Bainbridge Jazz and Blues Festival Approaches
Published 1:30 pm Friday, February 3, 2023
Downtown Bainbridge will be bustling with activity on Saturday, February 4 as the whole city comes together once again for the 3rd annual Bainbridge Jazz and Blues Festival.
Gallagher Dempsey, owner and head brewer of the much-celebrated Southern Philosophy Brewing located in Bainbridge, began the event a few years ago when he recognized there was a need to find more reasons to get the community out enjoying the mild winter climate. “We thought, hey, what music would do well here and be able to bring a diverse audience together? What’s something that’s maybe a bit underappreciated and could support the push to strengthen our community?” Dempsey said, “And the obvious answer was Jazz and Blues.”
The support for the event has grown year over year. But there’s a lot that goes into planning an event of this magnitude upfront, and it’s no secret that Dempsey carries the lion’s share. But other local entrepreneurs and community leaders are equally invested in the festival’s success. “Gallagher’s got a lot more time in this than anybody in the planning for the event,” Tyler Thomas, Owner and Executive Chef of one of Bainbridge’s favorite restaurants, The American, said. “The week before is when many of us are really doing a significant amount of prep, and there’s a lot of faith that goes into it,” Thomas said, “Ordering products, staffing, labor, so we invest a lot of money and time upfront, and we really rely on community support to pay those bills.”
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Last year the event’s planners estimated that around two thousand individuals attended the festival, and with a strong line up of performers and plenty of additional attractions littered around the city hopes are high that attendance will continue to grow. “We’re hoping that events like this help Bainbridge to continue to grow as a place where people naturally want to visit and spend time,” Dempsey said. “It comes down to continuing to market and showcase what Bainbridge has to offer. As business owners we hope our sales will continue to grow, and they’ve been better year over year, and that’s financially good, but with the increase in sales, there’s increasing costs also,” Thomas added, “So really to me it’s less about making money that weekend and all about showcasing downtown Bainbridge as a beautiful destination for people to come and visit.”
So what can you expect from this weekend’s event? The musical lineup is impressive, with four stages located in different locations around town, all within walking distance from one another. “We always try to include local musicians, some of whom have performed three years in a row. But we try to mix it up every year and have 25% or less carryover of musicians to bring new sounds to the community,” said Dempsey. The Johnnie Marshall Band hails from Pelham, Georgia and according to Dempsey not one to miss. “He’s played on European tours with a lot of famous blues artists, and he’s played a lot of the Southern blues clubs, and he’s just a really good, great showman. So, we’re thrilled to have him back.”
A new addition to the lineup this year is 17-year-old singer-songwriter and self-taught guitarist, Ben Flournoy who calls nearby Quincy home. First picking up the guitar at age 10, he cites influences such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix to name a few.
The event starts at noon, and you’ll be able to catch performances by any of the 13 participating artists throughout the afternoon and evening all the way up until midnight. The best part of the whole event is that it’s free to the public thanks to the generosity of many local sponsors, including Taurus, Southeastern Plastic Surgery Center, and Riverbend Ford to name just a few.
Happening simultaneously will be The Firehouse Arts Center’s annual Sketchbook Pin Up event, which also hosts one of the four performance stages. The Arts Center has seen rapidly increasing participation in their community-focused art events and hopes that people from all parts of the community will submit their tiny works of art to display during the festival. “I hope people begin to understand that community is what we create” Jessica Polsky, Director of the arts center and one of the event’s organizers said. “If it wasn’t for small business owners in the community working together in this way these events wouldn’t be able to happen. It’s so important that people know about coming to events, volunteering, making art, supporting local businesses, that’s what it takes to build community,” she added. “I just encourage everybody to come and be a part of it, because our city can be an amazing place to live and grow if we are all willing to be involved in the process of creating it.”
And if you want to make it an all-day affair, don’t forget about the VIP lounge. Retreat to a comfortable seating area and enjoy all-inclusive food and beverages when you buy one of the limited lounge passes. Included on the VIP menu will be wine, Slow Smoked St Louis Style Ribs & From Scratch Cajun Gumbo by The American, local craft beer and artisan pizza by Southern Philosophy Brewing Company and more in the comfort of a spacious heated tent located on Broughton Street next to the main stage. VIP ticket holders are free to come and go throughout the day, with food being served from 1pm-9pm.
But the event’s organizers are clear that the focus is to bring the whole community together. “I think for us, we’d love for it to grow. We don’t really have a number that we’re aiming for, but we’d love to see the turnout double this year, and I think we had well over 2000 last year,” Dempsey said. “We’ve planned it with space in mind, you have fresh air and all these different places to gather and listen, you know, so there’s a laid-back feel to be able to socialize and enjoy the music. I think in many ways there’s a lot of room for growth.”
For more information or to purchase VIP lounge tickets visit https://www.facebook.com/BainbridgeJazzBluesFest/ or https://www.instagram.com/bainbridgejazzbluesfest/ and follow links to the Eventbrite ticketing page.