Amy Morrow, public relations officer for Friends of the Festival explained through a PowerPoint presentation what happens during the course of a year’s planning for the music festival on the banks of the Tennessee River and how it impacts the Chattanooga area.
The former news anchor for WRCB-TV 3 just joined the group of nine full-time employees at Friends of the Festival and is still learning the ropes, but was able to provide some good information about how the festival began and how it has grown to be an award-winning event and is recognized throughout the world as one of the best.
Historically, Riverbend began in 1980 when a “group of folks got together at a backyard barbecue and wanted to bring the community together,” Morrow explained.
“They decided the best way to do that was with music,” she said.
The plan worked and the festival has increased to approximately 600,000 people attending at present, up from 80,000 when it first began.
Riverbend lasts for nine days in June.
“It’s a celebration to unite and enrich our region,” Morrow said.
The endeavor takes a great deal of teamwork, she said.
Over 1,400 volunteers, 200 temporary employees and a board of directors for Friends of the Festival make it happen and it has an economic impact of $29.3 million, according to Morrow. The income is derived mainly from admission pins which account for 47 percent, and 31 percent from sponsors. Major sponsors include Volkswagen, BI-LO, Coca Cola Bottling and others.
Approximately 42 percent of the money stays in Chattanooga.
Riverbend will have six stages this year featuring a variety of musical genres.
Exhibits and cultural concessions are big players for the guests.
“We have some very loyal guests,” Morrow said.
Local bands also participate at the festival.
Meetings begin for each year’s planning in September.
A rigorous artist selection process begins.
This year according to Morrow, Lauren Alaina, a native to the area will close the festival along with fireworks on the River at Ross’s Landing.
During the festival, many downtown businesses are affected due to streets being closed for access.
“We began an outreach program,” Morrow said.
Mini-concert performances are now being held at some of the affected businesses, mainly during the lunch hour.
The Friends of the Festival also keep the event eco-friendly and recycle much of the refuse, she said.