Immersed in blue light, holding a black guitar and wearing a white cowboy hat, Rabbi Larry Schlesinger of Temple Beth Israel brought Saturday evening’s Bragg Jam festivities to a roaring start at the Hummingbird Stage and Taproom.
The annual music festival offered up more than 40 acts on eight stages.
Bragg Jam started 10 years ago to honor Brax and Taylor “Tate” Bragg, who were killed in a car accident. Since then, Bragg Jam has grown into one of Macon’s largest events — and the City Council passed legislation this year to loosen open container laws for the event.
Rabbi & Friends opened to a cheerful, if mostly stationary crowd, and was joined by Macon City Councilwoman Nancy White and Mayor Robert Reichert.
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White played tambourine with Schlesinger’s band to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” — the “everybody must get stoned” song.
“They’ll stone us and then call Chris Krok,” sang Schlesinger, also a council member.
Reichert walked on stage to a warm welcome wearing a navy blue polo and jeans. He helped Schlesinger sing “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Reichert provided the chorus, singing, with his accent coming through and a hand on his hip, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind; the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
He described the experience afterward as “intimidating,” but said, “It was a real blast.”
Bragg Jam, advertised as running 5 p.m. until, provided an opportunity for a variety of bands to perform at venues primarily clustered along Cherry Street. Besides the Hummingbird, bands performed at The Rookery, Cox Capitol Theatre, Rivalry’s and the Shamrock, among others.
Andrew Blascovich, the treasurer for Bragg Jam and a University of Georgia graduate, said Macon was “starting to feel like Athens.”
He said he thought the relaxed open container law, which allow adults to take designated cups of alcohol from venue to venue provided they were wearing the appropriate armband, would improve the event.
“I think it will benefit in terms of atmosphere,” Blascovich said early in the evening.
Gary Schechterle, the owner of Lemongrass — a Thai restaurant on Cherry Street, set up a stand outside selling food, beer, and Jager Bombs, a mixture of Jagermeister and Red Bull.
The Bragg Jam also hired police officers to patrol the area.
Officer Austin Riley said he had positioned officers along Cherry Street and had three officers on three-wheeled, bike-sized motor vehicles.
Jowin Okere, 18, was scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. at the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail Stage at 567 Cafe.
He was thankful for the opportunity.
“I feel like I really got lucky on this one,” he said.
Before musicians even started tuning their instruments, artists set up their pastels, paints and easels along the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail.
The art competition, which had members of the crowd vote for their favorite painter, was part of Bragg Jam’s Arts and Kids Festival.
This is the second year of the art competition and the third year the festival was held on the trail.
Barbara Barry won the competition last year.
She said standing in the shade of a tree painting, “There’s not a nicer way to spend the day,” she said.
A portion of the proceeds from Bragg Jam are going to the trail, the Capitol Theatre and the Georgia Hall of Fame’s M.I.K.E. (Music in Kids Education) program.