River's gonna rock: Street musicians to highlight River Rocks finale

River's gonna rock: Street musicians to highlight River Rocks finale

September 18th, 2013 by Alex Green in Local Regional News

Many swimmers turned out to participate in the River Rocks Snail Darter One Mile Open Water Sprint.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

A balloon lights its burner during the balloon glow at Coolidge Park.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

On Oct. 12, expect carnival-like conditions in The Block section of Broad Street, between Third Street and Aquarium Way.

Don't be alarmed if two hot-air balloons are glowing and hovering close to the street. Magicians and Hula Hoopers are possible, with a high percentage of street musicians predicted.

Welcome to the River Rocks closing ceremony -- an extravaganza to cap 12 days of extreme outdoor sports around Chattanooga. For comparison, consider a smaller Olympic ceremony, Carla Pritchard, owner of Chattanooga Presents, said Tuesday.

"Really, we want it to be entertaining," she said.

Pritchard said the River Rocks Games, a 12-day October event, will feature competitive adventure sports like rock climbing, long-distance swimming, trail running and stand-up paddleboard racing.

The games will be an exclamation mark on the Scenic City's growing reputation as an outdoorsman's paradise.

"What we're trying to do with River Rocks is become the premier fall outdoor adventure games," Paul Brock, of the River Rocks volunteer board, said Tuesday.

And not just the premier regional games. Think bigger, he said. "Why not national?" he said. "There's no reason this city shouldn't own the fall."

It all goes back to Chattanooga's unique geography. Take the Cumberland Plateau, add the Appalachian foothills and run the Tennessee River through to create the perfect location for competitive outdoor sports.

"Our community has things most communities would kill for," Brock said. "We've got it all here."

Chattanooga already is popping up on the national outdoor event radar. The Ironman Chattanooga competition has drawn a lot of attention since its announcement last month. It was no time before the 2014 event filled up when open registration began earlier this month.

It's just another credential for the Scenic City, Brock said.

"It's a pretty stamp," he said. "It's an endorsement of everything we're doing."

And if the River Rocks games are a reflection of the city's outdoor culture, the finale is a reflection of its ecclectic personality.

"Every year, we try to hit upon an aspect to highlight something special about who we are and what we are as a city," Pritchard said.

This year, the finale will center on the new climbing wall outside the old Bijou Theater, where High Point Climbing and Fitness, the 25,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor climbing facility and newest Rock/Creek retail store, are opening. The Tennessee Aquarium will be its backdrop.

Pritchard said the climbing area will not be finished by the Oct. 12 finale, but professional climbers will be using it that day.

Also at the one-evening finale, there will be stunt bicycle performers, food vendors, the Trek Truck -- a display of Trek bicycle gear -- and all the restaurants already located at that location. In addition are the street performers and musicians Booker T. Jones, Radney Foster, Space Capone and Amber Fults and the Ambivalent Lovers.

Pritchard and Brock each expect an evening jam-packed with events for everyone, not just outdoor sport enthusiasts.

"Hopefully it will be good for everyone," Pritchard said.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.