Here's everything you need to know about the new Riverbend Festival wristbands

A member of our newsroom wanted to see how the "new" Riverbend Festival wristbands worked, so she slipped one on and pulled the fabric through the locking mechanism until it was fairly tight against her wrist.

"How do I get it off?"

"You don't. That's the idea."

Well, sort of.

In addition to making a number of changes regarding this year's festival, Riverbend officials decided to utilize the same cloth radio frequency identification bracelets used at most other large festivals such as the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, and the Moon River Festival in Chattanooga.

Riverbend began using a plastic, easily reusable and sharable snap-on bracelet with a bar code in 2014, but switched to the cloth RFID ones this year as part of its plan to bring the 38-year-old festival in line with other music festivals.

Armed with a computer chip, they are designed to be nonremovable so they stay on your arm for the entirety of the now four-instead-of-nine-day event. The RFID chip can, and will for Riverbend, be used for everything from admission to the festival to purchasing food and drink to merchandise at the event.


This year, Riverbend will open “will call” at the main gate on Chestnut Street on Tuesday, May 28, the day before the festival begins, from 2 to 7 p.m., for festivalgoers to pick up wristbands purchased online.

You can register and load them with money from your credit or debit card ahead of time on the festival web page at, or you can charge them at stations at the festival. A self-serve machine will be on-site for credit or debit charging.

A booth with a live person will be available for loading cash or tokens.

If using a credit card, you will be charged as you make each purchase. If using a debit card or cash, you will need to preload an amount to draw from, say $20, $50, $100, whatever you think you might need for purchases of food and souvenirs. Any unused money can be refunded through June 6, either on-site before you leave or at the festival offices on Manufacturers Road.

Once charged, the bracelets must be used for purchases at Riverbend. Cash will not be accepted.

Also, if you have tokens from previous Riverbend festivals, you can exchange them at the festival for credit on your wristband this year only. Riverbend will not exchange tokens for cash.

Amy Morrow, the festival's marketing director, says officials will be able to tell the difference between wristbands loaded with tokens and those with cash, credit or debit cards.

"They [tokens] are only good as festival currency," she says.

"So, if you have tokens, load them onto the wristband and use them up before adding cash to the wristband."

Bonnaroo also uses the RFID wristbands for gathering data such as traffic through the festival grounds. They can't be used for tracking individuals, but they can be used for tracking which gates are most active at certain times of day, for example, and the wristbands can be deactivated if lost or can be used for identification should the wearer become ill. For the most part, they are a convenient and easy-to-use item, but they represent a big philosophical change for Riverbend.

"People are used to the pins we had for so long and then the wristbands with snaps that you could take off and share with people," said Talent and Production Coordinator Joe "Dixie" Fuller.

"Even going back to [previous Executive Director Richard Brewer], we didn't care that people shared as long as they were being used."

An unused wristband sitting at home in a bowl doesn't help the festival, and you didn't hear it here, but the key to using the band is to put it on so it's not too tight and not too loose. Maybe even loose enough to take on and off, but be careful.

"Use common sense," says Morrow.

"The directions we are telling people is to keep it loose enough where it is comfortable, but also keep in mind to keep it safe since it will have your money on it. If it falls off, anyone who finds it can use it."

Again, you didn't hear it here, but you should make sure the person you are sharing it with has similarly sized wrists and doesn't tighten or lose it.

Riverbend dates and headliners

› May 29: Weezer› May 30: Lionel Richie› May 31: Keith Urban› June 1: Macklemore

Anyone who purchased wristbands by May 17 will receive them by mail. Now, wristbands purchased online are recorded for pickup at "will call" at the festival site. This year, Riverbend will open will call at the main gate on Chestnut Street on May 28, the day before the festival begins, from 2 to 7 p.m.

Wristbands are $75 online, plus fees, or $95 at Food City and Harry's outlets, and will be $115 once the festival starts May 29. One-day wristbands also are available.

The festival has been shortened from nine days to four this year and moved forward a couple of weeks on the calendar. Other things to know are that May 31 is Military Appreciation Night, when Keith Urban is the headliner. Other headliners are Weezer on May 29, Lionel Richie on May 30 and Macklemore on June 1.

New this year are the Jack Daniel's Whiskey River Lounge, Deep Eddy Vodka signature cocktails, decorative pallet bar and mingling Betty girls, Lookout Winery Club with local handcrafted wines, Elephant Insurance Ferris wheel and other attractions such as games throughout the site.

Morrow says the grounds will open early on Saturday, June 1, at 2 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. with vendors offering specials on food and Deep Eddy Vodka cocktails.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.

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