What started as a small street fair almost 20 years ago is expected to draw about 30,000 people this weekend to downtown Nashville.
The Blooming Festival kicked off Wednesday with carnival rides just off West Washington Street. It will grow to fill much of the downtown as it runs through Saturday.
“The Blooming Festival was started 18 years ago by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce,” said Jo Anne Cooper, a chamber member who helps organize the event. “It was created to kind of bring the community together.”
Nashville used to have the Harvest Festival in the 1950s and ’60s, Cooper said, but the event eventually was discontinued. The Blooming Festival is way to bring back some of those memories.
“In 1996 or ’97, the chamber wanted to recreate an event but have it in the spring time to celebrate spring,” she said. “That was when it was created. It was decided to have it around Mother’s Day, and it is Mother’s Day weekend every year.”
Celebrating the event then means more people likely are to be in town, Cooper said, and the event continues to grow.
“The first year the event drew maybe about 4,000 people to Nashville,” she said. “Now we draw about 30,000 to Nashville, and counting.”
The planners also continued to grow the event by adding additional days. The extra time will be needed, Cooper said, because of how eventful the celebration will be.
“We have added events and expanded the time length of the event, trying to give people more of an opportunity to enjoy different aspects of the festival,” she said. “We have got something for everyone. We have got music for every taste. Activities for all ages.”
While the carnival opened Wednesday, the festival officially kicks off with a free concert by Mac Arnold and Plate Full O’ Blues at 7 p.m. today at the Nash Arts Center, chamber member Amy Beasley said.
“Hopefully we will have a lot of people coming out for that,” she said earlier this week. “The carnival starts on Wednesday night, and then on Thursday people can still go to the carnival, but they can still hear some live music, so that is very exciting.”
Arnold is a blues legend, Cooper said, and is a musical act not to be missed.
“He played with Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Otis Redding, and when you hear the ‘Sanford and Son’ theme song, that is him,” she said. “It is just kind of cool to have him in Nashville and is very exciting.”
The city also will be showing “Brave” as the first movie in the Nashville Parks and Recreation Department’s 2014 film series at 8 p.m. at the Stoney Creek Environmental Park.
Friday also is an event-filled day, with performances by the North Tower Band and several local musicians at the Homegrown Music Stage.
“People can come in for live music and purchase a cold beverage and sit down and enjoy the shows,” Beasley said.
Saturday will see more live music, with performances by more local musicians and national acts, such as Eric Strickland and the B Sides, but the main draw is the parade.
“We have right at 90 participants in that,” Beasley said. “It is going to be a large parade, with quite a few sedan units.
“The marching bands will be Nash Central High School, Northern Nash High School and Southern Nash High School. They are joining us this year, so it is going to be a really great time for the kids to come out and really enjoy sitting there on the sidewalks and just watch the parade go by.”
Vendors selling food and goods will be available by the main stage and by the Nash Arts Center, Cooper said.
“We just encourage people to visit both sites,” she said. “We have everything. Handmade items, bird houses, art, activities for the kids, pony rides. Just lots of things going on.”
Cost varies for each event; the carnival offers an unlimited ride wristband special for $20.
For more information, go to nashvillencchamber.org/blooming.