Downtown Jackson businesses jam with big crowds

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Published: May 24,1999

About 70,000 jammed the streets of downtown Jackson on a picture perfect weekend for the 13th annual Jubilee Jam May 14-16. With a record crowd for the “Jam Y’all”-themed festival, the economic impact for businesses must have been phenomenal. Right? Not necessarily.

“You can’t have 60,000 to 70,000 visitors on your front door step without having a bit of a problem,” said Earl Gaylor, owner of the 208-room Edison Walthall Hotel in Jackson.

The hotel hires extra security during the three-day festival weekend, which “incurs quite a bit of expense,” he said.

“During Jubilee Jam, we have off-duty Jackson policemen at the doors of the hotel to make sure the only guests we have are hotel guests,” Gaylor said. “There’s quite a bit of drinking that goes on over the weekend.”

Gaylor said the hotel was “virtually full” Friday night, totally booked Saturday night and was more than 80% occupied Sunday night.

“Our food and beverage sales were a little soft over the weekend, and our gift shop sales were reasonably soft,” he said.

Tina Conway, director of sales for the Crowne Plaza Downtown said the 354-room hotel was “close to fully booked.”

“When guests checked in, we gave them armbands so we knew immediately when non-guests came into the hotel,” she said.

Other than a beefed up management staff, extra security was not hired, Conway said, because, “it really wasn’t necessary.”

“Our bar business was excellent during the Jam,” she said. “We were very proud to be a sponsor and a part of the Jubilee Jam. It had a great impact on the downtown area.”

Michael Booker, senior vice president of BancorpSouth and treasurer of the Jubilee Jam Foundation, said about 70,000 people “clicked through the gate” during the three-day music fest.

“That’s not factoring in ticket sales because we had sponsors who were in and out and some festival goers had three-day passes that would only have counted once,” Booker said.

About 20,000 passed through the gates Friday, 35,000 people were at the Jam on Saturday and the numbers tapered to approximately 15,000 on Sunday, he said.

“We had roughly 450 Jubilee Jam volunteers that worked over the weekend to man the crowd,” Booker said.

Hal White of Hal & Mal’s Restaurant located on South Commerce Street in downtown Jackson, said even though the bar business increased during the festival, the Jubilee Jam did not have a tremendous impact on business.

“We’re located more on the fringes of the downtown area and we didn’t see a big difference,” White said.

White said additional security personnel were not hired during the festival because “we’ve never had a problem during the Jam.”

Debra Cameron, manager of Cups on Capitol, said the coffee shop closed for the Jubilee Jam weekend and added that “we normally close on weekends anyway.”

“We were open until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, which is our normal closing time, and the Jubilee Jam only had a negative impact on business,” Cameron said.

Dr. Phil Pepper, state economist and assistant commissioner of economic research, said an economic impact of the event cannot be determined because, “you have to prove that economic activity occurred that would not normally have occurred,” he said.

“You run into problems with this type of event because you don’t know how many people and vendors were from out of town versus the number of people and vendors who live in town,” he said. “You’d just be grabbing numbers out of the air to come up with something. The most that can be done is to talk about the number of people that went through there and if you had any kind of number of total sales that resulted, but I don’t have that information.”

Danny Mitchell, chairman and CEO of the Godwin Group, located downtown since 1937, said, “being a sponsor of Jubilee Jam and getting to work with people like Richard Hudson has been one of the highlights of our history of being downtown.”

“The Jubilee Jam is an event that puts Jackson on the map in a very positive light,” Mitchell said. “Certainly, economically, it is one of the most successful events in Jackson’s history. Jubilee Jam has a tremendous future and will be recognized as the economic asset that it is.”

Booker said sales figures had not been garnered as of Tuesday afternoon.

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