There was a moment during the Southern Culture on the Skids concert in downtown Sanford back in 2018 when the band played their hit, “Camel Walk” and hundreds of men, women and children in the crowd began to do the dance in unison, doing a move I can only imagine is called “The Hump.” Even Campbell University’s camel mascot appeared in the audience and joined in. As a 10-year Campbell employee now and a 14-year resident of Sanford, it was an odd collision of worlds for me.

But that moment hit me for another reason, too — it was a rare beautiful moment of “atmosphere” that I’d not experienced before in Sanford (and I don’t believe I’ve experienced since). Not that this city hasn’t thrown some great events — it’s just that the people of this city haven’t always been a captive audience.

Yes, I’m talking about you, dear Rant readers. A captive audience, we are not.

I write this six weeks before Sanford is set to host a two-day downtown music event called Carolina Indie Fest. Legitimate award-winning musicians from all over the country will play on three stages in downtown Sanford. Sure, you’ve probably not heard of most of them. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to entertain you.

I’ve introduced myself to many of their playlists in the past few months. They’re going to entertain you.

But my fear with Carolina Indie Fest stems from what I’ve witnessed at other events over the past 14 years — Sanfordians are apathetic when big events are held right in their backyards.

There are a few exceptions. We seem to like a good county fair. Fireworks shows usually do well (that actually helped the Southern Culture concert). We love a drive-through line at Bojangles in the morning.

But I’ve seen too many well-planned events just kind of fizzle out. Concerts that draw maybe 100 people. Festivals at half capacity.

As a “local guy,” I get embarrassed at our low turnout. I find myself not enjoying the event as much, because I’m looking around and wondering where everybody is. I not only want people in this city to enjoy these events, I want the musicians or actors or comedians or whoever is performing to remember their trip to Sanford and come away with a great impression.

This doesn’t always happen.

Hey, I get it. We’re busy. I don’t attend everything, and I’m not saying we have to go out of our way just to make Sanford look good.

But back to Carolina Indie Fest. Do you like music? Do you like food? Beer? Art? Downtowns with a music scene? Great atmosphere? Seeing an event in your city do well?

If you said yes to any of those, consider this event. It’s Sept. 18-19. We’re going to have a lot more about it in our September edition of this little paper. Who knows. You might like it. The organizers might want to bring it back. This could become a thing.

My fear, though, is standing there on Saturday night with about 54 other people wondering where the rest of Sanford is that night. Surprise me, Sanford.


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