I hadn’t even attempted to stick my toes outside when I heard someone say that it was hot outside today. It was hot and muggy, and the day was nearing the hottest part of the day. I thought to myself a moment about checking the weather, then let the thought slip by while other thoughts began to pour in.
My mother came home from work saying that she was ready to leave, but the weather was just a bit too hot for her to go back out right away. So, to keep from standing outside during the hottest part of the day, we started our trip a bit later than usual.
After letting the day cool off, we got everything ready to go. We drove the few minutes that it takes to get to downtown Chattanooga and found the parking spaces that we had used before to be full; the entire row of spaces on the block had already been filled. Thankfully, there was an open spot just around the corner.
Being my second day of Riverbend in about seven years, I knew what to expect and checked my pocket for the pin that would allow me unlimited access to the festival. It was there. I had it. Whew.
After the long walk to the main gates at the intersection of Aquarium Way and Chestnut Street, I pulled the pin from my pocket and greeted a few of the volunteers on my way through the gate, pausing a moment to give one of them a piece of my mind. The volunteer that I spoke with seemed to have many of the same issues with the festival that I brought up, and after a simple conversation, I continued on to find that I had lost my mother momentarily.
I caught back up to her in a couple of minutes and we passed a few booths on our way to set out a tarp on the lawn of Ross’ Landing. We adjusted it and staked it using some pieces of wood that we found around the area. One of them, I think was a corndog stick that had been broken in half; not entirely sure.
As soon as I looked around, I noticed that the ground was littered with trash of all sorts, ranging from empty beer cans and bottles to the cellophane wrappers from cigarette packs. I understand that the festival is done for the public, but people could at least make sure that their trash makes it to one of the many trash cans available. Come on, people; help keep Chattanooga beautiful for the next generation!
We, my mother and I, walked back up a set of stairs through the crowds of bustling people toward the booths. I knew what I wanted to do right off and started for the booth that the Tennessee Lottery had setup. I paid $10 to get five tickets of the usual $2 Jumbo Bucks, then stepped to the side to find out if I was a winner.
After scratching my tickets, we strolled on down through the crowds to the long row of vendors that offer everything from simple bottled beverages to the more extravagant foods; like, Curled Potatoes (maybe, Curly Potatoes) and Bloomin’ Onions. We picked up a 32 oz. mug that lights up for fourteen tokens each, then grabbed a Curly Potato and walked through the crowds to a smoking section. There, we sat down and talked about many different topics while snacking away atop the bank of the Tennessee river.
There were several boats on the water, including a nice looking sail boat that had been docked by one of the pillars of the Olgiatti bridge; the interstate that passes over Ross’ Landing. The water was rippled here and there with boaters that were out and about for the festival, and the sun was surely shining. Thankfully, we were in a shaded section with a cool breeze blowing on us.
After we finished our snacking, we walked back to get a refill of our drinks, at a cost of two tokens, then headed back down to the tarp that we laid out to catch the beginning of the show. Of course, one of the local stations put out a broadcast that covered the evening for Riverbend’s events, and told of a few storms that were heading directly for us. My mother and I had already spotted the lightning in some clouds a good way off, but it wasn’t until the news began that we learned those clouds were nearly fifteen miles away. Even so, she made a comment about packing up to head for shelter before the clouds reached us.
Honestly, I think I paid attention to the clouds more than anything else. Lightning streaked from the clouds to the ground every fifteen to forty-five seconds. It wouldn’t have caught my attention so easily had the lightning been a pale white, but the lightning appeared to be shades of blue, occasionally showing as purple. It was a sight that I wish I had a worthy camera for.
Once the news went off and the performers began climbing the stairs at the back of the stage, more people began moving closer to the large screen provided. The surrounding area that had once been clear of people suddenly seemed packed. There were pockets here and there of fresh air, but many people moved closer to catch the beginning performance of Charlie Wilson, live in Chattanooga on the Coca-Cola Stage at Riverbend.
Many people were staring up at the large screen. Others were watching the clouds that were still threatening to pour down rain on top of everyone there. I was one of the many who was caught between watching the lightning flash and the large screen directly in front of us.
Charlie Wilson, or Uncle Charlie, as some of his fans call him, I had never before seen in person. He took the stage and began shortly after one of his band members introduced him. The crowds were cheering, ready for his music to begin. Then, he appeared and everyone went nuts for a moment, and then silenced as soon as he began to talk.
Lightning crashed in the distance, distracting me several times from the words that were blasting out of the speakers at the side of the stage. The flash of blue and purple in the clouds held my attention for a few moments and I had to struggle to turn my head away, hoping that I wouldn’t miss something interesting about the performance.
He sang many songs that I had never heard before, or that I hadn’t recently heard, and ended the show with the song Charlie, Last Name Wilson. During his performance, I continuously looked around, witnessing people who chose to stand when asked, others who had been standing to dance, and others who were dancing while sitting on the ground or in a chair.
Tonight was a good night. It was loads of fun to watch Charlie hopping around on the stage, yelling at people in the audience to say this or do that, and even more fun when he made a funny and everyone laughed.
Though I have heard his songs and never seen him before in person, I must say: After watching him and his band members tonight, I will try to catch any and all shows that I am capable of making it to; not just to stare at the dancers that were on stage with him.
It was definitely some great fun and loads of laughs with Charlie Wilson. The most memorable moment, I think, was when he announced some of his past, leading off with being an alcoholic and a crack-cocaine addict who had finally found the Lord. Of course, he tossed in some humor to lessen the heavy subject, but then he added in some other unfortunate news. He cleared all of it up by saying that he’s been clean and sober for the passed eighteen years. The crowds cheered.
The storms that were heading directly for Riverbend got cut short. The rains never made it to the festival. The lightning provided a nice show in the distance before and during the performance, but also faded into the clouds sometime during the performance. By the end of it, which had definitely come much too soon, the clouds had scattered, leaving many areas of the starlit sky visible. By this time, my mother said that she was glad we hadn’t loaded everything up and made a run for it.
I had considered going back to get a refill of Dr. Pepper before leaving, but I knew that the lines would be non-existant since everyone had already begun heading toward the exits. In turn, the vendors likely had already begun packing as well. So, we headed for our usual exit.
The police had it barricaded, so we had to walk back down Riverfront Parkway to the main gates in order to leave Ross’ Landing.
The walk was just as long on the way back to the car as it was on the way from the car to the entrance. On the way out, I noticed the large street sign at the corner that read: Aquarium Way. We crossed the street and made it to the sidewalk, then began another series of short conversations.
My attention tonight was less on the surrounding building and more on the events that had taken place, the people dancing and cheering, the lightning show in the distance, and the fun that I had been missing out on.
Even I got up a few times to dance and shout praises for Charlie Wilson, which is a rare case, indeed. Still, I enjoyed myself and found conversation during the show a few times with others who had come for the fun.
If you would like more information about the Riverbend Festival, held on Ross’ Landing in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, please direct your web browser to: www.RiverbendFestival.com. There, you will find information about the performers who are scheduled to appear on one of the many stages, pricing for pins and daily admission, and much more. Of course, you’re always welcome to grab a map and join us on the grasses surrounding the stages. Hope to see you there!
Also, if you’re interested in seeing pictures from this year’s festival, you can stop by and look at the pictures that I took by going to my Facebook and clicking on the Photos link: www.facebook.com/ca.husted.1
The events in this blog posting took place on Thursday, June 14, 2012.