By Anna Robertson Ham
One of Williamson County’s most beloved, black-tie events takes place next month. The 46th Annual Heritage Ball, benefiting the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County and sponsored by Pinnacle Financial Partners, will return to Eastern Flank Battlefield Park at Carnton on October 5, 2019. This elegant event has been a staple to the community and preservation enthusiasts for decades. The first ball was held in February of 1972 at Franklin’s historic Magnolia Hall.
The event was then organized by Marty Ligon, Eunetta Kready, Jane Rainey, Mary Frances Ligon and Catherine Brent and hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Mark Garrett. At the time, they asked guests to make $50 donations to the Heritage Foundation.
Over the years, the affair has grown and become one of the greatest fundraising events during the year for the Heritage Foundation. The event anticipates up to 800 guests to attend and enjoy the evening with a cocktail hour, seated dinner, live music and dancing. This year ball-goers will experience a special performance from Kix Brooks! The Heritage Ball Late Party will take place again this year as well, sponsored by Estee Lauder Companies.
This year’s Heritage Ball Chairs are the Honorable and Mrs. William Harrison Frist. The former Senator and his wife, Tracy, are thrilled
to partner with the Foundation on the notable affair. “When CEO Bari Beasley and the board approached us and asked us to chair the Ball, we were honored,” explains Tracy. “They chose to ask us, they said, because of our deep-seated and long-standing commitment to preservation and conservation, and our interest in working with others to better the future of Williamson County. We knew the values of the Heritage Foundation were the same as our own.”
“Preservation is fundamental to our lives. And that’s why we are honored to chair the Heritage Ball,” says Bill, who was introduced to the purpose of Heritage Foundation by its leaders in 2017. Impressed by the reach of its mission and the tangible results it has accomplished over the past fifty-two years, Bill immediately introduced Tracy, knowing the many contributions Tracy has made over the years to rural preservation in Virginia and her love for honoring history to understand the present would be a perfect fit. Soon after, Tracy was asked to join the board of the Heritage Foundation.
“Williamson County is literally exploding in growth and the economy is booming. It’s recognized again and again as being one of the most attractive places in America to live. But with this surging growth, there is the very real risk we all feel of losing our way and forgetting what makes our community so special, so unique,” explains Bill. “The only counter to that is preservation and conservation, collectively agreed upon and committed to. Preservation reminds us of who we are and how we got here. It’s as simple as that. If the specialness, which has defined the county for generations, is ignored, it will be lost forever.”
“We feel the privilege of becoming part of something valuable and worthy of all our attention. We wanted to be a part of the excitement, honor, comradery, tradition, history, value, community and generational connection,” says Tracy. “We also love the sense of community. We love anything that takes a team to complete. We realized that with the Heritage Ball – which really is an extension of the community – it takes not just many diverse ideas from multiple team players, but it takes years of experience which forms a culture unique to this event.”
The Frists have been working with Amos Gott, of AmosEvents, to bring their vision of the Ball to life. “This year’s theme is one magnificent and inspiring word: Discovery,” explains Tracy. “Discovery of our collective past, our present and our future. To better understand and appreciate who and what over time shaped us to be who we are as a people and as a community today, and how we can better shape the future.”
The design for the Ball will showcase what is described as natural elegance; pairing the old and new, along with creating the environment for unity and togetherness. Tracy’s vision was in part inspired by dinners at Monticello in Tracy’s home state of Virginia, and the Ball will have design and décor elements, providing a “feast of reason” to the event. Bill and Tracy say that the theme will be more nuanced and suggested in presentation rather than explicitly spelled out, but they hope that through the overall experience that each guest will have more of an understanding and appreciation of Williamson County. The first discovery being the Past, with respect for those who preceded us, honoring our heritage, complexity of humanity, lessons of sacrifice, compassion and empathy, music and song as inspiration. The second part of the discovery will be acknowledging the Present- equality, tolerance, strength in diversity, loyalty and patriotism, humility, stewardship of nature and the world around us. And the final discovery being the Future with preservation of values, innovation and entrepreneurship, collaboration, mutual responsibility, wisdom, conservation and respect for others.
“The specific narrative of the Ball will engage and lead the attendees on a timeline comprised of a series of very short burst historical vignettes that shaped the character and values of the peoples of Middle Tennessee,” explains Tracy. “What better way to be introduced to an evening of honoring the past than passing literally through the battlefield and by Carnton as you approach the tented venue? Valet parking leads into a warmly decorated cocktail tent, where you will be welcomed with ‘The Franklin Grove,’ a specially designed cocktail created by McConnell Hospitality Group, that celebrates the fall harvest of apples and good bourbon. You will be surrounded with elegant photo areas and a carefully chosen collection of silent auction items,” the event, as described by Tracy.
