Labor Day Weekend saw another big set of events in the city. It started Friday night with First Friday and all that entails and picked up first thing Saturday morning with the Farmers’ Market at its peak. The rest of the day Saturday gave way to the first weekend of college football, while Sunday saw the twenty-eighth and final rendition of Boomsday. Monday’s downtown activity was slower-paced, but featured another tradition – this one in its seventh year – when sunflowers overtook Krutch Park for the annual Labor Day Sunflower Art Installation.
After the craziness of last weekend, I decided to take this one more slowly. It’s probably heresy for me to say outloud, but I decided to have a drink and some cheese at a friend’s downtown home and then pack it in for Friday night. I knew the weekend would be big and sometimes the city can wear a body out, so I mostly stayed at home.
Saturday was long, but very pleasant. We started with the Farmers’ Market which is just so good this time of year I’m tempted to buy way more than we can eat. We went home with a lot, but I think kept it in the possibly edible range. I did sneak back and get a second batch of okra because, well, it’s okra. After our purchases we settled onto the patio outside Trio, enjoyed a beverage, and watched people passing by. Very nice Saturday morning.
Saturday afternoon and evening, like many of you, I settled in to watch the debut of the long-awaited college football season. I hope your team won: Mine did. There were a couple of differences in my experience and yours, most likely, First, I wrote the Ten Day Planner while I watched, so you guys could make your plans starting the next morning. Second, when the games all ended and you went to bed, I went to WDVX and hung out with Wayne Bledsoe, Will Wright and Jeff McClain until about 3:00 AM for Wayne’s “All Over the Road” show. It made for a fun Saturday night and a hard Sunday morning.
The Urban family arrived Sunday around mid-day and we had a low-key afternoon. It involved a nap for me and a bike-riding expedition with Urban Girl. She’s slowly gaining confidence. After a dozen or so chess games with Urban Son-in-Law, we walked a few steps to the parking garage from which we watched the final Boomsday.
I’ll admit, I never drove downtown for Boomsday for the first 23 years. Since we’ve lived downtown for the last five events, we generally walk outside about 9:20, watch the fireworks and walk back inside while everyone else drives home. I know a lot of people are upset about losing it and, for a generation of Knoxville citizens, it’s been a part of the city for their whole lives. Still, I understand why it is ending and it seems like a sensible decision unless a corporate sponsor wants to step in with a large amount of money.
It won’t seem like a big void in my Labor Day weekend and, honestly, the big crowd brings with it some problems. A friend’s window to his car was smashed that night and one of the beautiful windows in the Daylight Building on the corner of Walnut and Union was broken and it looked like some other damage was done. Traffic was pretty cataclysmic and the streets are left a mess in the wake of the event. Pizza was on the sidewalk outside my home, for example.
Urban Girl, who has recently asserted that her traditional cameo appearances will no longer suffice, as she has reached six-years-old and can definitely be much more involved in the blog, estimated the crowd at 500,000. She made it clear she was including herself. You’ll see her first credited photograph in this blog post, as well. Urban Boy, unimpressed, slept through the whole thing.
I made my usual poor attempts at firework photography, combating smoke that just hung in the air. The reflected fireworks on the First Tennessee tower, I thought were interesting, and it was only after I looked at the photograph that I realized four different banks are visible in the single shot. We must have a lot of money in Knoxville.
We actually loved Monday’s traditional Sunflower Art installation. We took sunflowers and went early so Urban Girl could help while Urban Woman and myself sipped coffee. A grassroots effort supported by Beardsley Farm, UT Botanical Gardens, Three Rivers Market and others, the event features at its center, the weaving of sunflowers onto a large chain-link structure, in the form of a circle. Anyone can contribute and anyone can help. The effort is to honor “work” while, “Each sunflower represents the harvest of an individual’s effort while the circle of sunflowers represents the sum of all our efforts over the past year.”
The event started at 9:00 AM and went into the early afternoon. Also included this year was an art exhibition based on the theme and presented by Vine Middle School students. Kelle Jolly performed a set of songs including “Stand by Me,” “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” and “This Little Light of Mine.”
Bateria Appalachia drum corps worked a little drum circle magic while children and a few adults danced and twirled ribbons. A little hooping was mixed in, as well, but the drums are what kept me mesmerized. What has happened to our drum circle scene? It made me realize what used to be a staple of our First Friday has gone missing. It’s a scruffy little part of the event I used to really enjoy. Have I just been missing it?
Cadywampus Puppet Council performed a fun skit about two sunflowers competing for the sun. After being chased by the evil thunder storm, they become friends and enjoy the sun together. The children, including Urban Girl, totally loved it. It ended with Kelly playing “Here Comes the Sun,” which always makes me a bit emotional. I miss George Harrison.
The event ended with discussion of labor and unions and a potluck lunch, though most of the crowd, like us, drifted away at that point. By later in the afternoon, the finished product was drawing curious crowds to the park. Urban Girl announced her plans to be there again next year and that she wants one of those ribbons for Christmas. She was, I think, still high from the fact that she lost her first tooth earlier that morning, making life seem especially sweet. So, while it may be different for other people, for us, a quiet sunflower celebration with one or two hundred friends beat the bombast and massive crowds of Boomsday.