Organizers discussing possible changes to Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival

Organizers discussing possible changes to Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival

November 16th, 2018 by Staff Report in Local Regional News

Harry Koonce II rocks out as Sonic Brew cover's Van Halen's "Panama" on the Chevy Stage during Riverbend 2018 at Ross's Landing on Sunday, June 10, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

Organizers of Chattanooga's long-running Riverbend Festival are discussing possible changes including shortening the event's annual run from 9 days to one weekend, but an event official says nothing has been decided.

Changes could be announced in the next couple of weeks, Friends of the Festival Executive Director Chip Baker said in a statement to the Times Free Press.

Hugh Moore, Friends past president, longtime board member and a current member of the event's Music Selection Committee, said Friday he thinks moving to a weekend-only format "is a good idea."

He said the market has changed with the influx of shows in town, especially those brought in by AC Entertainment at the Tivoli and Memorial Auditorium. That makes it more difficult for Riverbend to book nine days worth of quality entertainment, Moore said.

"I do think there is a place for what Riverbend does, just on a smaller scale," he said.

Henry Luken, a Friends of the Festival board member, said Friday no one has approached him about shortening the Riverbend Festival.

But, he said, doing so would appear to trim the amount of revenue the festival brings to the city, noting a lot of people stay in hotels.

"The math is pretty easy on that," Luken said. "If you take something that generates revenue and cut generates less revenue and brings less revenue to town."

The festival was created in 1981 at a time when civic leaders were looking to draw people back to a dormant downtown. Over the years, it has featured hundreds of acts over two weeks with nearly 2,000 local residents volunteering their assistance.

In recent years, though, performers have complained about the event's main Coca-Cola Stage. That stage, aboard a barge moored in the Tennessee River, places the festival's best-known artists both high above the crowds and a significant distance from them.

Friends of the Festival, the nonprofit group that operates Riverbend, receives funding from corporate sponsors and generates hundreds of thousands of dollars from concessions alone.