A Southern State of Mine, Taste of the South 2014

A year of planning finally came to fruition this past weekend, when the Taste of the South Charity Gala was held at the Washington Hilton here in D.C. More than 2,000 people put on their gowns and tuxes for an evening that has been widely deemed "Hill Prom."

Taste of the South is a black tie gala featuring 13 states from the south east. This event is dedicated to raising money for charities from every one of the participating states, as well as Washington D.C. This was the 32nd year for TOTS (as it's well known). One state is voted (by the committee) to serve as the featured charity for the event, while the remaining states support a "Dixie Fund" charity. Most proceeds are donated to the featured charity, with this year's being Kentucky's West End School.

This was my second year attending the gala, but my first year as a member of the planning committee. I helped represent the state of Tennessee. Overall, the committee is made up of about forty state representatives and four executive board members. Together we spend an entire year leading up to the event, planning and fundraising. 

It is a completely different experience going from being just an attendee, to someone actually helping plan the event. I loved having the opportunity to assist in making this year's gala a night to remember. From working with donors, helping to choose the benefiting charities, to collecting swag for giveaways and deciding on a theme for my home state, it was a wonderful and exciting process to be apart of. 

If you've ever attended TOTS in the past, you know that it has been held at several locations, with this year being the first time at the Washington Hilton. The Hilton is best known for hosting the White House Correspondents dinner, and many other popular DC events. 

TOTS completely took over the expansive ballroom, with each state creating an area that best represents their state. Tennessee's theme this year was General Jackson's Showboat, based on the popular Nashville attraction.

Here are some other states' tables and booth areas…

(**As a quick side note, my apologies for the poor quality photos… you can blame the fact I have yet to perfect getting rid of the grainy finish to iPhone photos and that I couldn't fit a digital SLR camera in my clutch.)

Tennessee's Dixie Fund Charity this year was Camp Koinonia; a Knoxville based charity associated with The University of Tennessee and a program that is near and dear to my heart. Camp K is a week long getaway for children and young adults with disabilities. I was a camp counselor my senior year at UT. Camp K was an amazing class and program to be a part of; it truly impacted my life and time at UT. Thus, I couldn't think of a better organization to help give back to than Camp K.

With funds still being collected and tabulated, it has yet to be determined how much will be donated to charity for this year. Past years have brought about $350K to the featured charity and around $3-7K for Dixie Fund charities (a percentage of what each state raises is how this is calculated, so it depends on how much the state raises). 

Overall Taste of the South was a wonderful evening, full of tasty (no pun intended) food, great swag, lots of dancing (we had an AMAZING band this year), spending time with fellow southerners, all while benefiting many great charities. It took me back to my down home roots!

Here are some more photos from the night…

My handsome date for the evening, Zach

A good friend of mine and the birthday boy of the evening, Tom

Although Taste of the South just ended, planning for next year's gala will begin soon. 
Interested in helping with next year's event? Send me an email and I'll put you in touch with your home state!
Stay tuned over the coming months for Taste of the South 2015 details. 

In the infamous words of Tennessee's own Dolly Parton, "Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear!"

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