published Monday, June 11th, 2012

Bessie Smith Strut almost didn't happen

Crowds fill M.L. King Boulevard during the Bessie Smith Strut in this file photo.
Crowds fill M.L. King Boulevard during the Bessie Smith Strut in this file photo.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Although thousands once again will celebrate the Bessie Smith Strut on M.L. King Boulevard tonight, the event's future for several months was uncertain.

In March, Friends of the Festival, Riverbend's management group, announced the event would be moved from M.L. King Boulevard to the riverfront in order to make the event more safe. The move prompted a vehement response from community members.

Festival executive director Chip Baker later announced Friends of the Festival would shepherd efforts to keep the event on M.L. King, but if another group could not secure liability insurance for the event, it would not be held this year.

The Bessie Smith Cultural Center has taken over organization of the Strut. After what Baker described as "about $50,000-$55,000 to enact necessary changes," The Strut will once again bring blues and barbecue to the boulevard, albeit with a $10 admission en lieu of free entry to those who don't have a Riverbend pin.

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