If you haven’t been to the Parthenon or Centennial Park lately, May offers some perfect opportunities to enjoy the history and see what’s new at this park, which is known as Nashville’s cultural and recreational centerpiece.
The park’s supporting organization, the Centennial Park Conservancy, has put together a multifaceted celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897 in the coming weeks.
The exposition, which celebrated 100 years of Tennessee statehood, was where the Nashville Parthenon was born and where Centennial Park came into its own as our city’s central gathering place.
“This May, we’re honoring the 125th anniversary of the exposition by once again bringing people together in the park established on its grounds to enjoy enriching programming,” said John Tumminello, president of the Centennial Park Conservancy.
“I hope you will join us at one of the many events being held through early summer or by simply visiting the park to enjoy recreation and relaxation in this beautiful green space.”
Here are some of the events and experiences you can look forward to in the park in May and early summer:
• ”The Centennial Exposition 125th Anniversary” exhibit opens in the Parthenon’s west gallery with a public reception 6-8 p.m. May 12. The exhibit will be up through Jan. 8.
This exhibit and the educational activities that come with it are designed to provide an immersive experience of the centennial celebration for modern-day visitors.
Parthenon officials say there will be previously unseen photographs of the exposition displayed from floor to ceiling in the galleries and that musical compositions created specifically for the exposition will be part of the experience. The story of the exposition will be told through items treasured by the visitors in 1897. The opening reception is free, but reservations are recommended. Details: Nashvilleparthenon.com
• The Tennessee Craft Spring Craft Fair will take place May 6-8, with hundreds of artisans and crafts people selling their creations, plus demonstrations, food trucks and a kids tent. Artists (ranging from hobbyists to master makers) from across the nation will exhibit their handmade craft on the Great Lawn adjacent to the Parthenon, showcasing everything from clay and jewelry to leather, wood, glass, painting and more. This is the 51st annual fair. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Details: Tennesseecraft.org
• The Conservancy’s popular Musicians Corner takes place 5-9 p.m. on Fridays and noon-6 p.m. on Saturdays in May and June in the Musicians Corner area on the West End side of the park. These family-friendly free lawn parties offer an assortment of live music and a great way to experience the park with music, food trucks, artisans and more. The lineup includes a three-day Memorial Day weekend event and a free special Thursday night performance by the Nashville Symphony on June 9. Details: Musicianscorner.com
• Kidsville at the Parthenon takes place 11-11:45 on most Saturdays inside the Parthenon. However, during May and June, Kidsville will be part of Musicians Corner outdoors. For future reference, these free storytimes for children 12 and under usually take place at the foot of Athena inside the Parthenon. They are free for children and their families, and include a craft after the storytime. Details: www.kidsvilleonline.org
• The annual Water Lantern Festival returns to Centennial Park on May 28. This is a relaxing evening of floating lights reflecting beautifully on Lake Watauga. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., and the event continues until 9:30 p.m.
• Metro Parks and the Conservancy are partnering with the Nashville Opera on Sunday, June 5, for a free performance in Centennial Park. Time and location in the park will be announced closer to the date.
• Small World Yoga will host a free yoga class in the park (next to the sand volleyball courts) each Tuesday in May from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. This all-levels and all-ages class will focus on flowing, breathing and connecting in a beautiful outdoor environment. Reserve a spot at conservancyonline.com/events.
• Now is also a great time to see the considerable improvements to the park that have taken place as part of a $20 million master plan over the last five years. Phase one included unearthing the Cockrill Spring, creating the Musicians Corner space, adding parking and establishing the bees on the island at Lake Watauga.
Phase two, which was completed last year, reengineered the 19-acre Great Lawn in front of the Parthenon, created the new West End public entrance, added dramatic new lighting on the Parthenon and built the tree-lined crab orchard stone walkways that flank the Great Lawn and lead up from West End.
Phase three will include a new Children’s Memory Garden to honor victims of violence and some improvements to the Park Plaza side of the park, including an entrance over the 31st Avenue Connector and an events pavilion for community gatherings.
• Did you know that the Parthenon offers free exterior architecture audio tours that you can access from your phone? Plus, there are monthly interior architecture tours, weekly museum tours and a chance to learn from museum experts through the Art Cart program, which takes place weekdays inside the Parthenon from 1 to 1:30 p.m. There are also free gallery programs and docent-led tours on an ongoing basis. Details: Nashvilleparthenon.com