It’s a downtown highlight every year. The fine arts displayed at of the highest quality, the music is excellent and the air is filled with exciting sounds and smells. Our whole family loves it and we all enjoyed this year’s rendition as a group, which is always interesting with several adults and a one-year-old (Urban Boy) and a six-year-old (Urban Girl). The good news is that, at three days, there is plenty of time to get to everything the various members of the entourage want to enjoy. There’s also time to retreat to home and take a nap.
While it is difficult to know where to start, I’ll start with what we saw first: Flowers. After all, the festival is named after a flower, so it makes sense. We started with Gregory’s flowers as we entered the festival and they were beautiful. Our family appreciates the splashes of color he delivers to the city.
We enjoyed a number of artists on all the stages. We couldn’t, of course catch them all, but I enjoyed the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra Middle School Band. It’s nice to see middle school students having an opportunity to explore a range of genres. We were all impressed with the programming at the Union Avenue Stage and particularly enjoyed Stephen Hunley’s set on Saturday. The Badd Hatt’rs blew my mind on the children’s stage.
The various arts are, of course, center stage. In addition to the performing arts on stage, there are a number of arts being performed throughout the festival, which is an addition I’ve really enjoyed. Artist Cynthia Markert painted in Krutch Park and glass-blowing demonstrations as well as painting classes (with wine, of course) also happened there. A number of the artisans used their down time to continue to work on new pieces.
The art on display in the booths was as good as ever. From jewelry to pottery, from painting to colorful scarves, from photographs to metal work and much more, something could be found for anyone. I love the blend of whimsical and serious, functional and art for its own sake. The fused glasswork of Buckhorn Ridge Studio always impresses us and was a favorite with our group this year. We were also exited to see Heather Whiteside’s art after having learned just last week that she’s returned to Knoxville.
The children’s section offers something for the young ones and Urban Girl has a blast there – starting with a rocket offered for painting by The MUSE Knoxville. Children had the chance for old-fashioned fun with stilts, tightropes, a unicycle and more. Urban girl helped weave the giant spiderweb, made two different pieces of her own art at a couple of booths and had her face painted. She was so inspired by the young dancers of Danse ET Plus that she had her mother sign her up for dance camp before the day ended.
She also got a kick out of the big grape clusters outside the culinary tent where Urban Woman and I camp out for the weekend. We enjoyed presentations by a number of the chefs, but liked the salad presented by chef Warren Weiss of Babalu so much that Urban Woman made it for us on Sunday. We also enjoyed chefs Karen Crumley of Avanti Savoia and Jesse Newmister of Kaizen Izakaya (coming soon to a downtown near you!). Urban Woman didn’t make it, but I really enjoyed Caleb Boyer of Bar Marley with his tropical fusion waverolls, which were very delicious. I’ve got to make it by there for more of the same.
I saw some of the staff and volunteers afterward and they were completely exhausted. It takes a lot to put on an event of this magnitude. Of course, it’s only the culminating event – numerous related events have preceded it. Take an opportunity to thank them if you get the chance. The festival really presents the city well and to have this kind of festival and have it be free-of-charge is truly remarkable.
A final word as we start another busy week in the city: I’ll co-host the second in a series of business forums with the Entrepreneur Center this Friday. It’s early enough you can join us and then get about your First Friday fun. It starts at 4:30 at the Entrepreneur Center and runs until 6:00 PM. The feature this month will be an on-stage interview with Mahaste Vafaie, owner of Tomato Head. It should be fun and I’d love to see you there.