Home » NEWS » Downtown Jackson gearing up for up to 50,000 visitors
Jubilee Jam packs an economic wallop, along with music, beer and fun

Downtown Jackson gearing up for up to 50,000 visitors

jackson — Up to 50,000 people are expected to attend the Jubilee Jam 2004 Musical Festival, to be held downtown June 18-19, with headlining acts Steppenwolf, Chaka Khan, Robert Cray Band and Delbert McClinton.

“The value is tremendous,” said John Lawrence, president of Downtown Jackson Partners. “Ten dollars a day for tickets; 40 acts. If you figure that none of these acts would perform in a club for less than $10 a head, a visitor gets over $400 worth of entertainment for $20 if they come both days.” (Tickets cost $15 at the gate.)

But the true celebration may take place when the money is counted after attendees to Jackson’s largest outdoor music and arts festival return home.

Running the numbers

Based on a Southeast Tourism Society economic impact study of the 2001 Jubilee Jam, participants spent $2.76 million in metro Jackson. With approximately 50,000 tickets sold, it was the annual event’s best attended. According to the study, 36% traveled from outside the metropolitan area, 10% represented out-of-state visitors, and 28% spent at least one night in the capital city. With an average party size of 3.5 people attending the Jam, visitors from outside Metro Jackson spent roughly $267, or $76 per person.

Also, organizers spent about $500,000 with local businesses, musicians and suppliers to create the festival. The production required more than 300 folks to set-up stages, run soundboards, take tickets, clean the site and provide security. More than 30 local food and beverage vendors employed local staff to sell refreshments onsite.

During last year’s festival, which some dubbed a “rain-soaked debt,” approximately 25,000 festival attendees spent $1.8 million locally, with roughly two-thirds coming from outside the immediate area. Two local downtown hotels were sold out for five days leading up to and throughout the festival. Three other area hotels were booked to 85% capacity with Jam attendees. Other impacts that have not been studied relate to increased spending at local restaurants, bars, gas stations and retail stores.

“Many downtown restaurants like Keifers, Miller’s Grocery, Steve’s Downtown Deli and Broadstreet Express have been intentionally included within the boundaries of the festival so that locally owned restaurants can profit from the festival, and attendees can sample establishments that are open downtown year ‘round,” said Lawrence. A few changes

This year, the dates and site perimeters have been changed. The annual festival shifts to mid-June on Father’s Day weekend, and will take place over two days, rather than three. Four stages will be set up, two on Capital Street, which will feature headliner acts, one on Congress Street that will host Mississippi and regional talent, and the traditional one at St. Andrews Cathedral, which will showcase acoustic singer/songwriters on Friday night and gospel music on Saturday. Street performers similar to ones that entertain in Jackson Square in New Orleans’ French Quarter are scheduled to appear at the festival hub on Saturday.

“The festival is situated closer to the Old Capitol,” said event producer Malcolm White. “We paired down the square footage. Basic infrastructure such as security and fencing cost so much money to operate a site that size, and part of the reorganization was to downsize and save thousands of dollars. We also wanted to give the festival more of a sense of togetherness so that people aren’t walking all day long. Now you’ll be able to go from stage to stage without having to walk more than a couple of blocks. You used to have to walk from One Jackson Place to the Old Capitol and you just got worn out.”

New additions also include a German-themed beer garden to support the Glory of Baroque Dresden exhibition at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion and a French-themed area to support the Mississippi Museum of Art’s Paris exhibit.

The changes should allow Jam organizers a better chance at making a profit, said White.

“Part of the redesign was to make it profitable or at least have it in a good position to pay for itself,” he said. “The old site was designed for a different era. The pinnacle of the city’s festival industry was in the mid-90s when all festivals were successful because people went to them. But times have changed. The generation that created festivals has gotten older and they now do different things, so we redesigned it to fit the market, or demographic, that’s available to us.”

Alltel, AmSouth Bank, Aquafina, BancorpSouth, The Clarion-Ledger, Downtown Jackson Partners, Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, Maris West and Baker, Miller Lite, Mississippi Development Authority, 7-Up and Union Planters Bank are event sponsors.

“Surprisingly, the sponsorship has been stronger than we anticipated,” said event chairman Peyton Prospere. “We have raised about as much cash as ever at this point going into the festival, and yet we have worked to bring down the cost of the production of the festival so we’re in pretty good shape. This has been the result of a real energetic effort on the part of Malcolm White, Holly Lange and the board to identify new possibilities.”

In addition to Save-the-Jam concerts with participating local bands, and lavish parties in the homes of influential philanthropists held during the last six to eight months, more than 120 people paid $75 to $125 to attend a May fundraising event hosted by Andrew and Jan Mattiace at the Capitol Club. Southern Palette Live featured Clinton artist Wyatt Waters, who painted the official 2004 Jam poster, and restaurateur Robert St. John of Hattiesburg. Both performed a tag team cooking/painting performance during a four-course meal.

If Mother Nature cooperates, the Jam will be overwhelmingly successful, said Prospere. “We moved the event one month later to hopefully capture a little bit of good weather,” he said. “Last year with Bob Dylan, we had people from I don’t know how many different states. We anticipate a successful festival this year and encourage everybody to come down and enjoy the event.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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