Riverbend 2016 wraps up after nine days of music, two days of cleanup

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/20/16. Monique Due performs community service by picking up trash along the Chattanooga riverfront on Monday, June 20, 2016, from the past week's Riverbend Music Festival.

Friends of the Festival Talent and Production Coordinator Joe "Dixie" Fuller found himself in front of the controls of a forklift. Fuller had spent the previous three weeks overseeing construction and operation of the five stages at Riverbend, and on Monday, he was overseeing their dismantling.

He was barking orders to his crew members, who were busy breaking down the remaining staging and infrastructure still standing from the 2016 festival that ended Saturday night. Riverfront Parkway reopened Monday.

photo Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/20/16. Kevin Ray, left, and Kelvin Blackmon clean up a riverfront parking lot on Monday, June 20, 2016, from the past week's Riverbend Music Festival.
photo Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 6/20/16. Cleanup continues on Monday, June 20, 2016, from the past week's Riverbend Music Festival.

The music wrapped up Saturday night with a performance by 38 Special after performances by almost 90 acts. Looking back over the nine-day event, Fuller was happy with the way things went.

"We had a great festival," he said. "My biggest thing that I wish had been different is I wish the Umphrey's McGee crowd had been bigger," he said of the popular progressive rock/jam band. "They were great. People missed a really good concert."

Riverbend Executive Director Chip Baker echoed Fuller's thoughts on the festival. The biggest trouble spot came Wednesday, when a storm blew through around 7:30 p.m., bringing with it high winds and heavy rains.

"I thought our evacuation plan worked very well," Fuller said.

Baker said officials were able to pull the bands off of the stages minutes before the storm hit and to get a local meteorologist on the big screens throughout the site to ask people to calmly leave the grounds and seek shelter.

"I started talking to [WTVC meteorologist David Glenn] that morning trying to pinpoint when the storm might hit," Baker said. "That night, we were able to pull the band, which was Blackberry Smoke, who were having a great set, off of the Coke Stage. We opened the gates, and I'm always impressed with the people that come to Riverbend because they are usually very polite and courteous. Nobody panicked and everybody exited the grounds."

Fuller's crews were able to get the Coke and Tennessee Valley Credit Union stages back up and running after about 90 minutes. Water on the Chevrolet, Bud Light and Unum stages forced them to shut down for the night for safety reasons. Vending also was shut down.

"That probably cost us about a quarter million dollars in lost revenue, but it was the right call," Baker said.

Baker said this is the third year that bracelets with bar codes have been used for admission, and officials were able to use those to randomly select festivalgoers for seating upgrades and prize giveaways.

"It also lets us know things like when the majority of people are coming through the gates and which ones see the heaviest traffic," he said.

Baker said he would not have a count of the total number of festivalgoers for two or three weeks when all VIP, box seats and daily tickets are counted.

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at [email protected] or 423-757-6354.