Downtown prepares for Rhythm & Roots

Downtown prepares for Rhythm & Roots

BRISTOL, Tenn./Va. - Downtown Bristol still looks like downtown, at least for now.

Here and there you can see the infrastructure for the 14th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Staff and volunteers were out in force Thursday to get ready for the weekend.

"It takes a whole lot of people, a whole lot of volunteers to make it work. We're a small office. The volunteers make it happen," said Tahita Haynes, operations director for Rhythm & Roots.

More than 1,000 volunteers to help an expected 50,000 fans enjoy four blocks of downtown. Others are installing 800 sections of fence, 200 banners, and 135 mobile toilets.

Cumberland Square Park will host some acts for the first time this year.

Executive Director Leah Ross says they biggest change has to do with eating -- Lee Street is now food central. "We're developing a food court over there so people can sit down and eat. That's to try to help with the flow of foot traffic on State Street," said Ross.

Foot traffic that can lead to a big jump in customers for businesses downtown, like Wm. King Clothiers. "It's actually so busy in here, it's not the most conducive time to shop. So we tell people to make themselves at home, look around, but if you're serious about buying clothing, we'll meet you next week," said store owner William King.

"What it does more than anything is give us a platform for the locals to know that we are here. We're still that secret here in Bristol," said Shelbee's Vintage Catering employee Carol Johnson.

We learned this weekend is not just about the music. "It's all about showcasing our great town, talking about our music heritage, and making it an economic boon to our community," said Ross.

We learned some other interesting facts while checking out the preparations -- they're using 1,394 feet -- a quarter-mile -- of six-foot construction fence this weekend.

There will be 700 artists on 21 stages. The first act, Old Line Skiffle Combo, kicks off Friday evening at 5 p.m. Tickets are still available.

We did some digging to find out the potential economic impact of Rhythm & Roots this year. The Mumford & Sons stopover last summer had 20,000 fans in attendance and brought about $5 million into the Bristol economy.

The Rhythm & Roots Reunion brings in more than 50,000 people.

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