Saturday night marked the culmination of the 28th annual Jazz Fest celebration in Alexander City, along with the 6th annual Sun Festival. With this year’s Sun Festival providing a week full of events leading into Jazz Fest, there was plenty of excitement in the air around town as locals got a thrill out of their favorite activities.
“This past week was a tremendous success,” Alexander City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ed Collari said. “Mother Nature gave us a great week of weather and the support we got from the community, it was huge.”
The weeklong series of events began June 1 with Friday on the Green at Russell Crossroads. Between Friday on the Green and Taylor Hicks at Jazz Fest, there were activities spread throughout town, offering up a little something for everyone. There were those scouring locations around Alexander City looking for the Pie in the Sky Treasure Hunt medallion every day, spending time visiting with residents at area nursing homes and taking part in a cornhole tournament. Making sure area children had plenty of excitement of their own, KidsFest offered up fun times with a magic show at Mamie’s Place, water slides at the airport pavilion and expressing their artistic talents, among other things.
“Thursday night’s Strand Sessions was probably the largest crowd I’ve ever seen for a Strand Sessions event,” Collari said. “We had a great turnout for bingo Wednesday afternoon and Faith Night Wednesday evening. The glow golf tournament sold out again, and we had about 10 to 12 teams on the waiting list. There were about 40 dogs in the dog parade. Overall, I thought everything had a great turnout.”
The fun continued Friday night in Strand Park with the first night of Jazz Fest followed by Saturday’s lineup at The AMP on Lake Martin. Crowds packed both venues to hear a host of top-notch musicians performing at no cost.
“I would say it was a great success,” Robert Gunn with the Jazz Fest Committee said. “Friday and Saturday were both very well attended. People came out in numbers. Everything was great, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.”
Along with people coming early and staying late to take in their favorite acts, Gunn said it has been great being able to pull in some of the artists Jazz Fest has in the past, but also amazing to have some Grammy award winning performers take the stage this year. Collari added it was great to see Hicks be patient with the fans after his performance with a fairly lengthy line of people wanting to meet him, shake his hand and get a photo with the fifth season “American Idol” winner.
While he was backstage much of the time both nights, Gunn said he heard a multitude of positive remarks from those in the audience.
“From my vantage point, I could see a lot of happy people in the crowd,” he said. “I can’t recall hearing anything negative from anyone either night.”
Now that another Sun Festival is in the books, Collari said he and his staff will be taking some time to regroup before reviewing everything, figuring out the things that worked and those that didn’t in order to begin planning for next year’s event.
“We want to find what we can do to make it better next year,” Collari said. “The initial feedback is dictated by attendance. Everybody seemed to be having a good time and enjoying themselves.”
Gunn said he and the others in the Jazz Fest Committee will also be coming together for a post-event meeting in the near future to figure out the good and the bad from the event, as well as forming sub-committees to begin piecing together a plan for next year’s Jazz Fest. While the group does not book acts until around February, committee members will begin listening and compiling together a list of potential artists to look at booking soon.
In the future, Collari said he feels having Sun Festival and Jazz Fest coincide might be the way to go, though this has not been set in stone at the moment. At the same time, he wanted to thank all those who helped make this past week such a phenomenal success.
“I can’t thank our staff and the community enough,” Collari said. “We can’t do all that we do without our sponsors. People see this and think it’s a Chamber event, but really, it takes everyone.
“We heard nothing but positive comments from everybody. We can’t thank the community enough for supporting this. This year was hugely successful.”