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IF YOU GO

Wristbands for the entire festival can be purchased for $55. One-day passes are $25, and both are available at the main gate near the Tennessee Aquarium.

Riverbend 2015 online

Visit timesfreepress.com/news/riverbend to get complete coverage of the 2015 Riverbend Festival.

The Riverbend Festival starts tonight and, for long-time attendees, you need to know about a few changes.

First, if you are one of those people who in the past has gone to the riverfront site early in the day to plant a chair and stake a claim to a spot for the evening, forget it. No one will be let onto the 21st Century waterfront site until 5 p.m. each day.

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Ivan Work from Marysville, Ohio, cleans his funnel cake trailer on June 4, 2015, while setting up in preparation for the 2015 Riverbend Festival in downtown Chattanooga which runs from June 5 through June 13.

The music will start at 6 p.m. today with The Get Right Band on the Bud Light Stage, and all five stages will be in full swing by 6:30 p.m. Twelve acts are on this evening and the featured headliner is rock act 3 Doors Down, which goes on at 9:30 p.m. on the Coke Stage.

The second change, and perhaps biggest of all, is that there will now be an "opening act" each night on the Coke Stage. Festival organizers went looking for national touring acts that a few years ago might have been the main headliners to hold down the opening slot, which starts at 6:30 p.m. The one exception to that rule this year is tonight's opener, St. Paul & the Broken Bones from Birmingham. The band has become red-hot after forming only three years ago and is considered a major up-and-comer.

The third big change also involves the new opening act. With the Coke Stage revving up at 6:30 p.m. each night, organizers had to make sure music from it and the Bud Light Stage and the new Chevy Stage, both located at the Olgiati Bridge, didn't overlap one another.

"If we had kept them where they were, these 6:30 shows would have led to PA wars," said talent and production coordinator Joe "Dixie" Fuller.

In the past, no music came off the Coke Stage until the 9:30 p.m. headliner, and that's when the last act finished on the Bud Light Stage, so there wasn't any conflict.

While the Bud Light Stage will sit in the same place it's been for the past couple of years, at the end of the parking lot near the Olgiati Bridge, the Chevy Stage will be on the other side of Riverfront Parkway and a little past the bridge, on the grassy area near the MarineMax marina. It also will be a smaller stage underneath a tent. Fuller said the sound from all the stages can be controlled to avoid any auditory shoving matches.

Also this year, attendees will find newly created kiosks with computerized scanners that will check each festivalgoer's admission wristband. Last year, when the wristbands were introduced, volunteers manually scanned them, which caused some delays for people trying to get onto the site.

The wristbands must be scanned when entering and exiting the site. A wristband that was scanned on entering but not upon exiting will be rejected, and possibly confiscated, if a person tries to use it to re-enter the same evening.

The policy was put into place to prevent people from sharing a single admission band among several people each night, which had been done in the past. The wristbands are removable and can be shared during the course of the festival, but they will work only for one person each night, according to Friends of the Festival Executive Director Chip Baker.

"We know the same person might not use the wristband each night and that is fine," Baker said. "We just don't want five or six people getting in on one wristband per night."

Additionally, a separate entry lane has been put in place on Power Alley next to AT&T Field for attendees who bought their wristbands ahead of time.

Fencing with limited entry points also has been installed this year between Riverfront Parkway and the grassy area to the left of the Coke Stage to alleviate what Baker calls "Teen World."

"This is where they like to congregate and get in trouble, so this will fix that, we hope," he said.

And, as in recent years, smoking will be allowed only in specific areas.

On Saturday night, there will be a special video presentation on the Coke Stage video screens that pays tribute to the festival's first executive director, Bruce Storey, who died in November 2014 at age 73.

"He had such a strong sense of what the festival should and could become," said former City Councilwoman Sally Robinson.

Robinson, one of the early driving forces behind the festival, credits Storey with insisting that the festival appeal to a wide range of musical tastes. She said that wasn't a popular idea with some early organizers, but it was the correct course and a big reason that the festival, which started in 1982, is still going strong.

"That was really important," she said.

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourt er@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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