Get Your Happy Self to Downtown Nashville

Wouldn’t it be a waste to keep all that happy energy at home this weekend?

Yesterday, as I was driving through 12South at lunchtime, I watched a pickup truck pull into a lane occupied by a Porsche. Nobody was hurt, but some body shop will get a few thousand dollars’ worth of business. The really remarkable thing was that, as the drivers pulled off to a side street to exchange information, they didn’t look angry – they weren’t cussing – the driver of that dinged-up sportscar looked as peaceful and pleasant as can be.

That’s the effect this kind of weather can have on you. We’re all smiles in Nashville these days. Okay, granted, we’re all smiles in Nashville a lot of the time (it’s our thing), but when the summer heat and humidity finally break, and our morning walks are almost jacket-worthy, and the sky is refreshingly blue…and we know that Fall is just around the corner but we’re still busy celebrating Summer…well, it just makes us really happy. As the saying goes, “Ain’t it good to be alive and be in Tennessee!?!”

Now, wouldn’t it be a waste to keep all that happy energy at home this weekend? Yes – yes, it would. So this weekend, you should get your happy self to downtown Nashville. You might not have tickets to any of the Americana Fest concerts, you may not want to pay to spend the day rubbing shoulders with celebrity chefs at the Music City Food & Wine Festival, the German-themed Volksfest at the Nashville Farmers Market might not be your cup of bier (you see what I did there?), hanging out with emerging businesses at the SoBro Fest, Jazz on the Cumberland River might not Sound Like Fun to you, spending a couple of hours inside at the Home Decorating and Remodeling Show may not be of interest, and you may be bored with the idea of a Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party.

What are you, nuts?!? The point is, ALL of these are special events going on – most of them outdoors, a few of them free! So how does this sound for a weekend plan…put on your walking shoes, catch a bus or rideshare downtown and just start enjoying yourself! Maybe you can stop into a souvenir shop and get a new Nashville t-shirt. Perhaps this will be your opportunity to try one of the downtown restaurants that get so crowded. If your timing’s good, you can pause on the narrow strip of lawn by the Gateway Bridge and listen in on Steve Earle’s set at Ascend Amphitheater. Or now is the time you can go check out Trisha Yearwood’s and Garth Brook’s new stars at the Music City Walk of Fame Park.

This is one weekend where the idea of heading downtown with no particular place to go Sounds Like Fun to me. Perhaps I’ll see you…and we’ll both be smiling!

A Pull-Out-All-The-Stops Weekend of Concerts and Fun in Nashville

This weekend, even the most cynical and tourist-weary Nashvillian would find something going on worth braving the heat and the crowds.

I think sometimes I give my readers the wrong impression. In this blog, I rarely talk about big concerts and haven’t yet mentioned having fun at the downtown honky-tonks. Well, that is about to change…because this weekend (July 30 – August 2) is crammed full of epic concerts and other stuff to do downtown. Even the most cynical and tourist-weary local would find something going on worth braving the heat and the crowds. (Truthfully, I spend a lot of time downtown attending concerts. But almost no time in the honky-tonks!)

Thursday night marks the last weekly concert of the 2015 Bluegrass at the Ryman series; Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder are sure to bring the season to a foot-stompin’ close. This is not new music, but these sweet songs require a level of technical prowess that transcends generations. If we’re lucky, songstress Sharon White (of The Whites, aka Mrs. Ricky Skaggs) will grace the stage for a song or three; she’s been seen flat-footing in the aisles when she’s not on stage, so she’s sure to entertain either way! Tickets are an unheard-of bargain at less than $30, thanks to sponsorship by Springer Mountain Farms Chicken. (Season tickets for next year typically go on sale immediately after the last concert of the season – plan ahead and you’ll be rewarded with six Thursday night concerts in 2016.)

There is an event on Friday night that already has me star struck. I’m so excited that I can barely think of anything else. Because on Friday – at The Ryman – I am going to see one of the hugest songwriting talents, who is also an incredible singer, and funny, and gorgeous – Dolly Parton! I don’t have great seats or anything, but I don’t care. There are a couple of other big concerts in town Friday night (Eric Church in the inaugural concert at Ascend Amphitheater, and Shania Twain at the Bridgestone Arena), but I didn’t have a moment’s hesitation choosing.

