GUTHRIE, Ky. (September 7, 2013) –Harmonized voices intertwined with guitar, piano, trumpets, and bass, carrying the notes of familiar songs that bellowed over the roar of a room of dapperly dressed men and women, while glasses chimed a crystal clink and old friends joyously gathered amongst the brilliant afternoon sunset to celebrate as patrons of the historic Green River Academy’s third annual Blue Moon Ball.
Organized by the Green River Academy Preservation Society, the formal ball welcomed over 220 attendees and raised over $10,000 for the needed restoration efforts for the historic Green River Academy building. In the past year, the Academy’s Board of Trustees have completed construction plans to preserve and rehabilitate the historic academy building into professionally operated museum archives, a commerce center, and a training facility with financial assistance from a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant awarded by Governor Steve Beshear, State Representative Martha Jane King and former state senator Joey Pendleton. The group is currently seeking approval from Kentucky’s State Heritage Council before construction can begin in late 2013.
Blue Moon Ball’s 2013 theme was centered around the historic Black Patch Tobacco Wars that took place in the county during the early 1900s. Considered to be the most influential uprising since the American Civil War, the Black Patch Tobacco Wars were an attempt by area farmers to defeat a tobacco industry monopoly that caused their crops to become a financial failure. Their efforts led to an uprising of vigilante cavalry that influenced local farmers to only sell their tobacco to businesses outside of the monopoly.
Guests to the ball gathered in downtown Guthrie at the front of the rustic and beautifully aged metal clad Ware Feed Mill. Custom reproduction posters affixed to the building announced the Tobacco Wars as the theme of 2013’s Blue Moon Ball, and featured slogans such as “Farmers! To Arms Against Our Oppressor!,” and “Tobacco Farmers Unite!” Upon entry, former Elkton Mayor John Walton welcomed guests. All eyes immediately fell to the centerpiece of the entry room, an early 20th century green wooden box wagon loaned by the Shanklin family, loaded with tobacco with various ceramic crocks, brown jugs, and spittoons scattered around its wheels. Cured tobacco loaned from Bill Glenn draped the walls of the entry room, layered behind antique plows and leather saddles lined up in rows. Italian globe lights eloquently strung across the room dimly bathed the rustic wood beams and rusted metal roof in soft yellow light.
Upon entry into the main event space, party goers were greeted by an enormous portrait of Dr. David Amoss, leader of the Tobacco Wars Night Rider movement, set in a gold frame hung in front of a large beige canvas banner with the words, “David Amoss, Our Hero” emblazoned in a white banner. An early 20th century Jacobean style table overflowing with lit candelabras littering the surface centered around a 1905 Seth Thomas mantle clock. The walls of the large event space were covered in canvas banners depicting tobacco industry propaganda and businesses that were in operation during the Tobacco Wars era and lit from above with small reflector light fixtures. At a height of over 9 feet, a custom made industrial black iron chandelier with Edison style bulbs donated by Eston & Jo Glover hung at the center of the room, bathing the walls in a soft orange glow.
As the crowd gathered in the early hours of the event, Americana and bluegrass music filled the room with renditions of, “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” the “Kentucky Waltz,” and “We Don’t Grow Tobacco ‘Round Here No More.” After 8pm, live music was performed by Pink Cadillac that featured two female vocalist, a horn section, piano and two guitarists. Dance floor favorites included Etta James’ “At Last,” and Old Crow Medicine Show’s, “Wagon Wheel.” The dance floor remained full throughout the night, with usually more than half the crowd enjoying one of the slow or fast paced songs rendered by the pitch-perfect band.
The evening’s emcee John Walton announced the sponsors for the evening, retreating afterwards to watch from the sidelines as couples returned to the dance floor for a second round of songs by the band. Those in attendance, among many, were former State Senator Joey Pendleton and his wife Diane, County Attorney Mac Johns and his wife Michelle, United Southern Bank President Todd Mansfield and his wife Hannah, Todd County native and Regional Director of Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Dan Gardener, Kentucky’s Executive Mansion Director Ann Evans, and representatives from nearly all of the 25 total platinum, gold, silver, and bronze donors who made this year’s event possible. The evening came to a close at 11pm with couples enjoying one last slow song before departing with new memories of an evening spent with close friends and family. “My first ball was in 2012, and afterwards I knew that I would be asking all of my friends to come to 2013’s ball. It’s fantastic that this event can be held in our county and that all of the proceeds stay in our county. It’s a great event to be a part of, year after year,” said Trenton resident Brittany Prather.
Proceeds will be used in the interior restoration of the Green River Academy, which was constructed in 1835 by wealthy southern Kentucky planters who desired to establish a school for the formal education of young women. Nearly 180 years later, the academy remains today as a vestige of early 19th century attitudes towards equal educational opportunities for women, who were offered courses in Latin, philosophy, astronomy, chemistry, and algebra, subjects that were typically reserved for men during the time period. A recent discovery in texts recounting slave life reveals that the Academy also illegally taught enslaved African-Americans to read and to write before the American Civil War, alluding to another important chapter of history in the Academy’s important role in American history. The academy also produced a United States Supreme Court Justice, business leaders and political leaders throughout its 55-year tenor.