Sounds of Summer begins June 7 with free live music by The Juke Joint Gypsies at the Columbus Riverwalk, from 7-9 p.m. Gypsies, from left, are Mike Chain, Dawn Barham, Tony Foster and Gary Shaw. Photo by: Courtesy photo
June 2, 2012 5:55:07 PM
BY JAN SWOOPE
The advent of summer heralds the return of live music to the scenic Columbus Riverwalk. Sounds of Summer, the popular series of free concerts, begins Thursday evening and returns every other Thursday through July 26 (excluding the week of July 4).
A collaboration of the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link and Main Street Columbus, Sounds of Summer recently earned the Southeast Tourism Society's designation as a Top 20 event.
Main Street Columbus Manager Amber Brislin credits that to continued support from the community, local sponsors, area musicians and food vendors.
"Sounds of Summer began in 2008 when The Link and Main Street Columbus had a meeting of the minds about presenting something during the summer," explained Brislin, describing the ongoing project as a "perfect example of successful partnership by several public and private community organizations and entities."
The City of Columbus, Columbus Lions Club, local chapter of the Public Relations Association of Mississippi, K&T Peanuts and numerous sponsors and musicians partner for the series, Brislin noted.
McCauley Whitaker, vice president of The Link's Chamber Division, is actively involved in co-organizing Sounds of Summer.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase the very best of our area," said Whitaker. "The people, entertainment, beautiful setting and community efforts are all elements that make Lowndes County special."
White walls to stage lights
Looking back to the series' beginning brings a smile to Brislin's face.
"We started out in 2008 with music acts on a small trailer stage, complete with old white wall tires and a hand-written banner. A few folks sold items from their barbecue grills," she recalled.
But the concerts soon gained a faithful following and inspired enhancements. In the second season, a roof was added to the trailer stage. Site improvements the following year included filling in an inconvenient ditch and removing an old well. A permanent stage soon followed.
"Now we have a lovely stage under the bridge, complete with lighting, stairs and a paved road for loading and unloading," Brislin cited. "Each year we look to improve the area, not only for Sounds of Summer but for a number of other events held at the Riverwalk throughout the year."
For Dawn Barham of the Juke Joint Gypsies, opening up the series' fifth summer season Thursday is an honor.
"For us, Sounds of Summer is one of our favorite gigs to play. The Riverwalk itself, everybody bringing lawn chairs, the family-friendly atmosphere -- there's just something about that gig we all love," she said. "It makes it a really fun time for us."
The series will feature Swingshift June 21, Star and Micey July 12, and Deacon Jones and the Late Night July 26. All concerts are 7-9 p.m. Lawn chairs or blankets are encouraged. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.
"Come by car, by foot or by boat," said Brislin. "This is truly a quality of life event that we're happy to provide free for the public. We're so fortunate to have the Riverwalk as an asset; this is just one more way to enjoy it."
Making it possible
Area sponsors supporting Sounds of Summer include Brislin Inc., Chancery Clerk Lisa Neese, Coca-Cola, Fairfield Inn, Fitness Factor, GTR Radiology, Hughes Management, Mitchell Distributing, Neel-Schaffer, P&S Clinic, Phillips Contracting, RDI, Renasant Bank, Rex's Rentals, Rooks Wine Cellar, Soco and Southern Ionics.
For more information, contact Main Street Columbus, 662-328-6305.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.