I've been going to the Bessie Smith Strut since it began and this year's version was much different. The gates and fencing were the first noticeable changes. The second was the lack of vendors. I'm guessing that the vendor fee of $325 per location may have had something to do with that. It took away some of the charm of the Strut because the vendors in the past offered many items not seen anywhere else.
Thirdly, was the lack of people. They could have closed off two lanes and it still would not have been crowded. I guess this made the presence of the police stand out more since there seemed to be more of them. The four police in armored vests seemed completely out of place, kind of like the tank that they had onsite several years ago. Unlike past years there was no lack of space in front of the stage by the Bessie Smith Museum, even at 8:00. Also very noticeable was the lack of a diverse crowd which used to be the most interesting part of the Strut for me.
The food was OK, just not enough variety to have many choices and the beer prices were up 25 percent from last year. Every location had the same prices - no $2 tall boys were in sight.
Overall, and with just two months to put it together, I think the organizers did a pretty fair job. Next year with 12 months to put it together and no mayoral interference I'm hoping for a better attended Strut with more vendors.
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Different is good.
A lot of opinions have surfaced regarding this year’s Bessie Smith Strut,.. the good, the bad, the ugly. Having said that, I have attended the “strut” since the beginning; this year took me back to where it all began, a little taste of Mardi Gras feeling in Chattanooga, the weather was near perfect, the “grownfolk” crowd grew to wonderful size, the food, you could get to it… the music; you could hear and see it, the security, CPD on point, my grandchildren and I did the “ electric slide” and ate and fellowship: It was wonderful.
What I didn’t miss: too many tightly dressed, half-naked “young ladies” (oh, you don’t want me to say it), loud “young men” (again you don’t want me saying it), baby strollers, dogs, beer bottles, paper, and trash on the street;
Chattanooga and Friends of the Festival, it was good.