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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ The crowd reacts as Brandon Niederauer and his band finish their set. Macklemore was the featured act on the final night of the 2019 Riverbend Festival on June 1, 2019.

The Riverbend Festival, which was twice delayed and then restructured during the COVID-19 pandemic, will have to wait another year before returning June 2-5, 2022.

The Friends of the Festival Board of Directors met Monday and decided to put the community's largest festival — first produced in 1982 — on hold for another year.

The board had been considering returning with a smaller footprint and fewer stages this fall, but several factors — including uncertainties still surrounding the pandemic and an already full calendar of events — precluded that. The board decided to return next year, according to a news release.

Friends of the Festival Board President Becky Browder said in the release, "For anyone who attended last weekend's Riverfront Nights, it was clear that Chattanooga is ready to move forward from the pandemic. As a business, Riverbend must do so thoughtfully and with a strong plan in place to position the festival for a milestone anniversary in 2023. With today's announcement, we're excited about the path we're on and those joining us on it."

Like a lot of festivals, and even music venues, 2020 was a tough year with many forced to postpone, reschedule and or cancel events.

Friends of the Festival, the organization that produces Riverbend and the free summer series Riverfront Nights, decided to reduce its staff from seven down to two people, keeping only Executive Director Mickey McCamish and Director of Sales Karen Shostak. The group sold off most of its production-related assets and postponed its major event.

The board began seriously considering making largescale changes in 2019 after several years of declining numbers. Even before the pandemic, it had planned changes for the 2020 festival. Those plans included condensing the event down to three days instead of eight and no longer using the barge as the "main stage."

This fall should nevertheless be filled with plenty of large events, including festivals.

The Moon River Festival is scheduled at Coolidge Park Sept. 11-12, a week after the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival an hour from Chattanooga the week before. The former draws nearly 11,000 people each year and the latter is sold out at 80,000. The second Big 9 Blues Festival will be Oct. 9 at The Bessie on M.L. King Boulevard.

Riverbend is not alone in deciding to wait another year. Both Coachella and Stagecoach in California have postponed their events until 2022.

McCamish said he looks forward to getting ready for 2022.

"We are extremely grateful for the continued support of our sponsors who are making it possible to move forward with our plans, to the city for working with us to make sure the 2022 festival is supported," he said. "We have so much for which to be thankful."

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

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