Long before the hip Southside district, long before the galleries and boutiques came to North Shore with the Walnut Street bridge reopening, and ten years before the Tennessee Aquarium was built, the Riverbend Festival was one of the first signs of life in a blighted, polluted town.
The city was down on its luck. It was dirty and dangerous and no one came to downtown after dark. Locals had moved to the suburbs, and none of the vibrant riverfront nightlife we now associate with Chattanooga existed. That changed when several powerhouse local businesses and foundations came together and brought The Commodores, Beach Boys, and Rick Springfield as part of a Five Nights Festival that later evolved into the Riverbend Festival we know today.
Those early concerts were held all over downtown, from Engel Stadium to Ross’s Landing. It wasn’t until later that the festival settled on the riverfront. And from there it grew, along with the rest of downtown and the riverfront, into a thing of local pride and Chattanoogan culture. The Riverbend Festival has become a part of this city, one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) events on the yearly calendar.
Riverbend has seen major acts over the years, including Huey Lewis & the News, Sheryl Crow, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Willie Nelson, Train, Three Dog Night, The B-52's, Little Richard, ZZ Top, The Black Crowes, America, The Alan Parsons Project, Daughtry, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jars of Clay, moe., Ricky Skaggs, Steve Miller Band, The Allman Brothers Band, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams, Jr., Kid Rock, Boyz II Men, Cheap Trick, Pat Benatar, LL Cool J, Keith Urban, Michelle Branch, Styx, Blues Traveler, Nickel Creek, Rascal Flatts, Collective Soul, and Lynard Skynard.
The festival has grown from 5 nights to 9, and expanded to include a beloved Faith and Family night that represents the multi-generation tradition Riverbend has become. Each year families eagerly pick up their Riverbend pins from the local businesses that sell them and visitors pour into Chattanooga hotels for the event. Some locals even take off work during Riverbend week to fully immerse themselves in the spirit of fun that takes over the city. Whether you’ve been to Riverbend each year or never before, don’t miss this year’s celebration of music and urban revitalization!