Inaugural wing festival draws thousands

Over 3,000 hungry people attended the Big Kahuna Wing Festival in Knoxville’s World’s Fair Park Saturday June 22nd for wing competition to benefit News Sentinel’s Empty Stocking Fund and Ronald McDonald House.

Thirty contestants entered their best batches of wings with each group fiercely competing for the coveted title Best Wings in Knoxville. Almost 10,000 tickets at $10 a ticket were purchased towards the cause and attendees were given a punch card and encouraged to hit all thirty tents and sample one of their unique styles of wings.IMG_0308

                For the Davis team, their family sauce recipe consists of “Frank’s Hot Sauce, BKW Seasoning and butter.” Others like Mulligan’s featured a New Orleans’s Cajun style wing while M.A.G II Homemade Sauces watered eyes all afternoon with their famous “Suicide Sauce.” “The most memorable wing for me was the Banana Foster Dessert wing dipped in whipped cream from 21st Wing Dings,” wing aficionado Kyle recanted.

After rumbling through all samples, they were asked to rip off the bottom part of their punch cards and place it in the ballot box of their favorite wing for the people’s choice part of the ceremony. First place wins a $1000 and ultimate bragging rights while second and third get $500 and $300, respectively.

“My favorite so far is Rooster’s. The wing was larger than most and the hot sauce was finger-licking good,” Kyle Bolton said as he wiped the sauce from his face.

While the festival’s guests waited for votes to be counted, musical performances by Freequency, Aaron Tracy Band, Big Gun and Jaystorm Project kept the festival in good spirits while, the Italian Ice Tent, Beer Tent and fountains for the kids the attendees refreshed.

It was the ultimate “come hungry, leave happy” mantra that brought together a great cross-section of Eastern Tennessee demographics united by their love of wings. The inaugural Big Kahuna Wing Fest was a success and is expected to become an annual event.


Kuumba Festival continues to grow

Three Free Spirit Stilt Dancers tower over the crowd June 21 at Knoxville's annual Kuumba Festival.
Three Free Spirit Stilt Dancers tower over the crowd June 21 at Knoxville’s annual Kuumba Festival.

This year’s Kuumba Festival kicked off Thursday, June 20, at Krutch Park, as a diverse group of musicians, artists, and dancers led this four-day celebration.

The Kuumba Festival is an annual event that takes place during the summer and serves as the largest African arts festival in East Tennessee. Large crowds gathered to enjoy West African song and dance routines by performers of all ages, while more than 30 vendors set up shop selling self-made foods, clothes, and keepsakes.

“The African community here (in Knoxville) knows how to party. Every year hundreds of new faces show up, not knowing what to expect but glad they came.” said Devante’ Sales, an ex-drummer and graduate of Kuumba Kamp. “When the first drum sounds, get ready to move your feet.”

The Watoto Dance and Drum Line, a youth group with over 100 members, was only one of the many acts over the course of this weekend. Grammy award winning artist Alvin Garret and American Idol’s Ruben Studdard took the stage Saturday but The Free Spirit Stilt Walkers, an African dance group from New Orleans directed by Naimah Zulu, seemed to be the crowd’s favorite overall. Standing on 7 feet stilts, they posed for pictures and participated in many dance routines.

Four year Kuumba Festival participant Shana Ward said the stilt dancers were nothing short of amazing, tip toeing around like “giants in the clouds.”

Crowds spilled into Market Square after the annual Kuumba Junkanu parade Saturday, June 22, which was shortly followed by a youth talent show and pep rally. Parents was given a chance shop at the African Marketplace, composed of varies independent vendors, while the children cheered on their peers.

Sunday, June 23, was dedicated to Gospel in the Park and ended the Kuumba Festival with a performance by BET Sunday’s Best finalist, Jacqueline Calhoun.

Roy Greys, a craftsman and Kuumba Festival vendor, remembers his first time attending Kuumba and says, “This event has taken place 24 consecutive years and every years it gets bigger and better as more people find inspiration in a new culture

African-American Appalachian Arts and other local businesses helped sponsor this event.

