Bragg Jam becoming more of a family affair

First-timers, old-timers and those in between flocked to Macon on Saturday to feel the rhythms and beats of more than 80 artists at the 16th annual Bragg Jam.

The popular concert crawl began at 2 p.m., which Everett Verner, president of the Bragg Jam board, said was the earliest the festivities have ever started.

But that’s not all. The number of venues also jumped from last year’s 14 to this year’s 21, he said.

“It has expanded quicker and bigger than ever before,” Verner said.

He said he couldn’t wait to catch Foe Destroyer -- a self-described grunge thrash pop band from Austin, Texas -- at Fresh Produce Records, but he was excited to see other bands as well.

Before the more mature crowds flooded the downtown sidewalks, children, parents and grandparents gathered early Saturday for the Arts and Kids Festival in Cherry Street Plaza, which took place from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

The free, circus-themed event boasted a clown, face painting and even a fire breather.

Elisha Hall, of Macon, brought her three boys and their great-grandmother to the morning’s activities for the first time.

“I hope they keep it going,” she said of the pint-sized entertainment. “It’s real neat, and you can’t beat (that it’s free).”

Scott Corkery, treasurer and Arts and Kids Festival chairman, said the morning’s activities are the only way to foster a new generation of “Bragg Jammers.”

“The children won’t be at the festival tonight, but we never want any of this to go away,” he said. “So the more the merrier.”

Verner also said he was excited that people were starting to give the event a kid-friendly distinction.

This year’s more family friendly venues include Taste & See Coffee Shop and Gallery, Coleman Hill, the patio at Twang Southern Tastes and Sounds, Mount de Sales Academy amphitheater and even Just Tap’d.

“For people who couldn’t get a sitter, they can kind of taste (the concert crawl),” Verner said.

Joshua Neal, a 26-year-old full-time musician from Gray, agreed that the overall environment felt relaxed and chill for people young and old.

“Some festivals you go to can get a little aggressive,” he said. “Mosh pits were fun when (I was) 18 but not now.”

Sitting in a comfortable chair in Just Tap’d and staying out of the heat, Neal said the hundreds of people flowing into downtown shops and attending the festival have a unique opportunity to listen to relatively unknown artists.

“It’s just like a buffet of new music,” he said.

Another music lover, Kathy Atkins, agreed, calling the whole day a cornucopia of music.

“It just couldn’t get any better, the way I look at it,” the 64-year-old said as she sipped on green tea at Taste & See and praised the Athens-based band Cicada Rhythms for a job well done.

Atkins, who lives in Monroe County, had never come to the concert crawl before, but she showed nothing but enthusiasm for the day’s musical offerings.

“(The festival) makes people get together that don’t normally get together,” she said.

Unlike Atkins, Pam Johnston has been attending Bragg Jam almost religiously for nearly a decade.

“Music is always a great way to join people together because it speaks to all races, all classes, everyone,” she said while swaying to the music performed by the Otis Music Camp in the amphitheater at Mount de Sales. “It’s a great way to build our community together across all those boundaries.”

During the Otis Music Camp’s performance, the Mount de Sales class of 1960 and family and friends of Julie and Jim Bragg — the parents of the two brothers the festival is named for — presented two benches for the school's amphitheater. The Bragg Jam board also voted to purchase a third bench for Julie and Jim Bragg's home garden.

Julie Bragg said she was tickled to death with the benches and grateful that Bragg Jam has blossomed from a one-venue concert.

“I love that it’s now a community thing,” she said. “It just blows my mind.”

To contact writer Conner Wood, call 744-4489.