We don’t seem to be content to have one major downtown event at a time. As I discussed earlier, Pridefest took over the central portion of Gay Street starting at noon and then moved to the south lawn of the World’s Fair Park this past Saturday.
Meanwhile, Church Street beside the Coliseum was covered with a giant water slide for most of the day as children of all ages enjoyed “Slide the City.” At four in the afternoon Brewfest kicked in on Gay and Depot on the other side of downtown. It was enough to wear out a blogger, for sure, and I saw quite a few people who made more than one of the events. I crossed paths with Erin Donovan (of Visit Knoxville) who was also trying to catch it all.
Slide the City, particularly, seemed to be threatened and perhaps impacted by the rain. Early on the ominous skies probably kept the crowd a bit more sparse than otherwise would have been the case. The slide ran a thousand feet down two lanes, emptying out in front of the Civic Auditorium. The natural slope of the hillside provided just enough speed over the slippery surface to produce smiles and gales of laughter by the time participants slid to a stop.
It’s a cool use of a lightly traveled street on a Saturday afternoon in the summer. I’m very pleased the city allowed them to set up downtown for the fun event. I’d love to see them come back and I’d love to see us add other non-traditional activities downtown. Of course, later this summer we’ll have rappelling from the side of the Langley Building and I’ve heard rumblings of a possible Open Streets event. Here’s hoping.
Brewfest, which sold out in advance raising money to fund Cure Duchenne, took up a pretty massive piece of downtown real estate. Covering the Gay Street viaduct, it stretched to the former Regas Restaurant and at least as far along Depot from west of Gay Street to very close to Central. Multiple entrances kept the crowd flowing in and out and free water kept everyone hydrated.
The number of beers available to sample (over 100) kept the lines from growing too long. I’m hoping no one tried to explore all the possibilities as some selectivity definitely seemed required. I hung out for quite a while and it seemed that most people were keeping it between the lines. The water and food offered a way to pace the intake and rides were offered for people who needed them via Uber.
Many of the booths and some of the people serving up the beverages offered a side of entertainment with your sample. Everyone seemed to have fun at the Highland Brewing Company booth. Calfkiller beer was not only popular, but the guys serving it up, as well as their tap handles, were alternately described as “fun” and “crazy.” Laguntas Brewing Company clearly offered the most entertainment with their fire juggling, stilt walking and other craziness.
The music, lined up by Rusty and Blank Newspaper, kept the fun vibe flowing. I wasn’t able to catch Guy Marshall at the end of the night, though they are always good. The early bands did a fine job and as the beer flowed, I suspect the dancing increased.
A local stamp also could be seen on this year’s event. I found Schulz Brau’s booth and other emerging Knoxville brewers were also present. Of interest, and quite a buzz was the unified effort of nine local brewers to make a honeysuckle-based beer.
The line was long and the spirit of camaraderie in which the beer was generated helped promote a good feeling for those in line – and the line was very long. It embodied the spirit of the craft beer world and it’s one that we’ll see up close and personal in the coming months in Knoxville as one brewery after another opens through the fall and winter.
As with so many great events in the city, it’s the people who make it special. I had a hard time walking through the event from one end to the other without being stopped by people who introduced themselves as readers – and I always appreciate that. I had a fun conversation with a young man who is about to purchase the same model camera I use. Another told me he’s recently started writing for a newspaper in Lafollette. Another reader helpfully made some social media suggestions and offered to help. Isn’t that Knoxville?
So, it was another good, exhausting day in the city. From water fun to celebrations of diversity and good beer, something could be found to bring a smile to almost any face.