Shugart: Community made Throwdown

Sam Shugart

Sam Shugart


Joe Bellacomo

Sam Shugart

ALBANY, Ga. -- His eyes glazed over from lack of sleep -- and this is a guy who typically sleeps only four or five hours a night anyway -- head reeling from an endless list of details that need his attention and the cellphone on his desk buzzing every few seconds, Sam Shugart flops down to talk about this monster he's created, the Georgia Throwdown.

After almost a year of planning -- and he'll admit now, he might have miscalculated on the time thing -- the three-day music festival that he insisted be held in Albany, the place that will always be his home, is only a handful of days away. All the hundreds and hundreds of details, all the haggling with agents, all the fires he's had to put out ... and all those damned phone calls ... all of it's about to end.

Now it's time for the music to play.

Shugart collapses into a chair at his office on Gillionville Road and tries to focus on the questions he's being asked. He's not on autopilot, but his usual level of abundant energy just isn't there.

Midway through the interview, asked if there are things associated with the festival that he and his core team simply could not do, Shugart reacts with a swiftness that's stunning. The fire that friends and associates who see him on a dialy basis know so well is ignited in those tired eyes, and he fairly leaps from his chair.

"Yep, I've made a list of all the things I haven't been able to do in the last 41 years," he says, walking over to a copy machine. "In fact, I made a copy for you."

He hands his inquisitor a blank sheet a paper.

"In my life, there's never been anything I didn't think I could do," he says. "Ask me to build a nuclear reactor, and if you give me the blueprints and a library card I'll build it. The way I look at things, if there's something I can't do, I know someone who can.

"Somebody tells me I can't do something, it only makes me work harder."

Maybe now doubters can see why, even as everyone around him said he couldn't make it happen, Shugart and his team are on the verge of pulling off a three-day festival that will feature the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Big & Rich, Drive-By Truckers, Easton Corbin, Uncle Kracker and 50 or so more national, regional and local artists at Albany's Exchange Club Fairgrounds.

"I'm in the last turn, in the 50-yard sprint to the finish line," the businessman says. "I'm pretty much robotic now, and when people try to stop me I just smile, wave and keep walking. If I want to have lunch with my girlfriend, we go to Sonic and sit in the truck to eat. Otherwise, I get no peace."

Everyone, it seems, wants to talk about the Throwdown. Not, of course, that that's a bad thing.

"There was a little naysaying at first, but once everyone got that out of the way it's been nothing but positive ... zero resistance," Shugart said. "The reaction of the people in this community has been reaffirming.

"But I knew this was going to happen. I hadn't talked with him, but I knew Dallas Davidson was going to get on board. I knew (Albany Police) Chief (John) Proctor was going to get on board. I knew (Albany City Manager) Jim Taylor would get on board. I knew (Albany Mayor) Dorothy Hubbard would get on board. I knew Cynthia George was going to get on board. It just took me putting myself out there."

Even when doing so left Shugart to, as he said, find someone to do the things he couldn't do.

"I'm not a CPA, so I don't do my own taxes," he said. "I'm not a lawyer, so I don't do my own legal work. I'm not a professional promoter, so I called on the best. I went to Huka Entertainment, and they helped start all those little things to falling in place.

"The key for me was being smart enough to know I'm not that smart."

Shugart said the "ripple effect" of the Georgia Throwdown will be far-reaching. That, he says, is why city and county officials and the community in general have been so supportive.

"It's like when you drop something in the water and the ripples just spread and spread," he said. "These ripples are going to reach far beyond the motels and gas stations here. They're going to impact all of this region and beyond.

"Those ripples are what this is about. The Throwdown is about the terminally ill kid who is going to be king of the festival. It's about (singer) little Abi Permenter who will pick up a flyer that has her name right there with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Big & Rich and could turn out to be the turning point of her life.

"We have set the entertainment industry on fire," Shugart continues. "You're not supposed to be able to do what we're doing at a first-year festival. That's why the three biggest entertainment agencies in the world -- William Morris, CAA and Buddy Lee Productions -- will have representatives here. What we're doing is unprecedented."

Even with all these things going on, Sam Shugart has remained Sam Shugart. Rather than blow his own horn, he's spread praise among the members of his core team and the other 300-plus volunteers who he says are vital to any success the festival might enjoy.

And he says the community in general has turned the Throwdown into whatever it will become.

"This project is pretty much the culmination of the last 20 years of my life," Shugart said. "This is my life on a larger scale.

"In all honesty, we intended initially for this to be a smaller festival. But it became what the community wanted it to be. We started small, and it just snowballed. Now that snowball is about to run through Albany."


whattheheck 3 years, 1 month ago

I really hope this thing turns out well. No bad weather, please.


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