published Monday, September 26th, 2011

Off the Couch: Festival spotlights outdoor offerings

LISA DENTON: Barry, I'm not sure how much rock climbing, caving, cycling, hiking, paddling, swimming and running you do, but you'll get a chance to do all those things when the second annual RiverRocks outdoor festival starts Friday.

I think I'll be gravitating more to the spectator events, since just writing that sentence made me tired. For the festival's opening weekend, there will be hot-air balloons at Coolidge Park that you can ride up, up and away for $250, or you can ride up, up but not away on a tethered flight for $5. If nothing else, you can just walk amongst them at the balloon glow Saturday night. It's a beautiful thing.

BARRY COURTER: I'm big into all of those activities. I can watch them for hours on TV.

RiverRocks is a cool concept. Chattanooga is known around the world for having some of the best rock-climbing, paddling and hang-gliding opportunities anywhere. Each is world-class. The fact that we have those and more all in one location is what made Outside Magazine voters choose us as their No. 1 dream city to live in.

It would take too long to fully explain RiverRocks, but people should know that over a stretch of 10 days the city will be alive with outdoor events.

LISA: There's even a horseback ride to Lookout Mountain's highest point. Unfortunately, you have to supply your own horse, and the only steed I have is named "Stick." Unless you count the bloodhound, but he's even lazier than I am.

BARRY: OK, now I have an image of you in your favorite Dale Evans outfit, shiny red boots and all, riding Stick up the dusty trails on Lookout.

LISA: I don't usually wear my cowgirl outfit outside the house. It's mostly for the boots and when I want to channel Nancy Sinatra.

But back to RiverRocks. One smart thing the organizers do is piggyback on other events taking place downtown, so you can spend Friday and Saturday at the 3 Sisters Music Festival and hear some great bluegrass bands. Oh, I forgot, you think those terms are mutually exclusive, don't you?

BARRY: I like some bluegrass. I like the newgrass stuff, and I appreciate the skill of the old-time masters like Bill Monroe. I just wish they knew more than one song. There is the fast version, the faster version and the fastest version.

The lineup is again really good with more traditional acts like the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band and host band The Dismembered Tennesseans and "newgrass" acts like the Emmitt-Nershi Band that play a blend. And once again, it is all free, thanks to the phenomenal generosity of Fletcher Bright.

LISA: He is a Chattanooga treasure, for sure. You know, if he keeps practicing with that fiddle, he may eventually get good at it.

about Barry Courter...

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 ...

about Lisa Denton...

Lisa Denton is deputy features editor and content editor of Current. She previously was a lifestyle, entertainment and region reporter/pod leader for The Chattanooga Times, which she joined in 1983. Lisa is from Sale Creek and holds an associate’s degree in journalism from Chattanooga State Community College. Contact Lisa at 423-757-6281 or

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