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"We are all heartbroken": Friends of the Festival staff terminated, official says

Riverbend 2019 - WTVC.PNG
Friends of the Festival organizes the yearly Riverbend Festival in downtown Chattanooga. They cancelled the 2020 event due to concerns of the spread of COVID-19, instead opting for smaller concerts. (File 2019 WTVC photo)

On Monday, most of the staff of Friends of the Festival were "terminated," according to Riverbend's Entertainment Director Joe 'Dixie' Fuller.

Fuller provided us with the following statement Monday night:

“We were all terminated today due to the fact that we are out of money, cannot foresee a future Riverbend due to COVID, so board thought it best to pull the plug now before we get into money trouble. I certainly understand their decision and accept it. We are all heartbroken, but must know that we are strong and we will find new ventures to pursue.”

NewsChannel 9 spoke with Executive Director Mickey McCamish Tuesday morning. He said the business model the festival followed meant each event was to fund the one for the following year. Since that did not happen this past summer, no new funds were generated.

He said the festival employed seven full-time employees--many of whom had worked for the festival for 20 to 30 years.

McCamish said these changes had been expected and discussed among the staff but was very painful.

"You can talk about it and you can anticipate itbut when that day occurs and you have to deliver that message that they’re no longer employed, then it hits home.”

McCamish said two people will stay on staff, including McCamish. The other is Karen Shostack who serves as Riverbend's Director of Sales.

Shostack will be looking for new ideas and events the festival can sponsor. McCamish said he will be liquidating the assets of the festival's 7,000 square foot warehouse to make money for any future Riverbend event.

While the future of Riverbend is uncertain, McCamish said an impending 2021 festival will almost definitely be smaller scale.

McCamish anticipates that the three to four stage event will shrink to a couple of stages and that attendance will be limited, pending the parameters of social distancing recommendations at the time.

Friends of the Festival organizes the yearly Riverbend Festival in downtown Chattanooga. They cancelled the 2020 event due to concerns of the spread of COVID-19, instead opting for smaller concerts.

This is a developing story and will be updated as we learn more.

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