A week later, I’m finally starting to feel like myself again after the blur that was Boom Days 2021. When City officials stated their intentions to carry on with the festival after skipping it last year, I was initially skeptical it would actually happen, especially after COVID-19 returned with a vengeance this summer. But doggoneit, the Boom Days Committee actually pulled it off. And it didn’t get rained out either, although that stage might have floated off if they’d scheduled it a day or two later!
This was my first year to get an up-close view of the inner workings of Boom Days. Generally, it isn’t pretty watching the sausage get made, but these folks have done this enough times now they could probably do it blindfolded. We’ve come a long way since Collins Kirby, Mike Griggs, Andrew Hairston, Carol Beddingfield and Russell Gulley spearheaded the original version of it. Kudos to everyone involved since then for creating a worthy successor to June Jam Week. That’s impressive considering Riverfest in Gadsden, Big Spring Jam in Huntsville and City Stages in Birmingham have all been silenced.
It felt amazing to be a teenager in the 80s when our sleepy little town’s most famous sons -- Randy, Teddy and Jeff -- attracted superstars like Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, Brooks & Dunn and so many others to raise money for charity every summer. Cars lined up, bumper-to-bumper, heading into or leaving that big ol’ field behind Fort Payne High School, as if it was Myrtle Beach during Spring Break Week. You had to wonder which celebrity might be riding in the helicopters buzzing over the thousands of spectators. Who else remembers that first show in 1981 when the band only had a handful of hits?
My father, Cledell, served as Alabama’s warehouse manager for many years and performed double-duty in the weeks before many of the Jams, supervising the guys installing the various gates. I didn’t appreciate, at the time, how much I would look back fondly on digging posts in that soil and stretching fencing in the summertime heat, but I have so many incredible memories of those years, as I know a lot of you do.
Between the Jams ending in 1997 and National Hosiery Week no longer being a thing our lives revolve around, you’ll have to forgive me for feeling a little sentimental as I think back on all of those horseshoe and volleyball tournaments, beauty pageants and all-star softball and golf tournaments. Recapturing that feeling and those memories is what made shows by the Alabama tribute band, The Boys in the Band, so mind-blowingly awesome to experience, especially standing shoulder-to-shoulder with neighbors who know exactly what I’m talking about.
I’m looking forward to a repeat performance by those guys, along with a whole bunch of other stuff we get to enjoy in the weeks and months ahead. We’re in the thick of college football season now and I’m thrilled that Auburn’s performance against Penn State wasn’t too shabby, hinting at glory to come. Soon the leaves will change colors, which keeps me busy doing my favorite thing, taking pictures. Then we’ll get to experience my favorite holiday, Halloween, with lots of scary movies to watch as I think back fondly on all of those Jaycees haunted houses we used to do.
The day after Halloween, BAM! Time to buy next year’s ghoulish decorations as Christmas always seems to get the early jump on Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of your faces while taking part in Holiday Open Houses, shopping in local stores and enjoying the Christmas Parade, Christmas in the Park and the rest of it.
Yes, the past is awesome to recall, but the future looks pretty fun as well.
— Steven Stiefel is the Times-Journal’s publisher. His column appears in Saturday editions.