Large entertainment events planned for Chattanooga area still on track as nation's coronavirus outbreak grows

People watch as Black Stone Cherry perform on the Bud Light Stage during the second night of the Riverbend Festival on Thursday, May 30, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Lionel Richie headlined the night. / Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter

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Some of the biggest festivals and touring musicians around the country and world are canceling or postponing individual events and entire tours over coronavirus, but local organizers of such entertainment-related events as Riverbend and the Chattanooga Film Festival say they are monitoring the situation but currently have intentions to proceed as planned.

Riverbend is the city's largest festival, drawing anywhere from 20,000-40,000 people and is scheduled for May 27-30.

"I saw where South by Southwest canceled this past weekend and I have kept my eye on everything watching what all of the festivals are doing to see how they are reacting, but we are 80 days out," said Riverbend Executive Director Mickey McCamish.

"We will continue to work hard and plan for the festival. We've actually had no inquiries about delays or cancellations."

(READ MORE: 2020 Riverbend schedule announced)

JFest organizer Ted Gocke with WBDX-FM 102.7 (J103) said they also are monitoring the situation and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Hamilton County Health Department and feel like the risk currently is low.

"We've done the research and will continue to do so," he said. "We are 62 days out, so we will continue to watch everything."

He said should things change and the risks escalate, "We will look at the different tiers and make changes. We might cancel the meet-and-greets, for example, and we might wipe down the port-o-potties every 15 minutes, and the buses that transport people into the site.

He also pointed out that patrons bring their own chairs into the outdoor festival at the Tennessee Riverpark.

The Chattanooga Film Festival can draw as many as 600 film fans from around the country and is set for April 16-19 at Songbirds and other venues around downtown. Marketing director Rebecca Feldbin said festival organizers are monitoring the situation, as well, but "we have not noticed any difference in badge sales."

(READ MORE: Coronavirus fears prompt some event cancellations, lots of questions in Chattanooga area)

The South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, canceled late last week. It was scheduled to take place this weekend and next. The Ultra Music Festival, scheduled for March 20-22 in Miami will be postponed to March 26-28, 2021.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California announced Tuesday night it was postponing the event from the weekends of April 10-12 and April 17-19 to Oct. 9-11 and Oct. 16-18. reported on Monday that the Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores will take place as planned May 15-17.

Organizers of the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, which is set for March 26-29, announced on Twitter Monday night that they were monitoring the situation and planned to go on as planned. The event is produced by AC Entertainment in Knoxville, which co-founded and also is heavily involved in producing the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival set for June 11-14 in Manchester, Tennessee.

AC Entertainment has not released a statement regarding Bonnaroo, but wrote in its statement regarding Big Ears that, "With opening day for Big Ears still two and a half weeks from now, we are continuing with our preparation and planning to produce the festival as scheduled.

"The safety of festival attendees is our top priority and we will make prudent and thoughtful decisions as the situation develops. We will, of course, follow the guidance of health professionals and public officials. We believe that all decisions related to producing the festival should be rooted in facts, not fear.

"None of our festival attendees - according to our ticketing data - are traveling from countries where there are travel restrictions in place. We also know of no plans to cancel any of the public events scheduled throughout our region - theme park openings, arena concerts, sporting events of all kinds, and other concerts."

It went on to state that it is standard industry policy that tickets are not refundable unless an event is canceled.

"However, we recognize that this is an exceptional situation, and we do not want any one taking risks that would endanger their own health or that of others, so we will be discussing how we might modify this policy appropriately in the next few days.

"We will of course be continuing to watch the situation as it develops and will certainly keep you informed of any significant changes that may occur. We appreciate your patience and understanding - and we wish everyone the very best in these difficult times."

Among the major acts that have postponed or canceled tours or overseas shows are Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Pearl Jam, Avril Lavigne, BTS, Mariah Carey, The National, The Pixies, New Order, Stormzy and Green Day.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.