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Georgia Music Hall heading to Albany?

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Joe Bellacomo

Sam Shugart is using his skills and resources to bring bigger and better music and arts entertainment to Southwest Georgia.

ALBANY, Ga. -- As word has spread about the Southwest Georgia Music & Arts Festival planned for Oct. 12-14 at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds here, the initial excitement of many has quietly settled into wait-and-see mode.

Executives with the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Foundation can now officially be added to that list of interested onlookers.

Festival organizer Sam Shugart is working with Music Hall officials on a plan that would make the now-anchorless museum the primary nonprofit benefactor of the three-day music and arts festival and could make Southwest Georgia the Hall's permanent home.

"Shortly after we announced the festival, I had a conversation with my old friend Dallas Davidson, who is vice chair of the Georgia Music Hall Foundation," Shugart said of the Albany native who, with 13 No. 1 songs on his resume, is country music's go-to hitmaker. "He's a great guy from our area who's retained ties to the region, and he wants to see this happen.

"Dallas and (Hall of Fame Foundation Chairwoman) Lisa Love also realize what (the plan) could do for the Southeastern United States, for Georgia and particularly for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. They share the vision that's brought the festival to life."

Part of that vision includes bringing the Music Hall to downtown Albany or some other Southwest Georgia location.

"There's been so much talk about revitalizing downtown Albany, but (the Music Hall) could be the turning point that makes that happen," Shugart said. "And I know the taxpayers in Albany and Dougherty County would be wary hearing about another attraction here because they are tired of paying to keep some of the others open.

"But what would they think about an attraction that opens with an irrevocable endowment in place that would assure it is self-sustaining forever without the need for one dime of public funding? An attraction that would open with integrated public outlets in place that would create their own viable revenue streams?"

Attempts to reach both Davidson and Love for this article were unsuccessful.

The possibility of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame finding a permanent home in a region whose musical heritage runs deep is another element of Shugart's ever-expanding vision for a festival that has grown from a seed of an idea to perhaps the most talked-about entertainment topic in the Southeast.

"The way I see it, I have three months to prove myself to the Hall of Fame Foundation," he said. "There are no obligations at this time; people are waiting to see what we're going to do."

Officials with the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau offered some encouraging numbers this week to fuel the excitement of the SOWEGA Music & Arts fest and the possible location of the Georgia Music Hall to Albany.

CVB figures show that a crowd of 15,000 out-of-towners and 10,000 day-trippers at the three-day music festival would have an estimated $6.555 million economic impact on the region. The Music Hall, meanwhile, would have a $2.185 million annual impact on the region if it drew a conservative 25,000 visitors a year. Figures from 2009 show that the hall drew between 25,000 and 30,000 to its home then in Macon.

The hall closed in 2011 due to a lack of funding and several Georgia cities submitted proposals to house the museum. All were eventually rejected. The museum's various permanent artifacts are currently being stored at the University of Georgia.

Thronateeska Heritage Museum Executive Director Tommy Gregors and then-Flint RiverQuarium Director Scott Loehr conducted initial requirements needed to prepare a Music Hall proposal for the city of Albany, but Gregors said there were too many uncertainties at the time.

"Scott and I attended meetings, read all the RFP (request for proposal) documents and toured the facility (in Macon)," the Thronateeska executive director said. "We looked into the possibility of preparing a proposal on our terms, but we didn't feel comfortable giving assurances they were looking for at that time, so in the end we did not make a proposal."

Gregors said Albany's musical history makes it a natural fit with the Music Hall, but he said such a facility would be a tougher sell as another standalone museum.

"A music hall of fame would certainly bring an audience along with it and that, in turn, would increase traffic at Thronateeska, the RiverQuarium, Chehaw and the Civil Rights Institute," Gregors said. "In fact, I think it would make Albany more of a two-day or weekend destination.

"But if it's not located in close proximity to the existing attractions, it would defeat the purpose. One of the realities of this business is that if people get in their cars to travel from one place to the next, you're going to lose a great many of them."

Gregors also noted that the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies would bring a premier event to Albany that would include performances by annual inductees.

For Shugart, the list for possible Music Hall locations that might be sponsored by SOWEGA Music & Arts fest funds is a short one: It's Southwest Georgia or nowhere.

