Posted By: Kyle Fagala
There’s a lot to love about Midtown Memphis, and the Cooper Young area in particular is a big favorite of our team here at Neon Canvas. This Saturday kicks off the 30th annual Cooper Young Festival, and we can’t wait to hit the streets for a cool combination of art, crafts, and family friendly entertainment. Because we want everyone to make the most of this one-day event, we’ve put together this definitive guide to the Cooper Young Festival. Here’s everything you need to know to get the most bang for your buck!
1. This year’s festival is September 16 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and has no entry fee. The Tigers also have a home game against UCLA kicking off at 11 a.m. so the parking situation is likely to be a little bit crazy. Avoid the streets close to East Parkway, since this is where the Tigers fans are more likely to be.
The earlier you can arrive and park, the better! With over 130,000 people expected, some streets blocked off, and others filling up fast, you’ll want to give up your normal Saturday morning sleep-in to get there as close to the start of the festival as possible.
2. Continuing on a parking related note, Cooper will be blocked off from Central to Walker, while Young Avenue will be blocked off from west of the Young Avenue Deli to Meda. You can find a general map of the area here. If you have an alternative to driving, take advantage of it. Lyft, Uber, or bike it in! There’s a free Bike Corral in the Bluff City Sport parking lot at Cooper and York, and you can also park at CBU and either walk over or take a shuttle. Wherever you park or however you get there, remember to be extra careful when crossing streets.
Parties, presents, and pretty things
3. One of the coolest parts of the Cooper Young Festival is the CY 4 Miler, a race event that actually occurs tonight! This 4 mile race loops through the CY neighborhood, with residents throwing yard parties all over. They have been known to hand out things like jello shots, beer, and popsicles to participants as they pass. After the race is over, the Cooper Young Community Association throw a big party providing pizza and beverages. Even if you aren’t a runner, you can get into the post-race party with a $5 per person donation. It’s basically one big block party!
4. This year, there are more than 400 vendors lined up, selling everything from arts and crafts to Memphis-specific merchandise. There’s so much unique art on display that it’s hard to even know where to start with our faves, but definitely check out Adam Exelbierd at Booth A-11. Adam’s art adorns the walls of our Neon Canvas office, and we’re huge fans! You’ll also find lots of fun takes on Grizz merch – someone we know scored a shirt one year featuring Elvis watching a Grizzlies game.
If you want to get a head start on your holiday shopping, this is a great opportunity to find gifts that are both locally sourced and supportive of the Memphis art community.
5. Speaking of vendors, not all of them accept credit cards, so plan accordingly and have plenty of cash on hand to get you through the day. Even the vendors that do have card readers on site may not be able to get them to work – cell phone service is spotty, and it tends to get worse as the day goes on and the crowds increase in size. Some vendors may have difficulty getting their card readers to connect, so it makes sense to carry cash with you just in case.
Eat, drink, and be merry
6. Food, y’all. There’s seriously so much good food awaiting you. We get a little giddy just thinking about it. The Cooper Young area is home to a number of restaurants that capture the eclectic feel of the neighborhood, such as:
Celtic Crossing – great for Irish-inspired snacks and has a roomy patio that’s perfect for people watching.
Young Avenue Deli – has one of the best selections of beer in Midtown, and their sandwiches are ridiculous feats of mouthwatering engineering, especially the Sonoma.
Cafe Ole’ – offers a 100 oz. mimosa for brunch and a margarita bong for whenever, basically, because margaritas.
Beauty Shop – has a trendy vibe paired with killer dishes.
Stone Soup Cafe – their seating area is an old, converted Midtown home and really plays to that with delicious home-style meals.
Also, festival food is fair food! Find yourself a Pronto pup and a place to sit and soak up all the atmosphere.
Dance the day away
7. The festival has three music stages set up.
The Main Stage will be set up in front of the Young Avenue Deli, and will have live music starting at 11:15 a.m. The last band is the festival headliner, Star and Micey. Memphis loves Star and Micey! Be sure to check out their set at 5:15 p.m.
The Memphis Grizzlies Stage will be located at Young Avenue and Meda, with live music from 12:30 p.m. until the last set begins at 4:30 p.m.
The 901 Comics Stage in the First Congo Parking Lot has music starting at 12:15 p.m. until the last band, Dead Soldiers, starts at 4:15 p.m. Dead Soldiers are another local band we love, so work your way over and give them a listen.
8. Even though we had a few glorious fall-like days this week, we’re back into the upper 80’s, and it looks like Saturday will be a very summery September day. Beat the heat by stopping in the tap room at Memphis Made Brewing for an extension of the CY Festival, the Cooper York Fest, featuring food trucks, special release brews, and their own entertainment and vendors. This party runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., is kid friendly, and has free admission.
9. While the Cooper Young Festival is family friendly as a whole, remember there will be crowds. If you’re bringing small children with little feet that may get tired, a baby or toddler carrier is your best bet for space-saving transportation. Lightweight umbrella strollers are generally easy enough to maneuver, too, especially earlier in the day. There’s also a dedicated area for kids with lots of fun things geared towards them specifically.
10. However you decide to spend your day at the Cooper Young Festival, remember the three rules for any outdoor Memphis event: watch where you’re walking, wear sunscreen, and have a great time!