Phoenix Ball an intimate affair

The key descriptive word of the 26th Annual Phoenix Ball at Cumberland University Saturday night was "Intimate" as it was the most commonly used word among attendees in describing their feelings about the elegant affair.
Jun 8, 2009


The key descriptive word of the 26th Annual Phoenix Ball at Cumberland University Saturday night was "Intimate" as it was the most commonly used word among attendees in describing their feelings about the elegant affair.
And elegant it was! Held for the first time in the historical and beautiful Baird's Chapel on the campus of the 167-year old university, the guests were limited to about half what they've been in years past, but the Victorian manner in which they were treated highly complimented the outstanding surroundings.
Sid Durham had performed his magic and transformed the already elegant room into the exquisite ballroom seen in the Taylor Swift video, "Love Story," which was filmed last year at Cumberland.
"This room had been taken for granted for so many years," said Cumberland President Harvill Eaton. "We don't think about it until a newcomer comes into it and you see their mouth drop open as they take in the beauty. It meant we were limited to about 170 guests, but I think everybody agreed it was worth it."
They lowered the huge chandelier several feet. Donated, large antique mirrors, still containing their original beveled glass,  dominated the back two corners of the room. Sitting in front of them were several candles in varied length holders flickering their flames to be reflected in the mirrors.
Each of the 17 tables in the room were decorated with cream, brocaded tablecloths, swanky white and gold dinnerware, leaded crystal goblets, and knives, forks and spoons to handle each serving of food. Centering each table was a tall crystal candelabra containing four lighted tapers around a gorgeous  tiered floral arrangement sitting atop magnolia leaves and ivy.
Ivy topped columns that stood 10-12 foot high marked off the dance floor in the center of the room while the musical entertainment during dinner and the dance band later occupied the stage in the chapel
Upon arrival at the university, Cumberland students dressed in matching shirts, served as valets to whisk the cars away. A tuxedo-dressed student took the arriving lady's arm, as if he were ushering a wedding, and escorted her up the canopied, floral and plant lined walkway to the entrance to Memorial Hall while her husband or date followed.
A bar greeted them as they entered the porch where the mingling with friends began. The big, heavy doors into Memorial Hall had been removed and the entryway wrapped in white with blue bows,  opening  the building up to the splendor inside. Another  bar was located to the left inside the entry.
All during the cocktail hour, tasty niblets were being passed around to the crowd. A harpist, Gail Cleek. sat softly strumming her instrument on the staircase in the hall outside Baird Chapel.
At seven o'clock, Eaton welcomed everybody and invited them to come in for dinner. That was the first any of the guests had seen the transformed chapel. Oooh's and aah's accompanied their entrance into the room as each hunted for their assigned table.
The guests entered one of two doorways through a white gazebo trimmed with shrubs and flowers as musicians played softly from the stage. When everyone found their table, Eaton introduced student  Erin Pierce who gave the blessing. Easton then summoned the maitre d's to bring forth hot hand towels for the guests to wipe their hands on as they did in the Victorian days.
The dinner was catered by Sodexo and drew rave reviews from the crowd. Each table contained bottles of red and white wine for their sipping pleasure. In addition to the delectable dessert that came with dinner, each attendee received a three-inch square of fine chocolate bearing the Cumberland logo.
Eaton introduced the members of the Student Government Association that were in attendance.
"We're here in an old building, but tonight is about tomorrow and those students who will be leading our world," said Eaton. "Our numbers are growing each year and the quality of students we're getting is also growing."
He went on, "I can't begin to tell you the hours of love and effort that went into this affair," thanking Sid Durham, Stephanie Walker, Leslie Steele, Joe Gray and Joyce Alcorn.
He then introduced Richard Macon, auctioneer, who got the bidding started on the five items offered for auction this year. No silent auction was held as had been in previous years.
The 14kt yellow and white gold Cumberland University Phoenix Medallion, made for the first time this year by Cox's Jewelry and Gifts, was bought by W. P. Bone's wife, Leanna, couldn't wait to model it.
Albert and Virginia McCall purchased The President's Dinner and then ended up doubling the amount they bid, not once but twice, in order to benefit Cumberland's program.
A beautiful autographed guitar by Taylor Swift, donated by Sony/ATV Music, was purchased by Dr. Aaron Pryor.
A bidder who wished to remain anonymous bought the three-night, romantic getaway for two with everything imaginable included, to the Biltmore Estates.
Joe Gray won the bid for a sequined  show halter from Reba McEntire's personal wardrobe collection with autographed picture. Wife, Doris, had tried it on over her haltered dress to see how it would fit before the evening was over. It fit!
Total raised on the five items was $15,000.
The Craig Duncan Orchestra supplied music for dancing, which drew everybody to the dance floor until guests started leaving. Even as the guests left, they danced their way out the door.
Asked their opinion of the affair, Forrest Shoaf of Cracker Barrel said, "It was a pretty good evening. It was a smaller, but in a more intimate and historic venue than in the past. The music was good and we had a good time."
Anna Lee Cockrill of University Medical Center, said, "The food was incredible. The atmosphere was just like Taylor Swift's video. It was an absolutely great evening."
Bill and June Heydel said, "The food was wonderful. The music was good. In fact, everything was good."
W. P. Bone said, "We had a really good time. This year was a more intimate affair, it seemed, and we had some good friends here with us."
Ann Floyd and her late husband, J. D. Floyd, have been attending the Phoenix Ball since it's inception.
"We were here from the beginning. I guess 1983 was our first if this is the 26th one. We've always come because J. D. used to figure Cumberland and this affair was an extension of our family.
"But, it's a whole new and different crowd now. It's been a wonderful evening and I can't believe what a great job Sid did."
For more photos of the event, go to Spotted at


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