Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.
The third annual Unbridled Eve Gala, hosted by co-founders and sisters Tammy York-Day and Tonya York-Dees, was held at the Galt House Hotel & Suites Grand Ballroom this evening. Recently designated an Official Kentucky Derby Event® by Churchill Downs, the gala included a celebrity-studded red carpet, a custom-crafted cocktail reception curated by Southern Wine & Spirits and award-winning mixologist Gary Gruver, and live musical performances from chart-topping country singer-songwriter Frankie Ballard, Kris Allen (winner, “American Idol” season 8) and Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. (winner, “America’s Got Talent”). Live entertainment was interwoven with an exciting live auction to support primary beneficiary Blessings in a Backpack, a non-profit organization that combats hunger among children.
The exclusive, star-studded Unbridled Eve Gala once again drew a who’s who of local and national business leaders, horse racing industry professionals and celebrities from film, television, music, comedy and sports for an evening of the best in Southern hospitality and entertainment. Ben Jackey and Julie Smith served as hosts on the red carpet, which included appearances by: Jason Patric, Beth Behrs, Michael Gladis, Jonathan Kite, Bob Guiney, Christian Kane, Todd Lowe, Nora Roberts, Phil Hellmuth, Rick Dees, Warren Moon, Chris Canty, Jean Cruguet, Robin Meade, Mark Sanchez, Kenny Walker, Luke Hancock, Miguel Ferrer, Bruce McGill, Bonnie-Jill Laflin, Billy Lopa, Nick Ferrara, Fred Noe, Bonnie Bernstein, Angela Zapotek, Bruce Wilder, Donald Driver, Dallas Robinson, Susanne Blackinton, Joey Wagner, Jack Givens, Mike Mills, Eric Wood, E. J. Manuel, Kyle Rudolph, Victor Espinoza, Mike Smith, Angel Cordero and Ricardo Santana.
The evening began with a cocktail reception featuring ten spectacular Southern Wine & Spirits specialty bars including Belvedere, Sidney Frank, Four Roses, Constellation, Diageo Captain, Campari, Jim Beam, and a special Champagne bar serving fine wines, champagne, and custom cocktails created especially for the event. Renowned mixologist Gary Gruve curated a delightful array of festive concoctions including the “Pendennis Club Old Fashioned,” “Get Lucky Tonight Julep” and the “Southern Manhattan.” Guests mingled, noshed on hors d’oeuvres and began their bids on silent auction items before they were seated for a gourmet dinner created by Chef Brian Riddle in the stunning Galt House Hotel & Suites Grand Ballroom.
Unbridled Eve hosts and co-founders Tammy York-Day and Tonya York-Dees gave opening remarks to thank sponsors and guests for their support of the gala, the proceeds from which will be donated to primary beneficiary Blessings in a Backpack, a 501 C (3) non-profit organization that currently feeds nearly 65,000 children in 680 schools in 45 states. The unique program feeds a child in the program for an entire year for only $100, providing support for elementary school children whose families qualify for the Federal Free and Reduced Price Meal program and who have minimal food on weekends. The program’s success has been measured in better test scores, improved reading skills, positive behavior, improved health and increased school attendance. Proceeds will also benefit other philanthropic organizations including Trooper Island, Stand Up For Gus, Winter HAYven, Neighborhood House, The Les Turner ALS Foundation in honor of Jacquie Conniff Fort, Pediatric Therapy Center, Neighborhood House, and Operation Homefront.
Later in the evening, emcees Nick Ferrara and Robin Meade took the stage to kick off the thrilling live auction portion of the evening. Guests bid on a diverse lineup of luxurious wining, dining and getaway packages including an “Ascot Royal Enclosure Experience,” an “Indy 500 VIP Experience,” a “Fall World Fashion Tour” (with stops in New York City and London) and “Golden Globes VIP,” “Under the Tuscan Sun Italian Villa,” “Horse Racing Enthusiasts Dream,” “VIP Superbowl Champions Seattle Seahawks” and “Knob Creek Bourbon Distiller for a Day” packages.
Guests were treated to rousing musical performances from Frankie Ballard, Kris Allen and Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. Ballard performed his songs including the #1 single “It’s a Helluva Life,” “Sunshine and Whiskey,” and “Drinky Drink,” while Murphy covered Frank Sinatra classics and Allen performed his songs “Beautiful and Wild,” “You Got a Way” and “Live Like We’re Dying.” ALL STAR JAM and The Louisville Crashers kept revelers on their feet, dancing well past midnight. Everyone took to the dance floor when Bob Guiney, Frankie Ballard, Robin Meade, Mike Mills, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. and Kris Allen all took the stage for an impromptu musical performance.
The top-level “Champion” sponsors of the third annual Unbridled Eve gala were Southern Wine & Spirits and Humana Vitality. Other sponsors include Cigna, Sun Tan City, Planet Fitness, The Nora Roberts Foundation, Red7e, Vest Advertising, The Galt House Hotel & Suites, Derby Deals, Alex and Ani, Barry Wooley Designs, Yum! Brands Foundation, Millennium, Visual Productions and Bella Vita Media.
Prior to the Derby Eve festivities, Unbridled Eve partnered with Phil Hellmuth, Denny Crum and Robert Williamson III to present Thursday evening’s Derby Poker Celebrity Bourbon Bash (www.derbypokerchampionship.com), the Official VIP Welcome party for Unbridled Eve.
Check out the photo gallery to see some of the fabulous looks from the red carpet.