The second Open Streets Knoxville event could not have ordered a more perfect day. With sunshine and temperatures in the sixties and low seventies, it was picture perfect. This time around was different for everyone – more time and distance – and for me, it was very different because I wasn’t flying solo like the first time. This time I brought the whole Urban menagerie, so that dictated what we did and what I photographed. This article, as a result will be a little more centered on family.
One thing I love about Open Streets, at least the way I approach it, is that there isn’t a schedule: we just drift and see what happens. It’s a pleasant break after a sequence of downtown events in recent weeks which have to run a pretty regimented schedule. The flow allows the grown-ups to roll with the young Urban brood and let them drift as they will.
We started in the Old City. The half mile we walked from the house to get started was no big deal. The half mile we walked back to our home when it ended was a bigger deal. But we were all energy and ambition at the beginning and I didn’t think we’d make it out of the Central and Jackson intersection.
Urban Girl wanted her hair colored pink before we could move beyond that point, so the helpful women of Lox Salon fixed her up. Urban Boy, who makes his splash with today’s article, thought the scooter was pretty cool, but he really dug drumming to that weird sound. He kept pointing to the lady playing bagpipes, like, “Do you see that?” It sounded more like, “Ummmphhh, Ummmphhh,” but I got the drift.
We stepped a few feet off the path to let everyone check out White Buffalo and it was quite a hit. Urban Girl and Boy dug the story-time area, having a little pillow fight, and then Urban Girl discovered the legos behind the curtain and resolutely declared she was staying there the rest of the afternoon. Urban Woman found a cool dress for Urban Girl and we set out – Urban Girl coming only on the promise there would be more cool stuff down the line. After a little chalk drawing we made it out of the Old City.
But we didn’t make it that far before we were caught up again. We listened to the Knox County Jug Stompers a bit and checked out the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club‘s cool bike trails. We got to see a woman lift a set of weights no one in our entourage would consider attempting and women sort of fighting with ropes or some such thing. It all revolved around Rocky Top Crossfit and a lot of people gave their machines and ropes a try.
Then Urban Girl spotted the hula hoops. I assumed she’d get frustrated in a few minutes and that would be that, but no, girl’s got game. She rocked a hula and smugly informed me she’d been practicing at school. Urban Boy romped in the dandelions like he’d been walking his whole life and owning it.
We enjoyed the balancing artists, but I couldn’t convince any of our crew to try it. Urban Girl hooked up with the Girls on the Run of Greater Knoxille for an activity I never quite understood. I stopped for a photo with Evelyn Gill and Rosie the Riveter and we left the Interstate area, at last!
Like last time, people employed just about every form of non-motorized mobility known to human kind from walking and running to biking (recumbent and up-right) and skateboarding. All modes of transportation seemed to mesh without any issues as far as I could see. People simply feel the vibe and it’s all good. I love the way friends greet each other and make introductions all around. Many people spoke to me and said kind words which I appreciate.
By the time we approached the Emory Place area the crowds were really building – or had already built, but started in the middle. I’ve never seen so many people on a patio as were gathered at Crafty Bastard. I took Urban Son-in-Law inside and showed him around. Kukuly and the Fuego played their hot jazz inside and it was totally cool.
In an illustration and reminder of the fact that children really don’t need much to be entertained, both our one-year-old and our six-year-old loved the noodle house and, really, it was just noodles hung on their ends. Urban Boy, simply overwhelmed, was rendered speechless, or would have been if he was the sort of guy inclined toward the use of words, which he is not.. We also had our first encounter with bubbles along this stretch and those never cease to thrill and entertain.
The adults, meanwhile, were more mesmerized by the belly dancers. While we stood admiring their performance, I couldn’t get Urban Girl to come in close for a look. I think she was intimidated by the spectacle. And then Urban Son-in-Law and I got sucked into chess. It may not be aerobic, but we broke a sweat before our games ended. It sounds like I may have an urban chess story brewing.
We didn’t get to watch the Japanese Kendo demonstration, but the Urban kids thought the uniforms were cool. We were all startled when one of the participants, Kumi Alderman, uncovered her face and greeted me. I had no idea I knew a Kendo fighter! Kumi is the force behind the Asian Festival and we’d had lunch. One of those startling moments along the way.
This was the stretch with yoga, the Hard Knox Roller Girls and the aerial acrobatics. Urban Girl, once more awestruck, would not approach the Roller Girls which surprised us because she’s been quite taken with a book she’s read recently about a girl who joined the roller derby. Just too overwhelming in real-life, I suppose. I’ve got to say, there is a lot coming at kids pretty fast along this course. All good, but a lot.
We checked out the Bad Hatt’rs, a band full of very young boys playing very heavy rock and roll. Again, it’s a lot for a young kid to take in seeing people not much older than herself making actual music together. Urban Girl got schooled a bit as we went. Urban Boy discovered the motorcycle outside the Time Warp Tea Room and lived large, channeling Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider.” The boy was giddy.
Meanwhile, Urban Girl was inside Folly Boutique explaining to owner Becky Walker how she (Urban Girl) plans to launch her fashion design career after her career as a basketball coach. Becky offered to let her come in some time and draw some fashion designs and Urban Girl virtually floated down the street proclaiming, “I’ve got my first job. It doesn’t pay money, but it’s my first job.”
And what about the Original Freezo doesn’t make you smile? The image of a rock band blasting as the Freezo looms overhead just couldn’t be better. We deferred ice cream until we’d extended the route a couple of blocks to introduce the brood to Wild Love Bakehouse and Mid Mod Collective. They were duly impressed. It’s not a very pedestrian-friendly trek, with crumbling sidewalks and no crosswalks, but we made it there and back and secured the promised cone ($1!).
We saw a rainbow-clad group cavorting about in the middle of the street and enjoyed the revelry. I think they may have been prepping for an upcoming parade that I’m anticipating. I absolutely loved the moment pictured above with the children patiently waiting and two girls slapping hands in time, making their own fun. Moments after this picture was snapped the kids began an intense game of musical chairs and all thought of friendly games disappeared into fierce competition.
We got some food from the Gypsy Kitchen Food Truck and enjoyed relaxing a bit before picking it up again. Time was waning and so was the energy levels of our party. Five hours felt just about perfect to us. The youngest among us and the oldest among us were wearing down, but not so much before the end. We had just enough time to work our way slowly from one end to the other and a bit more rapidly back before the streets closed to pedestrians, once more.
It’s a great event that I hope will continue to grow and expand in the city. This is the kind of activity that gives a human face to an urban environment, holding the potential to alter the way we see the urban landscape. Neighbors and friends slow down to talk, new businesses are discovered and new acquaintances made. The kids have a blast and the parents can relax knowing the children are safely running about.
Watch for announcements on the location of the October Open Streets. Consider volunteering, offering an activity or becoming a sponsor. Support Bike Walk Knoxville, the organization which brings you these fine events. And watch the Inside of Knoxville Facebook page where I’ll drop these photos and more sometime later.