When something good develops organically in Memphis, there is a great tendency to believe that if there are attempts to organize it too much or try to “improve” it, something essential will be lost.
So, for several years now we’ve whispered quietly among ourselves about the coming in late summer of what is a festival season. We might also grumble a bit about how far the Cooper-Young Festival and others have come from their humble origins. And maybe you are among those who miss Clanjamfry and the opportunity to wear a kilt. Or you have suspicions the wiener dog races at the Germantown Festival are drawing some ringers.
By the time the rain arrived at the Cooper-Young Festival Saturday afternoon, you had to park and walk through the neighborhoods off-the-main thoroughfares. And in that walk was the reason behind the season we might want to keep to ourselves but probably can’t keep others from discovering.
It is the homes and neighborhoods where late summer flowers hang over the sidewalk, a small bike with training wheels and metallic tassels from the handlebars waits on a front porch, the sound of a piano floats from a window for about a minute as you pass by.
Cars line both sides of a street really only wide enough for one car to get through at a time. And some of the older kids gather in clusters to take in the rest of the city coming to their neighborhoods. And to make sure nobody is blocking their driveway.
The message of the festivals is that this isn’t a competition. The places we call home and community are not all the same. And that is the real source of our wealth. It grows from a few struggling homeowners who patronize struggling businesses they can walk to – to a first festival perhaps with more folding tables than festival goers and some rain just to test their endurance and before you can say Pink Palace Crafts Fair, you’ve got another festival growing.
More importantly, another community has reclaimed a part of the story that is where we live. And it is there for anyone to come see and appreciate and experience. You might even pick up a few ideas for your part of town.
It doesn’t mean the days of struggle are gone forever or that all crime will disappear forever. The festivals are an affirmation that we won’t be that easily discouraged.
One of these days more of us might learn to better appreciate all of these parts taken as a whole. It doesn’t take a referendum and nobody has to hire an attorney and go to court.
But for now let’s just keep this among the hundred thousand or so spread across the county who look forward to this time of year … and their friends and the friends of their friends.