BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“When great taste collides with great resources, you have Ballyfin,” shares Ashley Levi, co-chair of last weekend’s Nashville Antiques and Garden Show, quoting the late and legendary Chicago philanthropist John Bryan, whose daughter-in-law served as Levi’s fellow chair.
Chicagoans celebrated with Fred and Kay Krehbiel following his keynote talk on the restoration of Ballyfin, their five-star luxury hotel in the center of Ireland at the prestigious show held at the Nashville Music Center. Among those attending were Krebhiel cousin Leslie Hindman, one of John Bryan’s best friends Joe Gromacki, Lindsey Axel, Cassie Spencer Gavin, Susan Canman, Ally Bulley (whose firm Bulley and Andrews is opening a new hotel in Nashville), interior designer Jenny Brown, Krehbiel neighbors Meredith and Phil Moriarty, and Lake Forest’s Marion Rice, Katie Donovan, Jennifer Neighbors, Katie Hutton, Caroline Masterson, Katie Belcher, Sally Brown Thilman, and Annie Barlow, who joined Levi’s sister, Wentworth McGovern, a former Nashvillian and now Lake Forest resident.
Dining at local hot restaurants, visiting historic estates, and a drop in at a Music City hot spot for country music were part of the fun for some and, as Bulley said, business is booming in Nashville.
Levi and Bryan worked for a year-and-a-half to pull off the four- day show. The Music Center was converted into an English garden with ponds, water features, and even a greenhouse brought over from England. Over 150 antique and horticulture dealers took to their booths for the event. In addition to the array of stunning visuals, there are two days of lectures designed to educate and inspire.
The show celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, securing its place as the largest and longest running all-volunteer antiques and garden show in the country.
Born in New Orleans, but a longtime Nashville resident, Louise Bryan told us about how Ballyfin—rated the number one hotel in Europe—became a must have program for the show. “I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit Ballyfin in 2017 and became fascinated with the story and the design team that worked nearly 10 years to restore the house,” Bryan says.
She continues, “When Ashley Levi asked me to co-chair the show, we wanted to tell a story of design, which complemented our theme of ‘legacy.’ The Ballyfin renovation was the ultimate design story with legacy, restoration, and a fascinating collaboration of American businessman Fred Krehbiel, London designer Colin Orchard and Irish landscape architect Jim Reynolds,” she continues. “Long time friend of both the Show and Ballyfin, luxury interior designer Nina Campbell, guided the conversation among these three visionaries.”
Levi added, “There were over 1000 people in the room for the talk. Never had these three visionaries—who loved Ballyfin back to life—been on a panel together. Nina Campbell was the glue that held it all together. She has loads of personality and great taste. When we pitched the idea to her, she said that this is the story everyone in Europe would love to hear. The audience was so enthusiastic—we have friends who have already reserved rooms at Ballyfin for next month!”
Levi was asked by founders Jane Sloan and Connie Cigarran to co-chair the 30th anniversary show and to take it back its roots. Late designer Albert Hadley, a Tennessean, was “with the two from the beginning.”
Wentworth McGovern was delighted to return with close friends to her native Nashville: “Chicagoans loved the ease of it all in Nashville, the great food scene, and the fact that there’s music everywhere. One of the other lectures was on the legacy of Blackberry Farm, the luxury resort in the Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee. Many Chicagoans have been on Blackberry Mountain and applaud the high standards of hospitality set by the Beall family which are carried on today by Mary Celeste and Kreis Beall, who spoke at the show.”
“The Ballyfin presentation just stunned everyone, thanks to the creativity and passion of our speakers. Fred generously donated books on the estate for everyone,” she added.
Jenny Brown summed up the weekend fun: “The antique show was fabulous, and it was so fun seeing so many familiar faces from all over the country among so many beautiful things. The Windy City descended on music city in full force, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a dozen packed trucks en route to Chicago right now. Booth after booth was packed with treasures, and the vendors were friendly and prices were reasonable.”
“The sign of a good show is happy vendors, and by day two, every other item I saw had a little red sticker indicating it was SOLD,” she continues. “I was thrilled to finally see the show, catch up with industry friends, and hit the honky-tonks with my friends from Chicago and the North Shore. A perfect excuse to get to Nashville, and I suspect this will become an annual pilgrimage—I know it already is for some!”
The Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville benefitted the magnificent Cheekwood Estate, with its public botanic garden, and 20 charities supported by the Economic Club of Nashville. For more information, visit antiquesandgardenshow.com.