I’ll share a few words today and hit you with photographs that tell the story much better in any case. The day was a perfect day with a few clouds in the morning, then blue skies and mild temperatures. Not many festivals rate a detailed weather forecast, but this one has a history of thunderstorms, steady rain and just generally bad weather, so the blue skies were great.
I think the clouds may have kept a few people away early, but by mid-day the crowd had grown to be just about right. Most places weren’t uncomfortably overrun with people, but it was crowded enough to be festive. The food areas in the center of Market Square were hard to navigate at one point, but later they weren’t so bad. For quick trips from one end of the site to the other the sidewalks behind the vendors proved to be the best choice.
We started out in the children’s section, which is what you do when you have a six-year-old in tow. I thought the offerings were good. For five dollars almost everything could be accessed all day long. Urban Girl did most of it; cornhole, bouncing room, the bungee bounce, the hammer to ring the bell and she got her nails painted. After splitting temporarily she greeted me with a large inflated dolphin she had “won.” I learned later the fishing (where she “won”) charged five dollars and every child “won.” Sneaky.
People watching is always fun and that was spiced up a bit this festival by some of the comicon characters prancing about and posing for pictures. The guy with the boa constrictor drew attention at every turn. Generally speaking, everyone seemed to have a good time.
I saw one man carrying a pistol strapped to his side. I asked a policeman about and was told that if someone has a gun permit, the state allows them to carry it that way. I asked how I – or the police – know if the person has a permit and whether they are a good guy with a gun or a bad guy with a gun. He said they “use their judgement.”
The guy was middle-aged and white. I wonder if the “judgement” would be different if he was young and black. I’ll just be honest and say it has no place at an event like this. If that guy felt a need to use his weapon the odds of him hitting innocent people when he “defended” himself in that crowd would be extremely high. Of course, there were likely many others with concealed guns.
We enjoyed time at the dance stage, but I always wish I’d plan to spend more time there. Some of the dances and the costuming looked great. We spent more time at the choral stage than the others and enjoyed the madrigal singers, the Maryville College group and the Knoxville Gay Men’s chorus who were introduced by Mayor Rogero.
All the choruses received great receptions from large crowds. I heard the opera/gospel choir was amazing, but we missed them. The opera stage was very well supported, which was good to see. I would love to see the crowd at the opera be as much a mix of ages as I saw at that stage. If you liked what you heard on that stage, consider attending an opera. Tosca is your next opportunity.
The vendors offered colorful and, often, beautiful and beautifully made wares. I found my friend, artist, Heather Whiteside at the festival and was delighted to learn that she has returned to her Knoxville home. It will be great seeing her around more. My favorite items were the exquisite doll clothes pictured here and the viking chess sets. Best presentation, however, may go to that great juice stand with the pineapples. Nice touch.
The food, of course is a big attraction and the smells and presentation were great up and down the food area. I had a great chicken salad and a little guilty pleasure when I shared an awesome corn dog. I still haven’t gotten one of those supersized drumsticks, but they look so good. We were very happy to have tables in the parking lot near the jazz stage to enjoy music while we ate.
My only complaint about the food system is the guesswork involved. Many of the vendors don’t have the number of tickets (dollars) prominently displayed, so there’s no way to know how many tickets you need unless you stand in line, wait and ask. Then you stand in line for tickets before standing in line, again, to get the food. And wine and beer don’t accept tickets? Who knew? Not me. That left tickets for a funnel cake for the six-year-old, so I guess it worked out. Minor complaint, really.
In the end, it was a very relaxed, seemingly successful festival. It was great seeing Gay Street closed to traffic and filled with people. As is always the case, I was reminded of how much more pleasant it is to live downtown and attend a festival as opposed to driving in. To have a personal bathroom, place to take a nap and just chill for a while before going back out is very, very nice. It left me less exhausted than the last couple of festivals and looking forward to the Dogwood Festival on Market Square this coming weekend.