FLORENCE — It should be obvious to anyone who has driven through McFarland Park this week that something big is about to happen.
A tall, screened chain link fence has been erected around much of the beachfront area and large stages have been constructed near the beacon and the end of the riverfront parking lot. Some of the screening bore the ShoalsFest and Single Lock Records logos.
White shade tents dot the landscape and workers Thursday were busily putting the finishing touches on the site of the inaugural ShoalsFest, a day-long music festival presented by Greenhill native and Grammy winning artist Jason Isbell.
The former Drive-By Trucker turned successful solo artist, along with his band, The 400 Unit, will be joined by Sheryl Crow, Mavis Staples, and Amanda Shires. A second stage will feature Rob Aldridge and The Proponents, The Kernal, The Prescriptions and Caleb Elliott.
Steve Richerson, who is known by his stage name, eco-entertainer Steve Trash, said he's excited about being able to perform some adult magic, rather than the "reduce, reuse, recycle" themed magic he performs for young people.
"I've known Jason since his Truckers' days and he's always loved magic," Richerson said.
He said ShoalsFest is a music festival that is "about the magic of music."
"I'll be in the crowd doing some sleight of hand magic tricks," Richerson said. "I've come up with some mind-bending illusions for the grown-ups at ShoalsFest."
Richerson said he will perform in between set breaks at 1:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.
Florence Police Capt. Steven Robertson said the show is expected to conclude about 10:30-11 p.m. Entering and exiting the park during the festival will be similar to July 4 events in the park. Onsite parking will be available on the driving range and across Jim Spain Drive near the baseball field, until it's full.
ShoalsFest is offering free shuttles from the downtown Florence parking deck and other parking areas that will be marked as festival parking areas. Shuttles will begin running at 12:15 p.m. Gates open at 1 p.m. and the first act begins at 2:15 p.m. The full schedule with performance times is available on the ShoalsFest website, ShoalsFest.net.
Parks and Recreation Director Tina Kitchens said the McFarland Park campground will be open and campers will have access into and out of their campsites during the festival.
The east boat ramp is closed, but the west and north boat ramps will be open.
The Florence City Council approved a special events liquor license that will allow alcohol sales at the festival. City of Florence License Inspector Chris Faust said alcohol can be consumed inside the fenced in area of the festival grounds.
"We have had stellar support from the city of Florence, especially the parks and recreation team," local festival organizer Judy Hood said. "They have been a dream to work with. Mayor Steve Holt and Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler have been one hundred percent supportive. This type of progressive community spirit will pave the way for other big events."
She said the event will have a big economic impact on the Shoals. Hotels are expected to be full and restaurants and nightclubs should see an increase in business during the weekend.
Local vendors Party Pros of Florence started working on the site early Monday morning, erecting numerous tents, PBS Inc. is handling portable restrooms and trash removal, while Overflow Productions constructed the second stage and a video board for the main stage.
Premier Global Productions of Nashville, Tennessee, constructed a large VIP viewing platform near the beach overlooking the Tennessee River and a wheelchair accessible Americans With Disabilities viewing platform. Seating will also be provided in this area for those who are not in a wheelchair. ADA restrooms will be located adjacent to the viewing area.
ADA parking for vehicles with ADA tags will be available near the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Bureau on a first come, first served basis.
According to the ShoalsFest Facebook page, beach chairs, small "bag chairs" and blankets will be permitted behind a chair line that will be behind the soundboard area. Outside chairs will not be allowed inside the VIP area, but limited seating will be available.
Empty reusable cups or water bottles that can be filled at a free water station are allowed. Cups and bottles will be available to purchase on site.
Food vendors include: the Big Bad Wolf Food Truck, Momma P's, Big Bad Breakfast, Taziki's, 306 Barbecue, Little Caesar's Pizza, Red Clay Table, Rick's Barbecue, D&B Concessions and Dixie Concessions. An assortment of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will also be available on the festival grounds.
If you haven't had enough fun when it's all over, Dorm Eleven on Montgomery Avenue in Sheffield is hosting an official ShoalsFest after party beginning at 11 p.m. The club will have live band 90s karaoke.