The 2014 Rossini Festival Fills Gay Street and Beyond

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

I paced myself a little better this weekend, lying low on Friday night, facing the taxman on Sunday. In between, however, downtown Knoxville was a complete circus. With tens of thousands expected for the Rossini Festival presented by Knoxville Opera and tens of thousands expected for the Orange and White game, it promised to be a bit chaotic if the weather cooperated.

Kidstuff with Sean McCollough, Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Kidstuff with Sean McCollough, Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

It did more than cooperate. Rather than cold and rainy like we can have this time of year, or an all-day torrential rainfall like we had last year, the sun bore down like a summer day, with temperatures around eighty degrees and spots in the shade at a premium. In other words, it was pretty close to perfect, though probably more than a few of us have burns to show for it.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Urban Daughter, Urban Woman, Urban Girl and myself started the day together. Many of these early day photographs were made with Urban Girl in my arms. We started the day with an unusual operatic version of Kidstuff featuring a college opera company from Arkansas doing a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan. Then it was straight to Market Square for the children’s games.

Urban Girl Channels her Inner Cat, Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Urban Girl Channels her Inner Cat, Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Five dollars got a pass to play many of the games. Urban Girl took a spin through the inflatable games, but liked the trampoline the most. The second time around was the best one for her, and that’s good given the hot, forty-five minute line we stood through to give her the chance. The line for the extravagant face painting was about the same wait, if not longer. It also cost $10 and she wanted it off as soon as she got it on. Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t hitting teen turbulence about nine years early.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

The footprint of the festival seemed larger this year, with vendors or stages set up throughout the surface parking lot beside the Bijou and from Cumberland down to Summit Hill, throughout Market Square and Krutch Park and on Market Street. And at its peak, almost every square foot of that space was packed. It was not a good time to be in a hurry.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

But it wasn’t intended for hurrying through. Many of the crafts were of a high quality and invited slow browsing. I loved the carved sandstone and the baskets. I spoke to the woman who sells the colorful hats when I noticed she was shutting down. I asked her why she was closing so early and she said she’d had a fantastic day and loved Knoxville, but appeared to have had enough for one day. She comes every year from Indiana and says she has a group of regulars who are waiting for her return each spring.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

The food varies in quality, but we enjoy taking a break from our normal diet. We each ate a hot dog for the first time in years and enjoyed some stir-fried vegetables and chicken. Several of our local food trucks were present, which gave revelers a gourmet, healthy alternative.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Another clever addition was two tasting areas for east Tennessee wines. One operated in the Krutch Park extension for most of the day while the other anchored the parking lot beside the Bijou from early until closing. The tents were packed at $15 a person to get samples from the various wineries. It was a perfect combination of local or regional with the roots of the Italian festival.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Music sat firmly at the center of the day, with various artists and ensembles running continuously on four of the stages, while the fifth featured dance. I had a schedule and high hopes, but I also had a four-year-old and, so, was a bit limited in what I caught. After the Kidstuff group I didn’t make it back to the north stage and I hated that because I really wanted to hear the Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus. I likewise didn’t get much time at the south stage. The center stage was reserved for opera, of course, and I got to hear several artists there through the day.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

The small stage just off Market Square in Krutch Park featured jazz for most of the day, ranging from traditional Dixie Land Jazz to more modern variants and ranging as far out as Norwegian Wood, which is so far out from jazz it isn’t, but they were good, as always. Some of the musicians, such as Vance Thompson of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, who will form the core of the upcoming Tuesday night Market Square series, sat in with the various formations.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

I did get to spend some time early, and then a bit later with my friend Larry, beside the Market Square stage, particularly enjoying Circle Modern Dance. I missed Go! Contemporary Dance and I hated that. I’m not always sure just what Circle Modern Dance is going for, but I always enjoy taking the ride with them. Other times I totally connect and they’ve brought me to tears. Knoxville is fortunate to have a group pushing the edges of art.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

My favorite part of the day or really any of these large events is watching people from the bearded man with the leather-fringed jacket drinking a beer to R2D2 making his way through Market Square. Some of the people are barely dressed while others are dressed to the nines. I loved the women from Comicon – which happened early in the day in the convention center – as they strolled down the street. Particularly, I love seeing the children having fun.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

 

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

A couple of thoughts ran through my head as I watched the mass of humanity on display. First, I’m really glad the city didn’t move it from Gay Street. That really is where it needs to be centered. Unless it somehow damages the merchants there, I just don’t see a downside and I’d be surprised if anyone suffered. Our new pet store was swamped over on Union. I talked to Harvey, the magician you often see on Market Square and he said he’d almost gone home several times, but another crowd would gather and he kept going. He probably had a hundred or more people around him when I stopped  by.

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Rossini Festival, Knoxville, 2014

Contrary to moving the event from Gay Street, it seems to me that we should shut down Gay Street more often. It makes for such a perfect pedestrian venue and through traffic can easily by-pass it for the occasional day. New York City and others have done just that, mostly on Sundays, and simply let pedestrians enjoy biking, dancing and walking without the stress of traffic.

For the fan (you know who you are) who requested several days of coverage, like I did for Rhythm and Blooms, sorry man, this is it. But you can see more pictures in the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Photo Album, Knoxville Festivals, Parades and Events VII, starting sometime this afternoon. That will just have to do.

It was a wonderful event and hats are definitely off to Knoxville Opera for bring a high art to us regular folks. Maybe it will inspire more of us to check out their excellent performances.

Comments

  1. Chris Eaker says

    I enjoyed it this year. It certainly is growing. I think it will eventually be too big for downtown and perhaps will have to move to Worlds Fair Park or some place else. One thing my wife commented on that I was thinking too was that it seemed that there were more food vendors than anything this year. And how many gyro food stands does one street fair need?

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      That’s not a bad point about the food repetition. At least they integrated the food trucks like Sweet and Savory and Gonzo Gormet. It appeared to me that likely one or two vendors had multiple stands with gyros. Personally, I’d rather see it spread to neighboring streets rather than the World’s Fair Park. It feels good to have some street events and for some reason this one feels like that’s what it should be, to me. But you may be right.

  2. I noticed the venue got larger we hadn’t been to Rossini Festival in years due to the weather but it was gorgeous out this time around! Was impressed with all the talent going on in all stages and I got to see part of Go Contemporary Dance Works they put out quite a production the theme was Persephone if I remember correctly. I didn’t get to stay the entire performance, my teen was getting hungry. I was blown away by the singing talent of Natalee McReynolds on the Pilot FlyingJ/Knoxville Opera Stage when she took the stage around 8pm and sang “O Mio Bambino Caro”. We went home afterwards with that song in my head until the next day!

  3. Knoxville Opera was privileged to present its 13th annual Rossini Festival this past Saturday. This one-day, free-admission celebration of the arts, providing entertainment by over 800 performers, is unique in our country. We are indebted to Mayor Madeline Rogero who championed our presence on Gay Street by declaring the Festival a legacy event for the City of Knoxville. We are grateful to our public, our vendors, our sponsors, and our very talented and generous performers. See you next year!
    Brian Salesky
    Executive Director and Conductor
    Knoxville Opera
    bsalesky@knoxvilleopera.com

  4. Cyndy Wills says

    Always enjoy your comments on Rossini and downtown Knoxville, they were spot on as always. So sorry you missed Go! Contemporary Dance, we love hearing your input, and are so grateful for your support.

  5. Hungarian Sausage King says

    New this year was our food concession stand, Hungarian Sausage King. Everything we sell we make. It is different from anything that other food vendors sold.
    Come see us next year and try a sample or a meal.
    Thank you
    Hungarian Sausage King

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