published Friday, June 10th, 2011

Riverbend, 2011

For three decades now, Riverbend has been the major event on Chattanooga’s extensive summer calendar of activities. Started by farsighted organizers in 1982 to celebrate and unite the community through the shared media of music, entertainment and food, the festival has achieved that worthy goal and much, much more over the years.

The festival’s opening this evening starts a nine-day run that should extend Riverbend’s enviable reputation for distinctive ambiance and programming. There’s proof that the festival does things right. The throngs of attendees — a cumulative total in the hundreds of thousands each year, organizers report — who flock to the southern bank of the Tennessee River to hear music, to eat and to drink, and to socialize in a unique setting substantiate it.

There is, as the old saying goes, something for just about everyone at Riverbend. Huey Lewis and The News is the headliner tonight. They will be followed on the main stage on succeeding nights by The Beach Boys, The Machine with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, Casting Crowns, Miranda Lambert, Brian McKnight, Alan Jackson and Kellie Pickler. Those headliners, though, are only part of the entertainment package assembled by Riverbend staff and festival volunteers.

In total, more than 100 bands playing in a wide variety of styles will perform on Riverbend’s five stages. There are other attractions as well. On Monday, the festival shifts from the riverfront to M.L. King Boulevard for the Bessie Smith Strut. Named for the Chattanoogan who won global acclaim as Empress of the Blues, the event features barbecue and blues. This year’s strut headliner is John Lee Hooker Jr.

There’s more to Riverbend than stage performances. Faith and Family Night has become a tradition on Tuesday nights. Other events and sites — as varied as a talent show featuring youngsters, the BlueCross Riverbend Run and Walk, engaging exhibits and a chance to become a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune,” the TV game show — attract crowds as well. And, as always, Riverbend is a place to meet friends and to watch the ebb and flow of the endlessly fascinating people who attend the event.

Riverbend remains a bargain. Early admission sales have concluded, but pins are still available for purchase at the gate. There is no charge to attend the strut. Shuttle transportation from various parking sites around downtown is available for a modest charge.

From this evening’s opening to the fireworks extravaganza that will conclude the 2011 festival on June 18, Riverbend holds the promise of continued fulfillment of its founders’ vision, and of extending the community’s reputation for hospitality and entertainment. It’s once again time to head for the river and to enjoy all that Riverbend and the Chattanooga waterfront it calls home have to offer.

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bpqd said...

I want you to look at the photo you ran of the geriatric rock band headlining this thing and ask yourself if that matches the flowery language in this quote:

". . . Riverbend’s enviable reputation for distinctive ambiance and programming."

There are a few things wrong with your coverage: lack of covering the main event, Bonaroo; failure to ask the tough questions of organizers; and a general grandstanding that will only cause us to look for your corporation's name on the list of sponsors.

The reality is that the best musicians, beer and fun have been at The Strut for decades. Decades. It's not just once or twice, but pretty much the whole time. The Strut has managed to provide a genuine block party when the rest of the city gets inconvenienced over Riverbend.

If the lead acts at Riverbend every year were rap artists, the permit would never have gotten approved. Look at the linup, and imagine through that mullet that drapes over your now balding thinking cap, that the music is actually bad. It is. The entire situation is a multi-million dollar orgasm of amusement park food and unwanted noise and crowds. The entire operation is a nuisance.

Be sure to tell the Libertarians and Tea Party Idiots how many tax dollars got spent on this thing. We know it wasn't spent on utilities or education or what we actually needed.

Please bring the embarassment to an end. Close Riverbend permanently. It's time for it to retire.

They can still play in the lounge at the old folks home.

June 10, 2011 at 7:28 a.m.
SeaMonkey said...

you sound quite bitter, bpqd...quite.........what's the point of bringing up libertarians and tea party folks? rap music sucks...it's obnoxious, unpleasant and often full of violence and violence toward women. combine that with high heat and humidity, and bad food, and that makes for one crappy evening.

riverbend is a bore. it's overblown. but rap would only make it worse.

