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Music heals: Organizers looking ahead to Riverbend 2021 when entertainment matters most

Riverbend & Songbirds partnership - WTVC.png
(Images: WTVC)

The pandemic has delivered another heartbreaking blow to Chattanooga's entertainment industry.

Riverbend's Friends of the Festival says COVID-19 has left them struggling for money, forcing them to terminate most of their staff.

It comes a day after the Tivoli Theatre was forced to close for a second time due to the virus. Earlier this year, theatre leaders said the pandemic cost them about $4 million in revenue.

Organizers say Riverbend will be happening next year in some shape or form. Mickey McCamish, executive director of Friends of the Festival, says we need the event and others like it for our own mental health.

McCamish says there just wasn’t any way around terminating most of their staff.

“It’s tough. It’s a very emotional time," he said.

Friends of the Festival organizes the yearly Riverbend Festival in downtown Chattanooga. They canceled this year's event due to COVID-19 concerns. Now, there are questions if there will ever be another Riverbend.

“Riverbend will be coming back," McCamish said. "I’m confident it will be. I’m confident.”

McCamish says they depended on each event to fund the one the following year. Friends of the Festival says it'll sell off its building and use reserve funds to pay for some kind of Riverbend 2021.

McCamish says we need the event, and others like it for our own mental health.

“It relieves stress. I think for a period of time what music will do is cause us to forget about COVID-19 for a couple of hours," McCamish said.

Pete Griffin agrees. Griffin is the CEO of Musicians On Call, a non-profit organization that brings live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients and healthcare facilities, not only across Tennessee but across the entire country.

"It's important right now. Everyone can benefit from music and still having entertainment in our lives.

He says music heals, something so many need right now.

"It can lower levels of depression, anxiety, and improve just their mental outlook, as we're all dealing with the symptoms of the pandemic," Griffin said. "It kind of picks us up or allows us to feel melancholy, but whatever it is like music is something that is part of all of our lives. And, I think it's not until you're maybe in some of your darkest times that you realize how much music helps to bring you up."

Organizers say Riverbend will almost definitely be smaller scale. They anticipate the three to the four-stage event will shrink to a couple of stages. Attending will be limited depending on safety protocols at the time.


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