Each year, I publish this Riverbend Survival Kit to help guide you through one of the largest music festivals in the United States. Print it out if you like. Share it with your friends that may be going to Riverbend this year for the first time. Even if you are going for the 31st time, there are changes you need to know about. Enjoy, and see you at Riverbend!
Riverbend pins, if bought before 11:59 p.m. on June 7, are just $32 at any area Kangaroo. If you go all nine nights, that comes to about $3.56 per night. After June 7th, the pins will run $45.00 at the gate – still a steal of a deal. Children aged 10 and under are admitted free. Two tickets to the 3-day Bonaroo cost around $550. Two tickets to the 9-day Riverbend Festival cost $64.
According to Pollstar, Eric Church’s average concert costs $35.16. Chris Tomlin averages 24.91. The Goo Goo Dolls are $38.48. Those three acts alone would cost you almost $100. You can see all three, plus dozens more artists for just $32 at Riverbend. One-day passes are available at the gate for $26 or $15 for Senior Citizens and Military. The best deal is the pin. It is theoretically possible to buy a $32 pin and go three nights and split the cost with a friend who could go on the other nights. On Tuesday night, faith and family night, wristbands are just $5 for everyone over 10.
Once you get your pins, the gates open at 4:30 P.M. each day. The main gate is at 2nd and Chestnut beside the Aquarium. You can also enter up by the Hunter Museum, as well as off of Riverfront Parkway under the Olgiati Bridge. On Monday for the Bessie Smith Strut in downtown Chattanooga, if you have a pin, it is free. Otherwise it is $5 in advance or $10 at the gate.
You can bring lawn chairs, folding chairs and blankets, but may not leave them overnight. You CANNOT bring backpacks, coolers, refillable containers, laser pointers, camcorders, pets, bicycles, skateboards, roller-blades, outside food or beverages, brass knuckles, machetes, pistols, machine guns, grenades, bazookas or any other weapons.
Here is a NEW RULE. All blankets and chairs must be removed from the grounds each evening. Each night after Riverbend, the staff will “sweep” the area and remove all remaining chairs and blankets. I hope to have them for sale the next day at Bob’s used lawn chair and blanket store.
The best way to get to Riverbend is to park down by the Choo-Choo or Findley Stadium and take the shuttle bus for a buck a ride. The Unum lots are now pay lots, so why fight the traffic - sit back and meet fellow festivalgoers while others ride around and around looking for a parking space. You can ride the bus, be back to your car, and be out of the traffic flow before most folks get out of the parking lot downtown. Park at Finley – it’s the easiest.
Creative parkers who think the grass is a parking space, or park on the median, or in the fast lane of the freeway will find their car at an impound lot down the road a bit. You will be able to retrieve it in exchange for a first born kid or a kidney. I recommend parking at Finley Stadium, and riding the $1 shuttle bus right to Riverbend.
Parking for Disabled persons is provided at the parking lot in front of the Tennessee Aquarium adjacent to the Main Gate on Chestnut and 2nd Streets. Viewing areas are reserved at ground level at each stage, and restroom facilities for the handicapped are available at each First Aid location.
Want a Coke or a Chicken-on-a-stick? Funnelcakes? Beer? T-shirt? Well, your money isn’t any good at Riverbend. That’s not to say everything is free – it just means you have to buy tokens to use for your purchases. They sell tokens at Riverbend, but your best bet is to buy them at Bi-Lo, and save 10%, when purchased in advance. (If you want to partake of alcoholic beverages – bring your ID! Even Grandma and Grandpa will need their ID’s. Everyone that plans to purchase alcoholic beverages MUST have an ID showing they are 21 or over.) ATM Machines are located by token booths throughout the festival grounds.
There is a “Lost Parents Tent” for those children who lose their parental units. This is located at the main gate on 2nd and Chestnut Street. There are plenty of volunteers in marked T-Shirts and Police officers to assist people when needed. Speaking of volunteers, Riverbend’s are the BEST. Many have returned each year for decades. If you need something, look for a volunteer in an official t-shirt and ask. They will help you.
