With the Mardi Growl Parade and Festival this coming Saturday, Festival Season officially begins in Knoxville. After a couple of years of pandemic-induced cancellations, festivals returned in a large way to the city in 2022. Thankfully, we seem to be on a roll with lots of festival fun headed our way.
The list below is equal parts research and educated guesswork. Some of the festivals have not updated webpages, so it’s unclear if they are continuing. This page will be linked at the top under events and it may be updated, so check back. As always, I’m happy to take corrections, so correct me in the comments if you have knowledge of these events or others.
In any case, it’s time to get those dates on your calendars and start making plans.
The season begins with Mardi Growl holding down the first half of the month, but with the second half picking up the pace with three major events. The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade returns March 17 and begins at 7:00 pm on Church Avenue, before turning right on Gay Street and proceeding through to Magnolia. The Big Ears Festival 2023, runs from March 30 – April 1. It’s so big a weekend can’t hold it all, with events, performances and more starting on Thursday and running through Sunday. The world literally comes to our city for this festival which features dozens of musical performances, film, panels, and more.
Mardi Growl, Parade Route and World’s Fair Park, March 4, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Big Ears, Locations all over downtown, March 30 – April 2
Just to keep us all on our toes and keep the weekend interesting, the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon, which is actually an entire family of races and events spanning two days, hits the same weekend that Big Ears concludes, with the main event happening the morning of April 2. It’s the weekend that world-class athletes encounter world-class musicians in a big way. If that doesn’t keep us hopping enough, throwing the Chalk Walk in on April 1.
The back end of the month packs a powerful punch with two of Knoxville’s largest festivals. In a reverse from last year’s schedule, it kicks off with the annual Rossini Festival and International Street Fair with music, food, and more, presented April 22 by Knoxville Opera. Featuring multiple stages and opera along with choral, jazz, and other music, it also features dance performances throughout the day, great smells from all the food vendors, and wine and beer sales on a portion of Gay Street and Market Street, which are shut down for the event.
April ends with Knoxville’s traditional signature festival: The Dogwood Arts Festival. The events begin in February and feature a lengthy list of events that run through April. The Dogwood Arts Festival on the World’s Fair Park south lawn (April 28-30) dominates a weekend with everything art related. It’s a can’t-miss weekend for anyone who loves the arts and the city. Be sure to go to the main site above and check out all the other great events scattered over greater Knoxville during the three-month period. The same weekend, be sure to catch the wonderful neighborhood tour, Fourth and Gill Tour of Homes and Secret Gardens, April 30, which has scooted up a bit on the calendar.
Chalk Walk, Market Square and Krutch Park, April 1
The Southern Skies Music Festival presented by Dogwood Arts expands to a two-day festival, May 20-21, and includes curators The Dirty Guv’nahs and others, plus headliners St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Grace Potter. Children get their turn with the return of the Knox County Public Library’s Children’s Festival of Reading on May 20. The day-long festival features children’s and young adult authors, story-telling, and much more.
May also marks the beginning of several ongoing events that while they are not technically festivals, they feel that way at times – and they are long running, marking spring and early summer as much as any single events. The biggest is the annual return of the Market Square Farmers’ Market to the heart of downtown. It resumes its regular spot-on May 3.
Also resuming a regular schedule during the month of May will be the Concerts on the Square series, featuring Jazz on Tuesdays beginning May 2 and a variety of genres on Thursday nights starting May 18 on Market Square. Long-time readers know I adore Jazz Tuesdays. It’s one of the highlights of the year in the city.
Jazz Tuesdays, Free Jazz on Market Square, May 2 – June 27, 7:00 pm
Caribbean Jerk Festival, Caribbean Food, Music, and More, World’s Fair Park, Will Not Happen in 2023, Returns in 2024
June doesn’t slow much for Knoxville Festivals. It starts with Bob Dylan (doesn’t everything good start with Bob?) and Dolly Fest, one of the newer festivals, It includes the annual Bike, Boat, Brew and Bark event that celebrates all the things we love about the city. The USA Cycling Championships have been a big part of our June for several years and Brewfest is always a highlight for beer lovers.
In July, we do slow down a bit on the festival front while we continue Jazz on the Square and the Market Square Farmers’ Market. There are a couple of notable exceptions, with our annual July 4 celebration on the World’s Fair Park and the beginning of the wonderful Shakespeare off the Square series.
Festival on the Fourth, World’s Fair Park, July 4 (I can’t find information on this event, so this is an assumption)
Hola Festival, World’s Fair Park Performance Lawn, September 16 – 17
Pridefest, Gay Street (parade), World’s Fair Park, Parade October 6 (evening), Events on the WFP, Oct. 7 – 9
Brewer’s Jam, There will be no Brewer’s Jam this year “or in the foreseeable future”
If I’ve missed something you think I should have included, say so in the comments and at the least you’ll have plugged another event, and maybe I’ll bring it onto the main list. Are you tired already? See you at the festivals!