Hurry, don’t be late. I can hardly wait ...
— Little River Band
The primaries are over. Now it’s time to get down to the really important issue that has Southwest Georgians buzzing.
With new rumors surfacing every day, antsy music fans want to know who will headline and who will fill out the bill at the first Southwest Georgia Music & Arts Festival’s Georgia Throwdown Oct. 12-14.
Speculation about everyone from country’s biggest superstars to rock and roll royalty to the great road warriors of Southern Rock — and dozens of acts in between — has lit up the social media world as excited fans’ imaginations have run wild.
The event’s major organizer, businessman Sam Shugart, is so far keeping his lineup card close to the vest. But Shugart assures fans the names will have music fans flocking to the Exchange Club Fairgrounds for the three days and nights of the festival.
Shugart said Tuesday he’s “close” to announcing at least part of the lineup for the Throwdown, but he said he wants to have contracts in hand before he releases artists’ names. He did say, though, that when he starts making the announcements, he will also release online and physical locations where tickets may be purchased.
“We plan to make the festival affordable, and I can guarantee there will be plenty of bang for the buck,” Shugart said. “The Georgia Throwdown, as part of Music Week in Albany, will have a huge economic impact on our region, will benefit local nonprofits and will establish our event as one that will continue to grow for years to come.
“I realize people are anxious to know who’s going to be playing and how to get tickets, but I think we’d do them a disservice by announcing anything prematurely. The one thing we want to do with this festival is do everything the right way. We’re here for the long haul.”
Dozens of local, regional and national sponsors have already made a commitment to the Throwdown, and ancillary events are being added daily. The annual que4kids barbecue cook-off — with more than $17,000 in cash prizes — will be held during the festival, and Cynthia George is working with local nonprofits to assure them ample space on the 110-acre festival grounds.
Many of the planned 110 RV hook-ups have already been claimed, and primitive camping spaces are expected to fill up quickly as well. Shugart is still negotiating to use other nearby parking facilities in case fairground parking fills up, and hundreds of vendors are expected to start signing up for prime spots soon.
The Kids of the ‘70s group will hold an event in conjunction with the festival — with music by Southwest Georgia favorites Relapse — and campground stages are being discussed as places for local musicians who don’t land a spot on the festival’s three main stages to play.
Looking beyond the impact of October’s first festival, Shugart and members of his core team are overseeing an estimated $100,000 in improvements at the fairgrounds that will be far-reaching. With the Exchange Club’s annual fall fair scheduled shortly after the festival and the club having recently announced a new American Kennel Club coon hunting event to replace the United Kennel Club Winter Classic that left for Mississippi after 25 years here, upgrades on the Exchange Club property will continue to pay dividends beyond the festival.
The few skeptics that surfaced in the wake of Shugart’s announcement that he would bring the festival to Albany — And who didn’t know that they’d be out there? — have been all but silenced by the enthusiasm Shugart and his team are spreading throughout the community.
It’s an enthusiasm that’s contagious ... one that will no doubt grow when the names go up on the marquee.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at email@example.com.