Riverbend stepped up the amusement ride area this year, with a seven story Ferris Wheel, complete with crazy light show. I expect that ride to be a big hit this year. Other favorites like the Tilt-A-Whirl are there, too.
There are six stages at Riverbend. The Coke Stage is the big stage that looks like an aircraft carrier with an umbrella over it. That is where you will see Eric Church, Foreigner, Happy Together Tour, Chris Tomlin, the Band Perry, Charlie Wilson, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Lauren Alaina on fireworks night.
My favorite stages are the smaller ones, scattered throughout Riverbend. This is where you may find your “new favorite band.” You will find a description of the bands playing, along with a link to their websites at www.riverbendfestival.com. Just click on “line-up”. If you dislike crowds, think about entering up by the Hunter Museum and hanging out at the stages up on that end. One of the coolest stages is the one under the bridge about 200 feet down the hill from the Hunter Museum. With terraced seating and ceiling fans suspended from the overhead bridge, this stage is a great place to get out of the sun and heat. Speaking of the heat, here is a tip. Prior to arriving at Riverbend, try drinking plenty of water; maybe a gallon or two. Bottled water is available at the festival, as are some free water stations scattered about the grounds.
At the far end of the festival, by the marina, you will find Riverbend’s newest stage – The Meo Mio Cajun Spirits Stage. With the country’s top blues and zydeco acts booked, this stage will be a popular destination this year. It is also the ONLY place the public can get a specialty alcohol drinks like a margarita or a daiquiri. That’s right, if you are not a beer drinker, come get a specialty drink there. I told a guy working down there that it may be THE place to be, as I bet a lot of women will be there for a margarita or two. He is very happy.
A cool thingy you can get is a “pointsmap” for your smart-phone. It gives you a map of the festival grounds and who’s playing when and where. It’s free and available by clicking http://riverbendfestival.com/pages/pointsmap.
If you want to come by boat, make sure you have a pin on you when you dock at the Walnut Street pier dock. Boaters can hang around in the water behind the Coke Stage for free.
Bring a blanket and stretch out on the lawn in front of the Coke Stage for just $10 per person, with your admission pin. Admission is available by the Blanket Seating Area.
Non-smoking areas have been expanded, and signs will be posted In those areas. There are still areas designated for smokers.
Here is a cooling thought – a good place to meet some Riverbend artists is at “Eat and Greets” , “Riverbend Unplugged”, and “Bend on the Run”. Scattered throughout town during the festival week, you can go have some lunch or a cold beverage and hear some tunes from some fine artists before they play Riverbend. It’s a great time to get autographs, too. Here is the link – http://riverbendfestival.com/pages/riverbend-outreach. Just look on the left side and click on any of the three for schedules, places and times.
One of my favorite things at Riverbend is the beach. Yep, I said it – the beach. Up the hill from the Coke Stage, towards the Hunter Art Center, you will find a big pile of sand. Sculptors will transform that pile into the doggone coolest designs. It’s worth a trip just to see it each day as it progresses.
There is music for everybody at Riverbend – Jam Bands, Country, Folk, Hard Rock, Soft Rock, Zydeco, Blues, Classic Rock, Jazz, Classical, Christian, and Americana. Riverbend has music for all tastes. Try something new, as you may just like it! Also, don’t forget the local acts that are playing Riverbend this year. These artists put on their best shows, with the finest equipment and sound technicians to assist them. You may hear an act that you will want to go see over and over again.
Don’t forget fireworks night at Riverbend. (Saturday, June 16) It is truly one of the best fireworks displays you will ever see. Watch for the waterfall! Stay tuned for my Riverbend picks, more information and tips. I will be covering all nine nights at Riverbend and The Chattanoogan.com is your go-to place for all the festival news. Check here often and spread the word.
If you want to meet me for some reason, even to tell me I am nuts or a lousy writer, I will be at the VW Stage, located on the Green in front of the Coke Stage Saturday night, June 9 with the Chattanooga All-Star Band. This band is made up of some of the finest musicians in the area and they donate their fee to Orange Grove Center. Look for me and the band at 7:15 and 11 p.m. on June 9. Come by and say hello!
See you there!
Email Bob Payne at email@example.com or www.facebook.com/davrik2000