4. It is a grand Southern affair, Nashville’s Swan Ball at historic Cheekwood Estate.

Young people dressed in formal gowns and tuxedos with tales and wearing over the shoulder sashes, congregate at the end of a long, marble and stone patio under a high canopy of leafy vines on metal trellis. To the left a fountain is visible next to a curved descending staircase with stone walls. To the right wood vines the size of elephant trunks form giant braids that are the pillars for the canopy. A young woman in a light-toned gown drinks from a wine glass as she walks behind a man toward the crowd. Beyond and below the patio is a vast landscape of hills and trees barely visible due to the overexposure of light.

“Late Party” attendees adorned in traditional sashes mingle on the garden veranda of the Cheekwood Estate during cocktail hour at the start of Nashville’s annual Swan Ball, June 2019.

In 1967, LIFE Magazine sent a team of photojournalists to spend a week with Nashville socialites Clare Armistead and Jane Dudley as they were putting on Nashville’s Swan Ball charity event, then in its infancy. More than half a century later, The Swan Ball remains one of Nashville’s cherished party invitations and is a Southern institution. The Nashville brand may be music and fun, but Nashville at its core is an old Southern city with deep Southern manners, and the Swan Ball is where this genteel Nashville is brought out for display.


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