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FRIDAY JAM: Briar Patch Festival set next weekend in Damascus

A view from the back of the stage at last year’s Briar Patch Festival. This year’s event will take place May 29-31. (Special photo)

A view from the back of the stage at last year’s Briar Patch Festival. This year’s event will take place May 29-31. (Special photo)

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Crowds from across southern Georgia, northern Florida and southeast Alabama will be making their way to Damascus, GA next weekend for this year’s Briar Patch Festival. (Special photo)

DAMASCUS — The days are getting longer, the temperatures are warming up and once again it’s time to kick back and enjoy some tunes at the annual Briar Patch Festival in Damascus.

This year’s Briar Patch, the fifth in the event’s history, will take place at the festival’s traditional location at 13810 Five Bridges Road in Damascus and will kick off Thursday at 7 p.m. The festival will wrap May 31.

Organized in 2010 by Damascus natives and musicians Jeb Tabb, Brandon Lovering and Bo Henry to give themselves and their friends a chance to play the music they love, Briar Patch has turned into an annual event that has continued to grow from its humble beginnings.

“Brandon and I played in a band called The Caucasian Invasion and we weren’t getting to play at any area festivals, so we decided to start our own,” Tabb said. “We got with Bo, who’s also from Damascus, and we just did it. We started booking other bands and it just grew.”

Lovering has a similar take on the festival’s origins, saying the idea really just came together when he and Tabb were daydreaming on the porch one day about how cool it would be to have a music festival in their hometown.

“It was around the time of Wanee (a music festival held each year in Live Oak, Fla.) and we just said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a music fest around here?’” Lovering said. “I think Bo was playing down here at the Powerline, and we mentioned it to him and he said he’d be happy to help. It just went from there.”

Lovering said that at first the group really just wanted to try and pull something decent off, and after that they’ve tried to challenge themselves to make it better in hopes of attracting more fans.

“At first it was kind of like, ‘Let’s see if we can make it happen,’” said Lovering. “Then it became, ‘Let’s see if we can make it bigger and better.’ We’ve been able to do that each year, and every year we get folks coming from farther and farther away to attend. Last year we had a guy come down on Friday night from up in North Georgia just to see Colonel Bruce on Saturday. It’s been cool how it’s grown over the years.”

The festival has grown so much, this year’s lineup will feature 21 different acts, playing a variety of music from bluegrass to Southern rock to alt rock to country and Americana.

“We have all kinds of music,” said Tabb. “It’s just stuff you don’t normally hear on the radio.”

Both Lovering and Tabb contend one of the cool things about Briar Patch, in addition to hearing different artists, is that the festival is really laid-back and family-oriented. Both agreed from the start they wanted to create something that was fun and inviting.

Since the start, they’ve invited patrons to bring tents, lawn chairs, coolers and food and have a peace-filled good time.

“The crowds have been great, and it’s been a safe event,” said Tabb. “We’ve had our growing pains, like parking last year was a nightmare, but we’ve improved it and folks keep coming back.”

In addition to the attendees, Tabb feels the event has been embraced by Damascus and that residents seem to have enjoyed having something to do that’s outside the norm for the quiet, rural town.

“Damascus is small, and there’s not a lot to do here,” said Tabb. “You’ve got to drive nearly an hour to go to the movies, so you’ve got to get pretty creative living there.”

Tabb added that for the hard work that goes into it, the event works each year because of teamwork and bonds of friendship.

“The Briar Patch crew that makes everything happen before and during the festival consists of Vic Hathorn, Cody Tabb, Rocky Spurlock, Wendell Brooks, Patrick Andrews, Brian Lovering and Neal McGahee,” said Tabb. “We all grew up together in and around Damascus.”

Tabb said the event also couldn’t happen without the help of Jernigan Productions out of Milton, Fla., which provides sound and lighting, 340 Creative Group from Albany, which handles street promotions, Terry Pickle and his company M&M Meats from Colquit, which serves as the event’s headlining sponsor, Tom Moore of Capital Investments, and the Ken Young Company from Cairo that helps with merchandising design, among other things.

“There’s a lot of folks that work hard to make this thing happen,” Tabb said.

Tickets for the weekend are $40, and day passes are available for $25. Children 12 and under get in for free. The site also offers camper hookups for $50, although spots are limited. Tickets are available at The Barn in Dothan, Ala., and at Harvest Moon in Albany or through the Briar Patch website, www.briarpatchpro.com.

Anyone wanting more information can visit the website of the event’s Briar Patch Music Festival Facebook page.