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August 5, 2021

Welcome to the 28039: East Spencer rocks its first Southern Soul Music Festival

By Mark Wineka

EAST SPENCER — When you put on the first of anything, you don’t know what to expect, but somewhere the spirit of Eleanor Qadirah is happy.

East Spencer held its inaugural Southern Soul Music Festival Saturday and by most any measure, especially when the musicians took the stage in the early evening, it was a success.

The music from three acts — Destiny Stone, Livehouse and the Jazz Revolution Band — was top shelf. The sound system was great. The crowd kept building with the night.

And it possibly brought to East Spencer its first signature event in a long time.

Alderman Tony Hillian, who served as the festival emcee, suggested with others that the Southern Soul Music Festival could fill the void created by the death of Qadirah, who for a couple of decades spearheaded the Rowan Blues & Jazz Festival in Salisbury.

That music event was almost always held in the fall, as maybe this one will be.

Hillian said the Southern Soul Music Festival provides “something to bring us back to life” and create a new energy in East Spencer.

“It’s put a great atmosphere down here,” Hillian said.

Mayor Barbara Mallett agreed, and she stressed that it was a festival not just for East Spencer but all of Rowan County, and showing that East Spencer belonged.

“We can take our rightful seat at the table, and that’s what we’ve worked for,” Mallett said Saturday as the music continued. “… Everybody sees that East Spencer is here. We’re so happy.”

This first festival was held, as Hillian said from the stage, in the 28039 (East Spencer’s zip code) and in “downtown East Spencer.”

The event took place on the lawn, side street and parking lot adjacent to the former Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ administration building, which once had been East Spencer High.

East Spencer firefighters listened to the music from their station across Long Street.

Many people attending brought their own lawn chairs or sat at picnic tables brought in for the event.

Food trucks from several different cities provided fish, dipped chicken, barbecue, funnel cake and popcorn, along with the Pelican’s Snoballs truck from Salisbury.

Alderwoman Deloris High was among those who sold East Spencer T-shirts and hoodies, which carried the slogan “The Original Southern City,” a nod to East Spencer’s first name.

Several tents also were set up in the lawn of the old school, representing among other things, candidates for November’s municipal election and opportunities to sign up for 2020 Census employment.

Festival sponsors included Fast Stop, Miller Davis Agency, Rowan County, Novant Health, the town of East Spencer, F&M Bank, Rowan Arts Council and Joe Morris.

Hillian gave a lot of credit to Miller Davis for all the help the company provided in equipment and direction Saturday. As the daylight faded, lights came on for the last performers.

Hillian said future festival plans are to expand and block off a portion of Long Street, where the stage would be placed.

In all, Saturday’s festival lasted from 1-9 p.m., though the music itself did not start until 5 p.m.

“I’ve had an awesome time tonight,” Stone told the crowd as she wound up her set.

She was not alone.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.




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