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Jonesborough's Progressive Dinner a team effort

staff report • Nov 17, 2012 at 7:01 AM

Volunteers with Jonesborough’s Heritage Alliance believe they have the perfect recipe for putting folks in the holiday spirit — gather a group of friends, new and old, and send them on a magical journey filled with eccentric homes decorated to the nines, taste-tempting dishes, toe-tapping live music and the Southern hospitality that has helped put Tennessee’s oldest town on the map.

This year, the historic preservation organization is spicing up its 35th annual Progressive Dinner with a few added ingredients, including the debut of a new stop on the culinary tour.

The Oak Hill School House, which will serve the soup portion of the meal, is one of five historic structures guests will visit during the fundraising event, happening Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1 and 2. Seating will take place at various times throughout each evening.

Each stop showcases a different course, along with live holiday music and the signature warmth and holiday spirit organizers of the Progressive Dinner pride themselves on.

“There’s no better way to start the holiday season than with good friends, good food and a good time in Historic Jonesborough,” said Kelly Wolfe, Jonesborough’s mayor and a frequent guest of the Progressive Dinner. “It is a night you won’t soon forget.”

It takes an army of approximately 100 volunteers from throughout the community and surrounding areas to pull off the event, which began as a way to celebrate Jonesborough’s historic preservation efforts as the main fundraiser for the Heritage Alliance, the region’s local partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Jonesborough’s preservation specialists.

February Hill Bed & Breakfast owners Michael and Kim Anders have been involved with the Progressive Dinner for several years in numerous capacities, and will serve dessert during this year’s event. The couple have been guests on the tour several times, but also enjoy hosting a course at their bed & breakfast.

“We love meeting and visiting with everyone that comes through. It’s fun being able to work with the volunteers and visiting with guests on the tour,” Kim Anders said. “Serving the dessert is my favorite part because it is near the end of the event and everyone is so relaxed and is just having a great time.”

For Heritage Alliance Director Deborah Montanti, preparations for the Progressive Dinner begin immediately after the previous year’s event. Montanti said some of Jonesborough’s historical treasures — the Oak Hill School, the Chester Inn Museum and several local cemeteries — wouldn’t exist without support from the Progressive Dinner.

“But, it is more than just a fundraiser, it’s really a friendraiser,” she said. “It’s a large event that somehow becomes personable the minute you arrive. You meet new friends, homeowners and volunteers.

“What gives these buildings their histories and favorable personalities is very much the people dwelling in them and the events that take place around them. The Progressive Dinner is a wonderful way to celebrate our rich history and storytelling heritage.”

Tickets are $78 per person, with proceeds benefiting the preservation and heritage education programs of the Heritage Alliance.

The Heritage Alliance is a not-for profit organization and local partner to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Regionally, the Alliance offers assistance to historic property owners and municipalities, and operates heritage education programs such as the Oak Hill School Heritage Education program, The Chester Inn Museum and the Jonesborough-Washington County History Museum.

Seating is limited. Reservations may be made by calling the Heritage Alliance at (423) 753-9580 or the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or online at www.heritageall.org or www.jonesboroughtn.org.

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