JACKSONVILLE — Hundreds of Jacksonville residents and Jacksonville State University students battled the heat, and later, rain, to attend the 14th annual Spirit on Mountain Street.
The promise of cheap food, a good cause and live music kept attendees around, as attendees fanned off heat and dried off rain. Many huddled under tents, leery of lightning, as showers passed through.
The event, which is situated during JSU’s welcome week, celebrates unity between the town and university.
“They get to mix and mingle and learn more about our community,” said Janis Burns, director of Jacksonville’s Parks and Recreation department. “In a sense, they will become a part of this community and a citizen.”
Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith was there to welcome students and residents alike to the event.
“It’s such a good day,” Smith said. “Where else could you go to get some good food and a great concert?”
A handful of local restaurants and businesses were on hand to offer food or other merchandise, including Cooter Brown’s Rib Shack.
“I know we’ve been doing it for a while,” said Kyle Justice, a manager at the Jacksonville barbecue restaurant. “It’s a good family thing that brings a lot of people into the town. Our owners Tim and Barbara Johnson are real big on giving back.”
Businesses and attendees gave back Thursday night by raising money for the Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center, a local organization that offers assistance to people with problems paying for necessities.
Attendees could purchase “Cocky coins” at $1 each, then use coins to purchase food and donate to the JCOC.
“JCOC is such a big part of the community. They help the city, so we should help them,” Burns said.
Food was not the only enticing attraction, as live music, an antique car show, cornhole competition and even professional wrestling greeted attendees. Singers from Kitty Stone Elementary School opened up the evening with a rendition of the national anthem on the same stage that former “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery was set to perform from later in the evening.
Burns said with more vendors and the additions of the JSU student government-sponsored concert that began last year, this year’s event is the biggest yet.
“It’s just growing and growing,” Burns said. “This year, we’re offering more than any other year, whether it’s food, arts and crafts or music, there really is something for everyone.”
Well, almost everyone.
“There’s no excuse for anyone not to find something they can enjoy, unless they would rather sit at home in the dark,” Burns laughed.