The end of the year will also be the end for one of Knoxville's hallowed institutions. The management of the Carousel II, the gay club in Fort Sanders that opened in the mid-1970s and served a couple of generations of Knoxville's gay community, has announced that the club will close on Jan. 1.
"We have come to the end of an era," reads the Dec. 15 Facebook post announcing the news. "As you may have heard, the Carousel II will be closing its doors January 1st. New Year's Eve will be our last night open. To dispel any rumors, the event that has led to this decision is that the building that has houses [sic] the Carousel II for the last thirty-two years was sold without our prior knowledge a few months ago. Since then, we have determined that under this new ownership it is not feasible to remain open in this location.
"[Owner] Hazel [Horner] sends her deepest gratitude to all our loyal customers and friends for your continued support and patronage throughout the years. She is deeply touched by the friendships and memories that have been made at 1501 White Avenue and hopes there may be more to come."
It's been hard to pin down the exact history of the club, since it's been closed and re-opened a handful of times over the last 35 years. But it was likely the first club of its kind in Knoxville. The outpouring of Facebook tributes in response to the news indicates its influence:
"This is definitely the saddest news I've received in a while," reads one. "For most of us, I'd say The Carousel II has been a friend and a place to be ourselves. It truly is the end of an era, and I look forward to The Carousel III."
"Some of the best times in East Tennessee were had here," reads another. "You've outlived many of those who attended there before the advent of HIV. You've gave many closeted guys a place to go for a few hours to let it all out in the dark ages. You gave us hope, compassion, fun, happiness and love. We will miss you."
The club is organizing a "night of memories" on Dec. 29, with performances by former cast members and entertainers.