by Chad Campbell, senior producer
It’s time to begin a new series from a musical city recently ravaged by a devastating flood. No it’s not another set of interviews from New Orleans. This time we’re focusing on Nashville, Tennessee - “Music City USA.” We start with a driving tour of downtown with Nashville mayor Karl Dean. First he showed us a few of his green initiatives on Deaderick Street which runs between City Hall and Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium. Some of the street’s environmentally friendly features include solar powered parking meters, porous concrete for the sidewalks, lots of recycled building materials and recycling containers on the street. We also saw one of Nashville’s green buses on the Music City Circuit. Mayor Dean rides a bus to work as often as he can and tries to encourage others to use public transit. (Click here to read more about his environmental accomplishments.)
Next we went to Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry. Our car turned down an alley between the auditorium and the backs of the honky tonks (Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is the most famous and just celebrated it’s 50th anniversary) on Lower Broadway and the mayor led us through the performer’s entrance backstage then onto the stage of “The Cathedral of Country Music.” They still hold the Opry here in the winter months and the Ryman is still the best place to see live music in town. We also stood in the Minnie Pearl dressing room backstage. It was pretty small and nothing fancy but huge artists are willing to rough it for night and play the relatively small auditorium for the chance to join the building’s history.
We said goodbye to the Ryman and drove down 4th Avenue, past the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Both buildings were damaged in the May flood and the proximity of the two are perfect for Nashville. The city was long known as “The Athens of the South” - Nashville is even home to a complete, full size replica of the Parthenon. Then there’s that other image they’ve been projecting to the rest of the world for decades with the Grand Ole Opry.
Our next stop was a massive construction site that will become Music City Center in a few more years, Nashville’s new convention center and hotel complex. We even got to climb some temporary stairs to what is for now the top floor of the building. Critics have wondered if Nashville really needed this but mayor Dean supported it and helped push it through. It certainly has created a lot of jobs, hundreds of people working machines and cranes and trucks keep the site bustling.
Our last stop with Mayor Karl Dean was at Riverfront Park down by the Cumberland River which snakes its way through this part of Tennessee. In early May, after 36 hours of torrential rain in the area, the river overflowed its banks and flooded parts of the city. Ten people died in the county from flash flooding and the water caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Despite that, the river is a vital part of the city. Just across the river, over a pedestrian bridge, is LP Field, where the NFL’s Tennessee Titans play and a public art installation called “Ghost Ballet.” Mayor Dean has big plans for the river.
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And here are pictures to go with our preview segment.