If you're going to Chattanooga's biggest party, be sure to wear the ribbon on your wrist.
Instead of the classic and collectible admission pins — miniatures of the annual poster — festivalgoers this year will wear high-tech wristbands.
Riverbend officials for years have known that one Riverbend admission pin might be used by more than one person throughout the festival, and even by multiple people the same night. They hope the wristband system will bring that to a halt.
"We hope this will cut down on the sharing and the counterfeiting," said Amy Morrow, director of public relations.
The nine-day festival begins at 5:30 p.m. today at the 21st Century Waterfront. Country artist Gary Allen headlines on the Coca-Cola stage at 9:30 p.m.
Morrow said that with pins, a group of people could enter and then hand all their pins to one person who would go back out and give them to a new group.
That's less likely with the wristbands, which are similar to those used by most other large festivals. They carry an authentication hologram and a bar code that must be scanned upon entry. People who leave and plan to re-enter before 10 p.m. the same day must scan their bands on exit or they won't be allowed back in.
"If you need to go to your car or whatever, you will need to have it scanned on the way out," Morrow said. The system is reset at 10 p.m. daily.
Riverbend Executive Director Chip Baker said he is working with a local company to develop a wristband system that could be used by other such events around the country. Future wristbands could be equipped with a radio frequency identification chip, for example, that would also allow for payment options and data storage that could be used for marketing.
"Had we gone with the radio frequency chips this year, the cost would have been about $100,000," Baker said. He expects those costs to go down in the future.
Morrow said 25 hand-held scanners will be used at the five entrance points, with the greatest number at the main gate at Second and Chestnut streets.
She said scans should take between one and three seconds.
"It will go much quicker if folks are aware and have the wristbands on their wrists, and not in their purse or their pocket, with the bar code ready and facing out," Morrow said.
The wristbands will also give a more accurate headcount, though getting an exact number is still difficult, Baker said. He says there are 12 ways a person can legally enter the site, each with a different admission process. These include being a volunteer, a vendor, a sponsor, an employee, member of the stage crew or via one of the VIP options. There are different forms of ID, such as a badge or lanyard, for each, and not all are counted upon entry each night.
Also new this year, the festival site will be open to the public for the annual BlueCross Riverbend Run/Walk, which is being held Saturday at 8 a.m. There will be live music, some concessions and games and rides for children.
You will not need a wristband to enter, but tokens will be required for concessions and some of the games.
Morrow also said the festival site will have seven locations designated for smoking. The rest of the site is smoke-free.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
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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 ...