Shared from the 2017-06-19 Chattanooga eEdition

Wrapping up Riverbend

Another festival in the books

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STAFF PHOTOS BY ERIN O. SMITH

Above: Many people work Sunday to unload and take down the Coca-Cola Stage following the conclusion of the Riverbend Festival at Ross’s Landing. It took about four days for the Coke Stage to be put together, and workers expect it to take a couple of days to dismantle everything.

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Below: Emanuel Clark and Charley Coffey load items onto a platform to be lowered from the stage.

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STAFF PHOTOS BY ERIN O. SMITH

Dave Ohms, a stage crew member with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 140, removes cable covers at Ross’s Landing on Sunday.

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William Owens uses a blower to clean up debris from the grass in front of the Coke Stage at Ross’s Landing.

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Father’s Day was no holiday for Joe “Dixie” Fuller, Friends of the Festival production coordinator, and Chip Baker, Riverbend Festival executive director.

Instead of enjoying a special Sunday, the two were where they always are at the end of the third weekend in June: taking down the 36th annual Riverbend Festival.

The bands and singers who kept the riverfront rocking for eight days were gone; the funnel-cake vendors had turned off their fryers, but Baker and Fuller confronted acres of clean-up and hours of work.

The two directed a swarm of stagehands breaking down sets and volunteers tearing down tents, even pitching in themselves to get the job done.

Baker rolled the remains of a plastic barricade fence as he talked about the new Australian shepherd puppy his wife got him for Father’s Day.

The eight-day festival went pretty smoothly, Baker said, even when a suspicious package was spotted near the main entrance Friday, forcing the festival to temporarily shut down

“The people were calm, cool and collected, and for a questionable situation, it was really professionally handled from the police to the people,” he said. “I was so proud of everyone for just keeping their cool.”

The Chattanooga Police Department bomb squad inspected the package and gave the “all clear” within 30 minutes, Baker said. And, to his knowledge, there were no other major incidents.

Fuller said this year’s Bessie Smith Strut was the best he’d seen in five years and Faith and Family Night, an alcohol-free night for Christian performances, was bigger than last year.

Baker said, of the nearly 100 acts, the biggest turnouts were for hip hop artist Ludacris, country singer Toby Keith and rockers The Flaming Lips, which was the closing act Saturday night.

Travis Price, a stagehand with International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 140, said he thought the Flaming Lips’ performance was the “single greatest” act he’s seen in the 13 years he’s worked on Riverbend’s stages.

Price said Wayne Coyne, the band’s lead singer, was “as nice as ever.”

“He dedicated his last song to one of our stagehands, Pat Royal, who passed away earlier this year,” Price said. “He put some of his ashes in the fireworks and sent him off with a bang.”

Royal died June 6, according to his obituary in the Times Free Press. His funeral was held June 9, the first day of Riverbend.

With workers toiling around him, Baker said he expected Chestnut Street and part of Riverfront Parkway to be reopened by Sunday evening, the fastest it’s ever been done. It should be completely open by around noon today, he said.

“We work hard to reduce street closures,” Baker said.

He said he won’t know the final count on how many people attended for another six weeks or so.

Some business people in the downtown area have mixed feelings about the festival. Some say the big crowds who flock to the waterfront don’t bring much business to downtown merchants.

Mia Paden, a manager at Good Dog on Frazier Avenue, said the business usually has fewer people come in during festival days because they’re saving their money for the food offered by vendors.

But she said she always sees more people on the last day of the festival because of the fireworks that can be seen from across the river.

Despite the slight drop in business, Paden said she thinks Riverbend is “great because it brings so many people from out of town.”

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at

rhughes@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter

@HughesRosana.

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