By David Rogers. July 21, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC — When Tracy Brown sashays down the runway as a fashion model — pouring wine in the empty glasses of appreciative audience members — you just get the feeling that everyone in the room is having a good time. That might be an understatement in describing the well-executed 2017 Blowing Rock Fashion Show on Friday at Blowing Rock Country Club.
COVER IMAGE: Marty Couch, center, had no idea that almost a dozen of her family members were in town to see her named 2017 Blowing Rock Woman of the Year. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Lynn Lawrence noted to the estimated crowd of 300 that this year’s “Blowing Rock Woman of the Year” had a favorite tagline, “Roll Tide.” That’s when Marty Couch had a pretty good idea that she was going to be receiving the award, she admitted to Blowing Rock News a little later.
But that was about all anyone could get out of her except big, opened mouthed smiles as soon as she saw a platoon of family members from all parts of the country waiting for her on stage.
Celebrating 40 consecutive years of the Blowing Rock Fashion Show in benefit of healthcare in the High Country, an estimated 300+ fashionistas converged on Blowing Rock Country Club Friday to watch their friends stroll down the runway, eat lunch, bid on valuable items in the silent auction, buy raffle tickets and, of course, learn the identity of the 2017 “Woman of the Year” as voted on by past winners of the honor.
In her introductory remarks, Lawrence told the appreciative audience that of the 40 years of naming a woman of the year, 18 are still living in the vicinity of Blowing Rock, either full-time or seasonally. More than a dozen of those were in Friday’s audience.
When Mrs. Couch was announced and as she made her way to the front of the grand ballroom to receive her award and greet her family, an appreciative standing ovation erupted for the woman who was born and raised in Alabama, migrated to the Tampa, Florida area to pursue a professional career in the hospitality industry and, with her husband, Ted, became active in real estate development and philanthropy. They have had a presence in Blowing Rock first as seasonal residents, then as full-time residents for more than 30 years. Both have given time, talent and financial resources to community initiatives, and have especially been benefactors of the healthcare industry. Marty Couch has served on the ARHS Foundation Board, as well served as Honorary Chair of the Blowing Rock Fashion Show and chairperson and organizing committee member for a number of philanthropic causes, including the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.
RETROSPECTIVE: To learn more about Marty Couch, CLICK HERE to read an exclusive, Blowing Rock ONE ON ONE interview from September 28, 2015, appearing in Blowing Rock News.
LOOKING BACK: To learn more about the Moffitt Cancer Center and the Couch family involvement, CLICK HERE.
Ted Couch also smiled broadly at the honor bestowed on his wife, but there was a hint of satisfied mischievousness as he explained to Blowing Rock News the conspiracy he planned in getting all of the family members to Blowing Rock on Friday — without Marty finding out they were all coming. “It was one of those tough assignments that just had to done,” he laughed.
The 2017 edition of the Blowing Rock Fashion Show was chaired by Mandy Poplin, the manager of the local Doncaster Outlet on North Main Street. After Rob Hudspeth, Senior Vice President for System Development of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) welcomed the crowd of 99% women of all ages, Poplin acknowledged the many past chairs of the event which has in aggregate raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for health care, originally as a benefit for the former, independently operated Blowing Rock Hospital.
After Blowing Rock Hospital joined ARHS in 2007, it continued to be the primary beneficiary of the Fashion Show fundraising until plans crystallized for replacing the iconic, but aging facility on Chestnut Drive, on the hill overlooking downtown, with The Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge Post Acute Care and Rehabilitation Center on the outskirts of Blowing Rock.
This fund supports patients experiencing extreme financial crisis while undergoing medical treatment.
Now that Chestnut Ridge has been built and is operational since January 2017, the Blowing Rock Fashion Show continues to be a fundraising showcase at Blowing Rock Country Club, with the proceeds earmarked by ARHS to support healthcare more generally in the High Country.
Hudspeth of ARHS reported to Blowing Rock News, “The proceeds from today’s event will be used to benefit the Patients in Crisis Fund, which was created in 2007 by longtime Watauga Medical Center executive and Blowing Rock resident Dr. Herman Godwin. This fund supports patients who are experiencing extreme financial crisis while they are undergoing medical treatment from ARHS.
“These patients may be suffering from severe health problems,” Hudspeth added, “such as cancer, stroke, heart attack, post-surgery or other long-term illnesses. Due to these circumstances, some patients will lose their employment or will be unable to work, which complicates their recovery. In order to assist them, the Patients in Crisis Fund provides food, medication, transportation, heating oil, electricity, housing and other critical needs. In short, the Patients In Crisis Fund started by Dr. Godwin a decade ago has a direct impact on patients and their families during an extremely fragile time in their respective lives.”
A highlight of Friday’s event was a slideshow of images cobbled together by the organizing committee, captured moments from the past 40 years. Many in the audience chuckled, broke into big smiles, or just said, “Ahhhhhh” in recalling some of those moments.
Sponsors of the 2017 event included The Couch Family, The Broyhill Family Foundation, Tommy & Tiffany Taylor, Barbara & Jim Whitton, and Makoto’s Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar.
Blowing Rock apparel stores supplying this year’s fashions (and the models representing them) included Doncaster (Gwen Dhing, Marianne Hall, Neal Orgain), Monkees (Vicki Worsham, Lily O’Hair, Olga Fairbanks), 100 West Union (Len Capel, Ken Wehrmann, Jason Tidwell), Finley House Couture (Lisa Van Arnam, Barbre McGill, Leslie Peet), J. McLaughlin (Jenny Miller, Jennifer Hale, Brenda Fairbetter), JW Tweeds (Renee Godwin, Janis Fite, Linda Russell, Jim Pitts, Will Rayner, Tracy Brown), Almost Rodeo Drive (Ruth Ellen Weems, Dee Lambeth, Mary Millar), and Celeste’s (Tiffany Taylor, Joellyn Gibbons, Celeste Phillips).