Putting on Soul Jam Festival brings heavy load of stress

Event celebrates 13 years of ups and downs

hgoodridge@macon.comMay 26, 2013 

As the band set up and cars flowed into the parking lot at Macon’s Henderson Stadium in the early evening Sunday, there was no mistake about it -- major fun was on tap.

A few DJs blared music in the parking lot as some tailgating took place in anticipation of the 13th annual Soul Jam Festival. For the tailgaters, the fun started much earlier.

However, there was one person not having much fun, the event’s founder, state Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon.

Some of the acts featured at Sunday’s show were the Bar-Kays, Mel Waiters, Sir Charles, Vick Allen and DraKarr & An Experience. Some of the acts in years past were Millie Jackson, Jeffrey Osborne, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and the Chi-Lites, to name a few.

It’s kind of hard to enjoy yourself when you’re playing host to such big name groups, not to mention the expenses.

The stage alone cost more than $11,000.

“Tickets have to sell for it to pay for itself,” Lucas said a few hours before the festival began. “If they don’t sell, I’m on the hook and it’s not fun being on the hook.”

Some years were better than others. There were times when Lucas and his crew had to scramble to pay bills when shows didn’t bring in large crowds because of rain or other competing events in town.

“The soul circus came in on top of us,” Lucas said about the UniverSoul Circus that was entertaining crowds at Macon’s Central City Park. “Last year was not so good. This year we don’t know what kind of crowd we’ll get.”

Tickets for the show were $35 a pop, and based on what was being offered, that was a steal, Lucas said. “There are five acts. That’s $7 an act,” he said. “Where can you go get $7 an act?”

Some people, namely “friends,” don’t want to pay anything. “All of your friends want free tickets,” he added. “Everybody is my friend now.”

As the sun beat down on the stadium and the guests sweated it out jamming on the field, Lucas was sweating it out in a 40-foot air conditioned RV hoping enough people would come out to make it worth his while.

The stresses of putting on such an event are real. A few days after the festival a couple of years ago, Lucas suffered a heart attack. He was hospitalized with 90 percent blockage in an artery.

“My health is good,” he said Sunday. “Black folks need to go to the hospital” for regular check-ups.

Charles Gibson, of Warner Robins, doesn’t know much about the stresses behind the scenes of the festival. The retired airman has been attending the event since it started 13 years ago and it’s something he looks forward to annually.

“It’s a getaway,” he said sitting in his lawn chair on the 50-yard line of the field. He and his buddy Willie Jolly were waiting for their wives and friends to join them.

“I like getting around and communicating with all the folks,” Gibson said. “I like the old-school music.”

Some of the friends they were waiting for were traveling from Atlanta. “It’s always good to meet with old friends,” Jolly said.

A big part of their party was food. “I made riblets last night,” Gibson said. “My wife made fried gizzards. We have pork rinds, peanuts ...”

“And don’t forget beer,” Jolly said.

To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service