Festival Organizers Pleased with 2009 Rhythm & Roots
Weekend Attendance Excellent
By DAVID McGEE | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER | September 21, 2009*** Published: Sept. 21, 2009 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***
Overcast skies and cooler temperatures greeted fans Sunday during the final day of Bristol's Rhythm & Roots Reunion.
While State Street was noticeably less crowded than Saturday night, thousands still came out to munch on $6 buffalo burgers, $3 kettle corn, $5 pizza slices and drink $5 lemonade – while listening to Gene Watson, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, Cythian, Dailey & Vincent and many others.
Organizers of the ninth annual roots music festival said they were ecstatic, likely matching or exceeding last year's attendance of more than 31,000.
"Friday and Saturday attendance was about with or slightly ahead of last year, so it looks like we'll be about where we were last year – maybe ahead," festival Treasurer Jim Tench said. "We're really, really pleased."
Final attendance hadn't been calculated Sunday afternoon but should be available in the coming days, Tench said.
"With the weather forecast we had and – even though it really didn't rain much at the festival – it did rain at Abingdon and all around. So we're really pleased." Tench said.
Forecasters had predicted a 70-80 percent chance of rain for much of the weekend, but only one shower fell downtown Saturday afternoon.
It rained steadily for less than 30 minutes, but happened as acts on two of three outdoor stages were completing sets and had little overall effect on the schedule.
Among the weekend attendees were 11 members of a tour group of music fans from Sweden. The group – which had already visited Memphis and Nashville – attended shows Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in Bristol.
"This was a lifetime trip for me," group member Leif Porres said. "I've dreamed about this since I was 15 years old, coming to America to experience country music here. This was a dream come true."
Porres said the Twin City festival reminded him of his home country, where music festivals are held in small towns.
"I have a motorhome and we go around to these towns on the weekends and listen and play music," Porres said.
Bristol, Tenn., Councilman David Shumaker, a member of the festival executive committee, said they didn't know the group was coming but hope to work with the same tour group organizer to bring a larger contingent in 2010.
Festival Chairman Mike Braswell said the event – which featured more than 300 performances by more than 150 bands and individuals – seemingly transforms the Twin City into Mayberry – the mythical small town portrayed in "The Andy Griffith Show."
"A lot of wonderful things happen in Bristol on this weekend. A lot of people come home for this festival and our community is so supportive," Braswell said. "I'm just thrilled they let me do this."
Braswell said he tried to see as many of the performers as possible and called the lineup "unbelievable."
"There was just so much to choose from and all the bands were phenomenal," Braswell said, adding that he was most impressed by Patty Loveless, Dan Tyminski, The SteelDrivers and Bearfoot – a group from Alaska that includes two alumni of the East Tennessee State University bluegrass and country music program.
The event was largely trouble-free, Braswell said, but admitted organizers may try to address parking next year.
"We really haven't heard complaints, but parking is at a premium in Bristol anyway," Braswell said. "We run shuttle buses to the hotels, but we may have
to look at satellite parking for next year."
Police charged 11 people with public intoxication during Friday and Saturday on both sides of town, according to Capt. Maynard Ratcliff of the Bristol Virginia Police Department.