Photo Courtesy of VisitChattanooga.com
Chattanooga, TN – It’s no secret that the annual Riverbend Festival did not go on this year in the midst of this pandemic and now, Friends of the Festival are looking to liquidate their assets.
Friends of the Festival is the organization that puts on the yearly festival, and they have been producing shows in an effort to keep from closing.
However, on Monday they released a few employees, bringing the number of staff members from seven to two.
Board chair, Mary Kilbride, says the move was made because they hope to put on a “different festival” in the coming years. However, they do not yet know what that means.
Kilbride said, “We don’t know what it will look like, but we know we’d like it to be on the river and we’d like it to be music-centric, but we will have to take the temperature of the public when the time comes to see what social distancing even looks like in the future.”
“It was very emotional and heartbreaking. These are long-term, loyal people who love the festival and their jobs.” Kilbride said and the recent layoffs.
Executive director, Mickey McCamish, will be turning his focus to liquidating some of their assets. This would include staging, fencing, and other materials or buildings that Friends of the Festival has made through the years. He says it was not an easy decisions to make, but they have a warehouse full of assets to be liquidated.
Riverbend Festival has been around since 1982 and has become a staple of the Chattanooga culture. It has brought in thousands of artists and hundreds of tourists, gaining popularity at both the local and national level.
Since its start, Riverbend has had a positive impact on the city’s economy, but McCamish said this move was necessary to make sure Friends of the Festival makes it through this pandemic. They have enough money in their reserve to launch a different festival at some point in the future.
A long time Riverbend attendee said this news has been, “very disappointing” to hear. “I enjoyed attending Riverbend almost every year. It’s a big part of Chattanooga, so it is sad to think of it not being around anymore.”
For some Chattanooga citizens, Riverbend Festival has been around for their entire lives. When they had to give it up this year, people were disappointed but tried to stay hopeful about a festival in 2021. The news of this drastic change has been “devastating” for people across the city.
Friends of the Festival members say they did try to do what they could to keep the doors open. This included leaning on the summer concert series Riverfront Nights as a way to keep employees on payroll and stay afloat. They also put on a family movie night and two concerts at the AT&T.
However, these attempts were not enough, despite bringing in money. As of now, there are now events planned and, therefore, no money coming.
As for a different festival in the future, we do not know what that would look like yet.