Blue Plate Special Draws Downtown Crowd

Jim Avett, father of the Grammy-nominated Avett Brothers, headlined the Blue Plate Special concert series in downtown Knoxville on June 21.

The free concert, also featuring The Green Boys band, was held inside the Knoxville Visitor’s Center and is part of a summer series that includes live lunchtime performances six days a week. More than 75 people attended the show, some bringing their own lunch.

“We have two performances every day and we love the crowd that comes out, their energy attracts the performers we are lucky enough to book,” said Tony Lawson, program director for WDVX.

Avett has played in New York, California and Nashville in the last two months but enjoys coming to Knoxville. Being raised in North Carolina, on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains, he sees the similarities in the people and feels comfortable here.

Explaining to the crowd that he usually plays Knoxville when he is passing through to Nashville, he sang “Leaving Knoxville”, his song about running from a woman although he loved the town. Written in Knoxville, the smooth tune led many Knoxvillians to follow along with bobbing heads and tapping feet.

Avett told stories about each of the six songs he played, from revealing that he wrote “Leaving Knoxville” in a Strawberry Plains motel room to warning young men about the danger of certain phrases uttered by their lovers.

“When she says ‘I love you, but’, you’re headed down the toilet, son,” Avett joked with the crowd.

While Avett has toured since the ‘70s, The Green Boys formed two years ago and recently released their first album. What they lacked in folksy stories, they made up for in energy.

Featuring an upright bass, guitar, banjo, mandolin and lap steel guitar, the four-piece band combined the sounds of Appalachian bluegrass and honky-tonk country. The diverse footwear of the crowd, from boots to sneakers to a barefooted man, went from tapping to stomping.

Dressed in neckties, black slacks and boots, the Virginia-based band played six songs from the album they released in May, taking breaks to make jokes about having bottles thrown at them in bars and admit to their lack of touring experience.

“We’re trying to play regionally now,” said guitarist Sean Green, “this is the end of our 12 day tour through North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.”

The concert series runs from Monday through Saturday until July 31. Listeners can also tune in to WDVX 89.9 FM to listen if they cannot attend the show on Gay Street

Knoxville Catholic High School to hold Brixx FIRE Volleyball Tournament

Knoxville Catholic High School in west Knoxville will hold the Brixx FIRE volleyball tournament on June 22 and June 23.

The second annual Brixx FIRE grass volleyball tournament is to raise awareness for the American Cancer Society. All of the proceeds from the tournament and the events surrounding it will go to the society’s signature event Relay for Life. This year’s goal is to reach $15,000.

The tournament is welcome to players of all ages and skill levels. It has men’s, women’s, and juniors’ divisions and includes players from around the Southeast. Laura Dammer, Brixx manager and tournament director, hopes Brixx FIRE will create the largest competitive volleyball tournament in the area while supporting the Knoxville community.

“The volleyball community is very large in Knoxville and all over Tennessee, but most of the large tournaments in the Southeast are hours away.  This tournament allows players to compete closer to home, as well as bringing in players from all over the Southeast,” Dammer said.

The Southeast is known for having volleyball excellence with a large number of players especially in Tennessee. Just last year The University of Tennessee’s volleyball team barely missed out on having the top class in the conference. Co-tourney director and head volleyball coach at Knoxville Catholic, Andrew Garland, said that everyone involved with Brixx FIRE is dedicated to making this tourney a “first class event” that will invite players from all around.

Garland believes that Brixx FIRE is something to support with great pride.

“It’s a fun-filled weekendwith great cash and prizes for division winners and lots of other goodies for everyone involved. All this, combined with it’s all for a great cause, makes it a special tourney,” Garland said.

This is the first time the volleyball tournament will be held at Knoxville Catholic High School. It is Garland’s hope that the school will become the permanent host site for the tournament due to the central location and its facilities, which includes a practice football field with concessions and bathrooms.

Related web sites:
Brixx FIRE

This article was written by Melitta Markey,
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Laura Dammer, 504-878-6148, ‎
Andrew Garland, 865-789-5407,