Mood Lighting: The Decorating Cents of the Bristol Rhythm Atmosphere Committee - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Mood Lighting: The Decorating Cents of the Bristol Rhythm Atmosphere Committee

They’re the darlings of DIY, the princesses of Pinterest — the makeover mavens who form the semi-secret sisterhood of the Atmosphere Committee at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Each year these fine ladies take a diamond and manage to add a bit more sparkle, continually outdoing themselves since the committee’s formation in 2012. Today’s post turns the spotlight onto these astral aesthetes — usually hidden somewhere in the wings — as we extend a big “thank you” to them for their design-on-a-dime approach to festival “mood lighting.”

Atmosphere Committee members, left to right: Tracey Childress, Tara Russo, Hannah Bibbee, Christi Edwards, Lacey Smith, and Tabby Barnes.

If you’ve ever taken a selfie in front of the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion logo projection at the Near Moore Stage or lounged in the hammocks at Cumberland Square Park during the festival, you probably weren’t thinking about how — or why — you were able to do so. Just like everything at Bristol Rhythm, there’s usually a volunteer to thank for the little extras that make our event so special. The volunteers of our Atmosphere Committee are responsible for many of the visuals you see, the ones that make you want to pose and snap a pic. From twinkle lights to hand-painted signs and hand-sewn flags, there’s a photo opportunity around every corner — thanks to our exceedingly creative volunteers.

Projection imagery at the Near Moore Stage makes for the perfect photo opp. This year when you find your picture-perfect spot, tag us! #bristolrhythm © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Lee Jones

The Atmosphere Committee was an idea that came to us in August 2012 when Mumford & Sons brought their Gentlemen of the Road Tour (GOTR) to Historic Downtown Bristol. Believe in Bristol (BIB) and the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM), the parent organization of Bristol Rhythm, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, and Radio Bristol, served as “goodwill ambassadors” during the planning and execution of the event. Mumford & Sons had employed the aid of AC Entertainment in the coordination and production of the Bristol stopover, and BCM opened our State Street office to them for a couple weeks prior to the show so they’d have a comfortable office on-site.

About a week before the event, a small crew of trendy young ladies showed up in the office with bolts of fabric and sewing machines. They asked if we knew where they could find things like hay bales and an old piano. I asked a member of the AC team who they were and learned these women had been hired to provide “atmosphere” to the concert. I was intrigued.

Kelly Strickland, yours truly, my hubby Tim, and Michelle Jones mad hatting at Mumford & Sons Bristol Stopover of the Gentlemen of the Road Tour, August 11, 2012. © Birthplace of Country Music

If you attended GOTR, then you likely posed for pics under the trees at Cumberland Square Park at the Alice in Wonderland-inspired tea party table. There were empty photo frames hanging from the trees, and a giant broken-down piano in the fountain behind WCYB. It was amazing. I got to talking with our former operations manager Tahita Haynes, and we agreed that Bristol Rhythm needed atmosphere, too. And so Tahita went to work assembling a team. The rest is history.

Just a few examples of the Atmosphere Committee’s handiwork at festivals past. © Birthplace of Country Music; Photographers: Billie Wheeler, D. Kirk, and W. Foster

Tracey Childress was one of the first people we approached to be part of the Atmosphere Committee. Soon after, BCM hired her full-time and she is now our administrative assistant and “Director of First Impressions” — the first smiling face you see when you come into our office. She also takes care of group tours and about 20 dozen other things including festival vendors. This year will be Tara Russo’s third year chairing the Atmosphere Committee alongside vice-chair Tabby Barnes. Both ladies have been on the committee since the beginning with Christi Edwards and Hannah Bibbee. Lacey Smith is also a long-time committee member. Karen Hinkle, Lauren Houser, and Georgia Moran are also part of this year’s team. All of them working together create some wonderfully inventive decorative surprises, creating, in turn, a special mood and feel for festivalgoers each year.

Another stunning piece of Pinterest-level and music-themed deco. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Adam Martin

As you know, our festival is nonprofit. Everything we make goes back into the event, so our Atmosphere Committee works on a very tight budget—a mere $2,500. I’ll take the time here to solicit on their behalf: Atmosphere is actively seeking sponsors, volunteers, and donations to help them work their magic. If you are interested in sponsoring the committee please contact Erika Barker at!

If you know or happen to meet one of these hard-working and creative ladies of the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Atmosphere Committee, be sure and thank them and tell them how much you appreciate the work they do! We are certainly grateful to have these amazing women on our team! Thanks, gals!

The City of Bristol, Tennessee, 2017 Dance Tent sponsor, added their own magic to the festivities. © Birthplace of Country Music

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