Guide To Cooper Young Festival 2020
Ed Note: As of July 16, the 2020 Cooper Young Festival is cancelled. Cooper Young Festival will return in 2021 on September 11. For more information, see the release.
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 14, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s free to enter.
2. It’s the same weekend as the Southern Heritage Classic, which has been going on all week and starts on Saturday with the Classic Parade at 9 a.m. (on Park from Haynes to Airways). Tennessee State v. Jackson State kicks off at 6 p.m. at the Liberty Bowl.
3. This year, there are more than 3=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. More streets might be blocked off just because. There’s a parade on park at 9 a.m. (see #2) You can find maps of all the vendor booths here (just keep scrolling and click on the different areas).
6. Expect crowds. Again, 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.
8. As crowds grow – cell service might be spotty. That’s a nice way of say your phone is not going to work, sorry. Got it? My phone (AT&T) usually stops working early morning until about 9 p.m. when a bunch of missed texts and calls finally come through. Enact music festival rules and make plans and rendezvous locations/times with friends ahead of time and you’ll be fine!
9. Wear sunscreen, unless you just want to get burnt up.
10. Make a plan for parking. The next five tips are about parking.
11. If you must drive and park, don’t. Really. Why would you do this? I guess if you have it, do it early for best street parking selection in nearby neighborhoods. Streets in the surrounding mile 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, 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.
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. Embrace it and enjoy the sights and sounds of this one-of-a-kind festival.
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 Avenue Deli has music starting at 11:15 a.m.
18. The MEM 200: The New Century of Soul Stage is in the First Congo parking lot and has music starting at 12:15 p.m.
19. The Memphis Grizzlies stage is at Young and Meda and has music starting at 12:30 p.m.
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 13 at 7 p.m. The neighborhood goes all out, with yard parties, cheering sections, Jello-O shots and Fireball shots for runners to grab as they jog by. (See the “toga” party photo below.)
22. The Cooper York Fest is September 14 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 and New Wing Order) and music from Unapologetic & Friends. 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 Festival 2019
Cooper Young Neighborhood
September 14, 2019
9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Ed. Note: This post is an updated, re-formatted version of the annual CY Fest guide. Photos by Alex Shansky unless otherwise noted.