The University of Tennessee’s Homecoming Parade will roll along Cumberland Avenue on Friday afternoon, Nov. 3 – the parade’s first return to “The Strip” since the 1980s.
Cumberland Avenue merchants and City of Knoxville officials are eager to welcome the UT alumni and parade-watchers.
The 4-5 p.m. parade – and 5-6 p.m. post-parade celebration, when the street will remain closed to vehicles and the floats will be parked on display – is a great opportunity to show off the new Cumberland Avenue, the merchants say.
“I’m thrilled,” said Helen Morton, owner of University Liquors and treasurer of the Cumberland Avenue Merchants Association (CAMA). “It’s been so long since the parade looped onto Cumberland, I don’t even remember it. Returning the parade to Cumberland is a great idea. The merchants are all fired up.”
Enthusiasm is building for the Homecoming Parade’s return to Cumberland Avenue for the first time in 30 years, said Joe Burger, owner of the Cumberland Avenue McDonald’s.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have the parade come down Cumberland Avenue this year,” Burger said. “The merchants on Cumberland have always had a great relationship with UT. This is just another great example where we are working together with UT and the City of Knoxville to make the Cumberland Avenue area a destination for Knoxville families.
“We’ve been hearing great comments from our customers on the Cumberland Avenue transformation. We’re hopeful the parade will bring a great turnout to enjoy the fun and festivities.”
The timing for the Homecoming Parade’s return to Cumberland Avenue could not be better.
In August, Gov. Bill Haslam and Mayor Madeline Rogero led a ribbon-cutting celebration, marking the end of a 28-month top-to-bottom reconstruction of Cumberland Avenue between 17th and 22nd streets – on time and within budget. Cumberland Avenue has been transformed into a safer, more pedestrian-friendly corridor with new utility infrastructure, wider sidewalks, improved traffic flow, a raised median and left-turn lanes at intersections.
The public investment of $25 million in infrastructure has helped leverage more than $190 million in private investment in retail storefronts, groceries, entertainment venues, overnight lodging, restaurants and student apartments.
“I can’t think of a better way to put an exclamation mark on the Cumberland Avenue public-private rejuvenation than by the 101st Homecoming Parade coming down Cumberland,” said Anne Wallace, the City’s Deputy Director of Redevelopment.
“The merchants will be offering prizes and great food and retail specials. The whole weekend will be festive. Everyone is excited to have the parade back on Cumberland.”
On Friday, Nov. 3, the parade will march north on Volunteer Boulevard from Circle Park Drive to Cumberland, then turn left (west) on Cumberland before exiting onto 21st Street.
Cumberland will be closed for the parade starting at 3:30 p.m., and it will reopen about 6:30 p.m.
Two lanes of Lake Loudoun Boulevard will be closed from 3-4 p.m. for the float lineup, and Volunteer Boulevard from Lake Loudoun Boulevard to Cumberland Avenue will be closed from 3:30-4:30 p.m.
During the 5-6 p.m. post-parade celebration, the floats will be parked on Cumberland, and alumni and visitors can vote for the best entry through the #VotefortheFloat contest. Cumberland Avenue merchants will be providing prizes to the teams that create the top floats and also to spectators selected with random drawings.
“The kids spend all week making the floats – they’re beautiful, and it seems like the parade is over in a blink of an eye,” Morton said. “I love the fact that the post-parade celebration gives everyone a chance to admire and appreciate all the hard work on the floats.”
The theme for this year’s festivities is “HC 101: Intro to Rocky Top.” The parade’s grand marshals include Del and Dane Bryant, sons of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, a husband-wife songwriter team who generated a string of hits – none more celebrated in Knoxville than “Rocky Top.”
The parade includes the eighth annual Little Vol Walk, featuring children ages 10 and younger who will be riding on decorated wagons, strollers and tricycles.
After the close-up inspection of the floats and the votes are cast, Cumberland Avenue will reopen to vehicular traffic at 6:30 p.m.
For more details or to register for Homecoming events, visit http://homecoming.utk.edu/homecoming/homecoming-parade/.