Family Day draws 19,000 to park

By Tess Hollisthollis@ledger-enquirer.com

A crowd of nearly 19,000 music lovers filled Cooper Creek Park on Saturday for Columbus' annual Family Day in the Park.

Concert-goers and vendors battled 90 degree heat to get a taste of the music and the food. The event, sponsored by Davis Broadcasting Inc., was held in part to celebrate this month as Black Music Month.

"I think people come for a lot of different reasons, not just the concert," said Asia Reynolds, 18, of Phenix City. "They come to enjoy the company of their neighbors, the good food and the music."

There were 15 musical acts that performed at the event, and the genres of music included ranged from gospel, to hip hop and rap. Hip-hop artist Plies was the headlining act.

Michael Soul, program director for Davis Broadcasting Inc., said the turnout for the concert was what he expected and more. The event attracted 18,000 last year. "I definitely knew we would have as many people as last year, if not more," he said.

Jonathan Sanders, 26, parked his car inside the park and enjoyed music and a cookout with his friends and family. Sanders said he has been coming to Family Day ever since he can remember.

"It's just fun to chill out with the people you enjoy being around," he said. "We always grill out and listen to the music later."

One of the underlying themes of this year's event was pushing people to register to vote, especially minorities. The Columbus Chapter of the NAACP had a voter registration table set up, along with a sign that read "Bury the 'n' word."

Gwen J. Walker with the Columbus NAACP said it is very important for anyone over 18 to register to vote.

"This is history in the making right here," she said. "It's important to come to events like this because there are a lot of young people, and it's mostly minorities. It's important for minorities to vote to make up the difference of people saying they aren't going to vote this year."

The Columbus Police Department along with the Columbus Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services were at the park to help with traffic and the safety of concert-goers.

Libby Green said fire officials had two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians on duty in case anyone was stricken by heat exhaustion. They also had two ambulances to transport people from the park to the hospital and a command bus in case of a serious injury or emergency.

"We just wanted to make sure we were prepared in case anyone had heat exhaustion," she said. "If anything happened, we could dispatch help from the command bus to aid us at the park."

Although a few people suffered from the heat, nothing serious was reported. Columbus Police Maj. Wanna Barker-Wright said the department had 35 officers working the event, including six trainees.

"We have six officers that just graduated from the academy, so we are training them to try to get them adjusted to dealing with crowd control, all the traffic and the heat," she said.