The Bessie Smith Cultural Center (in partnership with Friends of the Festival) wishes to thank everyone for participating in the 2013 Strut. More than 8,000 people attended which represents an increase over last year’s 5,073.
The Bessie Smith Cultural Center began managing the Strut in 2012. Whereas we would love to have a free activity, the first concern is the safety of all visitors, residents, family, friends and merchants who participate.
Safety in public arenas remains a local and national priority. Organizers work closely with the Chattanooga Police Department to ensure and adhere to a plan that supports this goal. Changes in admission policy, including restricting admission of unsupervised youth, and utilizing temporary fencing enhances the ability of law enforcement and specialized security to ensure safety and or to respond to a critical need should it arise. As a result, there have been no safety incidents or arrests for two consecutive years.
The addition of the fence and small admission fee in no way impacted the number of approved vendors participating in this year’s Strut. All vendors adhere to an application and approval process, which was not the case prior to the 2012. There were more than enough vendors (with a variety of food options) to adequately serve all participants. To date, all vendors who have communicated with organizers offered positive responses and or outcomes. Additionally, several vendors expressed an increase in sales compared to previous years when the event was free.
Beyond the stated changes, the 2013 Bessie Smith Strut enhancements included two additional recognized blues performers and an extended ending time. The celebration continues to represent the blues, the food and the culture of Martin Luther King Boulevard. We thank the diverse array of participants who willingly paid the modest admission fee and welcome you and others to next year’s activities as we celebrate this important Chattanooga cultural tradition!
Rose M. Martin, President
Bessie Smith Cultural Center