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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Nick Lewis, with International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 140, works on hanging banners in front of the stage at the Tennessee Riverpark on Friday, July 10, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Chattanooga Unite Summer Music Series, formerly known as Riverfront Nights, begins today and will continue on July 18, 25, Aug. 8, 15 and 22.

Saturday evening's Chattanooga Unite: Healing and Uniting on the River — now set for the Tennessee Riverpark — is the first big music event in Hamilton County since the coronavirus pandemic began shutting down the country in March.

Organizers hope it will be a chance to get out of the house, have a good time and bring the community together.

"We need this," Friends of the Festival Executive Director Mickey McCamish said.

Friends also produces the Riverbend Festival, which like just about every other music festival around the country, has been postponed for 2020.

Headlining on Saturday night is the Heather Gillis Band. She is a singer/songwriter/guitarist and lap steel player who has played with the Allman Brothers Band, Col. Bruce Hampton and North Mississippi All-Stars.

Before the band takes the stage around 9:30 p.m., however, a Kids' Talent Program will start at 4 p.m. and be followed by a tribute to military personnel and first responders at 7 p.m.

Queenston will follow that. The bluegrass band's sound is reminiscent of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.

A VIP section with water stations for dogs will be available. Several area nonprofit groups will provide information about their organizations.

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Chattanooga Unite

Amber Carrington is a member of the vocal group Queenston along with Rachel McIntyre Smith and Ivy Carter, and with Emerald Butler on fiddle. She also curates the annual Songbirds Kids Talent contest and the Kids's Talent Program for the Chattanooga Unite series.

Tonight's young performers will be Be The Change, featuring siblings Sydney and Brayden Guerrette, and Lejend, winners of this year's Songbirds Talent competition.

"This is another chance for the kids in the contest to showcase their talents," Carrington said.

"My other goal is create a way for the talented kids in our area to get together and learn how to do things like network and meet people and write and play music and work together," she said.

The event used to be known as Riverfront Nights and had been held at the Ross's Landing, but Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke declared earlier in the week that events drawing more than 50 people are now prohibited in city venues such as the 21st Century Waterfront, where Ross's Landing is, and the city-owned Tivoli Theatre and Memorial Auditorium

Chattanooga Unite is free and pet friendly as long as dogs are kept on a leash. Chairs and blankets are encouraged, but coolers will not be allowed. Food and adult beverages will be available from vendors.

McCamish also said that staff will be on hand to ensure that all patrons adhere to the Tennessee Pledge guidelines such as social distancing, and also the Hamilton County Health Department's mandate that everyone wear a face covering or mask at all times.

Future Chattanooga Unite concerts are set for July 18, 25, Aug. 8, 15 and 22.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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