As Rock the South prepares to return to Cullman June 1-2, the country music festival’s organizers hope to top 2017’s eye-popping $10.1 million local economic impact.
This past summer, an estimated 60,000 people — 30,000 per day — rocked out at Heritage Park, despite a torrential downpour that temporarily halted the show and was a contributing factor in extensive field damage. The two-day concert event brought in people from across the country, and some from abroad, who brought their spending money with them.
At a press conference at Mae’s Food Hall on Wednesday, Rock the South founder Shane Quick spoke about the beginning of the festival and the reason for commissioning an economic study after this year’s event.
Rock the South was originally intended to be a one-year event to let the people of Cullman gather together to celebrate and honor the recovery efforts from the April 27, 2011 storms, but has continued every year since, he said.
Rock the South continues to grow, but the idea to bring the community together and celebrate each other has never gone away, Quick said.
“The humble beginnings of this festival is truly the heartbeat of it,” he said.
After the 2011 storms, the people in the community came together to help each other, and there are many people who do that every day, whether in a public service position or working for a nonprofit, Quick said.
“We wanted to build a festival that would give to them and celebrate them and come together around them,” he said.
To get an accurate account of the economic impact of the festival on the local businesses and governments of Cullman and Cullman County, Rock the South organizers turned to the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research.
An analysis of the 2017 festival shows Rock the South netted 121 new jobs and $10.1 million in sales, said Ahmad Ijaz, executive director and director of economic forecasting with the University of Alabama.
The report found that around 28,000 people attended each day of the festival, and spent a total of $4,480,000 in Cullman County. The sales tax revenue in the county was a little more than $208,000.
And those numbers are conservative projections, Ijaz said, without lodging tax revenue factored in.
“It’s a very substantial impact,” he said.
The revenue that comes into the county is important, but Rock the South has also donated more than $500,000 to local charities and organizations over the years of holding the festival, Quick said.
Dawn Owens, the founder and Executive Director of The Link of Cullman County, spoke at the press conference about the support her nonprofit organization has received from Rock the South.
The festival has given more than $40,000 to The Link over the last five years, which is the equivalent of supporting around 172 people, she said.
“It is great to know that Cullman, Alabama has an event like this that has the direct impact on peoples lives the way that we get to see on a daily basis,” Owens said.
Nathan Anderson, director of Cullman Parks and Recreation, said Rock the South has helped his department with their plans for a special playground for the last few years.
The department is working to convert Ingle Park into a playground that serves the need of all children, regardless of their physical limitations, and over the last three years, around half of the costs of the playground have been raised by partnering with Rock the South for parking at the festival, Anderson said.
“Kids will be able to have experiences they’ve never been able to have right here in Cullman because of the partnership with Rock the South,” he said.
Rock the South is set to return to Cullman on June 1-2, and the festival plans to announce its first performer for the upcoming concert on Jan. 29 with tickets expected to go on sale in the spring.
With 2017 marking the last year of the city’s five-year contract with Rock the South, organizers and officials are currently having discussions about future contracts, Anderson said.
“We feel great where we are now heading into 2018,” he said.