By mtjulietintern

Kaitlyn Hungerford • Mt. Juliet News
The 35th anniversary of the Phoenix Ball black-tie gala fundraiser for Cumberland University attracted about 450 university supporters Saturday night.

The 35th anniversary of the Phoenix Ball transformed the Dallas Floyd Gymnasium into Havana Nights and lived up to its reputation in recent years as one hot event.

The annual black-tie gala Saturday night to raise money for Cumberland University featured various rum drinks, cigars for the crowd, a Cuban-inspired menu and ended with about 450 patrons dancing the night away to past-and-present top hits from the 12 South Band.

The evening started with the traditional pre-event cocktail party as guests arrived to find photo opportunities with both Cumberland photographer Al Ashworth and local media. Inside Memorial Hall, guests were treated to an open bar filled with rum drinks galore, as well as other traditional cocktails and Cuban-inspired heavy hors d’oeuvres.

A new addition to Saturday night’s Phoenix Ball, guests were given armbands sponsored by Parks Realty that changed colors to alert them to various transitions – from the start of dinner to the end of auctions – throughout the evening.

As guests gathered in the gym to start the main event, they found banana-leaf place settings and tropical fruit centerpieces with a large Havana lit sign above the stage. Cumberland president Paul Stumb and his wife, Crissy, welcomed guests prior to remarks from Phoenix Ball committee chairs Chris and Lauren Smith.

Wilson Bank & Trust president John McDearman led the invocation before guests dined on a five-course Cuban-inspired meal of shrimp asopao and grits, tiny white-bean soup, cucumber chili salad, Cuban vaca frita – shredded steak over black beans and rice served with plantains – and, of course, rum cake for dessert.

As guests dined, auctioneer Ray Hubner led the live auction that featured a live painting that encompassed the Phoenix Ball by artist Talon Bell; a New Year’s Eve private party for 100 guests at Venue 142 in Lebanon; a gold-and-diamond pendant necklace with a 72-carat Madeira Citrine centerpiece created by Shawn Smith, owner of the Jewelers; and a Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 shotgun.

Following closing remarks from the Stumbs, guests hit the dance floor, jammed to tunes from the 12 South Band and enjoyed late-night snacks courtesy of Zaxby’s.

By Jared Felkins