The announcement Monday morning that Rock the South's (RTS) owners intend to move the two-day music festival to a location southwest of Cullman, with larger acreage, at first created a whirlwind of excitement as fans anticipated the lineup for the eighth year.
By Monday night, at the Cullman City Council meeting, the excitement soon descended into a litany of concerns about shifting an anticipated 65,000 people to 140 acres near Deer Trace subdivision, which is reached by county roads.
More than 30 residents arrived at city hall to discuss the proposal, which came via a press release from RTS owners Shane Quick and Nathan Baugh. The intent, the owners said, is to provide a larger area that will provide more amenities for country music fans who travel to the area. Camping, RVs and more parking were among the highlights listed for the move.
Deer Trace residents presented a calm reasonable list of concerns in the presence of the City Council as well as Quick and Baugh, who were on hand to discuss the proposal.
Over several months, RTS owners have been looking at other options that would allow the concert to grow and spare Heritage Park from the annual wear of enormous crowds coming from nearly every state and several countries to enjoy an A-list of country music stars.
The proposed move comes on the heels of studies involving engineers and consultations with law enforcement. Some of those consultations are not completed, and the City Council has not yet approved the annual license for RTS 2019.
Residents shared concerns about the roads leading in and out of Deer Trace and the nearby land for the event. The roads, many said, are narrow and treacherous most anytime of the day or night and not in the best repair.
They also wanted assurance of safety in the subdivision as thousands descend on the area, and whether other events will be booked at the location.
RTS has a lease to use the land. At this time, no other events are planned or intended for the property.
Residents across Cullman County have watched RTS grow by leaps and bounds from its beginning, a year after the April 2011 tornado outbreak. Through the years, the festival has generated thousands of dollars for local charities, an intent Quick announced from the beginning.
RTS brings tremendous exposure to Cullman – the concert is listed among Billboard's top music venues in the country, drawing 30,000 or more per day.
The revenue generated by the two-day event also pumps thousands of tax dollars into the local economy.
The traffic with such a large event is a challenge, but few problems have arisen from RTS in the past.
Moving RTS to a location that saves Heritage Park from the annual trampling, and damage when it rains, is a good idea. The challenges of making the chosen land suitable and the traffic flow are in the hands of the concert promoters and officials who will ultimately sign off on the event.
Residents who will be near the concert have legitimate reasons to be concerned, but past years have proven that emergency and law enforcement personnel plan well for directing traffic, caring for those who venture here, and maintaining an environment that makes RTS a premier event.
Additionally, Quick, Baugh and all associated with RTS have proven to be good community partners since Day 1.
Giving RTS a chance this year to make a new home, while staying local, deserves the community’s support. The two-day gathering of stars and fans may come with some minor hurdles, but the event is also a gift to the area that has shown its commitment and value for 7 years.