Two huge ‘tests:’ Rome River Jam on Friday, Saturday; Fiddlin’ Fest on Saturday. One is a controlled event with expensive safety protocols; the other is free a top draw downtown.

Two huge ‘tests:’ Rome River Jam on Friday, Saturday; Fiddlin’ Fest on Saturday. One is a controlled event with expensive safety protocols; the other is free a top draw downtown.

Two large weekend events — the returning Rome River Jam operated under never-before-seen social distancing guidelines and downtown Rome’s most popular concert event each year known as Fiddlin’ Fest — are a huge test for the community as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

River Jam, at the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds Friday and Saturday nights, is drawing national attention as it could serve as the way concerts are staged in the coming year. For downtown Rome, where the usual summer concert series was canceled because of the community’s continuing high transmission rate of the virus, this perhaps will be a test as well for not only the Christmas parade but 2021.

It comes down to personal choice amid a time where local health officials continue to warn about avoiding large gatherings. The nation continues to witness the fallout from a “super spreader” event traced to the Supreme Court announcement Sept. 26 that apparently infected the president, First Lady, close advisors, U.S. senators and others. There was virtually no social distancing and a bare handful of guests wearing masks.

The local events have some differences: River Jam is a ticketed concert, put on by entertainment interests and open to all willing to pay the admission price and follow incredibly strict attendance guidelines. Fiddlin’ Fest is a freebie sponsored by downtown stakeholders with the blessing of the city of Rome. A side note: This would have been Coosa Valley Fair week; the fair was canceled this year because of COVID concern.

River Jam, at last check, had just a handful of tickets left (the going rate: $80 to $150 to $225 per person). Everything from access to concessions to portable toilet usage will be regulated with dozens of security workers on site. Fiddlin’ Fest is free and accessible from just about anywhere in downtown Rome. Organizers reminds guests that “masks must be worn when outside downtown, due to City of Rome Executive Order. If you do not have one, mask ambassadors will be downtown handing them out. Please be socially distant while at the event.” Hand sanitizer will be available as well. Restaurants and shops will be open.

The biggest event will be Rome River Jam, seating some 4,800 fans each night in six-person pods, all socially distanced with extra security on hand to keep crowds safe. The event is said to be a prototype for concerts set in 2021 after the pandemic basically shut down live performances. Billboard and Rolling Stone magazines will be on site to watch how this one comes down. For those with event questions, please see this Q & A.

The only wild card for both as of Monday: A tropical depression has formed and should move into the New Orleans area late Friday. The storm’s remnants could be a factor, most likely on next Saturday. (River Jam is rain or shine).

The Rome River Jam schedule (gates open at 5 p.m. each day):

  • Friday: Morgan Wallen, Hardy and Ashland Craft.
  • Saturday: Riley Green, Jon Langston and Hunter Chastain.

Saturday’s Fiddlin’ Fest bills itself as  “one giant street festival featuring Bluegrass music and vintage fun.” The city will close traffic in the 100, 200, 300, 400 blocks from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.). The event itself will begin at noon and go until 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Downtown shops will feature sidewalk sales and restaurants will offer food and drinks for sale outside their businesses. Adult beverages purchased at restaurants may be brought within the event area with an armband. No outside coolers allowed. Please note that you will need to bring your own seating to watch the music. The line up:
South Stage
  • Noon: Barbaric Yawps
  • 1:00: Little Country Giants
  • 2:00: Hackberry Hilltoppers
  • 3:00: Uncle Shuffelo & his Haint Hollow Hootenanny
  • 4:00: David Long & Midnight from Memphis
North Stage
  • Noon: Matt Downer
  • 1:00: Moon Crew
  • 2:00: John Grimm
  • 3:00: New Binkley Brothers​
Tent Stage
  • 12:30 p.m.: Arlo Finch
  • 1:30: David Bell
  • 2:30: Dali Trio
  • 3:30: Joseph Evans
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