45,000 people have flooded downtown Bristol every fall for the past few years to be a part of the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.
Organizers are expecting even more this year. "If ticket sales are any indication, we are ahead of last year,” Executive Director Leah Ross said. “We are thinking we will have that many again this year if not a few more."
That brings up the question of what it all costs. There are things to consider like power, water, and law enforcement to start the list.
We've learned funding is spread out over several agencies and is hard to track. "We will spend about $13 to $14,000 supporting the event,” Bill Sorah with Bristol, Tennessee Public Works said. “This doesn't include the power from street lighting. We also have water downtown as far as hydrants and the various hydrant sickouts that are there for the vendors to use."
Having that many people in town requires extra security for attendees as well as vendors. "We have to provide security downtown at night," Captain Maynard Ratcliff with Bristol, Virginia Police said. “The vendors' tents are down there at night and we do provide security for that. Along with the Bristol, Tennessee Police Department, we share duties on either end of town and work really well together with it."
Successfully marketing an event of this size can be tricky. "The Convention and Visitors Bureau does a lot for Rhythm & Roots in marketing, as well as the organizations themselves and the state department of tourism,” Kimberly Leonard of the Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau said. "We are marketing across states. We have people from all over the U.S. as well as several countries that come to town for the weekend."
Everyone comes together to make the event a success for both sides of the state line. "We finally embraced our roots and what that means to us,” Leah Ross said. “Downtown merchants and everyone else, it is just a team spirit that we are all here for each other. Whatever we can do to help the other succeed, we are willing to do that. I think you see it in the things going on in our downtown."