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Art on fire

Autumn Rites at The Dixon

Story by Emily Virginia M. Davis  | Photos by Don Perry 

Red-suspendered Danny Hopkins, retired after 26 years of service with Germantown Fire Department, surveyed the split logs he had carefully arranged in the immense raised pit. A perfect autumn coolness descended on Dixon Gallery and Gardens’ south lawn as tempting aromas of food floated on the air. It was time for the ceremonial act that signaled the start of festivities.

Hopkins circled the pit, sprinkling the wood with liquid from a jug. “Magic water,” he called it. Then he donned firefighter togs that covered him from head to feet. Only his eyes and nose showed. “I always do,” he said. “You have to be protected. A fire has no mercy.”

Hopkins then ignited the logs and a bonfire was born. He has lighted the pit for each of the eight years of Art on Fire, a major fundraising event for The Dixon.

Bonfires require that toasted marshmallows be served. CFY Catering handed out S’mores. Elwood’s Shack introduced seafood dishes from the menu of its new addition, Elwood’s Shells, scheduled to open by year’s end. Samplings included sea scallops with orzo and citrus chimichurri. Other offerings ranged from El Mero Taco Truck’s smoked cheddar grits with chorizo to Bangkok Alley’s Thai herb chicken to Coletta’s homemade Italian spinach. There were also sliders, baked ziti, bruschetta and bacon-wrapped shrimp, to name a few. Sugaree’s Bakery provided slices of caramel layer cake, so good that guests returned for seconds. In all, a total of 30 restaurants, caterers and bakers served their specialties. Bar stations offered Corbett Canyon wines and Ghost River Brewing Co. beers.

Mighty Souls Brass Band paraded among the crowd, playing New Orleans-style jazz with a distinctive Memphis sound. Blackwater Trio rocked the crowd later on. Memphis Fire Tribe dazzled with dance and fire-handling. Guests could have their fortunes told and don goofy props for a session in a photo booth.

Throughout the evening people could bid on impressive packages in a silent auction. Choices included a fly-fishing trip to Argentina, a week’s stay at Walt Disney World and a basketball autographed by Penny Hardaway. Art on Fire proceeds support the museum’s wide-ranging education outreach programs.

Sponsors were Buster’s Liquors and Wines, Butler Snow, Emprinting, 4Memphis, Ghost River Brewing Co., Independent Bank, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire, Land Rover, Mahaffey Tent & Party Rentals, Off the Dock Fresh Seafood, Raymond James and TechLifeLine. 

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