I was ordering at Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish (as seen on Shark Tank) today when I picked up a flyer that looked interesting – advertising the inaugural Hot Shots 2015 Hot Chicken, Whiskey and Bourbon Festival on Saturday, August 1 at Bridgestone Arena. I was shocked that I hadn’t previously heard one thing about this fundraiser for the Nashville Predators Foundation. Never mind that I missed out on early bird pricing, I still think that $65 ($70 at the door) per person for unlimited whiskey & bourbon tasting, hot chicken provided by 12 different local vendors, a souvenir glass and a ticket voucher for a 2015-2106 Predators game represents a pretty good deal. For those who won’t be tasting whiskey, a chicken-only ticket costs $20 less. The festival runs from 1pm to 5pm.

How fortunate that I’ll already be downtown on Saturday evening – I can just take a leisurely stroll of about 4 blocks (perhaps stopping in for refreshment at Acme Feed & Seed – “the honky tonk for locals”) to attend the Chicago/Earth Wind & Fire concert at Ascend Amphitheater. For this tour, I’m told that both bands will share the stage at the end of the concert. I predict that may be the precise moment when my head explodes. Hopefully I can keep it together enough to catch my rideshare home.

I already know that Sunday is going to need to be a “chill” day, so fortunately I’ve got some low-energy options lined up. First, brunch at Le Peep Grille in Belle Meade (thanks to a Groupon I purchased several weeks ago). Then, I’ll prepare to “get my Zen on” at the Nashville Pond Society’s Parade of Ponds, featuring backyard ponds in East Nashville, Inglewood and Madison. Home again, to reflect on the awesomeness that is life in Nashville, rejoice that I live in this fine city, and begin planning another weekend that Sounds Like Fun.

Events to Get You Out of Your Nashville Summer Weekend Rut

Are you stuck in a rut, doing the same activities every summer weekend?

Are you stuck in a rut, doing the same activities every summer weekend? With all the growth and change in Music City, there are new happenings being planned all the time. This weekend (July 25-26), I’m planning to make first-time visits to two events that Sound Like Fun.

Beginning July 25th, the Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party is a new outdoor music series raising funds to help preserve one of the city’s most unique landmarks, the Cornelia Fort Air Park at the Shelby Bottoms Greenway. The music series will continue once a month through October, offering music from local bluegrass bands. This Saturday’s band is Sheriff Scott and the Deputies, described as bringing a “dark urban message from the bluegrass frontier.” Musicians are encouraged to bring their stringed instruments for some impromptu bluegrass jam sessions; a concert will begin at 8pm featuring a local bluegrass band. Admission is $10 and includes one local craft beer from Yazoo Brewery (two beers for musicians with a stringed instrument!), $5 for ages 12-20 and children under 12 are admitted free! Pickin’ starts at 6, band starts at 8 and party goes until 10pm.  Bring your folding chairs and blankets, but don’t bring outside food or beverages. You can bring your dog (on a 6′ leash), but be aware that there is not much shade available and it’s likely to be hot outside. All proceeds from the event series will go towards revitalization projects at the Cornelia Fort Air Park.

Sunday evening, July 26th offers a lovely opportunity for a family picnic dinner and lawn dancing on the grounds of the historic Carnton Plantation in Franklin, at the Carnton Sunset Concert Series. (This series has been going on for years; I don’t know how I missed it!) The Vinyl Radio band will be covering classic rock hits of the 70s from 6pm to 8pm. Gates open at 4:30 – bring your lawn chairs or blankets, and pack a cooler (alcohol is permitted) or buy your dinner from one of the food vendors. No grills or pets, please. Adult tickets are $10 in advance (see website for locations)/$12 at the gate; tickets for children 6-12 are $5 each (age 5 and under admitted free).

I can only imagine how relaxed and refreshed I’ll feel come Monday morning after treating myself to these summer weekend events!

Become a Nashville Native – in Murfreesboro!

How long do you have to live in Nashville before you’re considered a native? Because this area has always been welcoming of new citizens, it’s not uncommon to find that, in any crowd, relatively few people actually were born and raised in this town. But after 15 years or so, people start claiming “native” status. I have a theory that you actually become a Native Nashvillian the first summer you learn to embrace the heat and humidity, frizzy hair and sweaty clothes, and go out and enjoy the great summertime activities in our area. (There is a corollary that this is also the time that you forget how to drive in frozen precipitation.) If you’re a Nashville transplant, this weekend is a perfect opportunity for your initiation – ironically, I’m going to suggest that you make a 30-minute trip to Murfreesboro for that rite! (If you’ve already achieved “native” status, you probably already have this on your calendar!)

