published Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Volunteers keep Chattanooga's RiverRocks festival rolling


by Naomi Jagoda
Volunteers help hang large photos on the side of a tent Friday morning. RiverRocks volunteers helped set up the registration desk for Saturday's Stumpjump on Friday morning at Coolidge Park.
Volunteers help hang large photos on the side of a tent Friday morning. RiverRocks volunteers helped set up the registration desk for Saturday's Stumpjump on Friday morning at Coolidge Park.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

For the past several weeks, Che Carico led trail maintenance groups getting ready for RiverRocks.

Carico, who coordinates hikes for the all-volunteer Chattanooga Hiking Club, considers cutting back vegetation and fallen trees and limbs a way to pay it forward.

"[The hikers] share a love of the outdoors and pay back a little bit with trail maintenance," she said.

On Saturday, Carico will volunteer more of her time and lead a hike as part of RiverRocks, a 10-day celebration of the Chattanooga area's natural resources that runs through Oct. 9. She led hikes and sold concessions during last year's festival and is looking forward to helping out again.

"RiverRocks is just so focused on everything that's good for you," she said.

Carico is far from the only RiverRocks volunteer. Nearly 100 activities are listed on the calendar for RiverRocks, and many will require the help of nonpaid workers.

"You could not pull off an event like this without volunteers," said Stormy McGauley, a RiverRocks founder.

  • photo
    Missy Emerling, left, and Kris Whorton organize bins containing runners' packets Friday morning. RiverRocks volunteers helped set up the registration desk for Saturday's Stumpjump on Friday morning at Coolidge Park.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Kris Whorton posts a sign directing people to their races Friday morning. RiverRocks volunteers helped set up the registration desk for Saturday's Stumpjump on Friday morning at Coolidge Park.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Roughly 50 volunteers are helping out with activities organized by Chattanooga Presents. Those include balloon events, 3-D mapping at the Hunter Museum and the Michael Kaeshammer concert, said Jonathan Susman, Chattanooga Presents marketing and media director. They will do everything from selling merchandise to helping people off and on the tethered balloons.

"Volunteers help the festival run," Susman said. "The more hands on deck, the easier certain things are."

The composition of the groups' volunteers will be different this year, Susman said.

For the first RiverRocks last year, the volunteers for Chattanooga Presents activities were mostly friends of the organizers, Susman said. However, this year, people who participated in the activities in the past have contacted Chattanooga Presents offering to help.

"People know what it is," he said.

Chattanooga Presents also sought volunteers by posting on social media websites, Susman said, adding that these ads got many good responses.

Other groups sponsoring activities during RiverRocks also use volunteers.

Outdoor Chattanooga's events will primarily use paid staff, but will also use volunteers for programs such as kayaking and canoeing, said Ruth Thompson, its events and marketing coordinator.

And Saturday's Tennessee River Rescue was expected to make use of hundreds of volunteers who came out to participate in the cleanup, said co-coordinator Christine Bock.

"[They are] making the river a better place for the animals who live there," Bock said.

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