As stagehands break down performance areas and clean up whatever garbage still litters the riverfront, there’s little to mark the nine-day Riverbend Festival but the lingering aroma of funnel cakes and chicken on a stick.
The musicians are back on the road, the crowds have gone home and the food vendors packed away their kitchens, but patrons and professionals alike say the 30th annual festival was fairly successful.
“It’s not bad this year. I can’t complain,” said James Harvell, manager of the Ragin’ Cajun Chicken on a Stick on Riverfront Parkway. “The rain plays a little bit of an issue, but all in all it’s been pretty nice.”
Weather was overall sunny except for Wednesday night, when torrential downpours shut down the side stages and made Miranda Lambert’s set on the Coca-Cola Stage more than an hour late.
Harvell has been coming to the festival for nine years and said that this year, sales were up.
“I’ll definitely be back next year,” he said.
Harvell’s not the only one. Several festivalgoers out to see the final night’s fireworks and main act, country crooner Kellie Pickler, said they’d definitely be back in 2012.
“I love it,” Riverbend regular Rebecca Seiler said.
Seiler, a veteran of more than 15 Riverbend Festivals, said this year hasn’t been much different from past years as far as entertainment. But this festival holds special significance for her — it’s the first year she took off an entire week of work to enjoy the shows.
And Seiler hasn’t regretted the decision, even on nights such as Saturday when she didn’t know the headline act.
“I have no idea what she sings, but she’s country so she has to be good,” Seiler said.
But some other attendees weren’t singing the same tune.
Misty Gutierrez, who has gone to Riverbend off and on since 1991, said it seems country acts have increasingly dominated the show, pushing out local artists and other bands she’d like to see.
But that hasn’t stopped her from enjoying herself. Gutierrez, who has seen the Beach Boys in concert seven times, was excited to see the classic group rock the Coke stage with actor and musician John Stamos.
“It’s the first time he’s played with them in years,” she said. “It’s just really, really cool.”
David Owens, his wife and two granddaughters said the whole festival is cool.
This is Owens’ seventh straight year. This year, he and his wife have been to six of Riverbend’s nine nights.
“Where could you get this much entertainment for a $30 pin?” Owens asked. “It’s organized well, it’s a safe place to bring your children and it’s beautiful on the riverfront.”
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Chattanooga’s biggest party has grown over the past three decades into a $3.5 million, year-round business.
For three decades now, Riverbend has been the major event on Chattanooga’s extensive summer calendar of activities.