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Logistics, talent remain to be settled for music festival return to Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE – Despite the wishes of longtime Huntsville City Councilman Bill Kling, the Rolling Stones are definitely not coming to the reincarnation of what was once known as downtown’s Big Spring Jam.

Potential music festival concert goers also shouldn’t hold their breath hoping Beyonce or Taylor Swift will headline the yet-to-be-named, two-day “new jam” that the council approved to move ahead full steam.

But know this – C3 Presents, the heavyweight promoter selected to shape and stage the festival, has a track record that all but ensures ticket buyers a strong lineup for the event slated for John Hunt Park in either September 2024 or 2025. The agreement is for three years.

(Railbird Festival/Facebook)

“Our goal overall is to put great artists on the stage and bring them together with the audience to have one incredible experience,” said Ted Heinig, the festival guru at Austin, Texas-based C3 Presents. “A lot of that depends on the availability of the headliners to put at the top of the poster that ultimately are going to drive all ticket sales and make the event a success.

“In some ways, we can only catch the fish that are swimming in the ocean when we need to go out and do it, and a lot will depend on going back and looking at acts that have played Orion (Amphitheater) and the arenas and clubs (in Huntsville) and get an idea of what success looks like in previous years.”

After the festival was greenlighted following an exhaustive, year-plus-long review by city officials, questions remained regarding parking and crowd control for what is expected to be daily attendance of 30,000 or more.

Will there be satellite parking with shuttle services, for instance? Where will the stages be set up now that once-open spaces are filled with tennis and volleyball courts, soccer fields and the like such as a community-style center with a gym in the plans? 

“Logistics are still being worked out,” Adam Smith, communication specialist for the city of Huntsville, wrote in a statement to 256 Today. “Now that the city has entered into an agreement with C3 Presents, we can collectively work on a final plan that we will publicize in the future.

“Naturally, preliminary site layouts and traffic circulation were evaluated during the RFP process, but we need to finalize those plans before releasing additional information to the public.”

Shane Davis, Huntsville’s director of urban and economic development, told the city council, “We’ve been going through this (planning) for over a year.”

Staging a festival obviously isn’t easy, but Heinig expressed faith this one will be done in vapor-trailing fashion.

“Since this is the Rocket City and you’re helping to launch rockets – it’s a little easier than that,” he said of his company that claims to be the leading concert producer in the field. “We are experts.”

C3 Presents list some interesting festivals on its resume. There’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, Lollapalooza in Chicago and six international versions of that blockbuster, and Railbird Music Festival in Lexington (Ky.).

Davis answered a concern by District 1 Councilman Devyn Keith regarding the diversity of musical acts to be included on the festival bill. Davis pointed out there’s a clause in the contract requiring C3 Presents to “deliver” a range of acts in multiple genres.

Heinig said local acts and vendors would be included, saying, “I want everyone here to be invested,” and ticket pricing will be determined by “the talent at the top of the poster.” 

The foundation for the return of large-scale music festivals to Huntsville has been set. Other than logistics two pressing questions remain – what will the event be called, and who will be the headliners?

“Music has become a huge economic driver for communities all over the country,” Heinig said. “The festival would be an additional opportunity for people around the country to come to Huntsville.”

According to Heinig, 60 percent of the 40,000-per day attendees for two-day Railbird in Lexington were from out of state.

“I think that would be something similar that would happen in Huntsville,” he said.

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