By Catherine Godbey, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily
With a move to a new city and a new venue, officials did not know what to expect from SoulStock 2010. What they got was a crowd of 12,000 to 15,000.
With Alabama State Defense Force volunteers directing traffic, Saturday, a stream of cars, church vans and rental buses filled Point Mallard’s five parking lots and the Jubilee field.
“Everyone who was there would not have fit on the field in Athens,” said organizer Phillip Presley. “I was thrilled in every way. The weather was great. The facilities were great. The show went off without a hitch.”
The success relieved SoulStock’s leaders, who opted to relocate the one-day worship event to Decatur after 11 years at Athens State University.
“We know we are being watched this year. People in Decatur want to see if we are all we say we are,” said SoulStock committee member Billy Caldwell.
Caldwell and Presley hope SoulStock impressed the city. They will find out soon.
“We have a meeting next week to discuss returning to Decatur. We would love to come back if they will have us,” Presley said.
The event earned the support of at least one city leader.
“They said they had plenty of space and (are) hoping next year that they can grow it even more, and I definitely believe they can do that,” said Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Along with a return to Decatur, Presley wants to expand the number of participating businesses and churches. About 50 businesses from North Alabama and 47 churches sponsored and donated items for SoulStock 2010, Caldwell said.
The businesses and churches help fund the free event, and the support totaled $60,000 this year.
“All we ever said we want to do was get back to zero and we did that,” Presley said. “Eventually we hope to build it to be a multi-day event. It won’t happen next year, but hopefully sometime in the future.”
Since the event is free and volunteers do not track the attendance, the exact number of festival-goers is unknown. “One policeman said about this many people were on the field when Reagan came to town,” Presley said, referring to 1984, when President Ronald Reagan visited Decatur.
Presley said Saturday’s crowd was probably the largest in the Christian music festival’s history.
But at 15,000 people, SoulStock has a lot of growing before it competes with Point Mallard’s other annual events.
According to Reist, the two-day Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Classic and two-day Spirit of America Festival attract about 40,000 people each.