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200 Attend Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Denim Ball To Benefit Cone Memorial Park

Two-hundred gathered on the lawn Friday night at Chetola Resort for the Second Annual Denim Ball, a benefit for the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park held by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

Story and Photos by Jan Todd

Two-hundred gathered on the lawn Friday night at Chetola Resort for the Second Annual Denim Ball, a benefit for the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park held by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.  Funds raised from the sponsorships, donations, live and silent auctions will provide necessary support to rehabilitate and care for Flat Top Manor, the park grounds and other buildings on this historical estate.

Guests at the ball donned denim as a tribute to Moses Cone and his brother, Ceasar, who built the textile empire that supported the development of the estate that we now enjoy as part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Beginning in 1897, Cone designed and built this retreat featuring carriage trails, lakes, orchards, fields and forests.  In 1901, he constructed the Flat Top Manor, a 23-room Colonial Revival-style mansion.  This beautiful retreat became part of the Blue Ridge Parkway in 1949.

“After 60 years of public ownership, many repairs are needed,” explained Willa Mays, Chief Development officer of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.  “Prior to this year’s event, we’ve raised almost $1.8 million.  Our goal is $3 million.”

The first priority for the property wis a fire suppression system.  “That will be installed this fall,” said Mays.  “Also, We’ve also completed roofing repairs necessary to stop water damage.”  

Mays said that the Blue Ridge Foundation hopes to make the Denim Ball an annual event, as part of the social season.  “This renovation project isn’t a one-time thing,” said Mays.  “The manor will need continued maintenance, and even after we do this major renovation, we’ll still need to raise funds on an ongoing basis to take care of the estate.”

“The days national parks being totally funded by the national government are over,” Mays continued.  “The government expects communities to pitch in.  Those that do will have pristine parks.  Those that don’t, well, the parks will decline.  The Moses Cone park and the Blue Ridge Parkway bring tourists and are enjoyed by residents of this area, and we need to do our part to help support them.” 

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is the primary nonprofit fundraising partner of the Parkway.  The Foundation is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and since it began has worked with donors to invest more than $12 million in projects along the Parkway.

The Denim Ball was sponsored by Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority, Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock, Cone Health, Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, Mast General Store, and Mountainaire Inn & Cabins.  The event was held on the lawn of Chetola Resort.

The early evening rain showers didn’t dampen the spirits of the party.
Planning committee for the Denim Ball included (left to right) Billie Howell, Karen Robertson, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s Willy Mays, Emily Stallings, and Kathy Crutchfield.
David Gelly was crowned “Denim King”, and Mother-Daughter team Susan and Susanna Thomas were crowned “Denim Queens” for their most creative denim outfits.
Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, said, “Because of what we’re doing, people one hundred years from now will be able to experience the same things we do on our Blue Ridge Parkway. We’re following the long legacy of those that have cared about and supported our National Parks.”
Auctioneer Jesse Miller led a lively live auction for special offerings such as this handmade quilt donated by Georgia Bonesteel, host of the TV Series “Lap Quilting.”
Dancing began with a demonstration by Merin & Dimitrijus Sazinas of Sky Retreat.
Art, local experiences, restaurant certificates, hotel stays and more were offered in the silent auction: