Moon River Music Festival coming to Coolidge Park

Event leaves Memphis; at least 20 touring acts are in lineup

The Moon River Music Festival was originally held at the Levitt Shell in Memphis. It is moving to Chattanooga and will be held at Coolidge Park on Sept. 8-9. The lineup will be announced next week.

The Moon River Music Festival is moving from Memphis to Chattanooga and Coolidge Park.

The festival was created by Drew Holcomb and Paul Steele in 2014 as a way to show off Memphis. Little did they know it would become so successful it would outgrow its space.

photo Contributed photo The Moon River Music Festival was originally held at the Levitt Shell in Memphis. It is moving to Chattanooga and will be held at Coolidge Park on Sept. 8-9. The lineup will be announced next week.

The two-day festival will take place at Coolidge Park Sept. 8-9 and feature between 20 and 22 national touring acts. The lineup is still being finalized and will be announced next week. Past acts have included Switchfoot, Needtobreathe, Judah & the Lion, Johnnyswim and Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors.

Jonathan Susman, public space coordinator with the city of Chattanooga, said festival organizers began looking to move the event here last fall.

"They looked all over the city, and I think it is great they picked Coolidge Park," he said.

"We've never had an event like this there, but they've studied it and have figured out a way to make things like parking work. The City is working with AC Entertianment to ensure as little disruption to area businesses aand residents as possible."

Holcomb said that, while music is the centerpiece of the event, it has never been the only element of what he wants to present. It's designed to be a part of the city and the community where it is held, he said.

"Coolidge Park has more green space and we can do multiple stages, but it's not just about the music. It's about the community aspect of it. Also, I love the idea of it being in a town sort of setting.

"It gives people the essence of the city. It's not just come to this place and let us feed you, and let us entertain you. It's under that walking bridge and in the two green spaces. It's just a really cool space."

Holcomb said he grew up in Tennessee and attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. His family used to stop here on the way to his grandparents' house in Murphy, N.C.

"I love Chattanooga," he said. "We would stay at the Choo Choo the night before Thanksgiving every year."

New Chattanooga Convention and Visitor's Bureau Presoident and CEO Barry White said the event gives his office one more thing to promote in the fall.

"We are thrilled that Drew Holcomb and his talented team chose Chattanooga as the new destination for an incredible festival like Moon River," he said. "Coolidge Park is a perfect location for an outdoor event with its open lawn setting and beautiful backdrop of the city. Early September is not only a great time of year for weather, but also a good time to animate the city before any major fall events begin."

The Moon River Music Festival was held in the Levitt Shell in Memphis beginning in 2014, and in 2016 it added a second day. Holcomb said it outgrew not only the space, but the logistics of putting it on outgrew his and Steele's talents.

"Moving forward, we realized we were in over our heads and we wanted it to grow."

They began having conversations with AC Entertainment, the Knoxville-based agency that books Bonnaroo, as well as the Tivoli and Memorial Auditorium here.

"There are a lot of decisions to make and when we started it was just me and Paul, my manager," Holcomb said.

"AC asked us if we were married to Memphis, or could we talk about doing it somewhere else. We were open to the idea and I love Chattanooga. Nashville already has a bunch of festivals."

The event will be gated and ticketed with passes costing between $90 and $450 for VIP access, which will include a private performance in the round. Holcomb said the space can hold 10,000 people. Gates will open just before noon and music will continue until 10:30 p.m. or so, he said.

"There will be two stages at either end of the park so there will be alternating bands and they won't be competing. That's not my favorite, when I'm on stage and I can hear the other stage," he said.

There will also be food vendors. Holcomb said the goal is to book acts that have a similar philosophy when it comes to giving back to communities.

"Our vision is for us to bring in the best music possible that is still connected to community. We don't want to just bring in a big act, sell a bunch of tickets and a bunch of beer and leave."

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.