From humble beginnings in 2001 in front of the Bijou Theatre, Knoxville Opera’s Rossini Festival has spread like a catchy tune to encompass blocks and blocks of downtown. After a two-year Covid-related hiatus, the festival returns Saturday, April 30, beginning at 10 am.
On Market Square that day, kids will find the YMCA FunZone, with a dance stage, splash pads and other kids’ activities. From there, the festival stretches along Market Streets and Church and Union avenues, and along Gay Street to Cumberland Avenue. A beer garden will cheer visitors in the parking lot beside the Bijou, and all along the route, musical entertainers, artisans, and food vendors will offer their talents and wares to those wandering along the path.
Did we mention attending the festival is free? And this year, it won’t be necessary to carry cash in order to buy food tickets. Cards will be accepted.
According to TDOT, about 35,000 people attended the last Rossini Festival in 2019, said Esther Blevins, senior manager of marketing and communications for Knoxville Opera. “This year we have about 100 vendors participating and about 700 performers on five stages all day.” She credits Don Townsend, Knoxville Opera’s production manager and chorus master, with making it happen.
“It’s a huge endeavor that involves a lot of organizations — nonprofits and choruses and community groups. It’s Knoxville Opera’s gift to the city; it doesn’t make us a dime,” she said.
Performance stages include the WATE Opera Stage at Gay and Church; the Y Dance Stage on Market Square; and the Choral Stage, Chamber Stage and Instrumental Music Stage all along Market Street. Though most of the festival closes at 9 pm, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra will perform until 10 pm.
For more details about the Rossini Festival, please go to www.knoxvilleopera.com/rossini.