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December 26, 2013

2013 year in review - No. 6: Rock the South grows tremendously

With the event heading into its third year, organizers are gearing up for the biggest Rock the South yet — on the heels of an unprecedented turn out in 2013.

After waiting until just a few months before the event to lock down headliners for the second annual music festival earlier this year, organizers are riding the momentum of a 35,000-person showing to line up 2014 a full year in advance.

“We had over 30 states represented this year, and we think we could really have a ‘country Bonnaroo’ on our hands,” organizer Shane Quick said, citing the well-known Tennessee-based indie rock festival. “We’re thinking big, dreaming of an even bigger event. We’re way ahead of where we were for 2013, just in momentum alone, and we’re looking to build this thing. We want people to look forward to this as a part of their summer.”

With the latest edition set for the weekend of June 20-21, 2014 at Heritage Park, Quick has confirmed Grammy winners Little Big Town will anchor the Friday night schedule. The Homewood-based band is currently supporting its hit 2012 album Tornado.

“They have easily been one of the most-requested bands we’ve had since we started, and we’re so excited to have Little Big Town,” Quick said. “What’s really special is the fact that they’re from north Alabama, and they represent the state so well. We anticipate a massive amount of excitement.”

The festival has also added Colt Ford, The Charlie Daniels Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Currington and event host Sara Evans.

The festival started in 2012 behind a city sponsorship to celebrate recovery from the 2011 tornadoes that devastated the community. Country artist Sara Evans stepped in as the official host and sponsor for 2013 — expanding the festival to two days — and attendance skyrocketed to the point of essentially filling the park.

Looking toward next year, Quick said they’re obviously trying to attract a bigger crowd — but organizers also want to refine the experience for concert-goers.

The 2013 edition included Duck Dynasty stars and former Alabama and Auburn football players in fan meet-and-greet sessions, and Quick said those are the types of events they hope to grow as the event moves forward.

“How do you top 2013 when it was a sell out? The goal is to improve the overall experience for the fans, and that’s what we’re working on,” Quick said. “We want to make this a world-class event and give fans a true experience. Not just to come and listen to music, though that’s great, but to also have some other extracurriculars. We’ll definitely be looking to improve on some of the logistical things from last year, in everything from parking to vending lines.”

Though the event might outgrow Heritage Park in downtown by 2015, Quick said Cullman will definitely remain the event’s home for the foreseeable future.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the buy-in and positive feedback we’ve gotten from people,” he said. “When you plan an event, you have to know if there’s a need there for it. The one thing we learned in 2013 is — overwhelmingly yes — people want something like this. We’re so proud to be able to showcase Cullman to so many people, and support even more local charities by raising more money next year.”

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 134.

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