For many years, Labor Day in Quincy was a quiet holiday for summer barbecues and other low-key gatherings.
This Labor Day that tradition of quiet was replaced by the sound of music that started Saturday with Porchfest and continued through the long weekend ending Monday with a performance by R&B singer and American Idol Season 3 winner Fantasia, who brought members of the crowd at Tanyard Creek Park to their seat — and moved some to stand on those seats to get a better view of her high-energy show.
The Labor Day Jam ended with the bang of a fireworks show that could be seen well beyond the park.
Two city officials involved in organizing the event hope to see this become a tradition that will evolve and grow, giving a boost to the local economy along the way.
Though the threat of rain earlier in the afternoon affected turnout, Charles Hayes, Quincy’s Community Reinvestment Act and Main Street director, said the Fantasia concert was well attended.
He said about 200 people also came to Quincy’s historic district Saturday afternoon to hear Porchfest performers, nearly 500 came to courthouse square and about 250 came out Sunday evening to The Leaf Theatre to hear Tallahassee Nights Live.
“Tallahassee Nights is something we can grow on,” Hayes said.
To draw out-of-towners to Quincy for the event, Hayes said ads ran on radio stations in Panama City, Dothan, Ala., Albany, Ga., and Tallahassee. During an informal poll at the Fantasia concert, he said some visitors reported traveling from Thomasville, Ga., Dothan, and from as far as Ft. Walton Beach.
Gadsden County’s Tourism Development Council approved a $5,000 grant to promote the weekend events.
Hayes hopes the event can be repeated next year if city commissioners approve.
“If they give me the green light,” he said, “We will be doing it and planning for it as well.”
Quincy City Manager Jack McLean said the Hampton Inn in Quincy saw a boost in occupancy from the weekend because a family reunion was planned around the entertainment at The Leaf Theatre.
“That event was a really good event on Sunday night,” he said.
McLean said that show had a mix of those who bought individual tickets for the event and those who had purchased tickets to the Fantasia concert.
McLean said he drove Friday evening to the Best Western in Midway to see what impact the Labor Day Jam had. That’s where he met members of a motorcycle club staying at the hotel for a weekend gathering, and spoke with one biker who knew about Porchfest and planned to attend.
Next year, McLean said Mainstreet will provide more support for the Porchfest hosts who offered hospitality and refreshments to the visitors and performers.
McLean said he would also like to bring some of the Porchfest acts back to perform for Music on the Square.
“We need to give them some exposure outside of Porchfest, too,” McLean said. TDC President Matt Thro said he has not heard from hotel proprietors about the impact the Labor Day Jam had on their businesses, but that information is expected to come later in a report.
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Despite the heat, Porchfest drew music enthusiasts to Quincy’s historic district to wander the streets and listen to about 14 acts deliver a number of styles —including Chris Jobinski covering AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” The Benders delivering their rendition of a Coldplay hit and Thursday Night Music Club bringing the big band standard “Take the ‘A’ Train” to a front yard on Duval Street. Duke Ellington would have been proud.
Richard and Tina Davis of Tallahassee picked up a Porchfest map at the Gadsden Arts Center and headed out to hear Thursday Night Music Club, the big band that played a two-hour set. Davis said he read about Porchfest in a newspaper and decided to check it out because he used to play trumpet with that group.
Because actual porch seating is limited, many Porchfest visitors brought their own folding chairs, setting them up on front lawns to listen to the music and socialize between sets. Denise Zeitler of Tallahassee brought her caning companion Gumbeaux to hear The Benders. She said she found out about Porchfest on Facebook.
Lynette Halter of Tallahassee came with a group of friends to spend the afternoon in Quincy. Her favorite act on the lineup: Hot Tamale.
“It’s just a pleasant thing to do,” she said. And it also made financial sense, because she said holiday hotel rates were high in areas such as Panama City and it was hard to find a room.
She said her favorite stop was at the home of Dan Hooker where visitors were offered water, popsicles and other refreshment.
“That was the most fun place to sit,” she said.
Porchfest organizer Walter Kelleher said the turnout for this year’s Porchfest was better than last year.
“Last year, it rained.”