Organizers of Chattanooga's RiverRocks are too polite to say it, of course, but they should extol the virtues and popularity of the 10-day event. It's not bragging to declare that the festival, just three years old, is already or soon will be the preeminent outdoor event of its type in the eastern United States. How could it not be, given the natural beauty of the area, the amenities the city and surrounding region and the more than 100 events that organizers have scheduled during the festival that starts today.
There is literally something for everyone on the RiverRocks packed agenda. There are rugged outdoor events: Swim the Suck, a 10-mile, open water swim down the river gorge; the StumpJump 50k trail race; The Chattanooga Head race with more than 1,200 rowers, and 600 Sequatchie Century bike riders, for example. And there many more passive but no less entertaining events that center on bluegrass music, wine tasting, hot air balloons, history and culture. And those are just the major events on the schedule.
There are a host of smaller, more intimate walks, rides, discussions, history lessons, clinics , family-oriented events and hikes on the festival schedule. It has proved a successful formula in the past two years and it is obvious that the high-standards set previously will be matched or exceeded this year.
Festival organizers report that some of the sporting events are sold out -- some since February. The StumpJump race on Saturday includes entrants from at least 31 states and Canada, and is likely to be the second largest 50k of its type in the nation this year. Other road, mountain, trail and water events have full complements of participants. That's a tribute to the worthiness of the competition and to the settings that are integral to festival events.
Popular and well known as it has become in just a couple of years, the festival continues to expand in both scope and offerings. New this year is today's Over the Edge, an event in which about 70 participants will rappel down the 20-story Sun Trust Bank building downtown. That's sure to attract attention from the more earth-bound going about their work-a-day business on a Friday morning.
RiverRocks' terrific mixture of recreational, educational, family and social activities allows residents to celebrate the outdoors, the river and downtown even as it raises the community's national profile. There's a bonus, too. Proceeds go to designated local conservation groups whose work celebrates and helps to preserve the natural amenities that make Chattanooga an increasingly desirable place to live and to work - and to stage the nationally acclaimed RiverRocks festival.