded with the keynote address by retired Army general and current NBC News analyst Barry McCaffrey, who spoke on the state of national security and the need to reckon with the controversial history of Andrew Jackson. Through funds raised at this event, the Hermitage is working to tell the full story of the former president and his legacy.