In our continuing series celebrating Brentwood’s 50th anniversary, today we write about the Italian Street Fair that took place in Brentwood in the 1990s.
In the early 1990s, the Italian Street Fair, which was a fundraiser for Nashville Symphony kid’s educational music programs and scholarships, was moved to Brentwood. Red and white tents were festooned with Italian flags, and white lattice gave dining areas the feel of an intimate street café in one of the many villages in the mountains above Rome. It all happened in green spaces that were once part of Maryland Farms.
The event took place on Labor Day weekend. For more than 35 years it had occurred in Nashville near Vanderbilt, and after only a few years in Brentwood, it returned to Nashville. But it arrived in Brentwood with a flourish. According to an article in the Brentwood Journal from 1991, “The grassy grounds of the Maryland Farms office complex in Brentwood will be transformed into a Roman holiday, complete with the ‘Trevi Fountain’ and ‘Appian Way.’”
Pictures from the time, taken by the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce, show bands and dancers dressed in Italian costumes. The photos show young families, business people, high school bands, and vendors all coming together to create an enjoyable event.
Food was the main draw, but there was also entertainment, carnival rides, and vendors offering everything from books to fine arts and crafts. Food included Italian sausages, pasta, and lots of Spumoni ice cream.
It took place before the rapid development of Brentwood that occurred later in the 1990s, and is still going on. It was like a huge block party, one that drew over 90,000 people the first year of the move. There were things there to interest the whole family.
Bigger and bigger entertainment acts kept people coming. They would play on Sunday night with the Nashville Symphony. One of the largest, according to the story, was Leon Russell. Yet, he was overshadowed by Johnny Cash the following year.
Sadly, the festival only found a home in Brentwood for three years. It had been moved out of Nashville because of development, and once again progress moved the location. Everything took place in a field just north of Maryland Way, in the area where the UPS Store is now located according to the Brentwood Home Page article.
After moving back to Nashville, the Fair ended with the coming of the new Millennium in spite of being named as one of the ‘Top 20 Labor Day Events in the Southeast’ by the Southeast Tourism Society. Between changing times and constantly changing locations, it no longer drew the crowds or the income for the Symphony.