Changes to the Bessie Smith Strut have led to some misconceptions about the beloved annual street party, happening on Monday, June 11, on Martin Luther King Boulevard. The Pulse asked City Councilman and State Senate candidate Andraé McGary to help clear up the confusion.
A popular one-night event for blues and jazz music, the Bessie Smith Strut has been evolving and changing since its inception in the 1980s, McGary said.
“Although this year some of the most pressing issues were heightened—not to mention the manner in which the mayor went about addressing them—in the end, we worked hard to ensure not only that there would be a Strut, but also that we could put to rest the issues that plagued the Strut in the past,” he said.
So what can you expect to be different for this year’s Strut?
• You may have to pay a slight entrance fee. Riverbend pin holders will get in free, while others may pay $5 in advance or $10 at the gate.
• Young people under the age of 18 will not be admitted without a parent and/or guardian accompanying them.
• Expect a safer, more secure Strut. Fencing has been added this year in addition to the standard presence of Chattanooga’s finest. Also, look for volunteers to assist with directions, medical needs, etc.
• Vending will be more tightly supervised. Instead of allowing anyone to set up shop, the Bessie Smith Cultural Center has been going about it the right way by requiring all vendors to apply for a permit through them. This will better ensure both the quality of the product being sold as well as ease for enforcement.
“Yes, there are some differences, but in the end, it will be the same ol’ Strut,” McGary said. “All in all, this year’s Strut promises to be the best, most sophisticated Strut ever. I think if she were alive, Bessie Smith herself would be all smiles—she may even have to quit the blues, at least for a day.”