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June 21, 2013

Crowds pack 1st night of Rock the South

Glenda and Steve Johnson made the trek to Cullman from Fayette County on Friday for the Rock the South music festival, but they’ll be driving all the way back out to Hartselle to stay the night.

“That was the only hotel we could find,” Glenda said, after staking out a spot close to the main stage at Heritage Park. “Everything else was filled up.”

Anyone planning to stay the night in Cullman for the two-day Rock the South music festival was likely out of luck  — unless they had already made accommodations. Virtually every local hotel was booked by Friday morning, with many reservations dating back weeks and months in advance. Officials say the effect of drawing that large a crowd to the area for two days could have a great economic benefit.

The festival continues Saturday with headliners Gregg Allman, Hank Williams, Jr. and several others.

Baileyton resident Nancy Carroll waited for an hour at the gate to secure a good seat in the general admission section, and said she loved the layout of the second-year event. Sporting her Rock the South T-shirt from the 2012 event, Carroll said she has only one complaint about the 2013 edition: The heat.

“Boy, it’s hot,” she said with a laugh. “But, we love the event. It’s great Cullman can have something like this.”

Fultondale native Robin Gray brought her daughter, Meghan, and her friend Brianna Goolsby to the event to celebrate Meghan’s 16th birthday. Meghan and her mom have both followed performer Scotty McCreery’s career since he was a contestant on American Idol.

“It’s a pretty awesome birthday,” Meghan said.

Despite the massive crowd, estimated at least 15,000 people, Cullman Mayor Max Townson said security has reported no major problems and they expect the weekend as a whole to go off without a hitch.

“The police department says there have been no problems, and that was really our number one concern heading into this, with something this size,” he said. “But, everyone is being courteous, polite and safe — and having a great time.”

From lodging revenue to food, Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce President Leah Bolin said the festival should be a major economic boost for the city.

“Even last year, the intent was to move it to a two-day event this year so it can have a bigger economic impact,” she said. “All the hotels are full, and the campgrounds are full. But, it’s not just lodging. You’ll have more people getting gas, eating in our restaurants and spending money here. You’ll also have more than 35,000 people in Cullman and seeing Cullman that will want to come back and visit Cullman. It’s not just a one or two day economic impact, but a 365-day impact.”

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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