“Toast of the town” is more than an expression for many Maryville residents.
On Nov. 4, approximately 160 people raised their glasses to a vibrant downtown Maryville community at Top of the Plaza.
The second annual “Destination Downtown Wine Tasting Experience,” brought residents, area supporters and local businesses together for the fundraiser.
Chair of the event, Antje Gillingham, said the Maryville Downtown Association raised about $4,000, which will be used to hire an executive director. The non-profit group is currently interviewing candidates, and they hope to have the position filled by the beginning of 2011.
Gillingham said the new director will primarily obtain grants and organize events. The association is planning to host more downtown events, including another fall wine tasting in 2011.
This year, Destination Downtown featured 12 wines, which were purchased from Creekside Fine Wine and Spirits at a discount.
The event also showcased seven downtown restaurants. Participants sampled a variety of foods from Foothills Milling Co., Sullivans, Full Service Barbeque, Lemongrass, Hot Rods, The Market and Something Savory Bakery and Café.
Local businesses donated a variety of silent auction items, including gift certificates and UT football tickets.
Gillingham said more people attended the event than last year. “It was a huge success. We had new faces, even people from Knoxville, Sevierville and Oak Ridge.”
The organizer said several participants were so impressed with the event, they have offered financial support for next year’s wine tasting.
Gillingham said the association’s mission is to attract both Blount County residents and tourists to downtown.
“We’re at the foothills of the most visited national park in the country. We don’t want them to just drive to the mountains. We want them to stop downtown to eat and shop.”
She said downtown offers natives an opportunity to support locally-owned shops and restaurants that offer genuine customer service and unique items. “People are very impressed with what we have to offer.”
Gillingham also encouraged residents to take advantage of downtown’s access to the greenbelt, library and arts community.
“We have easy access to Maryville College and the Clayton Center. You can walk across the bridge, and you have the beautiful library.”
She said unlike many other cities, downtown Maryville has ample parking that is free so visitors can park and walk to several attractions and stores.
Gillingham hopes downtown will be utilized by more people as a place to connect with their neighbors, support local businesses, enjoy the arts and embrace the area’s diverse culture.
“It’s about getting back to being a community-driven downtown where people want to be.”