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ANDRE TEAGUE/BRISTOL HERALD COURIER — Jeff Cuellar of AC Entertainment uses a map to explain the details of the upcoming Mumford & Sons appearance in Bristol during an informational meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Paramount.

Mumford & Sons Aug. 11 appearance offers Bristol unique spotlight, organizers say

July 11, 2012

Published: July 10, 2012 — Updated: July 10, 2012 — 7:29 PM
BRISTOL, Va.-Tenn — An Aug. 11 concert festival featuring British rock/folk super group Mumford & Sons will be a unique, invaluable opportunity to showcase both downtown Bristol and its scores of businesses, organizers told some 50 downtown merchants and residents during a Tuesday meeting.

“They’re probably one of the hottest bands in the world and it’s a really, really big deal that this band wants to be here,” Jeff Cuellar, an executive with AC Entertainment, a Knoxville-based firm handling preparations, said during a meeting at the Paramount Center.

“We’re not just plopping a festival in downtown Bristol,” Cuellar told the gathering. “We’re showcasing this amazing city. ... This [will be] your weekend.”

Leah Ross, executive director of Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, added that the appearance is expected to draw at least 15,000 to downtown Bristol. Fans from more than 40 states and three countries have already purchased tickets, she added.

“It’s an opportunity for us to shine a spotlight on Bristol – not only on a regional basis, but on a national and international one,” Ross said. “It’s going to be a great economic event.”

Several weeks ago, Mumford & Sons selected Bristol as one of four stops on a planned “Gentlemen of the Road” tour. The other sites are Portland, Maine, Dixon, Ill., and Monterey, Ca.

Organizers held afternoon and evening “informational meetings” Tuesday to update downtown merchants on the current plans and logistics for the event, and encourage local business owners to support the concert and the thousands it will attract.

“We really want to show our southern hospitality,” said Christina Blevins, executive director of Believe in Bristol, one of the organizations that lobbied for Mumford & Sons to choose the Twin City as a tour site.

Organizers said the band’s performance will highlight an all-day series of concerts within a fenced-in, multi-block, “festival zone” stretching from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Cumberland Street.

The zone will feature a number of vending areas and two stages – a main stage yards from the Bristol Train Station and a smaller one inside Cumberland Square Park.

During the Tuesday afternoon session, organizers also:

w Assured downtown merchants that concert-goers will have re-entry privileges during the festival – allowing them to leave the fenced-in zone so they can shop, eat and spend money at State Street businesses.

“It’s important to the band, it’s important to us and it’s important to you,” Cuellar said. “We’re going to make that happen.”

w Revealed that access to streets inside the festival zone will be gradually restricted starting on Wednesday, Aug. 8 – three days before the event.

w Noted that tentative plans call for concert access to begin at 2 p.m. — with the first musical act scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Mumford & Sons is likely to perform sometime that evening and complete its show before 11 p.m.

Cuellar said organizers are weighing whether to have at least another musical act appear after Mumford & Sons to help slow down the volume of fans who would leave immediately after the main show, overwhelming State Street with traffic and pedestrians.

w Insisted that all downtown merchants will be able to directly benefit – largely because the group has such a diverse group of fans.

“They range from high-schoolers to retirees,” Cuellar said of the band’s fan base. “(It’s) such a rabid following. You’re going to get a great mix of people here.”

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