All For Benny (II) set for September 15

Posted September 5, 2018 at 8:50 am

All For Benny.psd

The mark of any new event’s success level is easy – if it becomes a repeated happening, it was successful.

One of the most talked about new events to hit Albany and Clinton County for several years is about to have its second annual occurrence and early indications are that this year’s All For Benny Gala will be even bigger than its highly successful inaugural edition in 2017.

Hosted by the Clinton County Community Foundation, the All For Benny Gala is an outdoor gathering centered around a period of socializing in an open-air setting, leading up to a sit-down, white tablecloth meal, underneath the stars in downtown Albany.

This year’s All for Benny Gala will be held Saturday, September 15, and will again be staged under the stars and lights in the open air, although the location has been moved to the opposite site of the square from where last year’s dinner was staged.

The gathering this year will get underway with a 5:30 social hour on Cumberland Street, with the dinner service to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Several silent auction items will also be featured during the evening.

Jessica Owens Sullivan, along with her sisters, Jennifer Owens Harlan and Mikki Owens Simmons, came up with and largely organized the idea for last year’s first All For Benny Gala, then partnered with the Clinton County Community Foundation to act as the host for the outdoor dinner.

The partnership between the “Owens Girls” and the Clinton County Community Foundation has continued for this year’s second edition of the Gala, and in fact has grown even stronger.

Since last year’s premier Gala, the Clinton County Community Foundation has added Jessica Owens Sullivan to its Advisory Board.

Other Foundation Advisory Board members are Kathleen Booher (Chair), Arica Collins (Vice-Chair), Al Gibson (Secretary/Treasurer), David Cross, Mike Davis, Keith McWhorter, Glenn Ray Smith and Steven Tallent.

Sullivan told the Clinton County News last week that while most everyone who is from Clinton County loves their hometown, oftentimes, as was the case with her experience, people don’t realize just how much they love their home community, until they move away.

Sullivan grew up in Clinton County and spent several years of her adult professional life here before taking a position with Kentucky Farm Bureau that saw her transfer to the Bullitt County, Kentucky area for the past few years.

“It was so deeply personal. For me it’s always going to be my goal to come back home because there is no place like it. People say ‘There’s no place like home’ but I really didn’t understand it till I left,” Sullivan said. “I’m sure everyone feels this way but I think Albany is the best there is. No matter where I’ve lived or where I’ve traveled with work; I’ve yet to find a place that measures up to My Hometown.”

In thinking about a way to “give back” to Clinton County, she and her sisters began leaning toward an outdoor gala style of event having had some experience with similar events in her new Bullitt County home.

“My sisters and I just simply had an idea. We wanted to do something for the community and before we knew it, we had a vision and then a plan.,” Sullivan explained. “The decision to pitch our idea to the CCCF was easy – one hundred percent of the money stays in Clinton County, it was a no brainer; and it stays here to better it.”

Designed as both an event to raise awareness about the Foundation, as well as a fundraiser for named Foundation projects, the Gala this year will benefit the latest on-going project the group has undertaken, the construction of a new Farmer’s Market in Albany.

Planned to be built on the vacant lot situated on Washington Street between the Clinton County News and Albany Building Center, the new Farmer’s Market location would be a better, more central and hopefully more often utilized facility than the current market at Mountain View Park.

“This year’s Gala is a little extra special to me because we made a decision to have the profits from this event directly benefit the Farmers Market Project,” Sullivan said. “What a great marrying of things; a community that loves agriculture and loves Albany.”

CCCF Secretary/Treasurer Al Gibson noted that although the organization has been in existence for nearly five years, there are still many people in the community who weren’t aware of the organization and the work it has been successful in doing since 2014.

“The Foundation is a group of people from Clinton County who came together several years ago in hopes of being able to make Albany and Clinton County a better place for everyone to live – by offering a philanthropic opportunity for people to give back to the place we all call home – whether those people live here now or not,” Gibson said. “Many of our supporters are people just like Jessica Owens Sullivan, who were raised here and for whatever reasons have left, but will always look at Albany and Clinton County as home – no matter where they live now.”

The Foundation’s motto is a simple takeoff on that concept – “Enhancing the quality of life in Clinton County … now and in the future.”

The Foundation has supported a host of projects and programs in the area, both as a solo organization making grants, as well as an organization that has partnered with other groups to support projects and ideas that will make Albany and Clinton County a better place.

Among those who have benefited from CCCF funds are the Albany Fire Department, Furever Friends Spay and Neuter Clinic, Kentucky Changers Project among others.

In addition, the Foundation has partnered with other organizations to bring local projects to life such as the new playground equipment at Mountain View Park and the summer youth feeding project.

The Foundation has also sponsored musical acts for the past three years during the Foothills Festival, and will “shift gears” so to speak for this year’s Foothills Festival, providing professional storytellers to entertain the 2018 Foothills Festival crowd with several shows.

