The Cullman Times
With the Rock the South music festival wrapped up for another year, it’s a good time to reflect on this event … where it came from, where it is and where it’s going.
Just a year ago, the festival, a brainchild of our city leaders, was launched as an event to celebrate Cullman’s rebirth following the April 2011 tornadoes that swept through Cullman County. Residents of the city and county seemed to unite in the event, taken with the realization that we had, indeed, come a long way in one short, busy year. City residents and merchants alike loved the event and the idea behind it. City pride was at the forefront and shown even brighter when the city, the promoter and all involved did a phenomenal job with the inaugural festival.
It’s a year later and much has changed. The event was turned over to a professional country singer and her husband working with a local professional promoter. The city chips in $150,000 a year along with some in-kind services to keep the event in Cullman. And it grew — it grew a lot. The attendance more than doubled to more than 35,000 people from around the region. The festival this year featured a lengthy list of name-drawing performers. In terms of a music festival, especially one in a community the size of Cullman, it was a phenomenal success on a much bigger scale than the initial festival the prior year.
But something was missing this year. The spirit of the original event, the celebrate Cullman theme, has all but disappeared. It’s no longer a festival for Cullman — it’s a festival in Cullman.
We heard some grumbling from some local merchants who felt like they were shunned and others who simply could not afford to participate with a booth. Prices for such things had increased considerably beyond what the average mom-and-pop business could afford.
Perhaps the most telling of the lost spirit of the event is the fact the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce did not have a booth at the event to give out information to those in attendance at Rock the South. The Chamber couldn’t afford the $10,000 required for the booth. Nor could the Chamber find three member businesses who felt they could even afford to split the cost of a booth. In respect to the original purpose of Rock the South, the promoters should reinvolve the local business community and citizens in the event.
Make no mistake. Rock the South is a wonderful event for Cullman. Thousands of visitors in Cullman for a few days bring in a lot of needed revenue to motels, restaurants and many other local businesses. We applaud the city, Sara Evans and promoter Shane Quick for working to keep the event in Cullman. And we appreciate Quick’s donation of $20,000 to four local charities. It’s a wonderful thing and we’re glad it’s in Cullman.
We’re just sorry the spirit of the original event is nowhere to be seen.