Foothills Festival set for this weekend

By ED HOWELL
Posted 9/2/18

Officials are planning for perhaps the largest and most well-planned edition of the Coca-Cola Foothills Festival, which will invite thousands to the city of Jasper on Friday and Saturday this …

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Foothills Festival set for this weekend

Posted

Officials are planning for perhaps the largest and most well-planned edition of the Coca-Cola Foothills Festival, which will invite thousands to the city of Jasper on Friday and Saturday this year. 

Zach Baker, the talent buyer for the festival, said  the line-up for the festival, known for offering free entertainment of high caliber in Jasper's entertainment district, should be another major attraction. 

In recent years, nationally known acts at the Foothills Festival, which is presented by the city of Jasper, have included Gin Blossoms, Tonic, Deana Carter, Spin Doctors and John Paul White.

"I'm excited about the Foothills in general," Mayor David O"Mary said in his weekly online video recently. Officials expect upwards of 15,000 people to attend the event.

"This will certainly be the largest Foothills production we've ever had, and maybe the largest production of any sort that has taken place in the city of Jasper," short of the U.S. House Speaker William Brockman Bankhead funeral in 1940, which was attended by President Franklin Roosevelt. 

Brent McCarver, the city's revenue compliance officer, said on the mayor's video that while officials have concentrated on bringing visitors from Birmingham, officials are also looking west now, as Tallulah Brewing Co. had responses on their website from Marion County residents eager to come to the event. 

"We're hoping we can really promote it to be more of a regional event and get into some of those counties," he said. Officials note they have had visitors from as far as Austrialia, North Carolina and South Dakota. 

Investors for the event - named to recall being in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains - include Honda of Jasper, Hyundai of Jasper, Pinnacle Bank and Tallulah Brewing Co. The Daily Mountain Eagle is listed as a premier sponsor for the event, along with Carl Cannon Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac, Jasper Orthodontics, Ford of Jasper, Jasper's Oldies 101.5 FM and Byars | Wright. Sponsors include Bank of Walker County, Desperation Church, Synovus, Designs on You, Aaron's, TriGreen, 5 Loaves Bakery and Lavish Boutique. 

A number of other supporting sponsors and friends are listed for the event. 

A guide with a map and show schedule the event is scheduled to be published by the Eagle on Thursday. 

"I'm super excited," Baker said of the schedule, saying it shows a balance of different styles. 

The Steeldrivers and Robert Randolph's The Family Band will headline the festival, while Taylor Hicks and Will Hoge will also have late sets. 

Baker said the Friday line-up will include River Dan, Hoge and concluding with the SteelDrivers. The Saturday line-up will include the Chris Simmons Band, the McCrary Sisters, Paul Thorn, Hicks and then headlining Randolph.

 Baker, who had a $65,000 budget to work from for talent, said the Foothills Festival is not just for this community but for bringing in others from outside to experience the downtown area and how it has flourished. Local businesses have seen an increase in business due to exposure to the festival. 

 "This is our sixth year doing this and it has actually been deemed one of the Top 10 festivals in the state of Alabama," he said. 

 Performances on the main stage will be on the corner of Third Avenue and 19th Street, just off the courthouse square. 

A number of other features are also part of the festival, including a popular Kids Zone sponsored by Desperation Church on the east end of 19th Street, across the bridge. Many vendors, ranging from businesses to non-profit groups, will set up booths as downtown Jasper will be blocked off along the 19th Street area and some of its intersecting avenues. Restaurants and stores are expected to be open downtown, while about a dozen food vendors will also set up. 

"You're going to see everything from barbecue to pizza to funnel cakes, hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage dogs, shaved ice. That's more than we've ever had at Foothills," said Lisa Myers, the city's special events coordinator, during the mayor's video review of the festival, adding it was double the number from last year. 

Vendors will also be on Fourth Avenue next to City Hall this year, the mayor said.  Officials said aside from the courthouse area, some food venders will be on the far ends of 19th Street, near Restoration Hall and the children's area. 

Adam Hicks, the pastor of Desperation Church, said Saturday that a kid friendly movie, to be announced later, will be played on the street in front of the Jasper Civic Center after dark falls each of the two nights. In the day time on Saturday, performances will also be held in that area. 

"The Family Fun Zone, including carnival rides inflatable’s and games, will be happening during the entire festival. I would say just let people know that the family fun zone is totally free. They will have to come to one of our check-in stations to get a wristband and that wristband is good for the entire festival," Hicks said. 

In addition, the Carl Elliott House Museum will be open during Foothills Festival in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the National Defense Education Act.  The late congressman's former home, — located at 17th Street and Birmingham Avenue, about a block behind the Jasper Civic Center —  is normally open by appointment only, but will be open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors are being encouraged to take a break from the heat and to learn what Elliott did for the nation.

Jasper police were seen regularly patrolling the event last year, and are expected to be present this year.  

"If there was ever been a time in this country and this city to make sure your security is top notch, in every respect, it is right now," O'Mary said. "What you are going to see when you come to Foothills is that our security is going to have a different look. I hope it conveys a message. We're going to make sure that Foothills is a secure event for anyone who comes here. There will not be any tolerance of misbehaving." 

O'Mary noted the downtown's Entertainment District is clearly marked with red lines as to where alcoholic beverages in open containers can be held, and crossing over that area will invite the police to address those visitors. "We don't mean that to be high handed, but that is the way we're going to run Foothills" to make sure everyone is having fun and staying safe, he said. 

Myers said Jasper police will set up a command post downtown and stay throughout Friday night, staying 24/7, and until the conclusion on Saturday night. "They will be on site the entire festival," she said. 

Jasper Fire Department will have a medical response area set up near Warehouse 319 on 19th Street, within site of the main stage and up the hill from the children's area. 

Officials emphasized teamwork in coordinating with each other, and the mayor noted his only instruction to crews was, "Crisp execution on every front." If that is done, he said it will be a great festival. 

He said he has never seen a more cooperative effort by local officials and sponsors to organize an event. . "I'm excited about what we've done to solidify the organization and we will hopefully have a template on how to run Foothills," he said. 

The mayor said it goes beyond being a fun event, as it also speaks to the culture of the area and a well-staged event also helps with industrial recruitment and growing the city. 

Public parking will be available on 20th Street and First Avenue, 20th Street and Fourth Avenue, and along other roadways downtown. ATMs will be available at Pinnacle Bank and Synovus. Performances will go on rain or shine. 

Streets downtown will start to be blocked on the north side of 19th Street early Friday morning. The rest of the roads will start to be  blocked at 1 p.m., not just on 19th Street but Second Avenue through Fifth Avenue, as well as some of the area between 19th and 20th Streets. Vendors  will come in starting at 2 p.m. Friday, with set up required by 5 p.m., Myers said. 

"If you want to get here for the whole thing, I would start getting here after 5 o'clock," McCarver said, with acts expected to be over by 10:30 p.m. Officials said visitors may want to start coming at 10:30 a.m. Saturday to start that day's events. Saturday night may end later than 10:45 p.m., depending on Randolph's program. 

According to the festival's website, officials encourage bringing sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, digital cameras, a valid driver's license, comfortable footwear and cash. Prohibited items include flasks of alcohol and coolers, illegal substances, bicycles, scooters, personal motorized vehicles (except wheelchairs) and musical instruments. 

 Anyone wanting more information may go to foothillsjasper.com or call Myers, at 205-221-2100 or 205-717-8054. Her email is events@jaspercity.com. The festival's Facebook page is "Foothills Festival Jasper, Al."