As we head into the new year, it's a good time to reflect on the past and look to the future.
Last year at this time, I predicted some changes were on the way regarding local entertainment and especially our downtown. I knew Track 29 was on the way and was aware of its proposed mission.
The music venue at the Chattanooga Choo Choo has only been open since September, so it is early to call it a total success or failure, but it has certainly changed the conversation.
I also predicted that the changes at the RiverCity Co. as it related to the old Chattanooga Downtown Partnership signaled a new era. It was obvious to me that both events would have good and bad implications and that on which side of the ledger things fell would depend a lot on personal viewpoints.
If you are one who liked and/or benefited from the many great events the CDP put on, like Appalachian Christmas or the Grand Illumination, the change, and the subsequent end to those events, is a bad thing. If you are the type that believes that the CDP had certain advantages because of its relationship with the city and civic leaders, the change is a good thing because things now are more "equal," as some might argue.
Personally, I think the CDP's role was always to be a primer and that we now are strong enough to let certain things either sink or swim on their own. Things are different for sure, but hopefully the spirit of cooperation that helped us get to where we are will remain.
Riverbend Festival director Chip Baker is fond of saying, "No money, no mission." It's a catch phrase with a lot of truth behind it. It's also one that often is forgotten by people who plan events around here. Sometimes we do things because someone wanted to do it, not because people have asked for it. There is a difference.
Sometimes we stop doing things that draw lots of people because the money, usually sponsorship money, is no longer available. The Grand Illumination went away because EPB wanted to put its sponsorship money somewhere else. They have every right to do so.
The "new" Lighted Boat Parade, which replaced the Grand Illumination, and the Starlight Holiday Parade, which was back because the folks at Volkswagen decided that they and other Chattanoogans like it, were successful and drew good-sized crowds of people who enjoyed the experiences.
Track 29 had some issues starting out, no doubt, but most of their shows have been well-attended and people are talking about it all over the Southeast. In fact, a good many of the fans who attend concerts there are from out of town. This is not insignificant.
The other item of note is that almost no one has complained about paying $25 to $40 for tickets or for paying a parking fee to attend shows there.
The Avett Brothers show there sold out in 27 seconds. Tickets were $35.
Club and venue owners all over town are encouraged by this and want to jump aboard now that it has been proven that there is a younger audience in town willing to come off their wallets. That will be the thing to watch in the coming year.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...