“From the cocktail tent experience, guests will transition into a beautifully designed grand tent, open on all sides to showcase Carnton and the rolling grounds. There will be two stages to accommodate, first, the surprise thematic entertainment and then later in the evening, the main stage will feature the exciting music of Kix Brooks and the Craig Duncan Orchestra. The tent’s décor pairs features of nature with the elegance of old-world silver and crystal, and balances the colors of fall in deep mossy greens and bright hues of the harvest season,” Tracy says.
Aside from the Heritage Foundation, the Frists are active in various efforts. Recently, Tracy was instrumental in the restoration of the Spring House at Carnton, which will be utilized as an education resource for the visitors. They both feel that their lives are centered around a oneness of nature in the most holistic sense and say that they fundamentally believe that honoring the past provides rich wisdom to live more fully in the present, and to better prepare us for the future.
With the Heritage Foundation’s recent purchase of the former O’More College of Design property in downtown Franklin, the restoration and renovation of the newly named Franklin Grove Estate and Gardens, will have a large place in the overall purpose of this year’s Heritage Ball. When asked about the exciting plans for this property and their role in helping to preserve such a unique and special place, Tracysays: “There are so many things to look forward to that will be so impactful to this community! We are especially excited by the Heritage Classroom educational program and the relocation and restoration of the Lee-Buckner Rosenwald schoolhouse, showcasing the history of African-American students and the teachers attending the school,” exclaims Tracy. “The Williamson Inc. Center for Innovation, in the LeHew Mansion, will spark innovation and be a dynamic center for new and creative ideas. The newly related meeting places will foster collaboration and the major event space will bring people together to celebrate and affirm community projects and activities. Everything about this center will be inclusive and unifying for the entire region.”
Tracy and Bill are both proudly engaged with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) as well. Tracy serves on the Tennessee state board of TNC and Bill serves as Vice-Chairman of the TNC Global Board. Tracy is on the board of Centerstone for Tennessee and Vice-Chair for the Stephen A. Cohen Military Family Clinic. They are active with the Smithsonian Institution. Bill is on the board of the National Museum of the American Indian and has previously served on the Board of Regents for the entire Smithsonian Institution. In addition, he has served on the board of the National Zoo and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
They say that akin to preservation is their commitment to conservation. Their efforts are grounded in the ethical use and nurturing protection of the valuable natural resources at their Williamson County home and farm, Old Town, as well as the farm at Sinking Creek in Virginia. When Bill and Tracy moved from their Nashville home to their home in Franklin, historic Old Town, they did so because of the history and legacy connected to Williamson County. “We purposely moved to Williamson County because of
its unique sense of history and time and place,” says Bill. At Old Town, they work to honor the preservation of the Harpeth River, the thousand-year-old Mississippian culture Indian mounds, hundreds of limestone box graves, the 1801 dry-stacked stone bridge, and the 1846 Thomas Brown House that they live in and the adjacent smokehouse.
The love and passion for the county and their historic home runs deeper than words can portray for both Tracy and Bill. “I have come to Franklin for the past sixty years on a regular basis. Dr. Harry Guffee was my dad’s best friend and, as a child, practically every Sunday we would come out to the Guffee’s old home place or out to his farm to ride horses and listen to stories. I would watch for hours as he rode his cutting horses,” explains Bill. “When I was in elementary school, I would come out to Old Town for the Goodpasture picnics, Lock and Leave Lifestyle mesmerized by the stories Mr. Goodpasture would recount of the ancient civilization - with kings and princesses that had lived on his property, in a heavily fortified village, for over 250 years. And to think that now Tracy and I are the stewards of this sacred place.”
“It is in my DNA... My genetic family are among the many to settle in the mountainous region of Appalachia. The sense of place and communication is altered by the physical geographical barriers of mountains and valleys. Storytelling, oral history and tradition are the connectors for the generations of people,” says Tracy. “It is inmy culture... Growing up in the diversity of a historic mountainous region, I learned that generational traits are handed down by many avenues. Children become strong, complete citizens through many facets - genetics, role models, oral histories, individualism and sense of community are a few. If a child walks their main street and doesn’t see an 1800’s courthouse that handled civil issues, they don’t see a railroad bed that carried coal to fuel the world, or they don’t see an old chestnut log loading-chute used to help transport livestock to western plains and they only see modernization. Then the world becomes too sterile to develop true character. Without the trail of history evident in their daily lives, the wisdom and lessons of their preceding generations will be lost.”
To learn more about the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, purchase tickets for this year’s Heritage Ball or Late Party, or to make a donation, visit williamsonheritage.org.