Two Tennessee festivals celebrating anniversaries

Two Tennessee festivals celebrating anniversaries

June 3rd, 2011 by Barry Courter in Riverbend2011

Coincidentally, Riverbend and the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival are celebrating anniversaries this year. That is significant if for no other reason than a number of music festivals are not.

Riverbend, which starts June 10, is celebrating its 30th year, and Bonnaroo, which gets under way in Manchester on Thursday, is 10 years old.

Last year was one of the worst for music tours in general, and it was tough on festivals. Riverbend and Bonnaroo both had good years, and indications are that this year will be good also. Bonnaroo, in fact, sold out last week.

That's 80,000 wrist-bands sold. Getting Riverbend pin sales numbers is tougher, but 100,000 pins are manufactured each year for the nine-day festival.

Music Midtown in Atlanta and City Stages in Birmingham were mothballed a couple of years ago for a variety of reasons, including weather.

So why are two festivals in Tennessee still going strong? The two are very different festivals in some ways, but they share a lot of similarities also.

First, they are well-run events. Second, they cater to what people have shown they want. In the case of Riverbend, fans have proven over the years that the combination of talent, low pin price ($30) and community gathering place open to all family members is an appealing draw. All three are important elements. Messing with either too much would be disastrous, in my opinion.

The community element, for example, goes beyond people gathering together. Riverbend is as much about Chattanooga as it is music. The level of cooperation between city, county, private and corporate entities is part of why it works.

Most realize the overall value of the festival goes beyond the hours of fun people get each night.

Talent, price and community, though in this case it is all about music, are also important at Bonnaroo. Tickets are $300. People camp for four days, and it is a much more adult-oriented event. There is also very little corporate involvement, though officials with Coffee County and the city of Manchester work well and closely with organizers.

Both festivals are constantly adding new things and tweaking.

"We are always evaluating the event to improve the overall experience for everyone," Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment said of Bonnaroo. Riverbend Executive Director Chip Baker said the same of Riverbend.

-Recording artist T-Ran Gilbert will be shooting a video in town in three weeks, and he is looking for local crew and extras.

The project, due for release in the fall, is for his single "Need You Now."

Needed are 10 young people and teens and seven adults representing all ages and ethnicities.

Auditions will be June 21 with filming on June 22. Portions of the raw footage will be shown at the Culture Shock 2011 concert at Tennessee Temple University on June 25.

Crew members and a wide range of equipment such as lighting and power are also needed. If you are interested, email your contact information to

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.