By Anna Robertson Ham
A Vintage Affair is a well-loved organization and annual series of events that many have supported and attended since it began, twenty-one years ago. Through the
twenty-one years of events (although canceled last year due to COVID), the organization has given just over $2 Million dollars in contributions to charitable organizations. Their focus is those who need it most — women and children of Williamson County.
Vintage Affair (AVA) was founded in 2001 by Ralph Drury. His passion for wine and helping others evolved into a series of events celebrating wines from around the world and giving back to the community. The relationships that have developed over the years, from wineries bringing their best bottles to the events to cultivating the relationships of long-standing supporters and patrons, Ralph created something that has become a well-loved and anticipated event year after year.
The torch has now been passed to his daughter, Carrie Drury, and her enthusiasm for the event and what it has become truly shines through. Carrie has been a part of the organization since the beginning as well…Usually seen behind the camera lens as she captures the special moments and memories from the events, documenting the years. “My Dad always had a special place in his heart for charity,” says Carrie. “In 2000, he was approached to help foster the inception of a pediatric charity clinic for Franklin residents. The center was later named Mercy Children’s Clinic and is now called Mercy Community Healthcare Center. He and several other community members put together a wine auction to help in raising funds for Mercy. The first fundraiser profited $48,000 for the children’s clinic. Twenty years ago, that was a lot of money and my Father saw the amount of help it provided to a worthwhile cause, and he committed to continuing to raise money for those in need in Williamson County. His good friend and local businessman, Danny Anderson, named the new organization A Vintage Affair, highlighting that it was all started with a single wine auction and would continue to utilize wine to bring people together for a commendable cause. My Father filed the necessary paperwork to incorporate the company and applied for 501(c)3 status to become an official nonprofit organization. The rest is history, as they say!”
A Vintage Affair originally began with five full days of events. “We have since changed it to three events a year. To evolve, you go from the simple to a more complex form. We have learned to keep it simple but still throw extraordinary events,” explained Carrie. “My Father believes if you give people a good time, they’ll be more likely to give their goodwill to the well-being of others. So we are always searching and implementing new ideas to make our events the very best they can be,” explains Carrie.
Each year, the beneficiaries will change. Local nonprofits apply to become an AVA Beneficiary in October for the following year. “Our Board of Directors appoints a Beneficiary Committee to review all applications. We have a grading system and select five beneficiaries that meet the criteria,” says Carrie. The 2021 Beneficiaries are Community Childcare Center, Franktown Ministries, My Friend’s House, Bridges Domestic Violence Center, Williamson Medical Center Foundation and High Hopes Developmental Center.
“Personally, I am honored to be the Executive Director and feel very proud to keep my Father’s legacy going. It wasn’t until I became the Executive Director that I saw first-hand just how much AVA has helped our local nonprofits,” says Carrie. “Visiting our beneficiaries and hearing their stories, witnessing the money that AVA contributes to their organization is thrilling and I always leave with wanting to do more. I am blessed to have the right team behind me! Our Board of Directors, Advisory Board and Young Professionals Board, are some of the most passionate, hard-working, dedicated people I have ever met. They have a love for our community and a love for AVA, and all do their part to make our events and organization a success. I certainly could not do what I do without all the incredible board members we have. Of course, plain and simple our beneficiaries keep us going. My board is right along with me, brainstorming ways to become bigger and better year after year to provide the maximum support to our charities. I love my AVA family!”
“There are so many wonderful people that have been involved for all twenty years of AVA’s existence. It would honestly take pages to name the amazing folks that have continued to support AVA year after year. From local companies, restaurants - the Franklin Chophouse for example has been a food vendor for twenty years! Individuals to friends, winemakers and our incredible crew that visits each year from California.” Carrie tells the story of how a chance meeting at a bar in Napa Valley, California, between her parents, and John and Sandra Fletcher and Dave and Dori Lang, resulted in a blessed friendship between each of them and AVA.
As a result, the Fletchers and Langs have made the pilgrimage to Franklin to attend A Vintage Affair event for twenty years straight. “Not only do they support us by being here, but they have donated cases of wine each year for our wine auction and so much more! We are so very grateful for all the wonderful support this community and beyond has shown to AVA,” explains Carrie.
