Archived Story

How all of us saved Jazz Fest

Published 7:28pm Friday, February 28, 2014


e almost lost the Jazz Fest this year. It was saved by one of Alexander City’s best assets.

And you need to know the story.

In recent years, the Jazz Fest committee had lost some steam and gotten smaller and smaller.

That’s the way of almost every organization – lots of energy and excitement at first, and not so much as the organization and its goal becomes old hat.

In my opinion, the Alex City Jazz Fest is one of the best events in this part of the world. It brings big-name entertainment to downtown Alexander City and to the Lake Martin Amp on a Friday and Saturday in June each year.

And admission is free. Free.

Because of that, it’s been touted multiple times as a top Alabama music venue by the state bureau of tourism and travel. It’s been a model for other music festivals. It has a fanatic following, drawing people from across Alabama – and further away – to our community each year. The Jazz Fest brings music to 10,000 people over two summer nights.

And check out some of the quality musicians the Jazz Fest to Alexander City over the past 23 years: Zac Brown Band, Bela Fleck, Dr. John, Los Lonely Boys, Delbert McClenton, The Radiators, Joe Bonamassa, Amanda Shaw, Marc Broussard … the list goes on and on.

More than 100 bands have performed over the past 23 years. If a fan paid to see these performers, the cost would be many thousands of dollars per person.

Did I mention that this concert is free? And that it brings together all facets of the Alexander City and Lake Martin communities for two nights of fun and dancing and socializing? And that in 23 years, there has never been a major problem at the event?

The Jazz Fest is indeed one of the treasures of our community.

And it almost went away this year after the committee just ran out of steam.

But then Ralph Frohsin, the founder and primary patron of the Jazz Fest, spoke up at an Imagine Alexander City meeting several weeks ago and said it would be a shame if Alexander City let the Jazz Fest go away. After the meeting, a group of people started talking. Roger Holliday stepped up and organized a meeting date last week. The calls went out and at the first meeting two weeks ago, the Chamber of Commerce boardroom was packed with people who passionately care about keeping the Jazz Fest alive. Holliday recruited Ray Peacock and Robert Gunn to take the reins as co-chairmen this year. This week the second meeting was held, again to a packed house that included some new faces.

It’s obvious that many, many people in our community think the Jazz Fest is an event worth saving.

The momentum is building, and new life is being breathed into the Jazz Fest committee with resh ideas to raise funds and build up the music festival. Members of the Young Professionals organization and those who retired to Lake Martin are working together. Black and white, people who can afford to be a Gold Sponsor and those who cannot, are all working together and sharing ideas for a common cause. It’s exciting to watch this happen.

You need to know that the Alex City Jazz Fest came this close (hold your fingers up about a quarter inch apart) to being called off this year. And you need to know that instead it will go on because of the people who live here.

By all rights, this town should have died when it burned to the ground in 1902 … and a century later when Russell moved away. It didn’t because people here care. People here value our community. People here are willing to pitch in and work for a good cause. And when the chips are down, people here band together and make good things happen.

Like the 2014 Jazz Fest.

If you would like to lend a hand, call Robert Gunn at 256-496-4232 or Ray Peacock at 256-404-0484.

Boone is publisher of The Outlook.

Editor's Picks

Kilgore ‘all aboard’ for holiday fun

  Rodney Kilgore has spent the last four years portraying popular railroad conductors. For most of the year, he wears striped overalls and goes to ... Read more

BRHS’ Fuller qualifies for USA Jr. Team

A Benjamin Russell Wildcat now represents the U.S.A for track and field. Read more