With planning now under way for the first-ever Rock the South concert festival, the Cullman city council made some logistical moves this week to allow Cullman Parks and Recreation to move ahead with plans to allow alcohol sales at the April 27 concert at Heritage Park.

Country artists Kellie Pickler and Dierks Bentley will headline, with smaller opening acts set to be announced soon. Former Alabama and Auburn football players will also be on hand to sign autographs at the festival, with officials expecting anywhere from 10,000-15,000 in attendance.

The council approved a special event alcohol license request from the parks board earlier this week, which allows the board to now petition the state for a license. The request came with a favorable recommendation from the city’s Alcohol Review Committee.

Officials say they’ve received some questions from a handful of community members about how alcohol sales can be allowed at the city-owned park, and city attorney Roy Williams clarified that the current ordinance would allow alcohol sales at the park as part of a special event.

“The park board has leased the [Heritage Park] property from the city, and the parks board is technically putting on the festival, not the city, though the city is funding a part of the event” Williams said. “Nothing in the ordinance precludes the sale of alcohol on city-owned property, it just has to be permitted by the city and state.”

City council members say promoters involved in the planning process recommended having alcohol at the event to increase revenue and attendance, and they heeded that advice.

Rusty Turner, chairman of the city park board, noted alcohol sales are fairly common at concert festivals, and said he doesn’t anticipate any problems.

“Considering the nature of the event, that would obviously be a draw for some people to come to the concert,” he said. “Planning is going well and there is a lot of excitement. We really think everyone will have a good time and this will be a positive impact both economically and socially.”

Cullman Parks Director John Hunt said the department has contracted with Robert Yarbrough to handle the alcohol concessions at Rock The South. Yarbrough has years of experience with large-scale events, and his company also handles alcohol sales at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center (BJCC), the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, and concessions for the Ringling Bros. circus.

“This is a family event and we want to make it as great as we possibly can, so we’ve hired one of the best people in the south to handle this,” Hunt said.

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

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