If you go
* What: “Chattanooga Unite: A Tribute on the River,” a parade, memorial and concert fundraiser for the families of the July 16 shooting
* When: Sept. 16 — parade begins at 2 p.m. with concert and memorial to follow at 3:15 p.m.
* Where: The parade will begin on Martin Luther King Boulevard and head to Ross’s Landing, where the concert will take place afterward on the Coca-Cola stage
* Cost: The event is free, but donations will be accepted.
Actor and former Chattanooga resident Samuel L. Jackson will be the emcee for "Chattanooga Unite: A Tribute on the River," a fundraiser for the families of the victims involved in the July 16 shooting.
Mickey McCamish, retired Navy captain and Friends of the Festival director of marketing, made the announcement at a news conference Monday in Coolidge Park, saying he expects a Riverbend-sized crowd of 85,000 to 100,000 people.
Mayor Andy Berke said he has attended several memorials for Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire "Skip" Wells and Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith, and what has stood out to him is that the tributes have come from ordinary people.
The mayor noted "how much leadership has been taken by our citizens."
The free event will take place Sept. 16 at Ross's Landing and feature a concert by country singer Brantley Gilbert, who flew in for the news conference, and special guests. Also planned is a parade beginning at 2 p.m. from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Ross's Landing.
Gilbert had reached out to Gator Harrison with Clear Channel Chattanooga and offered to perform at a benefit. As more and more people offered to help in any way they could, the city and others got involved and the idea for the parade, memorial and concert developed.
Harrison said other acts will be announced in the weeks leading up to the event. McCamish confirmed that Harry Connick Jr. is among those in the discussion, though his appearance has not been finalized.
"God has blessed me with a platform that is a little bigger than some have," Gilbert said. And he views the chance to play here as "an honor."
He said the original idea was perhaps to play an acoustic set.
"We want to do a full show," Gilbert said. "We can pull out all the stops and celebrate their lives as well as remember them."
The events at Ross's Landing will start around 3:15 p.m.
Several dignitaries, including the mayor, and officials with the Marines and the Navy will speak and a choir will perform. A fireworks show will conclude the day around dark.
The proceedings will take place on the Coca-Cola Stage used during Riverbend. It will make its way from its storage place at Hales Bar just for the event, and three big screens will be set up. Everything from lighting, sound and staging to talent and labor is being donated, according to Friends of the Festival Executive Director Chip Baker.
"This will be a very large event all done for free," he said.
Baker said several talks are underway with artists about performing, but no details have been finalized.
While there is no charge to enter, the event will be gated, and there will be a "passing of the hat" to raise money for the National Compassion Fund that benefits victims of mass crimes such as shootings or terrorist attacks.
Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6354.