By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
It’s official: Rock the South will live on, though it’s about to get a whole lot bigger. Cullman officials have been working for months to make a music festival with hit country artist Sara Evans a reality — now Mayor Max Townson says all that hard work has paid off.
Townson confirmed to The Times that both parties have agreed in principle to hold the festival, with a final contract to be signed within the next several weeks. The current plan calls for a two-day event in June featuring several country artists, who will join Evans at Heritage Park.
“The city and Sara Evans are in agreement and we’ll have a template for a contract this month,” Townson said. “We’ve committed and they’ve committed, and we’ll probably appropriate some money through parks and recreation like we did last year to help with that. There are still some details to be ironed out but it’s a done deal.”
The city hosted its first large-scale concert in April of last year, packing Heritage Park with approximately 15,000 people for the inaugural Rock the South featuring country artists Kellie Pickler and Dierks Bentley. From there officials started working with Shane Quick, of Premier Productions, which eventually led to a meeting with country artist Evans and her husband Jay Barker, a former Alabama football star.
Townson credited the success of Rock the South as the catalyst to attract the hit recording artist Evans to Cullman, a relatively young market as a major music venue.
“I believe it was the reception we got from Rock the South and how well that went off, as far as tickets, the crowd and the traffic we had,” Townson said. “More than anything it proved we could carry out a concert.”
Evans held an invitation-only promo concert in Cullman in late 2012, playing to a packed crowd, which Townson said generated quite a bit of interest among potential sponsors to get the festival off the ground.
“I think they saw Cullman is a city of character and they loved it,” Townson said. “The reception was fantastic at that initial event.”
Quick, who is currently organizing the Bama Bowl Bash with Barker in Miami, Fla. for the BCS National Championship game next week, said he believes the new incarnation of Rock the South could eventually be one of the biggest annual festivals in the region.
“Rock the South means a lot to us, the city and the local people and I’m excited to say we are doing the event,” Quick said. “We’re getting a lot of interest from major sponsors and artists already. A lot of people will be coming together to make this a massive country music festival for north and central Alabama. We’re excited to move it a bit later into the Summer, around June, where even more people will hopefully be free to come and be a part.”
Quick said he, Evans and Barker are currently finalizing the line-up and pinning down the exact weekend for the event. A full announcement is expected by the end of this month.
“We want to make a massive announcement by mid-January,” he said. “The artists line-up will be getting bigger, and the amount of artists will be getting bigger.”
Though the 2013 edition of Rock the South will expand from one day to two, Quick said the longterm goal is to create a full three-day music festival within the next few years.
“We’ll be taking that next step this year by adding a second day, making it a Friday and Saturday festival,” he said. “We want to keep growing from there.”
In addition to music Quick said the event will expand to include even more college football-themed festivities, as well as a massive offering of local barbecue vendors. The final goal? A truly “southern” event.
“We want to do a barbecue row, with famous barbecue form all over the state, then keep expanding on Alabama, Auburn and SEC football players coming out,” he said. “We want Rock the South to represent all the things southerners are passionate about, such as music, barbecue and football. There will be something for everybody.”
‰ Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.