Guide To Cooper Young Festival 2021

Guide To Cooper Young Festival 2021

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.

But first, great news! There WILL be a vaccine station at the edge of the festival at Bluff City Sports 769 S. Cooper Street if for some reason you decided to go to this event unvaccinated. You can go get any of the shots OR THE BOOSTER at this location. 

1. Cooper Young Fest is September 18, 2021 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s free to enter.

2. It's the same day the Memphis Tigers versus Mississippi State Football Game, aka the BIGGEST MOST IMPORTANT GAME OF THE YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Kickoff is at 3 p.m.

3. There are hundreds of 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. 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. 

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. It will be impossible to social distance, and while masks are encouraged, it is outdoors and people may not be wearing them. Just something to consider if you're not vaccinated!

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 , 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 5 p.m.

14. In years past, there has been a shuttle that takes you from the CBU parking lot to the festival. I can never find a good contact or good information for it, and I can't find anything this year. Judging by the HUMONGOUS VERY IMPORTANT football game happening at 3 p.m., they may not be doing it. I'm just including it here so someone doesn't burn down my house for not mentioning it. 

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 usually three music stages, for 2021 there are only two. Here's the full lineup.

17. The Main Stage in front of Young Avenue Deli has music starting at 11:15 a.m.

18. The Stage is in the First Congo parking lot is cancelled for 2021.

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—just wear your mask!

21. The Cooper Young 4-Miler is Friday, September 17 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.)

CY 4 Miler Photo 

22. Memphis Made Brewing in Cooper Young is not hosting their annual Cooper-“York” Festival because of the pandemic, but will be open 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. for to-go beer only. Mask up, pick up, and enjoy. Thank you Memphis Made, for making safe decisions! On Saturday, they’ll have deep discounts on cases, and if you make a purchase they’ll also give you a code for six awesome playlists.  

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 well. WEAR YOUR MASKS, IT'S REQUIRED INSIDE.

24. Speaking of entering a neighborhood restaurant/bar: Railgarten is sure to be even more insanely crowded than it already is on the weekend with the festival and the VERY IMPORTANT football game. 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. Normally I'd say:

"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."

This year, I'd say to read all the tips on this page, read the blurb I wrote about CY Fest 2021 at the bottom of this post, and make smart decisions. 

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 2021 

Cooper Young Neighborhood
September 18, 2021
9 a.m. - 7 p.m. 

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We're in Memphis for the day and we will check this festival out. Thanks for enriching our Memphis experience!
September 16, 2017 8:10am
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.
September 16, 2017 2:45pm
Holly Whitfield
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.
September 19, 2017 8:35am
Joan Foley
Good job! Thanks.
September 7, 2018 12:48pm
Nice article Holly. Very informative and motivating to check out the CY festival.
September 15, 2018 7:44am
Holly Whitfield
Hope you got a chance to check it out and have a great time!
September 17, 2018 5:24pm
Used the CBU parking this morning. $20 to park and $5 for the shuttle. The shuttle charge pays for your return trip as well with a hand stamp.
September 14, 2019 10:18am
Holly Whitfield
Thanks Rebecca! Great intel.
September 14, 2019 6:28pm
Carolyn Vance

Trying to locate an exhibitor at this years festival.  They were located at the southwest end of the festival and were selling giant cookies.  Didn’t pick up a card but would love to order from them.  Any idea what business it was?

September 20, 2021 12:47am
Holly Whitfield

Hi Carolyn! I would reach out to the Cooper YOung Business Association, they didn't publish a vendor list this year that I could find.

September 29, 2021 4:34pm