For area residents looking for something novel and interesting to do at nearly any time Saturday, MainX24, the 24-hour block party on and around Main Street, is the place to be. This annual celebration, now in its sixth year, may not challenge Mardi Gras in the ranks of urban festivals, but it's such a fine, fun, interesting and diverse city festival that it surely will snag your heart in one way or another.
Indeed, it's a virtual kaleidoscope of activities and cacophony of sounds. You get your Firehall No. 1 pancake breakfast, your Stroller Strutt at 9 a.m., your dog parade Mutt Strutt at 10 a.m., the Awesomest Parade Ever at 11 a.m., the adult Big Wheel Race beginning at 1 p.m. (which overlaps with the Mocs on Main scavenger hunt), a musicians' Busking Competition, and the Wall Ball.
This hardly scratches the surface of the 107-event festival. It draws musicians, artists, dancers, SEC football die-hards, families, kids, hipsters, elders, cyclists, carpenters, and fans of beer and/or Santa Claus to a multitude of fun events.
The creative assembly of novel activities just spills off the menu. There's the "soul, sumo and tiki" venue (combining a soul band, sumo wrestling and island beverages), kids face-painting, a talent show, a square dance, several pre-main parties, the King of the Southside Battle of the Bands, the popular Mainx24 Fashion Show at the Choo-Choo, a Hair Party, Chattanooga Dance Projects, and the 7-to-midnight Paris Themed Costume Party, which will seriously compete with The Main Event from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Track 29 music hall, where the Dirty Guv'nahs and Black Cadillac will be featured.
Then come the after-hour events that continue through the night and conclude with Sunday morning's Grand Breakfast Finale and Hair of the Dog yoga for hangovers.
All of the events, and more, are in addition to a raft of Saturday open-houses in restaurants, shops, studios, galleries and other businesses in the Main Street area, along with the 11th annual Chattanooga Holiday Market in the First Tennessee Pavilion.
A full menu of all the activities is online at mainx24.com. Our interest in promoting the festival lies in its fun for area participants, and its immense value as a civic venture and grass-roots, city-building event.
It works because of its creativity and spontaneity, and because its organizers are selfless local residents who spend a lot of volunteer time dreaming up and organizing a major public block party, which in turn helps animate the city and further its rejuvenation.
Its primary patrons are local residents and business owners who see the value of attracting a large of slice of participants to acquaint them with a unique, old neighborhood where diversity, fun and urban rejuvenation hold sway. In fact, the Mainx24 festivals activities build a sense of community at all levels.
For example, a range of volunteers --interested festival participants are welcome -- will gather from 9 a.m.-to-noon and 1-to-4 p.m. to help plant 40 redbud, maple and gingko trees bought by neighborhood donors for the new pocket park beside Battle Academy, a K-5 school at the corner of Main and South Market streets. The new pocket park promises to be a welcome retreat, and hopefully not the last, for a neighborhood that presently has no nearby greenspace.
The Southside festival didn't originate at City Hall. It sprang spontaneously from a neighborhood revival seeded by interested citizens and partner foundations that envisioned an urban spring in long-neglected parts of the city. The Southside's burgeoning popularity, and its unique festival, is a prime example of the value of that initiative, and a demonstrably enjoyable payoff.