Bluegrass, kayak races, Signal Mountain run create eventful day in Chattanooga (with slideshow)

Bluegrass, kayak races, Signal Mountain run create eventful day in Chattanooga (with slideshow)

October 6th, 2013 by Alex Green in Local Regional News

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• What: RiverRocks outdoors festival

• When: Next events will be Saturday from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m., with the finale starting at 5:30 p.m.

• Where: Varying; Finale at The Block, between Third Street and the Tennessee Aquarium

• Admission: Free for finale

• Website:

Bekah Cochran holds Charlotte Grace Cochran while waiting to spot her husband, Clay Cochran during the RiverRocks canoe and kayak races.

Bekah Cochran holds Charlotte Grace Cochran while waiting...

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

There were the sound of crisp bluegrass and the smell of festival foods. There were the clear sky and the hot sun. There were the paddleboard and kayak races on the Tennessee River and the StumpJump 50K on Signal Mountain.

All combined, it was a daylong series of events which melded into one as the Chattanooga sun went down Saturday. And the hula hoopers came out, twirling in sync to a stand-up bass beat.

Some people took advantage of the chance to squeeze it all in.

Chattanooga residents Brent Perkerson and Jeremy Kluttz ran the StumpJump in two and a half hours Saturday morning. They hung out at home for a little while to shower and rest, but they couldn't turn down the beer and bluegrass at the annual 3 Sisters Festival.

"The pain makes the enjoyment a little more fun," Kluttz said.

He and Perkerson nursed sore limbs and yellow jacket stings from the morning's run with around 1,000 other competitors.

By 5:30 p.m., others were filtering into the 3 Sisters site at the waterfront. Sharon Burd of Chattanooga Presents was staffing a beer tent, same as on Friday night. Within an hour, she said, the riverfront would be overrun. It was.

"I've never sold so much beer in my life," she said of the Friday festival. "[The crowd] just never let up."

It was no surprise to her. She has been involved with the festival for the past several years, and "It's always, always a great crowd," she said.

Nearby, dozens of kids slid down the riverfront bank on pieces of cardboard. At the river's edge, Kenny Reed packed up his paddleboard gear.

He raced in one of the RiverRocks paddleboard events Saturday and finished third overall -- his favorite part of it all, he said.

"Coming in third place is probably the best part. And it being over -- it's pretty tough out there."

Reed is president of Billy Lush Brand, a Knoxville board company, and is used to being on the river there. Like Knoxville's run of the waterway, a strong current pushed against paddleboarders in Chattanooga on Saturday, he said.

He and other Billy Lush employees headed up the hill to 3 Sisters before heading back to Knoxville.

It was a nice convergence for out-of-towners, Lizzer Bright Graham said. She is the oldest of the three sisters for which the bluegrass festival is named.

The Dismembered Tennesseans play at the Three Sisters Bluegrass Festival.

The Dismembered Tennesseans play at the Three Sisters...

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

Saturday was "as packed as we've ever seen it," she said.

She claims her brother, George Bright, is the brain behind the festival, but he let her name it. The festival means just as much to the family as it does to musicians and bluegrass lovers.

It's one of the times each year when family members from all over get together.

"It's almost like a wedding weekend for us," she said.

Outside the tent where she and 3 Sisters "friend and loyal fan" Anne Evans ate a quick dinner, Keller Williams and the Keels kicked up on the stage.

Dancers kicked up in the crowd. Hula hoopers -- who substitute hula hooping for dancing at outdoor festivals -- went to work.

Before he left, Reed commented on the hubbub.

"It's kind of the norm, now, for this downtown."

Contact staff writer Alex Green at or 423-757-6731.