CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It sounds like the best of times … and the weirdest of times.
After months of mystery, a change of location from Charlotte Motor Speedway and a dribble of information, CarolinaFest in uptown Charlotte is finally happening.
There are moments that promise to be sublime, like standing at Trade and Tryon streets listening to North Carolina native son James Taylor. And there are moments that may be subpar, like convincing your kids to go to an “interactive civics lesson” in the Legacy Village on their day off from school.
Still, if you’re not involved in the Democratic National Convention – or you want to see uptown before security gets stricter Monday night – the Labor Day festival is designed to be your time.
It’s all free, and you can enter without credentials or an ID. There will be a lot going on, at least until 6:15 p.m.
The Labor Day parade
Charlotte’s traditional parade to celebrate workers is being held, but it will be shorter and it won’t travel down Tryon Street.
Organizer Ben Lee says the parade will leave Pearle Street Park at 10 a.m., then will follow a short route along Stonewall and other streets before ending at Marshall Park.
“Most of the parade will be the same local people you see all the time,” he said. That includes politicians, labor groups and a color guard of veterans from the Freightliner plant in Mount Holly.
Other things will be missing. Because of security restrictions, no vehicles are allowed. So there will be no car clubs and no bikes. Even Razzles the clown had to park his unicycle.
Originally, there were going to be no bands, but Lee got permission to include the West Charlotte High School marching band, the always-popular kids from the Greenville CYO band, and a brass band from the United House of Prayer for All People.
“It’s not a parade without bands,” he said.
Stage 1: The National Stage
Starting at noon, so people can see the parade, music acts will crank up on two stages.
Music starts at noon at Trade and Tryon with the Johnson C. Smith Marching Band and the national anthem sung by Anthony Hamilton. That’s followed by:
• Janelle Monae: This funky and soulful singer/dancer has won Grammys and Soul Train awards, and she’s nominated for two MTV Video Music Awards (best new artist and best pop video, for “We Are Young”).
• Simplified: A complex music of funk, reggae and roots rock.
• Jeff Bridges and the Abiders: Yes, the Dude and his band.
• James Taylor: He’ll close CarolinaFest from 5 to 6 p.m. and then appear again Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium.
Stage 2: Carolina Stage
Between the Mint and Bechtler museums:
• The Blue Dogs: Americana and country rock from Charleston, about 1 p.m.
• Radio Disney: An interactive music program for teens and kids.
• West End Mambo: A mix of Latino and Caribbean that performs salsas, rumbas and guaracha.
• Chairmen of the Board: Lead singer General Johnson died in 2010, but the rest of the band is still playing. After getting their start in Detroit in 1969 (“Give Me Just a Little More Time”), they became famous for the beach music anthem “Carolina Girls.”
Food and shopping
Tryon Street is divided into zones, with the food vendors and tables between Third and Fourth streets, and Vendor Village, with art, clothing and politically themed items between Third and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Between MLK and Stonewall Street. There are two sections, Youth Legacy Village and the main Legacy Village.
What’s a Legacy Village? Mayor Anthony Foxx has said all along that he wants the convention to be a catalyst for other projects that will continue after the fuss rolls out of town. So he’s focusing on four areas: Healthy Children, Healthy Families; Youth Employment and Civic Education; Building a Broader, More Inclusive and Diverse Economy; and Energy, Technology and Sustainability.
So what does that mean? Both villages will have activities that will include the building of two houses (one a LEED Habitat House, the other led by Craftsman and celebrity Ty Pennington that will be given to a local veteran); Everyday Edisons, a pitch booth for entrepreneurs who want to explore projects; soccer games by Street Soccer USA; GenerationNation with civics lessons and lots of technology activities for kids.
There will also be a community garden by Friendship Trays and Friendship Gardens and a Field to Fork program that will teach cooking and healthful eating by letting people build healthy pizzas.
There’s no street parking, but you will have access to parking garages near Tryon Street. But this is one where public transportation will be easy: You can park at Lynx lots and ride in as far as the Stonewall Station next to the Westin Hotel, a couple of blocks from Legacy Village, or CATS buses will run on a Sunday schedule; go to ridetransit.org.