By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
Based on advance ticket sales and early buzz, organizers believe this weekend’s Rock the South music festival could double last year’s attendance and bring as many as 40,000 people to the area over a two-day span.
More than 14,000 tickets have already been pre-sold, and officials say sales at the gate and on the final day should continue to rise heading into the weekend.
Organizer Shane Quick, who is working behind the scenes with event host Sara Evans, said everyone involved hopes this year can catapult the festival into the country music elite.
“Basically, we want Rock the South to be the country music Bonnaroo, and we’re looking to grow into multiple days and truly become a festival that people come from around the country to visit,” he said. “In a way, we’re already seeing that this year, with people from Indiana, Kansas and all over the southeast. It’s astounding at how quickly Rock the South has grown into a regional event.”
The event will feature Evans, Hank Williams, Jr., The Band Perry, Gregg Allman, American Idol winner Scotty McCreery, Jamey Johnson and several others. Willie Robertson, star of A&E’s hit series Duck Dynasty, will also be at the event to meet and greet fans.
“We worked really hard on the line-up, because we wanted to have something young, something old, some new country and southern rock, wanted to have something for everyobdy, want it to ben alla ges event tried to make that happen through line-up,” Quick said.
Though the event is set to double in size when compared to last year — and has seen ticket prices more than double to come in line with similiar festivals of this size — Quick said he still hopes to make Rock the South one of the most accessible events in the region. The inaugural event, hosted last year by the city before Evans took the reins, was held to commemorate rebuilding one year after the April, 2011 tornadoes that leveled parts of the county.
“Our ticket prices are still great compared to other major music festivals, and that goes back to the fact that there’s a lot of sentimental value into why it was created,” he said. “That changed all our lives, and I think people take that personally. We’ve actually worked on a video to summarize that, and we’re excited to keep telling the story of Cullman. We believe Cullman is symbolic of a lot of southern cities, and when times get hard, we help each other. Rock the South is really just a celebration of that.”
Considering the event’s noble beginnings, Quick said it’s always a challenge to keep prices low enough to make the event accessible, but high enough to be able to afford quality acts.
“You sometime have aritst fees that can be astronomical, and the goal is keeping ticket prices down so the avergae person can afford to come,” he said. “Honestly, it’s a constant struggle. You’re trying to keep it as cheap as you can, but make the festival as big as you can. We’re walking that fine line now, but we’re committed to keeping Rock the South as one of the lowest-priced festivals in the country.”
Quick was also involved in last year’s event, and said that experience has been invaluable heading into the first edition with Evans at the helm. Rock the South remains the biggest event ever hosted at Heritage Park, and Quick said last year gave them a logistical head start in figuring out how to manage crowds this weekend.
“We learned a lot about Heritage Park and its ability to hold people, where to put entrances, exits, gates and ticket lines, where people line-up, and things like that,” he said. “We’ve been able to impliment a lot of what we learned, and I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more this year, and it’s just a continuius learning curve. Attendees will notice some different entrances and gates, which will hopefully make it a lot easier to get more people into the park in a short amount of time.”
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.