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At long last, new park will open

Posted: October 18, 2011 - 5:24pm  |  Updated: October 18, 2011 - 11:07pm
Jim Blaylock / Staff
A landscaping crew lays sod around the Evans Town Park amphitheater in preparation for Saturday’s opening.

The fact that parents had to be reminded repeatedly that it was too early to bring their children to the Evans Town Center Park playground is at least one good sign: It means that even before it opens, the park has magnetic attraction.

Of course, the land formerly referred to as "Kroger field" or "Doctors Hospital field" was pretty popular before its transformation into a state-of-the-art park, used by everyone from kite-flyers to festival organizers to sports teams to parade-stagers.

But as the original consultant hired to study the park told Columbia County commissioners: The uses of a facility will grow to encompass more of the county's residents if the amenities are better refined and targeted.

In other words, a few random people will use an empty field. Starting this Saturday, it's expected that hundreds of people will romp and play at the new Evans Town Center Park as the facility, at last, opens to the public.

There will be family activities starting at 2 p.m., with official opening ceremonies and a ribbon-cutting at 3 p.m., followed by a free country concert later in the afternoon.

Saturday's events really are just a warmup: The main event comes Oct. 28, when thousands will turn out to hear homegrown members of Lady Antebellum in a sold-out acoustic concert. This week's event is designed not only to officially open the facility, but more practically, to make sure everything works right before that big show.

The Oct. 28 concert isn't just big because of the headliners, but because of the signal it sends to the greater community: Columbia County has the wherewithal to become a major player in the area's performance venues - especially if the county signs up with Global Spectrum to bring acts to that facility and others.

The new park and amphitheater, the creation in recent years of the more intimate amphitheater behind the library; and the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center inside the library are a great leap forward in less than a decade's time for Columbia County.

But first, Saturday's opening. Cross your fingers that all the lights come on.

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