We know there are people, including the owner of perhaps the most vibrant of all the downtown businesses, not happy with a decision made yesterday to move today’s Alive After 5 from the downtown area to the horse arena at the Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center.
What would be much worse is if nobody cared. That they do testifies to the success of the concert series, which is now in its 12th season.
The concert series, which was established in 2004, features a variety of bands and music, with a bit of a beach bias, on Thursday nights in late May and throughout June in downtown Lumberton. It has proven to be a hit not only with city folks who like to shake a leg and enjoy a cold beverage, but with people from across Robeson County — and even some from outside the county.
People of all ages huddle downtown, socialize, spend a few dollars, and then leave having fattened up on fun. Alive After 5 is a wonderful propellant into the weekend.
The chief beneficiary downtown is probably Candy Sue’s restaurant, which after the concert ends is jammed with people not wanting the party to end who enjoy food and another beverage or a few at the eatery.
That is why Susan Walker, who owns Candy Sue’s, is not happy with the decision to move Alive After 5 several miles away to the Ag Center. She knows she will take a hit where it hurts, in the pocketbook, and although Candy Sue’s is a popular destination, like most small businesses it fights daily for its survival. She doesn’t expect too many people to exit the Ag Center and make a trek downtown.
The decision to move it to the Ag Center was made by Connie Russ, the city’s downtown coordinator, before noon on Wednesday when she was looking at a forecast that included about a 60 percent chance of rain. A rain threat is not unusual for Alive After 5; afternoon thunderstorms are frequently in the forecast during June in Southeastern North Carolina.
It used to be that Alive After 5 would just move indoors when the rain came, but the crowds were sparse, prompting the decision to reschedule the events. That had been the rule last year, when two events were rescheduled, but not for today’s show, which features the Band of Oz. Oz is a popular act that plays about 200 gigs a year, so rescheduling the event to accommodate the band’s schedule might have been tricky.
We will know later today if the decision to move the event to the Ag Center affected the turnout either for better or for worse. But one thing can be said now with certainty: Alive After 5 has a dual purpose, to provide entertainment to local folks while also promoting downtown Lumberton. At best it will achieve only one of those two goals today.