Chattanooga Now Pops on the River's bombastic music, fireworks signal traditional kick off to holiday weekend

Chattanooga Now Pops on the River's bombastic music, fireworks signal traditional kick off to holiday weekend

July 3rd, 2014 by Casey Phillips in Chattnow Music

Pops on the River attracts thousands of residents to Coolidge Park for picnics, fireworks, classical music by the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera and a bluegrass interlude by The Dismembered Tennesseans.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Even accounting for the lingering haze and aroma of gunpowder, fireworks are, by nature, a pretty fleeting amusement.

Despite financial worries in 2010 that almost saw it fade away like the explosive entertainment with which it concludes, Pops on the River has managed to establish itself as a bonafide, deep-rooted Chattanooga tradition for kicking off the July Fourth weekend.

When the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera strikes up this evening, July 3, in Coolidge Park, it will mark the 39th time Chattanoogans have celebrated America's independence with an evening of classical music capped off with a pyrotechnic flourish.

That kind of tradition is well worth preserving, says Dan Bowers, president of ArtsBuild, formerly Allied Arts, which in 2010 offered to fund the event after Chattanooga City Council members voted not to provide financial support. ArtsBuild remains a primary sponsor of the event, alongside the city, Alliance Physical Therapy and Integrity car dealerships.


¦ What: Pops on the River by Chattanooga Symphony & Opera.

¦ When: Today, July 3; concert at 8 p.m., fireworks at 9:45 p.m.

¦ Where: Coolidge Park, 100 River Street.

¦ Admission: Free.

¦ Phone: 423-756-2787.

¦ Website: www.

"I didn't know who else would step up to take ownership," Bowers says. "It's too important of an event for it not to happen. It made all the sense in the world to make sure it didn't go away."

This year's concert will feature the traditional slate of classical, patriotic and martial staples, including marches by John Sousa, an official salute to America's armed forces and the annual climactic performance of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture." In a nod to pop culture - if not necessarily Independence Day tradition - there also will be a medley of themes from the Star Wars films, according to a news release.

In a reprisal of what has become a Pops in the Park custom, local bluegrass luminaries The Dismembered Tennesseans will take the stage for a brief set. Following the CSO performance, the fireworks will commence and should last for about 10 minutes, Bowers says.

The Hixson Museum of Flight will provide a flyover at the beginning of the performance.

Every year, Pops in the Park attracts an estimated 30,000 attendees to downtown, many of whom arrive early in the day to stake their claim on the most desirable real estate. That, if nothing else, speaks to the reasons why it deserves to be reprised year after year, Bowers says.

"Everybody loves it," he says. "I've seen groups of people who set up tables and candelabras. It's almost a Chattanooga family reunion."

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205.


Coolidge Park will close to vehicular traffic at 4:30 p.m. today. Free shuttle service will run from pay-to-park Republic parking lots (previously owned by Unum) between Fourth and Fifth streets from 6 to 11 p.m. On the North Shore, buses will drop off (and later load) passengers at the intersection of Tremont and River streets.


Although it's a free event, Pops on the River costs more than $70,000 to present. This year, organizers are debuting two new digital methods through which guests can help fund its return in 2015.

¦ Guests who wish to pledge by text can donate by texting to 72727 with the message "POPS5" ($5), "POPS10" ($10) or "POPS25" ($25).

¦ Those who wish to contribute online before or during the festival can do so through an ongoing campaign on local crowd-funding site Those who contribute $100 or more by 3

p.m. today will receive access to the VIP seating area at the foot of the stage in Coolidge Park.

Those who contribute $250 or more also will receive a VIP parking pass.


Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St., will offer its annual Star-Spangled Supper preceding tonight's Pops on the River performance. Barbecue from Sugar's Ribs will be served from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the CTC's main lobby. Guests can then gather on the lawn to watch the CSO concert and fireworks show. Tickets are $50 for adults, $10 for children 12 and younger (for hot dogs and fixings). Price includes two drink tickets per guest for soft drinks, wine or beer. Parking is free in the CTC lot with advance reservations. For space availability, call 423- 267-8534 or visit