Eat, play, love: Rossini Festival is Saturday

Betsy PickleOur Town Arts

In two days, downtown will be taken over – but don’t run and hide! Run toward the Knoxville Opera’s 18th Annual Rossini Festival International Street Fair.

From 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 13, downtown will be filled with a European-style pedestrian street mall featuring shopping booths by 100 prominent artisans, cuisine from dozens of food vendors and 11 consecutive hours of live entertainment including 45 performances by 750 artists featuring opera, jazz, ethnic music, gospel, modern and ethnic dance, ballet, vocal and instrumental ensembles.

A scene from a previous Rossini Festival (Photo from Rossini Festival Facebook page)

This celebration of the arts is the largest community-engagement event of Knoxville Opera’s season. Given legacy status by Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, the Rossini Festival is the only such free-admission one-day arts festival in the country.

This year’s Rossini Festival will have a new look, spanning several blocks of downtown where the festival has not previously been staged. New hotels, businesses and residences in downtown in recent years have made closing Gay Street for an all-day festival no longer viable. The city’s Office of Special Events staff helped Rossini, as it does for organizers of other downtown festivals, develop a new site and street-closure plan that accommodates vendors and large crowd sizes as well as safety and security needs, access to businesses, and access by first-responder fire and ambulance crews.

“The 18th annual Knoxville Opera Rossini Festival will be bigger and better than ever in its new location,” Rogero said. “We appreciate Knoxville Opera’s unique gift to our community each year by producing and funding this free-admission festival of the performing arts, which is enjoyed annually by up to 75,000 people.”

Kids will have a blast at the YMCA FunZone, packed with hours of exciting play for kids of all ages. Five dollars lets a youngster play all day, and the first 100 will receive a bike helmet courtesy of the Epilepsy Foundation.

This year’s four stages include:

  • Pilot Flying J Opera & Choral Stage on Church Avenue
  • YMCA Dance Stage on Market Square
  • Krutch Park Extension Instrumental Music Stage
  • Market Street Music Stage

“There is something for everyone at Rossini,” said Knoxville Opera Executive and Artistic Director Brian Salesky. Rossini is one of East Tennessee’s most unique cultural festivals and celebrations. It is so massive that more than 200 volunteers are needed to help produce it. Over the past 17 years, more than 500,000 people have attended, rain or shine.

In the Beer Garden, the quartet of Cool Beans, West Hills and Central Flats and Taps, and SoKno Taco Cantina will serve regional brews along with their signature flatbreads and tacos.

Starting at 8 p.m. the crowd will be dancing into the night to the beat of the ever-popular Knoxville Jazz Orchestra in Krutch Park Extension.

For more information, including the complete entertainment schedule, map of vendors and exhibitors, and short videos illustrating the festival’s entertainment, art and refreshments, click here.

The city will close the following streets at 11 p.m. Friday and reopen them at 6 a.m. Sunday:

  • Market Street between Cumberland and Union avenues
  • Union Avenue between Walnut and Gay streets
  • Clinch Avenue between Walnut and Gay streets
  • Church Street between Walnut and Gay streets
  • Also, Wall Avenue will be closed between Gay Street and Market Square from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.

Street parking will be prohibited on related sections of Market, Clinch, Union and Church, as well as the west side of Gay Street between Cumberland and Union avenues, between 8 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Sunday. Free parking is available in city-owned garages, including Market Square, Locust Street, Main Street and the City County Building. Additional parking is available at the Dwight Kessel and Civic Coliseum garages, which are serviced by free KAT trolleys.

Lecture to highlight African American art

The Knoxville Museum of Art will let you celebrate the arts in air conditioning at the 12th annual Sarah Jane Hardrath Kramer Lecture at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 16.

Shawnya L. Harris, Ph.D., will speak. Harris is the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson curator of African American and African Diasporic Art at the Georgia Museum of Art, where she organizes group and solo exhibitions focused on both historical and contemporary artists of African descent. Prior to the appointment, she was assistant professor of art history at Elizabeth City State University; she has also taught at Middle Tennessee State University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Harris is also the former director of the University Galleries at North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro. She holds master’s and doctoral degrees in art history from UNC Chapel Hill and a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from Yale University.

The event is free and open to the public thanks to support from the Sarah Jane Hardrath Kramer Fund, The Melrose Foundation and Wayne R. Kramer. Please contact [email protected] or 865-934-2041 to make a reservation.


‘Dinner in the Dogwoods’

Mabry-Hazen House will celebrate the nature and nourishment of East Tennessee with “Dinner in the Dogwoods” on Saturday, April 27. Guests will be treated to a cocktail hour in the historic dogwood grove, followed by a three-course dinner on the historic front porch. Sister South Fine Food is providing the dinner.

Added to the Dogwood Trail in 2019, Mabry-Hazen House conserves over 80 flowering dogwood trees, and their blooms will be in full force, adorning Mabry’s Hill in an array of whites, pinks and greens. The site is also a level 1 arboretum, conserving 32 species of trees including ancient Southern magnolias, oaks and maples.

Sister South Fine Foods is operated by chef/owner Jessica Hammonds. She offered one of the earliest Community Supported Agriculture programs in Knoxville and sold Certified Naturally Grown produce at local farmers’ markets. Today, Sister South Fine Foods aims to educate the community about the ease and beauty of eating locally and seasonally.

Tickets are $65 per person. Price includes appetizers, a three-course dinner, and red and white wine. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are available by request. Tickets, full menu and more information are available here.

Return of the giant puppets

On Saturday, May 11, local arts nonprofit Cattywampus Puppet Council will host its 3rd annual giant puppet community arts parade, the Appalachian Puppet Pageant, in East Knoxville in partnership with Carpetbag Theatre, African American Appalachian Arts Inc., St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Our Community Organization. This parade seeks to bring together community members of all ages and backgrounds to share their stories and collective concerns through the visual and performing arts, while playing together and raising power and joy as a community.

Parade lineup is at 11 a.m. at Dr. Walter Hardy Park. The parade will kick off at 12 p.m. and conclude with a block party from 1 to 4 p.m. at Paul Hogue Park at the corner of Chestnut and Selma. The block party will feature live hip-hop, spoken-word and dance performances, as well as art making, play and garden activities for all ages. Both the parade and block party are free and open to all.

This year’s parade theme is “I See You.” Community members are invited to craft individual and collaborative giant puppets, masks, costumes, flags and other art around this theme and parade together as one.

Resources for learning how to build giant puppets and make other art for the parade can be found on the Cattywampus Puppet Council website.  Cattywampus is currently looking for volunteers for the day of the parade, as well as donations of supplies and financial support. Information about getting involved with the parade is available on the group’s website.

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