Guide To Cooper Young Festival 2018

Posted by Holly Whitfield | September 5th 2018 10468 0

Cooper Young Fest is – at least in midtown – pretty much an official holiday. For the last 30 years, this neighborhood event has grown to be one of the largest one-day events in Tennessee. Expect about 135,000 people to flood the area during the day-long event.

Here are 26 essential things to know and pro-tips to help you make the most of the day.

1. Cooper Young Fest is September 15, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s free to enter.

2. The night before is a Tigers home football game at 6 p.m. against Georgia State.

3. This year, there are more than 400 vendors selling everything you can think of: arts, crafts, ceramics, jewelry, vintage stuff, clothes, t-shirts, food, Memphis stuff, and much more.

4. It’s family-friendly, at least until the later afternoon. There’s a Kid’s Area with fun things for the little ones. Leave the pets at home, though.

5. Cooper will be blocked off from Central to Walker. Young Avenue will be blocked off from west of the Young Avenue Deli to Meda. Here’s a general map of the area. You can find maps of all the vendor booths here (just keep scrolling).

6. Expect crowds. About 135,000 people came to CY Fest at some point in past years. Arrive early to avoid some of this.

7. Bring cash. Vendors may accept credit cards, but you can never be sure.

Cooper Young Festival 2014 Morning

Cooper Young Festival in 2014 at opening time. It was weirdly cold. Usually it’s insanely hot.

8. As crowds grow – cell service might be spotty. And by that I mean, your phone will not work. My phone (AT&T) usually stops working completely for several hours during the busiest parts of the day. Plan accordingly.

9. Wear sunscreen, unless you just want to get burnt up.

10. Make a plan for parking. The next five tips are about parking.

Cooper Young Fest in the afternoon, 2015. It was insanely hot.

Cooper Young Fest in the afternoon, 2015. It was insanely hot.

11. If you must drive and park, do it early for best street parking selection. Prepare to walk. Streets in the surrounding half-mile (mile, even) or so will fill up fast. Some streets will be blocked. Please be careful when crossing streets, folks! And if you’re driving, take extra care; it’s festival day.

12. If you can’t get there until later, I’d highly suggest an alternative to driving yourself. Lyft, Uber, Bike Share, or take a cab. I’m not sure what the surge fares/wait times will be that day, but probably crazy. OR you can ride the bus! Check out MATA’s routes here.

13. Or, ride your bike. There will be a free Bike Corral in the Bluff City Sport parking lot (at Cooper and York) where you can park your bike while you enjoy the festival. Open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Explore Bike Share will have a staffed Bike Valet so you can drop off your rented bikes. More on that later.

14. Or, park in the CBU lot and walk over or take a shuttle. I always have a hard time confirming this, but in years past, it was $20 per car to park and they had a bus that took you over.

15. Remember that it’s totally free to enter the festival, so a few bucks for parking or a ride isn’t a big deal.


16. There are three music stages; be sure you don’t miss that part of the Festival. Full lineup.

17. The Main Stage (in front of Young Ave. Deli) has music from 11:15 a.m. until the last band starts at 5:15 p.m., including Nick Black, Freeworld, and Fuzzie Jeffries and the Kings of Memphis.

18. The First Congo Stage (First Congo Parking Lot) has music starting at 12:15 p.m. until the last band starts at 4:15 p.m. including Me & Leah and Laramie.

19. The Memphis Grizzlies Stage (at Young and Meda) has music starting at 12:30 p.m. until the last band starts at 4:30 p.m., including Switchblade Kid and Negro Terror.

20. Do All The Things! Experience all the fun at CY Fest: peruse the booths, talk to people, catch a few demos, and get some grub.

21. The Cooper Young 4-Miler is Friday, September 14 at 7 p.m. The neighborhood goes all out, with yard parties, cheering sections, and I’ve even heard of folks handing out Jello-O shots for runners to grab as they jog by. (See the “toga” party photo below.) This year, it’s at the same time as a Tigers game. Gonna be crazy.

CY 4 Miler

22. The Cooper York Fest is September 16 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Memphis Made Brewing. The taproom hosts this extension of CY Fest with food trucks (Soi Number 9, Sushi Jimmi, Hot N Heavy Dogs, and MEMPops) entertainment, vendors, and special release beers. It’s free to enter.

23. If you decide to enter one of the restaurants/bars in Cooper Young on CY Fest Day, awesome! Just try not to use these establishments as your personal AC station, i.e., camp out at tables while others are waiting, and please, please – as someone who once tended bar at CY Fest and got her ass whipped – please tip appropriately.

24. Speaking of entering a neighborhood restaurant/bar: Railgarten is sure to be even more insanely crowded than it already is on the weekend. Please, please be careful when walking to this popular hotspot – use the crosswalk at Central and Cooper for safest crossing. Each weekend, I see hordes of young people (and even some families with strollers!) crossing in the middle of Central Avenue and maybe I’m getting old, but like, let’s at least use the crosswalk?

Partying and pedestrians and driving don’t mix, so let’s take an extra few steps or few moments for some care and we can all continue to rage it out in a relatively safe way like midtown does on CY Fest day.

25. Like I said before, it’s pretty much a holiday to residents, so get yourself in festival mode, make a plan, and dive in. It’s “midtown Christmas” and one of the most fun days of the year. Make new friends, get some holiday shopping done, hear some music, drink some beer, and have a Pronto pup.

26. If festivals or crowds aren’t your thing, no worries. No need to get your pantaloons in a wad… just find something else to do. It’s a great weekend to check out another neighborhood like Crosstown or Downtown, ride a bike across the Big River Crossing, rent a kayak downtown or at Shelby Farms, see a movie, go to the Zoo, or take a day trip.

Cooper Young 4-Miler Street Party, 2015

Cooper Young 4-Miler Street Party, 2015

Go there:

Cooper Young Festival 2018
Cooper Young Neighborhood
September 15, 2018
9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Ed. Note: This post is an updated, re-formatted version of the annual CY Fest guide.

Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

Show Comments


  1. Vox says:

    We’re in Memphis for the day and we will check this festival out. Thanks for enriching our Memphis experience!

  2. Doris says:

    You failed to mention pay $20 to park and also pay $2 to catch the shuttle to the festival and $2 to be driven back to your car.

    • Holly Whitfield says:

      Hi Doris, I tried to get exact information about this shuttle but my messages, Tweets, and phone calls were ignored. I did not fail to mention $20 to park:

      “In years past, it was $20 per car to park and they had a bus that took you over.”

      I apologize if you were caught off guard for the $4 additional total for the shuttle itself, but I did make it clear that I was reporting the best I could find. The “Ride the Roo” car that charged $2 last year is no longer in service and I could find no more info about that. I did also say in the post:

      “Remember that it’s totally free to enter the festival, so a few bucks for parking or a ride…” and tried to communicate that it’s kind of a crazy day, and things can be unpredictable or unclear. I will change it in future years to say that there may be additional fees that happen or even appear on that day (I saw someone charging $15 to park in their driveway, but I could not have known about it ahead of time) so that this won’t happen again. I just searched other outlets (local news, etc.) but no one mentioned any costs at all, much less the shuttle fee.

  3. FF says:

    Nice article Holly. Very informative and motivating to check out the CY festival.

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