This is all about a 125th City of Fort Payne birthday celebration with Mayor Chesser cutting the cake, a Hula Hoop lady, a Yo Yo guy and Frisbee Dogs; all professionals and all providing entertaining demonstrations, all day. There was a Fort Payne movie Premier of “Muscle Shoals” and a grand “Wet Willie” finale with an enthusiastic crowd watching a group of great performers pouring out every ounce of energy and excitement possible into their music. Included in the Thursday evening premier of Muscle Shoals the movie was a guest discussion panel consisting of Muscle Shoals talent including David Hood and Jimmy Johnson of the famed studio band, The Swampers. There was Russell and Dennis Gulley of Jackson Highway fame, Pierce Pettis who was a staff writer at Muscle Shoals Sound Publishing and Dick Cooper, long time writer and photographer at Muscle Shoals Sound and the current curator of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in the Shoals.
These things were just a part of the best Boom Days ever. The weather was perfect and a good crowd was achieved by the official opening at 10 A.M. There was solid music all day with 34 acts on six stages including Wet Willie. The music began at 10 AM and ended when Jimmy Hall and the Wet Willie gang left the stage around 10 P.M. The high quality of the music was just one element of this very special Boom Days, after all, it was also our city’s 125 Birthday Celebration and a fun celebration it was. For me and many of the people I talked to as I strolled the Boom Days event from pre-opening till closing it was the best Boom Days ever. The Boom Days committee did it right. They blended fine art, crafts, music, with special events in the Opera Block with museum exhibits (Sacred Songs) Depot Museum and annex, with Wine tasting, a quilt show. Katie Sunshine the professional Hula Hoop exhibition artist and Matt Mullins the Duncan Yo Yo expert took their show to various parts of the Boom Days route from Gault Ave. to City Park and the Rotary Pavilion. You could not miss these experts if you were with us at Boom Days. There were Dean’s Disc Dogs-wow is all I can say. These Border Collies had one and only one focus…catch the Frisbee (Disc) no matter where the master throws it. Another exhibit had a demonstration of a Border collie herding sheep. There were lots of food and fun times everywhere. I was amazed at the diversity of the event list. There was so much going on everywhere all the time that no matter where you were from 1st street through the 5th block, from City Park down 5th to the Alabama Walking Park and Rotary Pavilion there was entertainment, vendors, artists and demonstrations. I never had a dull moment all day.
Since I am in tourism for a living I tend to judge our success by our ability to bring people from out of town. Cities that have festivals get a lot more tax revenue if out of towner’s come in and spend the night, buy gas, eat and according to nationwide tourism research a tourist will spend more money on retail shopping while traveling than they do at home. This means they are more likely to buy a piece of art at Boom Days than a local person would. This was the best year ever for out of town visitors attending Boom Days. Judging from visitors in our information center, our lodging partners at hotels, cabins, B&B and campgrounds and from on the street conversations it is our estimate that of the 7,000 thru 8,000 visitors over the course of Boom Days week 30% of them were from out of town and half of them spent at least one night in area lodging. This equates to a lot of tourism expenditures in our city and county. DeKalb Tourism will see the real numbers in a couple months as our state collects the sales and lodging tax numbers for this period.
Everyone I talked to had a really fun time at the 9th annual Boom Days Heritage Festival and that in itself makes it a wonderful thing to offer to our community. A special thanks to Mayor Chesser and the Fort Payne City Council for supporting and participating in this wonderful annual event. Happy 125th Anniversary Fort Payne.