Bessie Smith Strut will take place thanks to anonymous donor - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Bessie Smith Strut will take place thanks to anonymous donor

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- A Chattanooga tradition will go on. The Bessie Smith Strut will stay on MLK Boulevard thanks to an anonymous donor.

"There will be a Bessie Smith Strut during the Riverbend Festival this year," announced Irvin Overton from the podium at Tuesday night's Chattanooga City Council meeting.

Not only has the strut found a home, now it has an owner.

The Bessie Smith Cultural Center has agreed to accept legal responsibility for the event by insuring it.

"My board is taking on some risk with this," said Overton, "this is a larger risk than what we've ever taken on."

But the board won't be footing the bill, an anonymous donor will.

"To that person I say publicly, thank you for caring so much about our community," Overton told the crowd.

Overton won't say how much money was donated, but says it will also cover fencing. A mandate set by Mayor Ron Littlefield.

"It's going to be down 10th Street, it's going to be down 8th Street, and it is going to have three gates," explained Overton. "This is a much better security plan than what we've had in the past."

Police security will remain the city's responsibility. Police Chief Bobby Dodd told Channel 3 last week it normally costs $23,000 to secure the strut.

Friends of the Festival will stay on to provide a stage and lighting.

"As far as our role at the Strut, it will be the same," said Holly Harwell, Friends of the Festival Board President.

The biggest change coming is an entrance fee. It will cost $5 in advance and $10 at the gate.

"If you have a Riverbend pin you can get in for free," said Harwell.

The money collected will be banked to cover future struts.

With a vote of confidence from the city council, Overton hopes there will be many more to come.

"We're going to make this one good and hopefully it leads to a bigger and better event in future years," he said.

The Bessie Smith Cultural Center is working with police to iron out final details.

They are considering an age limit.

This year's strut will be held from 4:00 to 8:30 pm.

Overton hopes this year's security plan will work, allowing for future struts to end later at night.

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