Days before Williamson County’s biggest black-tie affair, Heritage Ball manager Lynne McAlister spends a lot of time working furiously at her corner desk.
With Sept. 17 lurking on the calendar, this year marks McAlister’s second working on the Heritage Foundation’s largest fundraiser. Long-time supporters Barry and Jackie Alexander of Alexander Automotive are the presenting sponsors.
This year, McAlister has an advantage in comparison to last. Not only does she have the event planning experience, but now she can say she’s been to the event she’s planning for.
“I don’t have that wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights look this year,” she said. “At least I have been to the ball. So when we talk about where anything goes, I know what that’s going to look like, and I have an idea of how it all fits together.”
McAlister said the foundation has already sold 645 seats to the ball, which nears the sold out point. The event can only allow 700 people, so she and the planners are working to use every inch of space.
“I am really excited about that, and I think the reason it’s a sell out is because Mayor Ken and Linda Moore are wonderful ball chairs,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to compare and contrast to last year because we had a great turnout, too. But the Moores have a lot of contacts, and that brings in fresh faces.”
McAlister has also dealt with a more subtle theme idea this year. While it presented a wide range of more opportunities, it also created a bit of its own challenges. She and designer Donna Daniel have tried to transformed the event from the ideas in Linda Moore’s mind.
“What Linda has repeatedly said is she wants it to be simply elegant,” McAlister said. “In her mind the epitome of simple elegance is the Rainbow Room. It’s not that we are trying to have a New York theme, but we are inspired by her vision that is the epitome of simple elegance.
“I think it’s going to be absolutely stunning. Donna has done a good job of creating a vibe of sleek and sophisticated in an upscale venue in New York.“
McAlister and Daniel have been working with a soft color palette to achieve the look, using muted champagnes and golds.
With the theme change handled, the Heritage Ball manager is primarily looking forward to one more simple difference from last year – a tent with no poles.
“I know people don’t truly grasp why it’s a big deal, but having framed tents is going to be a magnificent change,” McAlister said. “It’s going to be so much bigger and open. People won’t be so far back from the stage, and that’s a big deal. They put the tents up in half a day last year. This year it’s going to take three days and using a crane.”
The ball will also have another handful of firsts.
Gray’s Mixologist is creating both a ladies and gentlemen’s cocktail, befitting the theme of the evening. The Gent’s is “the Manhattan” and the Ladies is the “65th Floor.”
More items will also be up for live auction, rather than just one, and soft jazz will float through the dinner hour. Also back by popular demand, Al Paris and the Heartbreakers will perform during the dance hour.
During the next couple of weeks, McAlister and dozens of other organizers will continue to get ready for Franklin’s special evening – one that she has learned requires a little help from everyone.
“What I am enjoying very much this year is how everyone works together,” she said. “It’s going so well with the staff here, the ball chairs the volunteers, the vendors and the sponsors.
“When I was there last year and it was all coming together the day of the ball, I teared up two or three times. It was just being a part of something where so many people come together to make it happen. It’s almost like it’s not just the Heritage Foundation’s event. Several people in Franklin take ownership in this. We all think of it as a partnership. We are all doing it together.”
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