Cooper Young Historic Districts’ 31st Festival Attracts Thousands of Visitors and Vendors from Across the Country

The Cooper-Young Historic District celebrated its 31st Cooper Young Festival, welcoming 130,000 people, along with artistic and food vendors and live music.

The Cooper-Young community has been bringing artists and local customers together since 1988 when the Cooper-Young Business Association started the festival.

Tamara Cook, the executive director of the Cooper-Young Business Association, started working with The Cooper-Young Business Association in 1999 after the association started the festival to help the ailing neighborhood.

“The whole reason for the festival was back then that neighborhood was in really bad shape. The banks had redlined us, you couldn’t get any loans and drug deals and gangs had moved in, the whole place was in shambles,” said Cook.

In the beginning, The Cooper-Young Festival had very few sponsors and vendors who sold bake sale items and plants, but “wasn’t really the art venue that it is today,” according to Cook.

Along with an increase in attendance since the first festival, vendor participation has grown from 25 vendors to 435 for the 2018 celebration welcoming local artisans as well as businesses from across the country.

David Quarrels showcased his handmade jewelry for the first time describing it as “heavily based on his heritage and African culture.”

Local jewelry maker Quarrels’ decision to host a booth at the festival was impromptu.

Nonetheless, Quarrels sold out of his stock during the festival which he attributes to being “hard on himself concerning aesthetics” for his consumers.

“Memphis definitely shows some serious love and I will now be super busy to replenish my stock,” Quarrels said.

Despite the 92 degree temperature, thousands of Memphians ventured out to the festival to view the local artwork as well as watch the live shows on the three different stages that festival offers.

The shows offered a variety of genres to please the myriad of artistic individuals attending the event with the only restrictions being the bands must be local and able to play original songs.

The festival offered a set by local hardcore punk band “Negro Terror” where viewers moshed and head banged to their activist commentary and song lyrics.

Despite the festival bringing in the most visitors since its start in 1988, the festival will continue to grow through corporate sponsorships like Evolve Bank and Trust and The Commercial Appeal that are listed on the event’s website.

Due to the growth of the festival the Cooper-Young Business Association has to divert funds to insurance and police presence to ensure safety for the thousands of participants.

“The bigger it gets, the more it costs,” continued Cook.

However, the festival continues to pour it’s earning back into the neighborhood and it’s local businesses according to Cook.

Madison Brown, a curator of knitted goods from Arkansas, attended the festival for the first time this September as well as ran a booth full of her handmade “scrubbies, sweaters and hats.”

Brown stated she would “absolutely” participate in next year’s festival because “it was a great experience and a wonderful way to experience Memphis and connect with other smaller artists.”