"We'd still be more than willing to make the Hall of Fame our nonprofit benefactor, but we are not willing to consider another market for relocation," he said. "People have said, 'I can see you buying 2,000 acres of land along I-75 and putting the Hall there,' but, nope, that's not going to happen.

"This is where I live; this is where we're going to have the music and arts festival. This whole thing revolves around Southwest Georgia."

Comments

JustAnotherVoice 2 years, 2 months ago

It is a shame the Albany Police Department don't have it together so that this foundation could feel good about re-locating to downtown Albany.

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Cartman 2 years, 2 months ago

Sam, we love ya man! The whole idea of a music fest in Albany is a great and exciting idea. Involving the Georgia Music Hall of Fame may be a stroke of genius. But talk of locating them here permanently is A Bridge Too Far. They do need a home, since they lost their Macon location. I understand their need for a new city to sponsor them with support. But the timing of that idea is simply terrible. Just when we are talking of the need to cut the purse-strings to the Riverquarium and the ACRI as unsustainable albatrosses around our necks; I cannot believe that anyone with any fiscal awareness could suggest bringing in a museum that couldn't financially make it in Macon, a larger city with a richer music history - Little Richard, Allman Brothers, Leon Russell were discovered there. Capricorn Records was there which had great musical talents like: Clarence Carter, Arthur Conley, Al Green, Johnny Jenkins, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Percy Sledge. Macon also is at the intersection of two Interstate highways. So the Georgia Music Hall of Fame couldn't make it in Macon, but it's going to make it in Albany? Really? This is like deja vu with Tommy Chatmon. Bring the music-fest, but stop the idiotic talk about us having to bankroll another taxpayer funded "tourist attraction". Please.

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gsujd 2 years, 2 months ago

Did you read the article?

"There's been so much talk about revitalizing downtown Albany, but (the Music Hall) could be the turning point that makes that happen," Shugart said. "And I know the taxpayers in Albany and Dougherty County would be wary hearing about another attraction here because they are tired of paying to keep some of the others open.

"But what would they think about an attraction that opens with an irrevocable endowment in place that would assure it is self-sustaining forever without the need for one dime of public funding? An attraction that would open with integrated public outlets in place that would create their own viable revenue streams?"

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Cartman 2 years, 2 months ago

Yes, I read the article. Color me skeptical. So what exactly are "integrated public outlets in place that would create their own revenue streams?". My B.S. meter is pegging over. Did you read my comment? My primary points were: (1). It didn't work in Macon where it would have stood a much better chance. (2). Shoveling public money into speculative wishing-well ideas has worked out as badly as predicted. So doing it again is a good idea? Downtown is not a tourist attraction. Spending money during dire times isn't responsible. (3). Self-sustaining? Start off with a big endowment? Great! I agree. That will work. Now show me the money. And (4). Why not just put on the music fest? It's a wonderful idea. Talking about a permanent home for the Ga Music Hall of Fame even before the first Music Fest is a little premature IMHO. And I could be wrong. In a nutshell, MusicFest = good. Hall of Fame = skeptical. Sorry I'm long winded. We're in the same profession.

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chinaberry25 2 years, 2 months ago

Shugart, wanta bet? I'll take you on. If it were rap, maybe. But you are scratching at straws on this. Our motto down here is, this is a last resort town. Come here as a last resort like all the entitlement crowd. Now if you want welfare, come on. You 15% will have never heard of you. And if Albany has to dish out money, I am totally against it. Go put it in Thomasville, you may have a better change. Or Tifton.

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FlunkyMonkey 2 years, 2 months ago

Lets see. If we build a civic center, people will come. If we build a civil rights museum. People will come. If we build an aquarium, people will come. Now they are wanting to add yet another drain on Albany's coffers. I suggest that the crime/crime element in Albany be cleaned up first. If Albany's own citizens don't feel safe downtown, what makes you think a visitor to Albany will?

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FryarTuk 2 years, 2 months ago

As a business owner in Albany I totally support Sam Shugart's and his associates' idea of the music fest. The Hall of Fame idea could have possibilities and I hope the group continue to flesh out its promise in a responsible way which I know they will. Cartman's dose of skepticism is a healthy reality check. His comments sure bring up painful memories don't they, Albany Tomorrow? The kicker here is Flunky's return to reality - cleanup the criminal element in Albany so people are safe. That's the tallest order with the controlling elements of our civil institutions being so self-serving and predatory on the taxpayers and citizens.

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