A unique blend of tourism and entertainment

Muletown MusicFest will kick off a weekend of events and live music tonight, and organizers are saying it’s going to be a jam-packed blend of entertainment, community and fun.

Friday’s VIP event at Puckett’s Upstairs will feature 16-piece horn band Tim Akers and the Smoking Section. Friday’s events will also feature the relaunching of 822 South, formerly Lucille’s Restaurant and music venue, which will host an after party from 10 p.m.-midnight on Friday.

“My biggest concern for that show is the sound-pressure level of a 16-piece horn band at Puckett’s Upstairs,” Columbia resident and festival organizer Rick Clark said. “You’d probably only need to amplify the vocals. They’re going to be fabulous.”

$50 VIP wristbands for the weekend’s paid shows are still available at Variety Records and The Old Curiosity Book Shop. For those not wishing to attend the VIP event, $30 wristbands will grant access to shows at Puckett’s, Venue Tenn upstairs and Westbury House. All proceeds will directly benefit United Way.

The focus of the festival is going to be everything else happening downtown for free, both on the streets and inside businesses on the square, Clark said.

“We want people to absolutely know this is not a ticketed thing that you have to buy to get into downtown,” he said. “This is the first year of this event, and we’re trying to hit it out of the park in the most holistic fashion.”

Clark said he is looking forward to the amount of tourism dollars the festival will bring to Maury County and the different visitors planning to attend. In addition to tickets purchased by residents of neighboring counties and other Tennessee towns, some will flock to Columbia from areas of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Indiana.

“The interesting thing, is that if ever there was an event created in this county that is going to argue for hotels and downtown tourism, this event is pulling so many people from outside of the county,” Clark said. “These people are going to be needing hotel space, which we desperately need.”

The Internet has also been a valuable tool for spreading the word to other communities. The website now reportedly gets more than 10,000 hits a day and Facebook posts reach 30,000 views a week, Joel Friddell of neXpiria, another of the festival’s organizers, said.

“So far this week, the social and the website has just exploded,” he said. “People are sharing the posts and doing all of the talk that you want to do.”

The festival gates will open at 10 a.m. Saturday with live music and activities featured in nearly every downtown business, including aMuse’um, Wall Candy, Variety Records, Lace & Company, Ted’s Sporting Goods, Muletown Roasted Coffee, Square Market, Lily Jane and Southern Exposure, as well as on the courthouse steps.

Although music will provide a lively backdrop and intimate experiences with the artists, there will be an emphasis on community involvement, because children and families participating is part of the fun, Friddell said.

Play Well toy store will host a Lego building competition, with competing groups for ages 5 and under, 6-10, and 11 and older.

“They are going to have thousands of Legos, and we’re going to have tables where kids can sit there and do creative builds. But there’s also going to be contests where they can win things like a $25 gift certificate to the store,” Friddell said. “We’re hoping they’ll bring some of those new ‘robotic Legos’ they’ve got now, where you can build the Legos and then program them to do tasks.”

The Muletown Mustache and Beard Contest will take place at 12:30 at Venue Tenn and will also feature a capella group High Gravity Quartet performing classic barbershop songs at noon. Competitors can sign up at Daniel’s Barbershop on the Square between 9 a.m-6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-noon Saturday.

The Old Curiosity Book Shop will feature artists perform music and reading selections from books they have written. Phil Madiera, who will perform his Mercyland project at 9 p.m. at Westbury House, will be at the book store at 2 p.m. and read from his book, “God on the Rocks.”

Tommy Womack is another prolific author/songwriter to be featured at Old Curiosity Book Shop at 4 p.m.

“Phil has been a staple in the Americana community, but he’s an author too,” Clark said. “Tommy Womack is another respected author. He’s got a book about his band called ‘Government Cheese,’ and basically they’re a bunch of crazy road travails. If you’re into music and crazy stuff, it’s a great read.”

A Muletown MusicFest Sunday Social will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. on the western half of the square to Garden Street, and will feature congregations from several community churches coming together to hear spiritual music and local praise groups.

“The idea is that Muletown MusicFest is a community event. It celebrates the community of our county and our culture,” Clark said. “There are six or seven churches participating and anyone else is welcome to come. It’s black churches, white churches, all kinds of denominations … and for people who want to celebrate that aspect of our community life.”

Photo by Susan Thurman