Even though the Vols haven’t had the most stellar season (*cough, cough*)—let’s attribute that to the fact that the SEC has the hardest schedule ever and every team we’ve lost to is not only undefeated, but ranked in the top 20—it wouldn’t feel like fall if we didn’t make it to Neyland Stadium for a game.
A week ago, I headed up to Knoxville on Thursday afternoon as I was scheduled to speak in two classes at UT’s College of Communications. Though it was only months ago that public speaking absolutely terrified me, I thought all the talks and appearances I’ve done this year have all but demolished the fear. Following my last class, I had dinner at Sunspot with one of the professors then met up for drinks with pals Lahla and Brian, they of the most incredible wedding I have ever attended, then spent the night at their house.
The next morning, I had breakfast with my former college adviser and friend, Dr. Ashdown, then stopped by the J-School to see some professors. (Yes, I am that dork who keeps in close contact with her teachers even years after graduating.) Sadly, I just missed Peyton Manning, who was on the street directly outside of Circle Park (where I was at the time) for the reunion of the champion class of 1997.
I spent the afternoon in Market Square, first paying a visit to Lahla’s pottery studio.
How gorgeous is her work space?
Lahla is fantastically creative and opened Burning Fork Studio a few years back after realizing she’d rather make it as an artist than a journalist.
I’d say that was a wise move (given not only the state of the media, but also Lahla’s obvious panache for such a calling).
She offers one-on-one lessons, as well as workshops and parties (birthdays, bachelorettes, sorority soirees, you name it), plus has an Etsy store from which I will definitely be ordering quite a few Christmas presents. Don’t tell Ella, but she will be receiving a custom-made pet bowl like the below! (P.S. Lahla said that she can create custom orders on any of her items you see that are not listed in the store, so if you’re interested in something, feel free to e-mail her here: burningforkstudio (AT) gmail (DOT) com.
I had lunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe, which had just opened that week, then spent the rest of the afternoon working remotely from Coolato Gelato (yum). Market Square has changed so much in the eight years I have been gone from Knoxville, and every time I’m there, I enjoy discovering yet another local gem.
Since I’m a new homeowner, I love visiting Bliss even more than I did before and, as usual, did not walk out empty-handed.
As happy hour rolled around, I met my sister’s friend Josh and Lahla and Brian for drinks at Knoxville’s own speakeasy, Peter Kern Library. Once Mom, Dad and SVV arrived in town, we all convened for dinner at Cafe 4.
The following day found SVV and me back in Market Square for the weekly Saturday Farmers’ Market.
Knoxville’s Farmers Market is fantastic. All booths and products are locally made—a requirement to nab a booth there—and there are a couple food trucks and other deliciousness (cupcakes! breads! baked goods!) scattered about. Plus, Lahla and Brian are also there each week selling her wares.
Since it was a night game, we did a bit of shopping and then brunched at the Bistro before meeting pretty much my entire hometown for a pre-game tailgate.
Fall in the South is my favorite time of year, and the weather couldn’t have been more appropriate for a day of wandering around the square and Gay Street.
Seeing as both my sister and I have left Knoxville, my mom got rid of our five extra season tickets and just kept my grandfather’s pair of 40-yard-line seats, which Kari and Josh, who were in from Charlotte, got to use for the Alabama game. Luckily, my college friend the Modern Gal had an extra set, so we had great views from the first low of the upper level with her and her husband.
The outcome of the game was tragic—we weren’t expecting anything less—but it was still, as always, great to be a Tennessee Vol.
Winning or losing, there are few places I’d rather be on a perfect fall day that sitting among a pulsating crowd in the middle of Neyland Stadium.