The chairs of A Vintage Affair’s twenty-first anniversary events are Jenny and Jim Cross. Jim and Jenny have been longtime supporters of A Vintage Affair, and Carrie says that when the board decided on selecting a chair for this year’s events, it was only natural that it be the Jim and Jenny. “Mr. Cross was instrumental in renovating the building that housed Mercy’s Children’s Clinic twenty-one years ago,” Carrie says. “They have been at most, if not all, of our AVA events throughout the years! Their reach goes way beyond AVA…they show up for this community in some shape or form every day and do it with humility and kindness. We could not have picked a more deserving couple for the inaugural chairs of our 2021 events.”
“Ralph and Jim have a friendship that has spanned more than twenty-five years,” says Jenny Cross. “They first met when they were members of the second class of the Franklin Citizen’s Police Academy. They also began eating breakfast together Monday through Friday, along with several of their buddies.”
Their wives affectionately dubbed them ‘The Breakfast Club,’ and he asked his breakfast buddies to help when Ralph began AVA. “When Ralph Drury asks you to do something, it’s best just to go ahead and commit because he won’t take no for an answer,” says Jim Cross.
“So that is how Jenny and I became involved with the nonprofit.”
Jim and Jenny have been in the real estate development and construction business in Franklin for over fifty years. They have been involved in multiple projects, including The Factory at Franklin. They own and operate Century Construction Company and Oversite Owner Rep, consulting with public and private companies to deliver projects from conception to move in. Jim also serves on the Williamson Medical Center Board of Directors as well as the FirstBank Board.
“We have been involved with A Vintage Affair from the beginning,” says Jim. “My friend, Ralph, started AVA and asked his friends to help. I was especially drawn to the mission of AVA, to help charities that focus on women and children. I also like that you can give to AVA and help out multiple charities with one donation. It is important to give back to your community because the community has given us so much.”
Jenny says the best part about A Vintage Affair is the many lives that are touched by the funds raised. “It is amazing to see how the Franklin community comes together to support A Vintage Affair and its beneficiaries,” she says.
Jenny, Jim and Carrie are all excited about this year’s events and celebrations. “Our twentieth anniversary did not happen, due to Covid, and it feels like the looming after effects and the new variant still prove to be a challenge, so as Executive Director, I just want to get to and through October 8th and 9th,” Carrie says. “We have worked so hard to make this one of our best years to date, and if we can continue as planned (without any more challenges from Covid), we will far exceed any other year of AVA. I am also looking forward to the stilt walkers, the jugglers, the live martini girl, the band, the dancing, the glitz, the glam, the wine and just seeing and celebrating with folks we have not seen in a few years! We are all looking forward to celebrating!”
“A Vintage Affair has the distinct pleasure of hosting first-class wine events. Everyone’s version of need is different, and as a nonprofit foundation, we can provide assistance to a wide range of organizations who support different areas of needs,” Carrie says. “So, when you attend one of our events, become a sponsor, vendor, donate to the auction or purchase something from it, you can feel good to know that your money supported numerous organizations instead of just one. A lot of people do not realize the true needs that exist in our community, and AVA offers a great way to support these organizations through fun events!”
The theme of this year’s events is “The Roaring Twenty’s” for the twentieth anniversary. The Main Event will take place on October 8th at Liberty Hall at The Factory. Guests are encouraged to dress in 20’s attire if they would like to get into the spirit of the theme. The Top Tier Band will provide great music for dancing, and there will be food and beverages to enjoy. Guests will also get to participate in a live and silent auction, as well as wine auctions. And, of course, there will be wine vintners and spirit tastings! “We purchased a golf trip to Scotland one year at the silent auction. It was definitely a favorite trip and one our family would love to do, again,” Jenny says. “The auctions truly have something for everyone and, with Christmas around the corner, you just might find an unusual, one-of-a-kind gift for someone special on your list.”
The Harvest Fest and beloved Grape Stomp takes place the next day, on October 9th, at Eastern Flank Battlefield at Carnton Plantation. It will be an exciting, family-friendly, fun-filled day with great food and wine tastings, live music performed by Rubik’s Groove, and grape stomp teams in costume competing for the coveted grape stomp trophy. Don’t miss these wonderful events and celebrating this organization’s many years of giving back to our community.
A Vintage Affair’s Main Event and Harvest Fest Grape Stomp