FlintFest in the works

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

ALBANY -- With so many big events planned during the month of October, Albany city officials started looking for a way to, according to City Manager James Taylor, "keep them from all bumping into each other."

And thus was born the FlintFest, a musical and international festival that will, essentially, combine the city's annual International Festival and the River Jam that debuted last fall.

"October has always been a busy time in the community," Taylor said Wednesday. "We have Albany State's homecoming, the (Exchange Club) fair, the International Festival and we started the River Jam last year. What we wanted to do was come up with one enormous festival that serves everybody.

"Rather than all these events bumping into each other, we decided to come up with a major event like Mardi Gras."

Civic leaders and volunteers have been working frantically to turn the best of the International Festival and River Jam into an event that will offer a little something for everybody.

"It was an opportunity for us to celebrate the various genres of music that are a part of our heritage while also celebrating the many cultures that are a part of the International Festival," said Suzanne Davis, director of the city's Recreation and Parks Department and chairman of the RiverFest's entertainment committee.

"We're still in the planning stages, working on a headliner for the festival, but we have confirmed artists from swing, blues, jazz, rock and country genres. There will be some local acts, but we're looking for artists who appeal more on a regional level."

The Albany Downtown Sertoma Club, of which Taylor is the chair, has teamed with the city to help bring the FlintFest to life, and Taylor said other Sertoma Clubs in the community have also gotten involved.

Barbara Rivera Holmes, the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission's director of marketing and existing industries and marketing committee co-chair for FlintFest, said showcasing downtown and the Flint River is among the crucial elements of the festival.

"Downtown is important to this community, and the riverfront is our biggest asset," she said. "The idea is to take both the International Festival and the River Jam and expand both of them to appeal to wider audiences in a fun, relaxed atmosphere while taking advantage of the river and our greenspace."

Officials with Albany's Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has conducted the International Festival for the last three years (after one year as a Hispanic Festival), said they were receptive to a plan that would combine their event with Recreation and Parks' River Jam.

"I definitely think we can be compatible," CVB Executive Director Lisa Riddle said. "There are people who have supported the International Festival as it was who will now have an opportunity to enjoy a broader experience. This will give us the big fall festival that everyone's wanted here for a while."

RiverFest is scheduled for Oct. 1 from noon to midnight. Musical artists will perform on a smaller stage at Veterans Park and a larger stage near the Riverwalk trail at Riverfront Park. Unlike the first four years of the International/Hispanic Festival, though, admission will be charged for FlintFest.

Funds from the event will benefit as-yet undisclosed organizations.

"We have something in Albany few places have; the Flint River is an incredible resource," Taylor said. "The idea here is to take advantage of that resource. We've got a dedicated group of people working on putting this event together, and it's coming together well. Things are looking a lot more plausible now."