Recently, a Nashville transplant — relocated from Southern California, of all places, about a month ago — described his initial impression of his new home: "I know why they call it the Volunteer State." Sure, this neophyte Nashvillian works in the do-good-skewing nonprofit sector, but he's already identified a quality that longtime locals surely recognize in themselves.
Perhaps no single organization has exemplified that spirit in recent years than Hands On Nashville, whose herculean efforts coordinating squadrons of volunteers during the May 2010 flood both inspired awe and stemmed further calamity. HON's ongoing project — connecting a willing workforce with nonprofits, government agencies and schools that can use the extra muscle — makes Music City that much better a place to live.
This year marks the 20th Hands On Nashville Day, for which more than 1,200 volunteers will meet up and get to work painting, cleaning and beautifying Metro Nashville Public Schools across the city. For a suggested $25 (tax-deductible) donation, volunteers get a T-shirt and invitation to the CMT One Country Celebration party afterward — not that honest work needs such material rewards, but it's certainly nice to get them. So let's roll up those sleeves, Nashville: There's work to do. Saturday, Sept. 24; more information at hon.org
Sept. 16-18: African Street Festival
Kicking off Friday night at the Looby Theater with a program of music and dance, the 29th annual African Street Festival runs through the weekend with a range of activities including The Children's Pavilion (featuring arts and crafts, drumming, dance and storytelling), authentic African and other foods, and an eclectic roster of performers ranging from spoken word to R&B, cycling to jazz. At TSU's Hadley Park; more information at aacanashville.org
Sept. 16: Hispanic Heritage Fiesta
A celebration of all things Latino, featuring freshly made food by local chefs, live music by Kazique and the Conexión Américas house band Rumba, plus an exhibit of original artwork and more. 6 p.m. at The Cannery Ballroom
Sept. 17: Dog Day
The yearly canine (and human) meet-up features a variety of dog contests, including our obvious favorite, the Nashville Scene fetch. Live music and activities abound at this event, which begins after the conclusion of the Mutt Strutt, a walk to raise funds for the Nashville Humane Association. 10 a.m. at Centennial Park
Sept. 17-18: Local Honey Fall Fashion Weekend
Summer's gone, fall's taking over, and Shea Steele is throwing a party in the middle. Saturday's end-of-summer sale at Local Honey features 50-percent discounts on warm-weather threads and the premiere of fall duds from Steele's White Rabbit, Amy B, Love Simone, Blooming Leopold and Chaseash, plus debut lines from Emi-Demi, Shawn Michelle LeFleur, Sai-Sai Arts and Madame Moxie. Live music provided by Dogs of Oz, Action! and Tristen. With the summer sale having cleared rack space, the following day sees a fresh batch of fall vintage, a Local Honey and T&P fall fashion show starting at 6 p.m and a runway show at 8 p.m. 11 a.m. Saturday and noon Sunday at Local Honey
Sept. 18: Janet's Planet Live Show
The star of public television's Janet's Planet takes kids (target ages 6-10) on a journey through outer space while teaching science and astronomy fundamentals. 2 and 4 p.m. at Adventure Science Center; free with admission
Sept. 23-25: TACA Fall Craft Fair
It's a large-craft advisory for three days as over 200 artisans display and sell their handcrafted wares, including woodworking, stained glass, pottery, sculpture and jewelry. 10 a.m. daily at Centennial Park; more information at tennesseecrafts.org
Sept. 24: Nashville AIDS Walk
Every year, Nashville CARES — Tennessee's largest HIV/AIDS services organization — provides thousands of hours of care, counseling, education and advocacy. The yearly 5K walk and run helps raise money to support those efforts, which provide crucial support and outreach. 10 a.m. at Riverfront Park; more information at nashvilleaidswalk.com
Sept. 27: "Pregnant Men, Heteroflexible Women and Gaga Feminism"
If the title of this presentation by Judith (aka Jack) Halberstam, professor of English and director of the Center for Feminist Research at USC, doesn't pique your interest, you might be dead. Or maybe just a heteronormative bore. Halberstam, author of Female Masculinity, has a sometimes gruff take on queer politics that should make for a provocative discussion. 4 p.m. at Vanderbilt University
Sept. 28-Oct. 2: nD Festival
