July 27, 2008

Bragg Jam Exceeds Organizers’ Expectations

By Travis Fain, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.

Jul. 27--Bragg Jam was headed for a record-breaking year Saturday evening, exceeding even organizers' expectations.

Large crowds packed music venues, and the music spilled into the streets. Hundreds came to the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail for an afternoon of family events, balanced against the backdrop of a little rock 'n' roll.

But the festival, named for a pair of musician brothers killed in a 1999 car accident, was nearly assured financial success before the first guitar chord echoed through Macon on Saturday night. Friday evening, a Steve Penley painting of Macon's most famous rockers -- The Allman Brothers Band -- was auctioned for $21,000, Bragg Jam board president Brad Evans said.

It will hang at the Big House, the band's old home on Vineville Avenue, which is being renovated as a museum.

"We raised almost as much money last night as we did last year with the whole festival," an exhausted Evans said Saturday evening.

The rest of the weekend didn't disappoint. Hard numbers weren't available Saturday night, but board secretary Lisa McLendon said ticket sales for the music acts were "far beyond our wildest expectations."

Proceeds from the festival go to upkeep for the Heritage Trail, which is where families congregated Saturday afternoon. Children climbed "Spider Mountain" and jumped in inflatable "Moonwalks." A Hannah Montana lip sync contest drew more than 30 young girls.

A smattering of the hippie-rock element meshed with happy children and smiling parents. The rain held off and clouds made the July heat just a little more bearable.

But once the sun began to set, Bragg Jam got back to its roots: music.

Outside the Cox Capitol Theatre, groups of friends chatted and sipped from bottled beers. Brandon Hunnicutt and his friends ticked off a half-dozen bands they wanted to see. What's so great about Bragg Jam?

"It's the music, obviously," Ike Vinson said.

"It's that Macon looks like Athens tonight," Hunnicutt replied.

Macon hasn't been cool like Athens, a college town if there ever was one, in decades. And it may never regain the edge it had in the 1960s and 1970s, when everyone had heard of Otis Redding and The Allman Brothers Band.

Macon was a music epicenter. Kirk West was there then, and he's still here now. The Allman Brothers Band's self-described "tour mystic" and, until recently, occupant of the Big House, stroked his long white beard and contemplated the Bragg Jam on Saturday.

It's more manageable this year, he said, with a good blend of local and regional acts. It's a good representation of the music scene as it now exists in Macon, he said. It's solid proof that the scene exists, no matter what the pessimists say, he said.

But there's something else, too: A synergy between music and the community.

"I think the people that are doing Bragg Jam are really doing something positive," West said.

And that was that. He headed toward the music.

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