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A musical tradition: Music lovers throng to Jarrard concert
Annual event at Brenau raises money for local charities
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Kristy and Shane Bridges eat food from Johnny’s Barbecue on Saturday during the 14th annual John Jarrard Foundation Concert on the front lawn of Brenau University. Johnny’s Barbecue was set up on-site for attendees. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The front lawn of Brenau University was filled with music fans of all ages Saturday night gathered for the 14th annual John Jarrard Concert.

With last year’s show bringing in more than 1,200 attendees, this year’s numbers were expected to top that.

The show featured five singer-songwriters performing hits from across all genres of music. All the artists are chosen for their contribution to the songwriting community, many with personal ties to John Jarrard, a Gainesville native and renowned Nashville songwriter and performer who died in 2001. He later was inducted in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

This year’s lineup included Wendell Mobley, Jason Sellers, Jeff Stevens, Marc Beeson, and Bonnie Bishop.

“The further we get away from having lost John (Jarrard), it’s amazing that the songwriters we get are actually more aware of the event, there’s more notoriety in Nashville,” said Mack Vinton, vice chair at the John Jarrard Foundation. “This year there’s 21 No. 1 hits.”

While many concertgoers may not have recognized the songwriters by name, they likely were familiar with some of their hits, made famous by artists like Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson, Bonnie Raitt, George Strait and Reba McEntire.

Vinton said the real measure for success is whether or not the crowd starts singing.

“There’s nothing better than to stand back here and look over the crowd to the stage, and to hear the crowd sing along,” said Vinton. “It is one of the best parts.”

With a number of the songs, Vinton said the songwriters will share the background behind the lyrics, offering a unique insight.

“These songwriters lived that song, their events and their lives are behind those lyrics,” he said.

Before sunset, the auction hosted by Philip Wilheit Sr. brought in up to $2,000 for every prize up for bid, featuring Nashville getaways with concert tickets and hotel accommodations, University of Georgia football tickets or signed guitars.

Vinton said this year’s event would be another record-breaking year for fundraising. Proceeds from the event will be donated to local charities in the area, many of which were personal favorites of Jarrard’s, like the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, Good News at Noon and Challenged Child and Friends.

Jessica Holland and Emelia Higgins, both of Flowery Branch, were volunteering for the John Jarrard Foundation for the first time by staffing the merchandise table.

“I actually really enjoy it; we didn’t know anything about it before we came,” said Holland.

She said she was delighted the event supported Good News at Noon after recently helping a homeless man in Oakwood who was headed to a shelter.

“They do a lot,” Holland said.

Food was provided by Johnny’s Barbecue and beer and wine was available for adults.

“There’s a big range,” said Higgins, noticing the different crowds across the Brenau lawn. “There are a lot of young people and there are a lot of older people. It’s a total range of people interested in the cause.”

First time attendee Heather Brand will certainly be back next year. After winning tickets to a John Jarrard Foundation event earlier this year, she wanted to attend Saturday’s concert.

“I’ve always wanted to come,” Brand said. “We love it — the relaxing atmosphere and beautiful surroundings.”

For more information about the John Jarrard Foundation visit www.johnjarrardfoundation.com.

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