In centuries past, Inglewood's Riverwood Mansion played host to some of Nashville’s most lavish, see-and-be-seen events, with guest lists that included more than a half-dozen U.S. presidents and more than a few fancy Tennesseans. In more recent years, it’s hosted most-important-days for local and visiting brides and grooms and scores of other kinds of celebrations.
Common thread running through all this: You needed an invite to frolic in this beautiful mansion and on its gorgeous grounds.
Not so today. Under the new management of Debbie Sutton and the 8 Lavender Lane Catering & Events team, Riverwood Mansion is now welcoming visitors in regularly, with public gatherings and events aimed at making neighbors feel at home among the historic fanciness. Their first major public event (aside of a September open house): Local Fest at the Mansion, a free festival scheduled for November 15, focused on local talents, local eats and drinks and local culture.
Neighbors can swing by 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day to enjoy music and games, check out local vendors and food and drink and explore the 200-plus-year-old manse and its eight acres of grounds. Folks can also purchase tickets to a six-course pop-up dinner following the fest, featuring the creations of local chefs, with drink pairings.
Ahead of Local Fest, we checked in with 8 Lavender Lane Catering partner Matt Wilson to learn a little more about the event and about the changes at Riverwood:
The East Nashvillian: What was the inspiration behind opening Riverwood Mansion up to the public more, and inviting more locals in to experience it?
Matt Wilson: “Riverwood is an amazing venue with a rich history, and for the past 20 years it's hosted hundreds of private events, such as weddings, corporate gatherings, group functions, etc. Even though the property is over 200 years old, we found that on average, a lot of people around town were not aware of Riverwood. … We decided that we should no longer be East Nashville's best kept secret, and felt that hosting seasonal events and parties that are open to the public would be great way for people to get a taste of how beautiful and special Riverwood Manson is.”
For this first big community event at Riverwood, why was it important to have such a local focus — to bring in all local musicians, food, beer, etc.?
“When we thought about some themes for our first event, 'Local Fest' came about because it is aligned with the culture of East Nashville, and it's a mission our team is passionate about.
“At first we thought, 'Perhaps going with a play on the "buy local" mantra is getting kind of getting played out?' But the reality is shopping at Walmart is played out, buying processed foods that mega corporations ship from thousands of miles away is played out. So this is our little way of saying, ‘Let's preach the buy local thing because it's here to stay. It's not just a trendy phrase. Supporting local businesses will make our community more prosperous, so let’s do our part to grow it.’”
When most of us think of Riverwood Mansion, we think of formal events. Should we dress up for Local Fest, or will this be more of a low-key, come-as-you-are event?
“The festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is on the lawn, so no shoes, no shirt, no problem. Although it's going to be a crisp fall day, so casual fall layering should suffice.
“At night, guests who purchased a ticket [for the pop-up dinner] will enter for the cocktail hour and dinner inside the Mansion. So dress like you're going out to a nice restaurant. The dinner takes place in a stunning Antebellum mansion, but this is not a formal event, per se. To be honest, we haven't given dress code much thought. People dress so well in this town, thus the laissez-faire answer.”
Can you tell us more about the pop-up dinner — what kind of food will be served, that sort of thing?
“You know the [Music City Food + Wine Festival] was in town recently, and it seemed that they brought in a lot of national and regional chefs that were the focus of the event from a marketing standpoint. So when planning the pop-up dinner, we realized the culinary scene in Nashville is really, really strong right now. So many wonderful restaurants and local chefs that are putting this town on the ‘food world’ map. So it inspired us to get some of Nashville's best chefs together for a fun collaboration.
“With Edgar Pendley of Urban Grub, Trey Cioccia of The Farm House, Carey Bringle of Peg Leg Porker and Debbie Sutton of 8 Lavender Lane Catering, we have a team of chefs that actually are from Nashville. I won't go over all the details on the menu, but I will say that it is very exciting.
“It's a six-course meal with beer and wine pairings. Yes a lot of courses, but don't expect an eating competition. Each plate will be portioned so you can ride with us to the end. You'll see some southern seafood, eccentric salad with local flavors, charcuterie, BBQ greatness with Mr. Peg Leg himself, and delightful chicken — ‘cause you gotta have some yard bird in Nashville. Not to mention a unique spin on dessert paired with a little Tennessee Sipping Cream via Whisper Creek.”
You’ll be donating part of the proceeds to On Target 4 Vets — why was that organization chosen specifically?
“I recently met Michael Paul, the founder of On Target 4 Vets, and quickly became a huge fan of what he is doing for veterans. On Target 4 Vets made a huge impact for many veterans in Colorado, and with a recent move to Nashville, we saw Local Fest as a great opportunity to get the ball rolling for them here.
“With their small infrastructure, On Target 4 Vets does not have a bunch of executives with six-figure salaries that many of the large 501c3s have. Therefore, their funds go directly into impacting the lives of veterans, while serving their mission to ‘provide funding to support and mentor disabled veterans through sports and recreational therapy.’ Working with a small charity that has a direct impact ties into the Local Fest theme as well.
“We have been at war now for over 10 years, so there are so many vets coming back with debilitating physical and emotional injuries. Unfortunately this has led to a suicide epidemic amongst returning veterans. No matter where you are politically, I think it's important that we all understand the true cost of war beyond dollars and cents. And it's really important that we help them overcome any obstacles that war has put into their life.”
Since this event is focused completely on what’s local, what do you hope attendees take away about our community from Local Fest?
“Personally, I'm crazy about the Americana feel that Nashville seems to have these days. I think that a healthy culture is one that celebrates artisans, local purveyors, people that create things with their hands, craftsmen who honor quality and innovation. So we hope to connect attendees with these great people who are out there doing it, while enjoying some local brew, meeting and greeting neighbors, and listening to a great music lineup of hometown bands…
“At the same time, we can raise money to enable On Target 4 Vets to extend their services to injured vets in the community that can greatly benefit through sports and recreational therapy. So make it a full day and join us for dinner!”
When: Saturday, Nov. 15, free festival 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., ticketed pop-up dinner 5-9 p.m.
Where: Riverwood Mansion, 1833 Welcome Lane
Details: Free festival includes food, beverages, vendors, games and live music from Shane Piasecki, k.s. Rhoads, Jace Everett and others to be announced.
Ticketed pop-up dinner includes six courses with drink pairings from local chefs, with cocktail hour in the mansion starting at 4 p.m., dinner seating at 5. Part of the proceeds will go to support veterans through On Target 4 Vets.
Pop-up dinner tickets run $100 and are available for purchase online.