Once hailed as the capitol city of Tennessee (1818-1826), Murfreesboro sits at the geographic “center” of our long, flat state. Home to Middle Tennessee State University (where enrollment rivals that of UT-Knoxville), this bustling city is much more than a bedroom community for Nashville. Sure, there are plenty of chain restaurants and big-name shops to support the local population – but there’s just enough of old Murfreesboro still present to make it a fun day trip from Nashville.

This weekend (July 10-12) is particularly enticing – head to town early and you can start your day with breakfast at the City Café, just off the courthouse square. There’s free parking at the City Garage near the courthouse – a few blocks away. This friendly and historic “Meat & 3” is renowned for their lunches (and their freshly baked rolls), but they make a good traditional breakfast, too. They open at 6am – I recommend arriving no later than 7:30 because it gets crowded!

After breakfast, take a stroll around the grounds of the Rutherford County Courthouse rutherfordcountycourthouseand enjoy the Main Street Saturday Market – a traditional farmers’ market. Local tomatoes should just be coming in about now, and it’s a sure bet that you can find corn, cucumbers, beans and peaches – along with fresh baked goods and lovely flowers. (Plan ahead and put a cooler in your vehicle to store your purchases while you linger in “the ‘boro.”) The market runs from 8am – noon each Saturday from June through August.

uncledavemacon
Enjoy the sounds of Uncle Dave Mason – “Sail Away Ladies”

As the day heats up, so does the fun – after dropping off your farmers market purchases in your vehicle (and picking up your folding chairs), you can walk over to Historic Canonsburgh Village, where Uncle Dave Macon Days will be in full swing. Named for the King of the Banjo and one of the first stars of the Grand Ole Opry, this event has grown from an afternoon banjo-pickin’ contest into annual 3-day music and artisan festival that celebrates old-time music and dancing. If you go on Saturday, you’ll have missed Friday’s Harmonica, Dulcimer and Jug Band competitions – and you’ll also miss seeing Dr. Ralph Stanley perform. (He’s scheduled to take the stage on Friday at 8 pm.) But you’ll get to see the Buck Dance and Clogging finals, and hear the Fiddle, Banjo Competitions, and see the finalists perform in the Bluegrass Band and Old Time Band competitions. You’ll also get to hear The Steeldrivers, who take the stage at 8 pm.

Plan on eating festival food for lunch and dinner, or take a break from the heat and visit one of the local restaurants within walking distance. Visit the local services tents to learn what community agencies are active in Rutherford County – one of these tents is sure to be giving away cardboard fans, which are a blessing on a hot July day!

Tickets for Uncle Dave Macon Days are $10/day for adults (3-day pass for $20), $5/day for seniors (age 55+) at the gate; children 12 and under are admitted free. Folding chairs are welcome.

I can pretty much guarantee that, after enjoying a hot summer day of fun in Murfreesboro this weekend, you’ll drive back home happy, hot and tired, and feeling like you’ve earned your “Nashville Native” badge!

Best of the Fests – Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree & Crafts Festival

What started as a small town festival back in 1972 has grown to a major event, drawing hundreds of amateur musicians, dancers and artisans, and thousands of spectators from around the world.

I have to admit that it’s been many years since I last attended the Fiddlers’ Jamboree in Smithville, TN. It’s a really wonderful music festival, but it’s always held the Friday and Saturday nearest the 4th of July, so there’s always plenty of competition for weekend entertainment around then. Despite my absence, this event has continued to grow and improve – What started as a small town festival back in 1972 has grown to a major event, drawing hundreds of amateur musicians, dancers and artisans, and thousands of spectators from around the world.

The mission of the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival is to preserve and perpetuate traditional Appalachian and Old-Time music, dance, and crafts. So, you’re not going to hear “Sweet Home Alabama,” and you’re not going to see twerking, and you’re not going to be able to buy a Shamwow. But the Festival does offer a good variety within its genre – when you tally up the number of competition categories, there will be up to 35 separate competitions over the 2-day event.

Competition begins each day at 9:00 am, and continues until that day’s contests have finished. The final contest on Saturday is a “fiddle-off” between the winners of the Junior (up to age 40) and Senior (40+) fiddler contests to select a Grand Champion.

So whether you visit the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree & Crafts Festival as your destination activity, or as a part of your holiday weekend travel to Center Hill Lake, or one of the state parks nearby (Edgar Evins to the north near I-40, or Rock Island to the south, between McMinnville and Sparta), I think you’ll understand why this little festival has grown to a large tradition.

To get to Smithville from downtown Nashville, take I-40 East to the Lebanon/Watertown exit (239A), then head southeast on US 70/TN-26 about 33 miles. Allow about 1 ¼ hours for the one-way trip.