An anonymous donor has stepped up to ensure the Bessie Smith Strut will go on, preserving the annual music event honoring the hometown blues singer.
The board chairman of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center told the Chattanooga City Council that his organization has taken responsibility for the event and he believes liability insurance could be obtained now that a donor has pledged to pay for it.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that center Chairman Ian Overton told council members there would be an admission fee for what has traditionally been free since the event began 30 years ago.
The Bessie Smith Strut is a block party featuring blues bands that play on multiple stages. The event honors Smith, who was born in Chattanooga and became a star before she died in 1937.
The entrance fee will now be $5 in advance and $10 at the gate.
Overton said the donor is also paying for about three miles of temporary fencing around Martin Luther King Boulevard. He would not say how much money the donor was giving for the insurance and the fencing.
Chip Baker, executive director of Friends of the Festival, said the same bands originally slated to perform will still play.
“We still have work to do,” Baker said. “But we cleared some major hurdles.”