Freedom Fest is here to stay; October 9th Shrimp Fest filler event at The Wharf is sure to expand – Mullet Wrapper
Freedom Fest is here to stay; The October 9 Shrimp Fest replacement event at The Wharf will surely expand
By Fran Thompson
Roger Strick and Flo Rivers, who along with drummer Steve Jacobs and Patrick Smiterman on bass form (pictured) Strickly Rivers, had no idea he would be part of the answer to a trivial question when he booked his band to play the inaugural Freedom Fest on Saturday, October 9 at 9 a.m. on the Main Street stage at The Wharf.
But with Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon announcing that the festival will be an annual event rather than a one-off response to the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber canceling the National Shrimp Fest for the second year in a row, Strickly Rivers can now still claim to be the very first group to play at the festival.
“The organizers first contacted friends. They were not available and recommended me. We are delighted to be a part of the event, ”said Strick, who has been playing music on Pleasure Island since moving here from Birmingham nine years ago.
“It’s great that it’s an annual thing, and I know it means a lot to the people who will participate and attend,” he added. “I think there will be a lot of people and it will be a great event. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say I’m thrilled Orange Beach is on board. ”
“I wasn’t sure it would continue every year, but it’s fantastic,” added Rivers, who worked in the medical field before deciding to try to make music his full-time job.
Strickly Rivers, regular at Papa Rocco’s, Ginny Lane and the GT’s / Cobalt / Cosmo’s bistro group, expects to perform his usual eclectic set at Freedom Fest.
“My roots are in classical rock and acoustic finger picking, but I couldn’t refine my influences. They change all the time, ”Strick said.
Rivers met Strick while working with his wife Diane, a nurse, during her time as the clinic coordinator at the South Baldwin Clinic in Gulf Shores.
Hailing from McIntosh, she’s been singing her whole life, but it’s only since joining Strickly Rivers three years ago that she made it her main job.
“My love for music has always been there,” she said. “But since I’ve been working there full time we’ve had an amazing race. The tourists and locals have been great and we play a lot of private parties. ”
Rivers attended Faulkner State on a Performing Arts Scholarship and was part of the Sun Chiefs Sound. She said Strickly Rivers works original music in their sets, but don’t expect them to limit their performances to just one genre.
“We sing a little bit of everything from Patsy Cline to Elton John to Bill Withers,” she said. “We are super excited to play the first festival. We hear it will be a good event and I think the weather will be really nice. ”
Orange Beach announced plans for the festival just a day after the Shrimp Fest dropped the bombshell that it was canceling the festival over lingering Covid concerns.
“A large number of volunteers have expressed legitimate concerns about their safety, which equates to a reduced ability to properly run and manage the event,” the shrimp festival committee said in its statement.
The local chamber made no attempt to recruit replacement or first-time volunteers who were not part of their core group, which was a major complaint among opponents.
The original intention of Freedom Fest was to provide a venue for performers and guests who had already planned to visit Pleasure Island for the weekend, but the Orange Beach community has since rallied in support. .
The response has been overwhelming, according to Mayor Kennon, who said Freedom Fest is here to say it and will certainly be an annual event during the traditional Shrimp Fest weekend.
“People can choose what they want to do. But we’re going to have a festival every year regardless of what the Shrimp Fest is doing, ”he said. “We have the event center, the port and the wharf amphitheater. We have the new Performing Arts Center. We have the new property by the sea. There are too many places here not to have something to do. And October is a beautiful month here. ”
Whether Freedom Fest will expand to other locations remains to be seen, but Mayor Kennon is certain it will expand one way or another.
“We could have different concerts day and night. We just don’t know where it will go, but we have so much flexibility that we can really get there and organize something special, ”he said.
The response from vendors and artists has been as overwhelming as the support from the Orange Beach community, said Mayor Kennon.
“People are excited about this festival,” he said. “So many companies have been ready to step in and help. It opened my eyes. You can see how much people want to get back to their normal lives. ”
A Brooks & Dunn concert and the Orange Beach Expect Excellence production of the Addams Family Musical Dinner Theater at the Orange Beach Event Center (see story on page 12) were already scheduled for this weekend.
“People have the right to choose what they want to attend and to decide how much risk they are willing to take, just like sitting in a sold-out football stadium with a hundred thousand other people. We know it is late and we may not be able to get it done, but we must declare that this virus will not dominate and control our lives, ”said Mayor Kennon.
Freedom Fest, which is billed as “a fun annual arts weekend,” will be held from 9 am to 4 pm and will feature 100 artists spanning a wide variety of mediums and crafts.
In addition to Strickly Rivers, the festival will feature performances by Brown Barnes Band, Cole Sitzlar and Tres Amigos.
Miss Alabama, Lauren Bradford of Gulf Shores, will also take the stage at lunchtime. A children’s zone and the Singing for Scholarships student competition (see sidebar) are also attractions. Commemorative merchandise will be sold.
There will be Cajun pistols, thanks to Bon Temps PoPoys, which will also serve as a jambalaya. Other menu items will include empanadas, barbecue, Hawaiian crushed ice, and Acai fruit bowls. The Wharf’s many restaurants will also be open, offering on-site, outdoor and take-out dining options.
The dock has ample parking areas, but if there is a need for overflow parking, an offsite shuttle system will be launched from the Orange Beach High School parking lot and then from the Sports Complex at Orange Beach. Orange Beach.
The local Mardi Gras Krew, The Marshals, will host the Let Freedom Roar Run and Rally at noon, departing from the Orange Beach Event Center. The registration fee is $ 20 per motorcycle / Jeep (all passengers are free). Proceeds go to Youth-Reach Gulf Coast, a Christ-centered residential ministry for young men ages 18-22. Participants can register at the starting point before the race. around the island begins.