Augusta Commissioners have given tentative approval for the Augusta Convention and Visitor Bureau to create an annual international soul music festival in honor of the late Godfather of Soul, James Brown.
The Public Service committee voted on Sept. 14 to allow $100,000 in seed money from the Parks and Recreation Department budget to be sent to the CVB.
Bennish Brown, president of the CVB, outlined plans for the festival, which would be held for the first time in May 2022, the weekend before Brown’s birthday. According to Brown, the festival will be a multi-day event designed to appeal to local lovers of soul music and attract tourism to the Garden City.
According to Brown, the festival will include food and local culture, also featuring music by artists who were inspired by the “hardest-working man in show business,” as James Brown is commonly called.
“This needs to be a nod to Mr. James Brown, but also a nod to all the artists that he has influenced through his music for over a half a century,” Brown said.
The event will be staged at the Lake Olmstead Stadium, which is currently being subleased by C4 Live LLC. The company negotiated a 10-year operating agreement with the city of Augusta in 2020, and C4 Live will be responsible for the production and promotion of the festival.
C4 Live has produced Super Bowl events as well as country music festivals in Nashville, Tenn.
Brown said that C4 Live, which is based out of Las Vegas and New York City, is an international entertainment company committed to Augusta and is the perfect group to handle such a large, multi-day event.
“They already have a connection with the city of Augusta. They have a commitment to Lake Olmstead and the capital improvements there. This is a group that at least is looking to be here through the long haul. They really do care about this community,” Brown said.
The agreement between the CVB and C4 Live specifies that the city will provide the $100,000 in seed money, but that C4 Live will bear most of the cost of the event. In turn, the company will receive 80% of the profit generated.
Brown said the other 20% of profits will go to the CVB to fund the next annual festival. Therefore, Brown specifically did not ask for seed money beyond the first year.
Various groups have tried to hold concerts and festivals in the past to honor James Brown, who died in 2006, with varying success. However, Bennish Brown said that C4 Live has the experience to make the International Soul Festival a truly global event.
The entire commission will still need to give final approval on Sept. 21 for the funding to be released.