The 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival entered the double digits in age this weekend and after a decade of good food, music and beer, the event has as much steam as ever.
Ross's Landing was a sea of excited people early Saturday evening. Young families mingled with much older music fans, all nestled contentedly between rows of food trucks on either side and watched the main stage at the riverfront.
The free festival, sponsored by the Fletcher Bright Co., attracts people from far and wide who come year after year for what the Great American Country network named one of the five best bluegrass festivals in the nation.
Blake Howell, an attorney in Nashville, said he came down for the day to visit Chattanooga with friends and was thrilled to find himself at the concert that night for the first time.
"It's a beautiful night, it's good bluegrass music and it's good beer," he said.
Howell said trips like this helped introduce him and his friends to Chattanooga, which he said seems like a great place to live.
"It doesn't have that touristy feel," he said. "It's chill and different."
Bluegrass fan Rob Goodwin was trying to corral his twin granddaughters while he listened to a band play.
"What's not to like about a night like this?" he asked. "What I appreciate is that we can bring out the girls because it's such a family friendly environment."
He said he's attended the event for three years already and will keep coming back every year it happens.
"Maybe in a couple years these two will be able to sit still and enjoy the whole thing with us," he said.
Others had no idea the festival was happening but still showed up. Standing in line at a food truck, Rachel Daugherty said she took the day off to drive up from Huntsville, Ala., for some sightseeing and walked into the festival coincidentally.
"I literally stumbled over it on my way to the Southern Belle," she said. "It's great."
She said one of the greatest things about the event is the free admission that allowed thousands of people from all over to join in the fun without any financial hassle.
And the fans weren't the only ones who showed appreciation for the sticker price. One of the headlining groups, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, shouted about it during their set.
"Did any of you pay for a ticket?" Washburn yelled. The crowd screamed "no" back at her and she smiled.
"Isn't that cool? Thank you, Fletcher Bright."
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731. Follow on Twitter @emmettgienapp