Now in its second year, the fashion-and-arts festival — a fundraiser for Nashville's cinematic jewel, The Belcourt Theater — rolls on with a series of events aimed at the cinema- and civic-minded, beginning with the opening night party Sept. 28 at Elan in Green Hills. East Nashville joins in the following day with a boutique crawl featuring many of the East Side shops, an outdoor film screening at Fanny's House of Music and a Ramones cover band. Brunch at The Belcourt on Oct. 1 precedes a screening of L'Amour Fou, a documentary about Yves St. Laurent, and the fest goes out in style Oct. 2 with the fashion show finale, featuring short films from James Clauer, David McClister and Kristin Barlowe, a silent auction and designs from Jamie & the Jones, Bodkin and Steven Alan. More information at ndfestival.com
Oct. 1: Celebrate Nashville Festival
Formerly known as The Celebration of Cultures, this free annual festival draws Nashville's diverse communities to West End for a day of food, activities and performances featuring everyone from the Chinese Arts Alliance Lion Dancers — who also performed at the National Folk Fest earlier this month — to the Western Swingers, with everything from klezmer to zydeco in between. 10 a.m. at Centennial Park; more information at celebratenashville.org
Oct. 2: SlutWalk Nashville
When a Toronto cop suggested women not dress like "sluts" in order to avoid rape, it became a flashpoint in the longstanding struggle against sexual violence. With Torontoans leading the way, the SlutWalk was born, and similar events were soon organized across Canada and the U.S. The event's name certainly has detractors — "[this] is not a celebration of that word, but a rejection of the concept behind it," organizers explain — but that shouldn't muddle the message. 4 p.m. at the Centennial Park Pavilion; more information at slutwalknashville.org
Oct. 8: Germantown Street Festival/Oktoberfest
Germantown's Oktoberfest, taking place at Seventh Avenue and Monroe, has everything you'd expect from a Deutschland-themed party — beer garden, German food, Old World arts and crafts — and maybe a few things you wouldn't expect — like a petting zoo featuring "Cletus the miniature donkey, Orea the miniature cow [and] Hammy and Spammy, the miniature pot-bellied pigs." Similarly, the Germantown Street Festival, centered just a block or so south at Jefferson Street and Sixth, has its share of brews and brats to go along with the 5K Bier Run and the not exactly Bavarian-standard "Jazz in the Shade" stage, featuring the talents of neighborhood mainstays the Nashville Jazz Workshop. 8 a.m. in Germantown; more information at nashvilleoktoberfest.com and historicgermantown.org
Oct. 14-16, 21-23 and 28-30: Ghouls at Grassmere
The zoo, with its shrieking monkeys and steely-eyed crocs can be creepy enough, but when it's dark, overrun with candy-hoarding children and festooned with spooky decorations from end to end, it's downright chilling. The Nashville Zoo's annual transformation into a ghoulish wonderland makes for a bone-rattling good time, both for kids and the young at heart. (Tickets are required for anyone over the age of 2.) 5-9 p.m., Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
Oct. 14-16: Music and Molasses Arts and Crafts Festival
You've heard that they don't make 'em like they used to, but do you actually know how they used to make 'em? Molasses is just one of the old-school products you'll see done the old-school way, with bluegrass music, cloggers, buggy rides and plenty else to show you what life was like before "retro" was a word. 9 a.m. at the Tennessee Agricultural Museum
With celebrated novelist Ann Patchett's eagerly awaited Parnassus Books expected to open its doors in Green Hills some time in October, and a new Barnes & Noble-Vanderbilt joint venture shaping up on West End, things are finally starting to look up again for Nashville's bibliophiles. Patchett will be among the many featured authors at the 23rd Southern Festival of Books, (Oct. 14-16) joining Madison Smartt Bell (whose bracing 9/11 fever dream The Color of Night is nothing short of sensational), Robert Olen Butler, Bobbie Ann Mason, Chris Bohjalian, Pseudonymous Bosch and a host of other writers in celebrating the printed page and rubbing arms with the word-hungry masses. While the Southern Festival is certainly the fall's flagship Nashville book event, it's got plenty of company this year, as a slew of readings and events await the literary-minded.
Billy Collins, former U.S. poet laureate (and by The New York Times' estimation, America's "most popular poet"), reads at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 at Vanderbilt's Wilson Hall, room 103.
Maya Angelou holds court at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at Belmont's Curb Event Center.
On Thursday, Nov. 3, National Book Award finalist and author of Madeleine Is Sleeping, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum reads at Vanderbilt, where Nick Flynn, author of Some Ether, Alice Invents a Little Game and Alice Always Wins and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, reads on Nov. 11, followed by Rome Prize winner Anthony Doerr (The Shell Collector) on Nov. 17.
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