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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Festival-goers arrive through the main gate on Saturday. Several bands performed on two stages in Coolidge Park for the Moon River Music Festival on Saturday, September 11, 2021.

What a difference a week can make.

One week after having to cancel the much larger Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, because of flooding brought on by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, organizers of the Moon River Festival at Coolidge Park got a gorgeous weekend for their event.

"This is a great venue, and it's a beautiful day," said AC Entertainment President Ted Heinig.

AC out of Knoxville co-founded Bonnaroo and was brought on to produce Moon River four years ago. It is now owned by Live Nation, one of the largest entertainment companies in the country.

The festival was a sell-out, and it appeared nearly every ticket buyer showed up as crowds were out in full force for the early performers, Allison Russell, the Overcoats, Amythyst Kiah and Shovels & Rope. Rounding out the Saturday lineup was Mipso, Hippo Campus, The Aces, Lake Street Dive, Dawes and Lord Huron.

Kiah grew up in Chattanooga and impressed the crowd with her powerful voice and commanding stage presence.

Moon River 2018 was the first ticketed and gated event inside Coolidge Park, and fans seemed to appreciate being able to watch a show on the Poplar Stage and then make the short walk under the Walnut Street Bridge to catch the next one on the Iris Stage.

Photo Gallery

Moon River draws huge crowd to Coolidge Park

"I love how one ends and the next one starts," fan Russ Jackson said.

Many people chose to set up camp under the bridge where they could hear the music while staying in the shade. Others gathered around a big-screen TV near the Chattanooga Outdoors offices to watch the Vols play Pittsburgh.

"This is pretty cool," fan Greg Browning said.

While Moon River has established itself as a family-friendly event, there was not the usual kids area, nor was there a large VIP area because of COVID-19 restrictions. There were quite a few couples with kids at the event, though not as many as in years past.

Fans were required to show their vaccination card or a recent negative test result to enter and there were quite a few people wearing masks, especially in crowded areas. The process didn't seem to delay entry into the event.

Another thing that seems to always stand out with Moon River patrons is how clean the park stays throughout the event. Jonathan Susman, special events manager with the city of Chattanooga, said city workers deserve much of the credit, but fans also do a good job of policing themselves.

"Everything has gone great so far," Susman said.

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

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