With temperatures in the 30s, Sunday wasn’t a good day for a picnic in the park.
The trouble was, the College Hill Alliance has been so successful with its Second Sunday Brunch series at Washington Park that people expected the usual; free music, good company and a chance to kick back on a blanket.
So the event, which began in August 2008, was moved to the Armory Ballroom a few blocks away, where the air was a lot warmer — even if the footing was a lot harder.
About 230 people turned out at noon to hear Macon’s most experienced bluesman, Eddie Kirkland, perform with the Barry Darnell & the Mobile Slim Band.
The 20 round tables set up around the ballroom were packed, with more people lining the walls and watching from the balcony.
Some people even sat on blankets spread out on the floor.
Some brought their own refreshments — a group at one table noshed on cheese, crackers and sausage, washed down with mimosas. Others availed themselves of the cash bar and $5 croissant sandwiches.
Monroe County resident Ken Taylor said he made the trip downtown with his wife and two young daughters so he “could listen to the blues that I heard at Grant’s Lounge all those years ago.”
“They got a good little crowd here,” Taylor said.
Jessica Walden, communications and outreach director for the College Hill Alliance, said the good turnout was a good sign.
“We’re hoping to keep people downtown on a Sunday afternoon,” she said. “There are too many tumbleweeds blowing around downtown on a Sunday.”
This was the second indoor version of Second Sunday Brunch.
The first was last month, also at the Armory Ballroom, where the Macon/Mercer Youth Symphony Orchestra performed.
This month’s version was a little more raucous, with the 86-year-old Kirkland showing why he still draws crowds on European tours that take him as far away as Finland.
Wearing a vest, a glossy gold cravat and his trademark multicolored turban, Kirkland blazed through a 70-minute set, mixing torrid guitar licks, wailing harmonica and authoritative vocals. When he played his signature finale, “I Love You,” he jumped down from the stage to finish his guitar solo on the ballroom floor.
Asked for the secret of his persistent vigor, Kirkland said, “I take care of myself. I don’t drink. I never had a drink in my life.”
Walden said Second Sunday Brunch will return to Washington Park on Feb. 14, when Mark Brooker & the Soul Proprietors will perform a special Valentine’s Day set.
As a bonus for lovers, Brooker and his band will perform that evening at the Armory Ballroom as part of a screening of “Dirty Dancing.”