Down South performance 'like a homecoming' for Charlie Daniels

Aug. 19, 2013 @ 06:12 PM

Despite a wet start, the Sanford Lions Club Fairgrounds roared to life during the Down South Music Festival this weekend.

Former Chatham County resident and country music legend Charlie Daniels headlined the Saturday night festival with Huckleberry Blue and Jim Quick and the Coastline Band opening, according to Tim Copas, who oversaw publicity for the festival.

"I think we made lemonade out of lemons," Copas said. "We were within a breath of having to cancel the whole thing, and we had to do a little shuffling."

Some of the opening acts — including Rob Matthews, Erik Smallwood, Dark Water Rising and Crush — were unable to perform because of wet stage conditions, Copas said.

"From that perspective, we really hated that happened," he said. "But as far as the program that went on, it was a great success. The [weather] front broke on us at the end, and it ended up working out."

Daniels said he was glad to be back in Sanford and that this area made lasting impressions on his life and his music.

"Y'all don't know what tonight means for me," he said while on stage. "It's like a homecoming."

The proceeds from the festival are set to be donated to Christians United Outreach Center of Lee County. The amount of food collected has yet to be released. 

The festival was organized by Lights on Broadway, a local nonprofit that formed after the 2011 tornado. Michelle Hunt, the group's president, said she was pleased with the concert and her group's efforts. 

"It was very successful, and it went great," Hunt said. "It was a lot of work for our board to put it on and it took up about eight months, but it was worth it for CUOC."

According to the Down South Music Festival's Facebook page, more than 5,000 people attended the concert.

"I hope everyone had a great time," Hunt said. "Charlie Daniels was awesome. He had a fantastic show and he's such a nice man. I hope we have more people who are now familiar with CUOC and donations will be picking up."

CUOC Executive Director Teresa Kelly said she had an amazing time at the concert and was thrilled the nonprofit was chosen to benefit from the festival.

"It was a real community effort," Kelly said. "A group of people reached out and wanted to find a way to help, and they pulled it off to make a big difference. That's how they got started three years ago, and they've wanted to continue to make a difference."

Kelly's favorite part of Daniels's performance was when he sang "How Great Thou Art."

"That really put everything into perspective," she said. "We are a Christian organization, and we were so pleased to be a part of it. [Daniels] is a great entertainer, and it was great to see him come home and play. I got to meet him backstage, and he was a genuinely nice man."

Kelly also said she was disappointed some bands were unable to play because of the bad weather.

"We are thankful for the food and concert sponsors," she said. "It was, at the very end, a fundraiser for CUOC, and we are very thankful for everyone who came out to support us."