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For better or for worse, richer or poorer, Nashville is the bachelorette capital of the U.S. — even the world, according to CNN. Anyone who’s been downtown has seen them rolling on Lower Broadway aboard one of the most iconic — and most controversial — staples of our city’s tourism industry: the party bus.
As much as we talk about bachelorette parties and woo girls and transportainment — how many locals have experienced it firsthand?
Well, at This Is Nashville, we wanted to get the inside scoop. So, our executive producer Andrea Tudhope and I climbed aboard.
More: From woos to wedding bells: Nashville’s wedding industry
Our adventure began at the Honky Tonk Party Express Bus depot, located in an industrial neighborhood not far from the campus of Trevecca Nazarene University. The building itself looks like a lot of new-build bars around town, all light wood and pink neon and enticingly Instagrammable backdrops. The whole thing is a pretty stark contrast to the plastic supply and manufacturing operation just next door.
This is where we met Amelia Calcaterra, a bride-to-be from Michigan who graciously decided to let us tag along for her bachelorette bash.
“We’ve never done this before, so we thought it’d be a fun activity. A lot of drinking. A lot of screaming,” said Calcaterra, whose bachelorette party included her sisters, a few friends and old college roommates, her aunt and her mom.
After a short wait at the depot, it was time to get on the bus.
Transportainment vehicles have run into plenty of issues with safety in the past few years. People have slipped. Some have fallen off entirely. Then, of course, there was that one truck with a hot tub, which was ultimately forced to close down.
With that in mind, the ride starts out with a safety presentation from the onboard DJ, bartender, photographer and hype woman, Kayla Herman, who rattles off a list of do’s and don’ts to ensure a smooth, safe party bus experience.
“We hit one good pothole, and it’s over with,” explained Herman.
Kayla Herman has been on her fair share of bachelorette party bus rides. The born and raised Nashvillian, who works as a DJ and bartender for the Honky Tonk Party Express, is proud to be part of something her city is known for.
She’s a born and raised Nashvillian, so she’s watched the city grow into the tourist destination it is today.
“I feel like a lot of people look at us, and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s got to be so annoying and whatnot.’ But I don’t find it to be annoying at all,” Herman said. “I think it’s awesome because people come for whatever event they’re wanting to celebrate, and it’s awesome they’re going to do with us … It’s usually the most memorable thing that they do their whole trip.”
After about 10 minutes, we made it to Lower Broadway. Like most nights, it was bustling with people and incredibly loud.
Looking around at the hoards of people on either side, hanging from every window of every three to five-story bar, and shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalks, we had to wonder … is the party bus the safest way to experience Lower Broadway?
I decided to check in with the bride-to-be about halfway through the two-hour bus ride, which involves a lot of slowly inching along through Broadway’s notorious standstill traffic.
“It’s been exceeding my expectations … I feel like when you’re on a party bus, you get to see, like, more of everyone else around you,” she said.
And they can see you, too.
Those hoards of people we mentioned — they’re a key part of this experience. They turn from the bars and stop in their tracks on the street to watch, wave and take photos. Men on the sidewalk blow kisses, lift up their shirts and motion to the women on board “Call me!” and “I love you.” Other women on other party buses cheer and compliment each others’ outfits.
Fashion plays a big part in the experience. The Nashville bachelorette is a very distinctive brand of country-western-adjacent glam, characterized by lots of white, pink, fringe and bling. Calcaterra told us she’s been planning her outfit for over a year, and several of the women on the bus bought cowboy boots just for this trip.
If you’re going to go all-out, it makes sense you’d want people to see it. And the party bus may just be the perfect stage.
Filed Under: Features, Programs, Riding Shotgun, WPLN News
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