Of course, there will be music. There's always music at the Center for Southern Folklore's Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, often more than 100 performers in all. But where there's music, there are also memories, and this year's festival honors the life and legacy of Hattie Childress, a perpetually youthful storyteller, artisan, and cook whose wonderful quilts were only surpassed by her fantastic chow-chow. Childress, a festival mainstay who's been showing work and selling canned goods through the center since the 1980s, passed earlier this year at the age of 92.
Childress was the daughter of sharecroppers. She grew up working in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother and watching the two women sit close together in the wintertime making quilts. As a young woman, she came to Memphis to escape domestic abuse. In 2006, her quilts were exhibited at the Brooks Museum in a show called "Blocks and Pieces." Childress will be remembered at this year's Music and Heritage Festival with a display of her quilts.
The downtown festival has become a Labor Day tradition and celebration of all things regional, from art and dance to music and cuisine. Every genre of music has been welcomed including blues, soul, gospel, and country, with plenty of rock, bluegrass, some jazz, and even a touch of pure Memphis weirdness. Over the years, it has showcased artists ranging from big-panty provocateur Bobby Rush to garage-rock heroes the Oblivians, to Stax legend Carla Thomas.
Memphis' reputation as a music town is such that a complete lineup is seldom announced or marketed in advance, but some artists scheduled to appear at this year's event include Joyce Cobb, Elmo and the Shades, Domingo Montes, and the Bell Singers.