The brainchild of CCCF vice-chair Arica Collins, the Foothills storytelling program will be a “learning experience” for people of all ages, with the shows to be centered around Albany and Clinton County historical figures and events.

The stories that will be featured during the program at the Foothills, will be taken from the works of local historian and blog writer, Randy Speck, who pens on his blog under the title of “The Notorious Meddler.”

As for the upcoming All for Benny Gala, Sullivan said that while she learned from last year’s inaugural event and some changes in the night’s lineup were warranted, for the most part, the success of the 2017 dinner translated into most of the plans for 2018 remaining the same.

“Last year’s event exceeded our expectations. We called on so many community leaders to support us in our infancy stages and they did,” she said. “The food prepared by Hunter Shearer rivaled meals I’ve had at nice steakhouses.”

The overwhelming success of last year’s Gala also has caused her to be prepared for an even bigger turnout this year, noting that when the event had concluded last year and word spread as to how much everyone enjoyed the evening, one of the most heard comments from people who didn’t attend was “I wish I had been there.”

“We’ve expanded our seating to accommodate 150 this year because of the amazing response we’ve received,” Sullivan explained “I really think people enjoyed getting dressed up and the ambiance of the town under the lights, with the music in the background, awesome food and conversation with old friends. It was hard to beat.”

She added that the support from the local community for this year’s repeat Gala has been most encouraging as plans for the night come together.

“In standard Albany fashion, people are volunteering and helping like crazy to pull this event off. The CCCF board has been amazing to work with,” Sullivan said. “My big wish is for everyone to contribute to the CCCF, even if you can’t make this event. Supporting this foundation, is supporting our future.”

In coming up with a name for the Gala, Sullivan explained in 2017 how she decided on the name, All for Benny.

Sullivan says she turned to the local legend of how Albany supposedly got its name as a way to mix a little fun into the event and at the same time, give it a name that everyone would remember.

“In case you’ve never heard the story, the local legend says that Albany was named in 1838 when during the vote to determine the location of the county seat, patrons of Benjamin Dowell’s tavern shouted ‘All for Benny’, which led to ‘All Benny’ then to ‘Albany’, Sullivan explained. “No, we don’t know if the story is true, that’s what makes it a legend.”

Knowledge of the Clinton County Community Foundation, and it’s works in the community is becoming more widely recognized, but there is still a lot of people who perhaps aren’t familiar with the Foundation and the works and goals of the organization.

This All of Benny Gala is just one of the ways the CCCF Advisory Board hopes to be able to raise that awareness within the community.

Advisory Board Member Al Gibson also noted that while many CCCF supporters now live away from their hometown, many more are current residents of Albany and Clinton County.

Most of the supporters of the organization are members of what the Foundation calls the “205 Club”, a term premised on the fact that Clinton County is comprised of 205 square miles of land.

205 Club members pledge to give to the Foundation a donation of $205 each year for a five-year long period.

Sullivan, who came on as an Advisory Board Member earlier this spring, agreed that raising awareness about the Foundation was an important aspect of events like next week’s Gala.

“Most things run their course and I’m not arrogant enough to believe that this will last like our beloved Foothills Festival has but I do hope we can see this dinner spread the word about the work the CCCF is doing, can do and will do in the future. I hope we see this dinner help fund some major quality of life projects for Albany and Clinton County,” Sullivan said.

Tickets to the “All For Benny” event are $50 per person, and must be made in advance with a firm RSVP policy, which is being adhered to strictly because of the need to be able to know in advance the food quantity that will be needed for the dinner, as well as the specific temperature for each steak being prepared.

The deadline for making reservations is this Saturday, September 78.

If interested in attending the All for Benny dinner please contact Jessica Owens Sullivan by text or call at 502-640-9235 or you can email

In addition, dinner reservations and payment of $50 per person, can be made in person through Friday to Al Gibson at the Clinton County News, 116 N. Washington Street in Albany.

Jessica needs to know whether guests prefer chicken breast or beef filet for their dinner. Filets will be cooked to order with temperatures at medium rare, medium or medium well.

“It’s so hard to describe what makes Albany so perfect because it’s the way Albany LOVES its people and the way its people take pride in it,” Sullivan concluded. “I hope my hometown people get that the All for Benny dinner is to celebrate our rich history that’s full of fun and interesting stories, honor its uniqueness and to celebrate the people in this community that are so proud of it.”

Sullivan added that she is excited about the favorable response she has received from the public while putting together the plans for this second Gala, and she expects that the night will be even more entertaining and better received than last year’s successful inaugural event.

“We’re beyond lucky, we are the few that have been given the opportunity to have our roots grow in a place like Albany,” Sullivan said.