COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Despite a turnout that failed to meet organizer expectations, organizers and performers felt positively about Columbus’ first-ever RushSouth music festival. Across the two-day event, just over 2,000 people attended the festival to see acts including Gov’t Mule and Dawes. Now just over a week past, it is not immediately clear whether another RushSouth will happen in Columbus, but organizers are hopeful.
Yalla PR Co-founder Katie Bishop and Uptown Columbus President and CEO Ed Wolverton had no qualms in admitting that attendance was far below the 8,000 capacity they had planned for. However, both noted missing the mark on festival attendance is a common risk with first-time music festivals. In planning the RushSouth festival, the organizers spent hours researching and connecting with organizers from other festivals to get a feel for what theirs may entail.
“While we hoped to sell more tickets, this type of event is new to many area residents,” said Wolverton. He added the first RushSouth festival laid strong foundations for another festival, should the team decide to bring it back next year.
A definitive decision on the return of RushSouth remains to be seen, however Bishop urged the community to share their support if they’d like to see another in the future.
“First-year festivals of this magnitude take years to build,” she said. “People have to believe in it, people have to feel it in their bones.”
Bishop and Wolverton agreed production quality of the RushSouth festival was comparable to other nation-wide festivals, such as the Midtown Music Festival in Atlanta and the Gulf Shores Hangout Festival. Defining characteristics were RushSouth’s multiple stages, nationally touring bands, video boards, lights and more, according to Wolverton.
This year’s performers included headliners Dawes, Paul Cauthen and Gov’t Mule, alongside acts like Maggie Rose, The Texas Gentlemen and local groups like The Velvet Cab and Ivey Ruth Jones.
According to Bishop, many performers expressed interest in returning for future festivals, should RushSouth continue. Rose was especially complimentary of the organizers and crew who went “above and beyond” in their running of the event.
The singer also loved how the stage was “surrounded by so much natural beauty” and the ability to connect with local artisans and business owners in the RushSouth Vendor Village. She noted the post-pandemic festival scene is much more difficult to enter than it once was.
“[I]t has been difficult to launch new music festivals lately, especially after the pandemic shifted so much in the touring world,” said Rose, adding she hopes RushSouth will remain in Columbus for years to come.
RushSouth’s lower-than-expected turnout also could have been the result of an advertising strategy which targeted both locals and non-locals. According to Wolverton, organizers will likely reevaluate the balance of local and non-local advertising if they bring RushSouth back for a second year.
If locals want to continue having artists of the caliber which performed at RushSouth in Columbus, Bishop said it comes down to community support and belief in what the festival could become.
She said, “Instead of criticizing…we have to come together as a community and build it up.”