0521 blues in the park1.jpg

Singer LJ Echols will return to Alex City for Blues in the Park July 11.

Blues in the Park almost didn’t happen but now it’s coming soon.

Organizer Tyrone Oliver was hoping the fourth-annual installment would be two months earlier but COVID-19 restrictions forced the concert to be postponed. Familiar acts are still coming Alexander City on July 11. The event will observe social distancing suggestions but it doesn’t leave much time to plan.

“We had to wait until some of the restrictions were lifted by the governor,” Oliver said. “It has thrown planning into turmoil.”

Oliver said last year’s headliner LJ Echols, of Dallas, is returning. Also traveling from the Lone Star state is Mz Connie. 

Oliver has been around the music business and radio stations his entire life. More than 40 years of making connections allow Oliver to easily contact bigger-named acts easier.

“I made the connections for LJ Echols and MZ Connie through (Georgia-based soul artist) Stan Butler,” Oliver said. “I met Mz Connie in 2005 in Pascagoula, (Mississippi).”

Oliver said Alexander City should also be familiar with Funk Nation.

“They won the Sun Festival Battle of the Bands,” Oliver said. “They then opened for Diamond Rio.” 

The fourth act to perform at Blues in the Park will be King South. Oliver said King South is an upcoming performer from Montgomery.

Blues in the Park was just an idea a few years ago. Oliver said he had seen music festivals in west Alabama and thought it could be done in Alexander City.

“I looked at Jazz Fest,” Oliver said. “I wanted something more inclusive for all. If it can be done in Wilcox County, we can do it here. I started talking with Alexander City Parks and Recreation Department director Sonny Wilson and we came up with Blues in the Park.”

The first year was at the Charles E. Bailey Sportplex and the festival moved to Strand Park for its second year to take advantage of Alexander City’s entertainment district.

A committee was formed to keep Blues in the Park going.

“We work through other nonprofits,” Oliver said. “We haven’t formed our own yet.”

Oliver said the event is free thanks to vendors and sponsors.

“A ticket to a show like this would be between $50 and $60,” Oliver said. “The pandemic has created issues with getting vendors and sponsors. We depend on sponsorships. The City of Alexander City has helped, but we need sponsors. We need vendors.”

Oliver said those interested in becoming a sponsor or vendor can call him at 256-496-1958 or his wife Clara at 256-794-5361.

Oliver said music will start at 2 p.m. July 11 with the first act taking the stage at 4 p.m. Coolers and tents are welcomed but grills are not allowed.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.