Well, the countdown is at zero hour, folks. Riverbend is here, and for the next nine days, more than 100 bands will monopolize downtown like a sumo wrestler at a Golden Corral.

While it may not rank up there with wildfires, asteroid impacts or a swine flu epidemic on the list of events for which you need to be prepared, Riverbend poses plenty of challenges. With a little bit of forethought, however, most of the potential hazards are easily avoided.

Attending five iterations of the festival hardly qualifies me as an expert on the matter, but after two colleagues graciously assembled a survival kit for me last year, I put all of it to good use. As a result, I have an idea or two about what will make your Riverbend go more smoothly.

We're down to the wire on this, but there's still plenty of time to put your own together with a quick trip to the pharmacy or convenience store. To wit, here's your shopping list:

--Schedule/map - Because throwing it away is like beating a tour guide with a baseball bat, which is mean.

--Moist towelettes - Because the sticky residue from ice cream, funnel cakes and deep-fried MoonPies attracts yellow jackets.

--Bug spray - Because yellow jackets are jerks and don't always need a reason to inflict pain.

--Battery-operated misting fan - Because waving a cardboard fan is hard on the wrist, and mist is like a coolness grenade. Don't forget extra batteries.

--Sealable plastic bags - Because electronics are expensive to replace and Tennessee weather is predictably unpredictable.

--Sunglasses - Because UV rays are bad for your eyes. Bonus points for the raccoon-like appearance they impart to those who don't use enough ...

--Sunscreen - Because raccoons look like bandits, who are untrustworthy, and because skin cancer is no bueno.

--Bandana - Because bandits also wear bandanas. Also, they're good to soak in water and wrap around your neck ... but mostly the bandit thing.

--Wide-brimmed hat - Because wearing a fedora keeps the sun off and makes you look like Dick Tracy.

--Energy bars - Because even Dick Tracy can't afford $8 for a yellow-jacket-attracting funnel cake as a pick-me-up.

--Sandal gel inserts - Because it's too hot for socks, but sandals haven't been comfortable walking attire since Jesus' day.

--Band-Aids - Because blisters happen.

--Blister block - Because they don't have to.

--Ear plugs - Because you'd like to be able to hear the fireworks by the end of the festival.

--Ibuprofen - Because heat and loud noises are key ingredients of headaches, which should only be the result of a successful ice cream eating contest.

All right, get shopping. In the meantime, if you put together your own survival kit and I've missed anything, shoot me an email or share your suggestions on the live blog at

Otherwise, happy Riverbending.

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205.