Roanoke Down by Downtown Music Festival
Saturday, I headed to downtown Roanoke with two aims – to check out the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Taubman Museum of Art and to find Elmwood Park for free live music enjoyment.
The Normal Rockwell viewing didn’t happen. I was amazed to discover museum admission was free for all but that feature. There was so much to see, I decided to come another time for more (next Monday I’ll feature the Taubman – including a recap on this Thursday’s event, the Monster Art Rally).
What I found outdoors was incredible. The city was bustling with people in shorts and t-shirts in the middle of APRIL. I wound up parking my car on Kirk Avenue west of 1st Street (a great little side street few seem to use). It’s close to Market Street and just about everything else downtown.
Roanoke is an easy city to navigate on foot. Parking is mostly free on the weekends, so it makes sense to leave your car a few blocks away from where everyone is congregating.
I started at the Taubman. To get to the music and Elmwood Park, I traveled through Market Street, which was now a street vibrant with vendors and visitors, unlike my prior winter and evening visits where most of the activity was at the bars. Many tents sported interesting hand-crafted gift possibilities for the future being sold by the people that made them.
The band, Empty Bottles, was fun. Young kids were dancing in front of the stage doing things we adults are too mature to enjoy. The amphitheatre is beautifully designed. Concrete steps are divided by grassy stretches begging to be used as picnic areas. Steps were steep enough (OK, there wasn’t that huge a crowd) that not even tall folks in front obstructed views from behind. The place was spotless.
I watched the end of the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon – too late to see Jeff Powers come in for the win but early enough to be impressed with the straggling strugglers limping to the end determined to finish.
Outdoor vendors were spread from Market Street all the way throughout Elmwood Park offering everything from locally created products to area attraction information.
One of the things that took me a while to realize about Roanoke is entertainment happens differently. Initially, I was looking for attractions that had roofs. Rochester, NY – the place I called home for much of the past two decades – has weather that encourages an indoor orientation. What I’m discovering is most of what makes Roanoke special happens outdoors.
So, if you’re coming to Roanoke, bring sneakers (or hiking boots) and sunscreen. Sure, there are buildings that house sites to see too, but you’ll find more to do beyond building walls.