You see, life ain't no rehearsal, boy, You only get one chance. And you learn that by the seat of your pants.
-- Jamey Johnson
On a fairly regular basis, I hear people from this area bemoan their contention that Albany, and indeed, all of Southwest Georgia, needs "fixing." (Fixin' in the local vernacular.) Usually the complainers have all the answers needed to accommodate such a fix.
But it hit me the other day as I read some whinny post about The Herald's coverage of the planned Southwest Georgia Music and Arts Festival that a lot of what's wrong with this region is actually quite an easy fix. All we need, in the words of Damon Wayans' "Major Paine," is a little "attitudinal adjustment."
Let's set the scene once more for those who came late to the party: Businessman Sam Shugart, Threeforty Creative Group principles Evan Barber and Justin Andrews, restaurateur Bo Henry and others came up with a plan to hold a three-day festival -- a la BamaJam, Wanee, Bonnaroo, etc. -- right here in Albany. Instead of beating around the bush and formuting a committee to conduct a feasibility study, as so many do, they made a determined three-word declaration: Let's do it.
Once word spread, there was an outpouring of mixed excitement and wonder at how the principles would be able to pull off such a grand plan in such a short amount of time. But as each new piece of the festival puzzle -- logistics, vendors, associated events, site preparation -- started to fall into place, anticipation built for a large segment of the population that's always looking for new and exciting things to do and frequently has to leave town to do them.
But also, as Bette Midler sang in the "Seinfeld" episode about "one girl's erotic journey from Milan to Minsk," "the naysayers nayed."
Oh, yes, they crawled out of the woodwork. They were the ones who declared that no big-name musical artist would come to Albany, that traffic to and from the Exchange Club Fairgrounds would be unmanageable, that Albany and Dougherty County officials would do everything in their power to sabotage the festival, that people here wouldn't support anything new, that blah, blah, blah ...
And, of course, there were those who felt slighted because an event that could very well become a gigantic money-maker not just for Albany but for this entire region -- an event that, according to Convention and Visitors Bureau Manager Rashelle Beasley, could mean a $2.1 million infusion of economic impact for every multiple of 10,000 people that showed up -- was getting heavy media attention and something they might have been involved with was not.
For his part, Shugart, who's not your typical businessman, has not wasted a lot of time worrying about such petty gripes. He's too busy planning for a successful event far beyond anything Albany's ever seen. No, instead of sniping back, Shugart has taken the unusual approach of inviting any such naysayer -- negative Nellie? -- to join his team and make the festival something that will benefit everyone in Albany. He's even offered to give them free admission to the event.
I personally tend to be cautious when I'm evaluating the potential of any type of event here that depends on public support. I've seen too many good people get burned by a community that cries often of nothing to do then does nothing when something is made available.
And maybe I've fallen under the spell of Shugart's mojo as he unabashedly declares what can and will be. But it's hard not to get caught up in such unbridled enthusiasm ... that is if you're paying attention and you're not worried that someone else other than you is getting a little credit for having the guts to take a risk to make something big happen.
Sure, there are some elected agencies around here that could use a little attitudinal adjustment in the form of new blood, but fixing Albany would not be one of those refurb projects that just goes on and on and on. It just needs a little facelift ... as in lifting the faces of the whiners and moving them somewhere where their kind are appreciated.
I'm thinking the South Pole would be a good fit.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.