June 10, 2011 at 10:18 a.m.
sidhetzler said...

bpqd and Seamonkey and editorial writer, I was one of those 1982 organizers, the first one in fact, and there simply is not "something for everyone at Riverbend;" almost all the community's artists and arts orgainizations have been left out every year since the mid-80s. It is not a festival of difference and diversity, which it started out as, to celebrate ALL of the community.

bpgd, you make some good points but considering the social desert that was downtown Chattanooga in the 1980s, I concluded then that even if my original 1980 idea of a comprehensive town festival couldn't make budget without advertisers, something was better for the city than nothing.  But study the first few festivals from 1982 to 1985 or so, talk with the people who ran them, such as Walker Breland and UTC and Rufus Triplett and Hugh Moore (again this year's president of Friends of the Festival-I happened to be the first one starting June 1981).

Maybe you can figure out, aside from financial starvation, why the use of the total downtown was abandoned for the limited popular programming in the gated community it has become. It is non-profit, right? I'd be optimistic; sooner or later basic cultural practices and civic needs will push the Riverbend out of its gates so the restaurants can feed all the walkers all over town. And shops will stay open.

And who knows, maybe you and I and others will create a festival fringe: rent and program dancing every night at the Tivoli and so on limited only by imagination and funds.

Riverbend diversity is a oxymoron; it excludes just about all the usual cultural arts of Chattanooga and is so discounted by the national media that even a $4 million budget gets not one mention in contrast with one weekend of a pasture gathering like Bonaroo. But cancel Riverbend--no, no, no, build on it and make it into what it started out to be.

Your day will come if you'll keep on speaking up and pushing the board and politicians and especially sponsors. Charleston would have nothing to brag about with its two Spoleto festivals if it were not for the visionary Mayor Riley, who's been mayor since it started there in 1977. Really powerful festivals are political ideas and they take politicians to lead and nurture them. And they need groups like the Allied Arts organization to support instead of helping to kill Riverbend from the very beginning. Maybe one day your efforts will mean the entire Chattanooga Symphony will actually again play the 1812 Overture with cannons and fireworks displays instead of recorded symphony or a rock band with soap commercials. Maybe the fine CSO musicians will not be heard once a year as expensive back players for some country or rock band.

All it takes is an idea and a few hundred thousand people to buy the low cost pins sold everywhere, as we saw it early on, and then you don't depend on selling everything in sight to commercials. Keep the faith, man!

June 13, 2011 at 2:02 a.m.
sidhetzler said...

Here's my second graph that was left out for some reason:

"bpgd, you make some good points but considering the social desert that was downtown Chattanooga in the 1980s, I concluded then that even if my original 1980 idea of a comprehensive town festival couldn't make budget without advertisers, something was better for the city than nothing. But study the first few festivals from 1982 to 1985 or so, talk with the people who ran them, such as Walker Breland and UTC and Rufus Triplett and Hugh Moore (again this year's president of Friends of the Festival-I happened to be the first one starting June 1981)."

June 13, 2011 at 2:12 a.m.
timbo said...

Riverbend is a week long drunken revel sponsered by the city governement. If the cops want to find drunk drivers, why don't they just set up outside Riverbend and rake in the cash. The local pokey would be so full they would have to set up tents at Memorial Autorium. I guess they would rather set up a roadblock in Sale Creek at 3 pm. That makes a lot of sense.

June 24, 2011 at 11:06 a.m.
timbo said...

Riverbend is a week long drunken revel sponsered by the city governement. If the cops want to find drunk drivers, why don't they just set up outside Riverbend and rake in the cash. The local pokey would be so full they would have to set up tents at Memorial Autorium. I guess they would rather set up a roadblock in Sale Creek at 3 pm. That makes a lot of sense. Also, did you know that the city gives Riverbend about $1,000,000 dollars a year. That means that it is not a non-profit, it is just another tax sucking downtown boondoggle.
Who decides the vendors and how much bribery is being paid?
Riverbend does not benefit the vast majority of businesses or individual tax payers in this city/county.
How about the fact that the Times Free Press and the police department covered up the two riots that took place with shots fired? Riverbend is like everything else about downtown, it is a big movie set that looks good from the outside, but when it is investigated it is just a facade being held up by a few two by four. Shut the stupid thing down. When Little Richard was wheeled out in a wheel chair it sort of changed it for me.

June 24, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.
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