Friends of the Festival votes no to hosting Strut, council defer - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Friends of the Festival votes no to hosting Strut, council defers resolution

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Two weeks after Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield announced plans to move the Bessie Smith Strut to Riverbend, Friends of the Festival votes against its relocation.

Tuesday night, city council members postponed a vote to support MLK merchants in their fight to save the Strut.

City leaders don't know where the annual Bessie Smith Strut will be held, or even if the event will happen at all.

"The punch line is, if you can't get insurance, you can't get insurance, we aren't going to have a strut," says Councilman Peter Murphy.

The question at hand: who will assume liability for the Strut?

"I need very simple answers to very simple questions," says Councilman McGary.

Chip Baker says he will try to get insurance for the event, but Friends of the Festival will not host the Strut at Riverbend.

"The best option was not to do a strut-like event down on the Riverfront where we do Riverbend," says Baker.

Now it seems the Strut could stay on MLK Boulevard, despite Mayor Littlefield canceling plans for safety concerns.

"The venue is not safe," Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd says. "There are at least 12 or 15 entrance points that no one controls."

Police Chief Bobby Dodd says it costs $23,000 to secure the Strut, a job that is becoming more difficult with a recent spike in gun violence.

"If we're going to have it, let's have it and move forward and do it the best we can, as safe as we can," says Chief Dodd.

MLK merchants say they are willing to make changes to save the Strut.

"We too would like to have a responsible, safe and enjoyable strut," says Moses Freeman, with the MLK Merchants' Association.

In a memorandum sent to merchants, Mayor Littlefield laid out his demands for the Strut to stay on MLK Boulevard.


The mayor wants all vendors controlled and properly licensed; the site completely fenced,
and a qualified organization to take legal responsibility for the Strut.

So far, no one is stepping forward. But for the first time in weeks, all parties agree on one thing.

"It should remain on MLK," says Councilman McGary.

The city council is giving all parties a week to gather information and address the mayor's proposal, before meeting again.

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