Plans to save the Bessie Smith Strut move forward
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- A Chattanooga legacy is celebrated Sunday: a Bessie Smith birthday event was held at the Cultural Center named after the blues legend. This comes as the decision of what happens to the Bessie Smith Strut is still on the table.
There's been a battle over the Strut for the last few weeks. Mayor Ron Littlefield said the event would be moved to the river, within the Riverbend festival gates, but now we learn progress is being made to keep it where it's always been.
"I am 100 percent certain we are going to have a Strut," MLK Merchants Association spokesperson Moses Freeman said.
It's a bold statement from Freeman, the MLK Merchants' point man. "We're all looking ahead with smiles on our face rather than the gloom we were exhibiting a few days ago," Freeman said.
Mayor Littlefield laid out several guidelines that would have to be met in order to hold the Strut on M.L.King Blvd. Among them is having a qualified organization take responsibility and pay for liability insurance.
Freeman said the biggest challenge would be figuring out who would carry the insurance, but now he says that's solved because the Bessie Smith Cultural Center has agreed to cover it.
He says he was notified of that news Friday evening. "We're delighted to have them. They have the experience and the talent and the ability to handle the operation of the Strut," Freeman said.
Friends of the Festival is working with the non-profit to make it all come together, but as Executive Director Chip Baker told us a few days ago, there are still several other issues to hammer out.
"We're very focused on making that happen, but there're a lot of factors in this and it may happen and it may not," Baker said.
He's talking about things like putting a fence around the event, deciding on an admission and making sure all vendors are properly licensed.
"I think we're getting close," Baker said.
They are working to have all the plans nailed down by Tuesday's city council meeting, which is less than two months from when the Strut is supposed to take place. "I think all the ‘I's' will be dotted and all the ‘T's' will be crossed by the time we getting there," Freeman said.
There's no word yet on how much that liability insurance will cost. The mayor's spokesman, Richard Beeland, says it's not a city function, so the insurance wouldn't have to be opened to bidding. All the mayor and city attorney will require, he says, is proof that insurance has been bought.