Second Sunday concert draws crowd in the thousands

The Second Sunday finale concert, put on by the College Hill Alliance, went out with a bang. Singer Percy Sledge, whose hits include “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “Take Time to Know Her”, graced the stage with his return to Macon. Sledge and The Bluesmasters performed for a crowd of around 5,000 people.

In the 60’s, Sledge was working with Capricorn Records, launched in Macon, and fell in love with the city. He later purchased a house in a prestigious and predominantly white community that was also home to the star Otis Redding. Sledge had intentions of moving to and living in Macon. However, because of the ongoing issues with segregation at the time, his new house was burned, and Sledge decided to remain in his home in Alabama.

The College Hill Alliance program was able to book Sledge to perform at their finale concert on Oct. 13, where Sledge finally made a return to the town he once loved so much. In an interview with The Cluster staff, Percy Sledge shared that “just coming back to Macon brings back some wonderful, wonderful memories and I’m looking forward to it.”

“People tend to forget how many artists started here… so bringing them back shows the history of Macon and gets people more excited [to learn] about our city and what originated here,” said Kaitlyn Jones, an intern working with the College Hill Alliance.

The last concert of the year brought an immense amount of people together from the community. Parking became limited because of the amount people attending the event, causing people to park several blocks away from Washington Park, where the concert was held. The trolleys from Mercer University ran constantly throughout the concert, bringing students to the park and giving them a chance to connect with people from all over Macon, while sharing an appreciation of music.

“I went to the last Second Sunday and there couldn’t have been more than 500 people. This time, the number was in the thousands. I had to park in front of St. Joseph and walk to the park… There were even people crowded behind the stage because there was no more room to sit in front of the stage. The last Second Sunday was more relaxed and less crowded, but this past one was so much more fun and energized,” said Aurora Vadini who has attended multiple Second Sunday concerts.

According to College Hill’s website, the College Hill Alliance was created by a three-year, $2 million grant from the Knight Foundation. The College Hill Alliance is a grant function of Mercer University that came into effect in 2009. In 2012, the Knight Foundation awarded an additional $2.3 million toward continuing the College Hill Alliance’s work to expand its guidance in assisting new entrepreneurs in the College Hill Corridor area as well as to continue building and strengthening the bond between the members of Macon’s community.

“College Hill’s whole idea is to get out into the community, but also we have all these resources through Mercer, and if we can use our resources at Mercer and get out there in the community [and] kind of partner with them it just brings everyone together for the common goal, which is to make Macon better,” said Jones.

Sledge said that “[singing] has brought me a great career and the main thing [it] has brought me is joy because I make people happy… I think singing really developed my life [and] is something that makes my life complete. I never felt that it’d take me so far in life.” The city of Macon was able to connect and bond through his music Sunday.

When asked about his opinion regarding how far the nation has come since desegregation, Sledge said “I’m from Alabama and I love Alabama and we never had problems like [segregation]; we just loved one another and worked together and sung together [and] work in the fields together for years. We always did things together.”

Sledge came from a humble background and never thought he would be a musician, but when he was a teenager, he realized that he wanted to go into music because music is what he really loves. “I never thought I’d be a musician, though, because for the longest time I loved and wanted to play baseball. I thought I was going to be a baseball player. I wasn’t really sure what was ahead of me in life. But when I was about 15 or 14 is when I thought to myself and felt that I just might be a singer. But all my people and I worked out in fields and all of them would always tell me that I would be a singer one day and I managed to do so,” said Sledge.

Throughout his career, Sledge has had the opportunity to travel the world and meet a variety of people. Though he considers himself to be a “country boy,” he finds good hearts in many of those he meets. “I know people born and raised in [cities like] New York, and they’re really wonderful people. There’s all types of people in this world with big hearts and [they] have love and kindness… I don’t think its just country boys that got big hearts I think those types of people can come from anywhere,” said Sledge.

“I think believing in [myself] is one of those things that has helped me get through my life. I always thank God for what he’s put in front of me and I thank the Lord for everything he’s done for me,” said Sledge. Sledge reminds young people to believe in themselves and to “put their heart and soul into to everything they do.”

Sledge’s actions and words reflect a similar meaning and purpose to that of the College Hill Alliance. Many kinds of people throughout the community will continue to come together with planned events such as Second Sunday concerts.