By Anna Lockhart
Usually clustered in groups of three or more, middle- and high-school age teenagers are loyal and highly visible Riverbend attendees.
Hunter Pruett, 14, a student at Ooltewah High School, said Riverbend is a social event for his friends.
"You come to hang out, see friends you haven't seen all summer, and meet girls," he said. "And to meet people you've talked to on MySpace."
Although constantly scoping out their cross-town peers, teens tend to gravitate to school friends.
Cell phones are glued to the ears of pretty most teens at Riverbend. Christian Schwartzkopf, 14, a student at Soddy-Daisy High School, said she text-messaged her friends to see where they were to meet them.
Most of Riverbend's teen and tween customers say they aren't very interestedthe concerts, nor do they ever venture to the smaller stages.
When asked last week if they were excited about Craig Morgan and Blake Shelton, Sica Morgan, 14, from Ringgold High School and Dione Barbie, 15, of LaFayette high school, answered with a nonchalant "sure."
"I guess I like Blake Shelton or whatever," said Tyler Newman, an Ooltewah freshman.
Last Saturday night, Savannah Spurlock, Katie Crabtree and Becca Brock, all 14, were mildly excited about Daughtry, but would have preferred if pop bands Augustana or Boys Like Girls were playing.
According to teens, it's not about the music. Walking up and down Riverfront Parkway and stopping to talk are the main Riverbend activities.
Most teens go every festival night, regardless of who is playing. The only exception is the Bessie Smith Strut, which many teen Riverbend frequenters said they wouldn't attend.
Since many are below the driving age, most of the middle- and high-school crowd arrive at Riverbend with their parents.
Logan Chambers, a freshman at Ooltewah High School, arrived opening night with his brother and was scheduled to meet their mother at 10 or 11.
Most teens said they do not pay for their Riverbend pins, but Mr. Newman said he was working his off by mowing the lawn. Although parents may be at the festival, they almost never accompany their teens. Hailey McPherson, 16, said if she had run into her mother, "I would pretend I didn't know her."
Dressing to impress is highly important to teens involved in the Riverbend meet-and-greet, especially for girls.
"You have to look good to impress people," said Ms. Crabtree. Getting ready can take anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours, said female teens. Picking out clothes, straightening hair and putting on makeup takes a lot of thought.
Riverbend week's hot weather means dressing to be cool, literally and figuratively.
"The weather warms up and people start wearing stuff they shouldn't wear," said Mr. Hawkings.
Short skirts, shorts and shirts are popular for girls, and plaid shorts are popular for boys and girls. Jersey knit print dresses and tank tops and carefully matched skirt and top combinations display teen girls' meticulous wardrobe selection.
E-mail Anna Lockhart at firstname.lastname@example.org