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Jingle Bell Jam fundraiser benefits Darton, community

Musical event expected to be first of regular Darton series

The Jingle Bell Jam will be Dec. 14 at Austin’s Firegrill, beginning at 6 p.m. (Special photo)

The Jingle Bell Jam will be Dec. 14 at Austin’s Firegrill, beginning at 6 p.m. (Special photo)

ALBANY — Talk about a win-win.

The Darton State College Foundation will kick off what it plans to be a regular series of entertainment events Dec. 14 at Austin’s Firegrill in Albany when the foundation presents the Jingle Bell Jam. The outdoor concert will feature three of Southwest Georgia’s favorite musical acts: The Jodi Mann Band, the Kinchafoonee Cowboys and Highway 55.

All proceeds will benefit the Darton Foundation.

“I’ve been wanting to do this since I’ve been on the foundation,” that group’s president, Glenn Tennyson, who is also lead singer for the Cowboys, said. “We’ve been kicking around ideas to broaden the base of support for Darton, and we wanted to come up with something that would benefit the college and the community.

“I came to the Hammer Jam concert (to benefit Habitat for Humanity) at Austin’s, and I remember thinking what a great location it was for a musical event.”

The Jingle Bell Jam is not affiliated with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s annual Jingle Bell Jog fun run, but participants in that event who bring their participation number to Austin’s on the 14th will be allowed into the Jam free.

“The events are a week apart, but we think it’s a good way to focus on the things that benefit our community,” Tennyson said.

The Cowboys frontman called the acts at the Jingle Bell Jam “three headliners with their own loyal following,” but he noted that in Highway 55, fans would see one of the hottest young modern country bands in the Southeast. The Albany-based group was recently named Band and Artists of the Year at the annual Georgia Country Music Awards.

The Cowboys, who for almost a quarter-century have been among the major influences of the growing number of Georgia artists and songwriters who have taken over Nashville, have long been fixtures on the college scene in the Southeast and among the most popular acts to play at the venerable State Theater in Athens. They’ve performed for crowds of 25,000 and larger and shared stages with such musical luminaries as Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic and the Dave Matthews Band.

The initial goal of the Jingle Bell Jam is to provide funding for the first of what is expected to be quarterly concerts at Darton’s Cavalier Arena. Tennyson said the venue would be perfect for acts starting to earn a reputation beyond regional boundaries.

“Cavalier Arena has about 3,500 seats, and we want to bring in acts that can fill it up,” he said. “We want to get on Nashville’s radar and have them look at us for rising acts who are touring in the Southeast. If we can plan one of those shows a quarter, it will have a huge impact on our fundraising efforts and give the community fun cultural events right here at home.

“We’ve made an offer to a significant mainstream band for a show we’re planning in March. We’re planning to incorporate the latest smartphone technology where fans buy tickets online and then have their cellphones scanned at the gate. Paper tickets are pretty much a thing of the past.”

Tennyson said the Darton Foundation plans to use money from the concert series to increase the number of four-year degrees offered at the college.

“This is a prelude to something big that’s in the works educationally for Darton,” the foundation president said. “I’ve been assured by officials in Atlanta that there will be some big changes here soon, and I think they’ll have a positive impact on Darton.”

Advance tickets for the Jingle Bell Jam, which are available at Austin’s Firegrill, are $10. Tickets will be $15 the day of the show. All children 12-under will be admitted free. The Jodi Mann Band will kick off the music at 6 p.m., the Cowboys will follow at 7 and Highway 55 will take the stage at 9.

Musculoskeletal Associates has signed on as a sponsor of the Jam, and Austin’s is donating 10 percent of all gross receipts for the day to the foundation. Sponsorship opportunities are still available by calling Toni Smith at Darton at (229) 317-6929.