On Friday night, I joined a friend to take advantage of my first festival in Memphis.
For those of you who don’t know, there’s seemingly a festival in Memphis every other weekend, if not every weekend, especially during May. I am in no way complaining because the festivals bring delightful food and drink, arts and crafts, music and mayhem. If you can think of it, a festival probably exists for it here in Memphis, and that is no exaggeration!
RiverArtsFest is billed as a “street celebration of fine arts and fine local music with live artist demonstrations and hands-on art activities for all ages!” It has blossomed to become the largest outdoor juried artist market and urban street festival in the Mid-South, and is generally considered the swan song to festivals in Memphis before the weather turns cold.
I attended the Rockin’ RiverArts Show & Artists Market on Friday—mainly because it was free, but admission on Saturday and Sunday was super affordable at just $5—and had a rockin’ good time. Even before entering the space, you could hear the great music of the band that was on the main stage which kept the audience dancing and swaying to the beat. Not all of the artist booths were open. The preview night is optional for them. However, South Main was still lined with talented artists and their amazing pieces probably totaling well over 100 that evening. Some of the retail stores even stayed open, including Sachë Clothing & Design which was screen-printing customized Memphis and Memphis Grizzlies t-shirts. (I didn’t end up getting one, but definitely will be soon!)
The atmosphere was really energetic and warm despite the cold temperatures. I saw so many pieces I just wanted to pack up in my trunk and take with me to display in my home, but my finances aren’t quite that well off yet. Don’t be discouraged though because there were plenty of affordable pieces, including two colorful paintings done in a colored beeswax medium of blackbirds that I purchased for a friend. It didn’t set me back much, and I felt like a real art aficionado as I carried around my pieces.
The highlight, though, had to be a vendor, Adam Maldonado, who was offering personalized poems, composed right there on the spot, for $10. Just too good to pass up, I had to see what this wordsmith would create without knowing me for $10. I won’t share the poem—hey, some things you have to keep to yourself, right?—but I will say he was spot on, and it was such an interesting process. The poet types it on old-looking parchment paper using an old-school typewriter, and asks you just the most general of questions before he hammers out the most unique of poems. I’d highly recommend it if you catch him and his partner around the city.
I ended the night grabbing a bit to eat at Pearl’s Oyster House on South Main. This very casual seafood joint—you can seat yourself for the most part and the menus are right on the table—offered delicious food at great prices. I had the ribeye and was pleasantly surprised at how well it was cooked and the seasonings. Would highly recommend if you’re just looking for a laid back spot to get a bite to eat at night.