Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rossini in Knoxville: Italian Belly Dancers, Motorcycles and Man-Hugs

Blacksmith working on Union Avenue, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
When something like the Rossini Festival comes along pictures loom more important than words, so this post will be long on the pictures and shorter on the pontification.

Austin-East High School Drummers, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
Crazy Dancing to Arabic rhythms, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
Urban Woman: "She's too skinny." Urban Guy, "Yes, dear." Italian Belly Dancing
Cute American girls dance to Arabic music at the Italian Street Fair, Knoxville
For those who may not know, the tenth annual Rossini Festival was held in Knoxville April 9, 2011. Why, you might ask, does Knoxville hold a very large Italian street party each year? Surely there must be a very large Italian-American community in Knoxville, you surmise.

Hat lady decorating hats, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
One of my favorite vendors, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
Daniel Sparkes on the Opera Stage, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville

Food vendor at the Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
Well, no. Unlike our larger sister cities, we do not boast a Little Italy. It's just that east Tennesseeans love to listen to exquisite opera. Or at least that's what the Knoxville Opera Company would like to see happen, so they throw this little party each year to raise a little money and engender a little interest in that art form they hold so dear.
Opera performers? People from the past? Notice the cool Rossini motif in the background.
Smoky Mountain Harmony, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
A Little Petunia, Krutch Park, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
Accordion Player, Market Square, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
The festival starts at 11:00 AM and runs until 9:00 (does anything in Knoxville go later than this apparent bewitching hour?). During that time vendors sell food - Italian and otherwise, music is performed on four different stage - Italian, but mostly otherwise, arts and crafts are offered for sale in many booths, very few of which have anything to do with Italy. Gay Street is closed from Cumberland to Summit Hill and pedestrian congestion almost shuts the street down as many thousands of people invade downtown.
Old City Buskers, Market Square Stage, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
Fancy steps, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
Pellissippi Jazz Band, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
View down Gay Street, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville
This has to be Italian, doesn't it? It's pretty cool, anyway.
Watching the people is almost as good as any other portion of the experience. Voted "best festival" in the past, it is worth experiencing with the whole family. Of course, the best way to enjoy it is to move downtown so you can enjoy it for a while, take a nap, festivalize for another spell, eat dinner and have a final go, but that takes a little planning. So start preparing for next year: call a realtor.

Circle Modern Dance, Market Square Stage, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville

Italian motorcycle from BellissiMoto located on Summit Hill Dr.
Paige and Jason Patrick on the opera stage, Rossini Festival 2011 
Crazy Dancing to Opera - Just before giving me a man hug.
Pellissippi Singers, Rossini Festival 2011, Knoxville

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At April 10, 2011 at 8:37 AM , Anonymous Greg said...

Wow. Looks great.

I don't live near Knoxville, but my sister recently bought a house near there. Next year I'll plan to visit during this festival.

What's the story behind the huge "new urban living" billboard visible in one of your Gay Street photos?

At April 10, 2011 at 10:43 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

CORRECTION UrbanGuy: The photo of the male singer in the red shirt is incorrectly captioned. The singer is tenor Daniel Sparkes. Joey DiMenno is female, a mezzo-soprano, who also works for Knoxville Opera, and sang after Sparkes. Both are great I think you will agree.

At April 10, 2011 at 1:05 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Greg, it was great fun. We'll look forward to seeing you next year. Thanks, Anonymous, it was midnight, I was tired and bleary eyed and looking at a schedule trying to remember what time I was a which stage. I'm trusting you know your opera singers better than myself and I appreciate you mentioning it.

At April 10, 2011 at 4:38 PM , Blogger Knox Pics said...

Greg - the Urban Living sign is actually a huge canvas tarp covering a building front that's being renovated for condos and store fronts.

At April 10, 2011 at 5:01 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

HEllo Greg and Knox Pics,
I'll expand a bit on Knox Pics' answer. He is correct regarding the canvas, but alas, it has become somewhat an embarrassment since it was erected at least five years ago (more?). Developer Buzz Goss was behind the project which fell on hard times once the economy soured. He is now focused on a project called Marble Alley which would connect Gay Street and the Old City. People have called for the baner to come down.

At April 10, 2011 at 7:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great photos and post! Wish I had been there.

At April 11, 2011 at 8:51 PM , Blogger Amelia said...

I was a bit disappointed in the Rossini Festival. Not enough Italian food or vendors. They really should quit calling it an "Italian Street Fair", because that is misleading.It was more like going to a state fair without the rides.

At April 11, 2011 at 9:19 PM , Anonymous Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Hey Amelia,
On Knoxnews comment boards there were many people who expressed a similar sentiment and that's why I included "Italian Belly Dancers" in the title of the piece. I guess the original idea of promoting opera in Knoxville prompted the "Italian" part of the street fair. There were some Italian elements, but you are right, much of it wasn't anything other than southern kitsch. Not really that different from our Christmas parade in that respect. The only way to make it thoroughly Italian in east Tennessee would be to reduce the entire affair dramatically in size because how many Italian vendors and restaurateurs could we solicit? It may just be a genie that's out of the bottle.

At April 12, 2011 at 8:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the beautiful petunia picture. She is precious!

At April 12, 2011 at 9:42 AM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I pretty partial to that particular petunia.


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