When I think of something needing to slowly build momentum, I envision Civil Defense workers winding up World War II air-ride sirens.
That seems to be the case with the new Evans Towne Center Park. After just a couple of turns at the crank, it’s finally starting to get wound up.
The park and its Lady Antebellum Pavilion saw its first big productions last October, with a warm-up concert followed by the blowout inaugural show by its namesake.
Then, pretty much nothing. Sure, it was winter, and yes, it was also great for the county’s annual Christmas tree lighting. But most of the time the pavilion sat empty; the county even installed rails to keep vandals and skatepunks off the vacant stage.
Even so, the rest of the park has been wildly popular. The weather has to be awful to keep people away, and lately the weather around here has been jaw-droppingly great – so the park routinely has more visitors in a day than the old field on which it is built would have in a month.
Still, the stage is the centerpiece, and it hasn’t been occupied much since the big opening. The good news is that’s changing.
Already the park has played host to an impromptu beer festival of sorts, and this weekend will be the site of the county’s RV and boat show. The pavilion soon will feature a couple of concerts with respectably big acts, including Josh Kelley, for whom the stage itself is named. His brother, Charles, is part of Lady Antebellum, for whom the pavilion is named.
In addition, Papa Joe’s Banjo-B-Que is moving to the park from its previous location in North Augusta, which is a tremendous boost for Columbia County. A music series and other festivals are coming, as is a big Mustang car show.
It also helps that the county is contracting with ETix to make it easier to buy tickets for performances at the park. Striking a deal with an entertainment management company still would be a good move, too.
All in all, the only downside to the park seems to be its popularity. The top complaint from patrons is that the heavily used dog park just smells bad, especially after it rains. They’re working on it.
Incidentally, one frequent request for the park is for more benches, especially around the much-used playground. The county hopes to provide those through private sponsorships at a cost of around $1,300 each, which includes engraving the sponsor’s name on the bench. Tree-planting sponsorships are available, too.
That’s a lot of great news. Amidst it all, I still wish the county would consider naming the park after Ryan Clark, the Lakeside High graduate who was the first person killed in the Virginia Tech shootings. He died a hero, trying to rescue another student being threatened by the killer, and deserves more local recognition.
Let commissioners know if you agree. All it needs is a little momentum to get it cranked up.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/