With the approach of another 4th of July holiday, East Nashville is gearing up for the 15th annual Thirth of July. On the 3rd of July, starting at 2 p.m., North 12th Street, between Ordway and Calvin, is ground zero for East Nashville’s biggest block party of the year. This year’s musical line-up includes Nashville surf-rock legends Thee Phantom 5ive, award-winning Americana singer/songwriter Rod Picott, rock & rollers Early Jones and the Mexican Space Program, grunge rockers Red Wine Hangover, outlaw country queen Elizabeth Cook, and the always fabulous Mavericks.
The East Nashvillian spoke with Thirth founders Chris Thompson and Hank Helton about the history of Thirth and what’s in store for this year’s event.
EN: How did the Thirth block party begin?
Chris: At that time, I was single. Hank was a neighbor, and he was recently single as well. As a joke, we created an unofficial East Nashville Bachelors Association and started throwing these porch parties on my front porch. I had singer songwriters living across the street and next door. We were all tired of having to cross the river to go to bars with music because there weren't any here. We wanted to have some music on the East Side and have a good time. We decided to set up a P.A. system on my front porch and play for a bunch of folks. It started on my front porch, moved to the driveway and is now a big stage at the end of the street.
EN: How did you come up with the name “Thirth?”
Hank: We were lamenting the fact that everyone had to go to work on the fifth, so we came up with the idea of having it on the third instead. That way we had the fourth to clean up and relax. The first name we had for it is not fit for print, but it evolved into the Thirth.
EN: The first few years were pretty wild?
Chris: The first ones were quite a bit more raucous than they are now. We do know of at least two children that were conceived as a result of the Thirth.
Hank: Weddings have resulted too.
Chris: My former neighbor across the street had an above ground pool that was a prominent feature of the first itinerations of the Thirth. Let’s just say I would not have wanted to be a swimmer in that pool during the occasion. As the event matured, it got a little more tame. Most of the people who were at the early Thirths now have families. So it makes sense that it would become more family friendly.
EN: It has become more of a community event?
Hank: Definitely, one thing we're very proud of is that we're now able to give back to the community. All the profits from the event go to non-profit organizations.
Chris: I've been working in non-profit fundraising for years, and we've benefited many non-profits — the Tennessee Environmental Council, Adventure Science Center, Urban Green Lab, and Martha O'Bryan on several occasions because they do so much good work in East Nashville. With the Mavericks playing this year, I wanted it to benefit a music related cause. Music Makes Us http://musicmakesus.org/ is a new partnership between Metro Nashville Public Schools and community leaders to make sure that music education is fully funded. The money we raise will go to both Music Makes Us and the Martha O'Bryan Center. http://www.marthaobryan.org/
EN: Did you ever think the event become so big?
Hank: Never, for something that started as a little party in Chris' front yard with about five or six guys sitting around drinking beer, it has evolved into quite a production.
We're giving away tickets!