There aren't a lot of occasions when adults can dress up in costume, but three spring to mind – Mardi Gras, Halloween and the Imagination Dinner. Of those three, only the Imagination Dinner helps children learn to read.
The annual dinner lived up to its billing with a mixture of county notables, elected officials and people who just like to have a good time. It is fun with a purpose since all proceeds benefit the Wilson Books from Birth program, the county's branch of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, a pre-kindergarten literacy service that provides books to children in county at no cost to the family.
Any child from birth to age 5 is eligible to receive free books to, hopefully, spark a lifelong love of reading.
Peggy Simpson, who heads Wilson Books from Birth, said Thursday's storms kept a few people away, but it was hard to tell in the room full of people having fun.
"A few people didn't make it because of the weather, but I'm pleased," Simpson said. "We also have some good stuff in the auctions."
That good stuff included a cheesecake handmade by Judge Barry Tatum, a gift package with tickets to the upcoming Whip Crackin' Rodeo, Cumberland County Playhouse tickets and Smoky Mountains Escape packages.
Master of Ceremonies Mac Griffin introduced Simpson who gave a special thanks to two people leaving Wilson County – outgoing Wilson County Director of Schools Mike Davis and Carole Knight who is retiring Wilson Mayor Randall Hutto's office to return to Texas.
"I want to recognize them for their support," she said.
As always, the costumes were the highlight of the evening with many tables taking on the theme of a popular children's book.
The The Mom's Club of Mt. Juliet was a hit with its "If I Ran the Circus" table, which featured a fat lady, a bearded lady, a strong "man," a clown and more. The Prospect, Inc. table was full of Disney princesses, and the full cast of The Wizard of Oz wowed the crowd at another.
There was a '50s-themed table complete with poodle skirts and two tables paying homage to "Duck Dynasty." The Fancy Nancys were featured at the W.A. Wright Elementary School table. There were two tables full of Grand Ole Opry stars – one with a Dolly and one without.
Each table's cast of characters chose their own waiter, and there were plenty of eye-catching servers, including a Mad Hatter. But possibly the most unusual waiter was a 7-foot-tall wolf who was graceful despite his platform wolf feet.
Currently, there are 4,400 children receiving a new book each month in Wilson County and about 5,500 have aged out of the program. Wilson Books from Birth is staffed entirely by volunteers, so all the money raised goes toward buying books.
The Imagination Dinner is the group's only fundraiser of the year. The cost to supply books for children is $30 per year per child served. Of that cost, $15 comes from the Governor's Foundation and the other $15 is raised by the county organizations.
For more information about Wilson Books from Birth, call Simpson at 615-444-5586.