| By Billy Davis
The Grace Jam concert held Saturday at the Batesville Civic Center (BCC) pulled more than 700 attendees through the door but failed to generate enough income to push its cost into the black.
Even with the loss, concert promoter Mark Davis said he plans to schedule another music festival in 2007, next time learning from this first-time experience to improve the next show.
Davis and his bandmates of Batesville band Seven Days Waiting held Grace Jam at the BCC for the first time Saturday after holding a similar event last year at Batesville’s First Baptist Church.
Readers of The Panolian have been following plans for Grace Jam since the youthful band members announced plans in early spring to hold the costly concert at the BCC.
Grace Jam’s concert budget had sunk $9,000 into the red Saturday night by the time headliner Skillet finished its set about 10:45, Davis told The Panolian Monday morning.
The total cost of the concert was about $28,000, lower than the expected cost of $35,000 to pull off the event.
"Toward the end we saw there wasn’t going to be the turnout we needed and started cutting the budget," Davis said. "We would have been a lot worse off if we hadn’t starting cutting."
Over the weekend the $9,000 deficit was offset by family donations and a pass-the-plate offering Sunday at Batesville’s First United Methodist Church, knocking $3,500 off the cost, Davis said.
"They understand what we’re doing is an outreach ministry," Davis said of the weekend donations.
Grace Jam performers spoke about their faith between songs, telling the youth-heavy crowd that a relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important decision of their life.
Skillet lead singer John Cooper led an altar call after telling concert goers that they shouldn’t give up on God even if a church or supposed religious people have failed them.
"Jesus is the only person who has never let me down," Cooper said from the stage. "I love rock and roll, but I love Jesus more."
Day of Fire lead singer Joshua Brown, a recovering heroine addict, told concert goers that they would find peace only through God.
"God is for real and He loves you and me no matter what we do," Brown told the audience.
Reached Monday, BCC director Roy Hyde said the civic center counted "right at" 800 Grace Jam attendees.
Grace Jam’s total attendance was an above-average number for a town the size of Batesville, Hyde said.
"You’ve got to remember that Batesville has – what? – 7,000 people, so Grace Jam brought in roughly 10 percent of the population," Hyde said. "They’ve got a lot to feel good about."
Davis said, however, that Grace Jam needed a "foundation" of youths from Panola County churches that failed to show up for the event. The event also competed with Ole Miss graduation and South Panola’s football banquet.
A cursory survey of church buses showed Grace Jam attendees came from Batesville, Oxford, Water Valley, Grenada, Pontotoc and Amory.
The 2007 event will likely fall on a Saturday in April to avoid conflicting with May events, Davis said, and the musical lineup will include a better variety of music to suit more tastes.
The guitar-pounding and drum-banging sound of musical acts Skillet, Day of Fire and Decyfer Fire led to a "hard, hard, hard" lineup that likely turned away potential concert goers, Davis acknowledged.
The marathon-long night of music – the music festival was nearly five hours long – will likely be compressed into fewer hours next year with the absence of at least one band, Davis also said.
Grace Jam 2007 has at least one fan who’s ready for the next event.
"I thought the concert was really great but the music was too hard," said festival volunteer Dan Blair. "But I think it’ll be bigger and better next year and hopefully will become an annual thing."