Bessie Smith Strut uses entry fee to keep festival goers safe - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Bessie Smith Strut uses entry fee to keep festival goers safe

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Attendance was a little low at the Bessie Smith Strut after some changes have been made to the block party.  
This is the 3rd year there was a charge to get in, and those in attendance saw added security.

The Bessie Smith Strut is all about music, food and heritage, and bringing it to the younger generation.

But when some of the younger crowd started causing trouble, Rose Martin with the Bessie Smith Culture Center said something had to be done.

"The whole thing with the admission really started from the youth activity and what they were doing when they weren't being supervised," said Martin.

Martin says charging an entrance fee hurt their crowd numbers but allowed for a safer environment. She says as the years have gone on, the crowds are slowly coming back.

"Last year we saw an uptick in attendance, this year we expect to see the same," said Martin. “Some won't come because there is an admission fee, but others saw it was favorable and will feel more comfortable paying."

Charles foster is one of them.

"I think it's a good thing because now they regulate it, a lot of young people they don't understand what this is all about; so I think it's for the best," said Foster.

While some attendees said the ticket sales were ruining the vibe of the strut, with crowds being so small, Foster disagrees.   

"Not really, as it goes on it will get busier, they've not taken anything away from it, they've actually made it better," said Foster.

He says those who enjoy the culture will still come and those who don't have interest won't come and start trouble and that makes him feel safer.

"Oh yes, much safer. It's relaxing. You can actually sit out here and enjoy yourself and not look over your shoulder waiting for something to happen," said Foster. "People like me can bring their kids out here and have a good time and actually enjoy it."

"We just want to make sure everyone has a safe and wonderful time and that the youth are being escorted so they don't run around and do just what they want to do," said Martin.

Martin told Channel 3 they were expecting at least several thousand to come through the gates.

She says the entrance fee has allowed them to have bigger acts and allow the event to go on longer into the night.

They hope next year’s crowd is even larger.

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