Lynyrd Skynyrd returns for round 2 of Riverbend - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Lynyrd Skynyrd returns for round 2 of Riverbend

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Fan Neal Burgess claimed his spot hours before the band took the stage. Fan Neal Burgess claimed his spot hours before the band took the stage.

It's a big night for downtown Chattanooga as southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd are in town for another night of Riverbend.

Attracting more than 140,000 when they were here in 2002, organizers say they'll likely draw the largest crowd of this year's festival.

The rain held off, but many festival goers say it wouldn't have mattered; they'd brave the elements just to catch Lynyrd Skynyrd on the riverfront.

Crowds come pouring in for what will likely be the largest attendance of Riverbend 2013.

Some like Neal Burgess headed out hours early to get a spot before Lynyrd Skynyrd takes to the Coke Stage.

"I just love their music," Burgess says. "It's just been a blast listening to them, and I can't wait to see them again."

Festival organizers know Lynyrd Skynyrd is a regional favorite.

"They're one of the all-time best nights in the 32 history of Riverbend," says Amy Morrow, with Friends of the Festival.

And that's exactly why Skynyrd is one of the few repeated Riverbend artists.

They drew a crowd of 140,000 people when they played the festival in 2002.

Shelah Wilson was there and says she remembers it well.

"It was so packed it was like being in New Orleans during Mardi Gras," Wilson says. "We had a good time."

Festival officials say they're ready for a repeat.

"We're always prepared for a huge crowd," Morrow says. "We see anywhere from 50,000 a night to 80,000. We see 650,000 over a nine day period. We're always ready for the most, and we prepare and hope for the best."

For Shelah Wilson and her family, the best will come when the chords to her favorite Skynyrd song rip through the Chattanooga riverfront.

"Southern rock and roll, Lynyrd Skynyrd," Wilson says. "I mean, I used to say Free Bird was the national anthem of the South. Stand up, put your hand over your heart."

It'll take a few days before we will know if Thursday night's attendance was record breaking.

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