I couldn’t stop grinning.
I just couldn’t help feeling very, very happy -- ecstatic, even -- at what I was seeing: hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people filling Camden’s new Town Green for a free concert.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Meet Me at the Green event April 23 was a success. From toddlers to great-grandparents, people enjoyed wonderful local music provided by Josh McCaa, The MoBros, Joal Rush & The Wares and, of course, Patrick Davis.
After all the angst over which food vendors should provide the food -- after all the hand wringing about the Town Green’s very construction -- I was finally able to say, “This is what it’s all about!”
A hundred or so people were already there by a little after 5 p.m. when I arrived. An hour later, that crowd had swelled so quickly that I was a little taken aback when Camden City Councilman Pat Partin said he hoped the evening would turn out the way he hoped it would.
I waved at the center of the Green, noting all the people and said, “Sir, it already has.”
That turned out to be an understatement. Not long afterward, I had to be careful about where I walked as I tried to thread my way through the throngs in and around the Green.
The weather was a little hot when I first arrived, and got a bit humid by the time I left long after sundown. I can’t complain, though. It wasn’t scorching and there was enough of a breeze to deal with the humidity. It balanced out to near perfection.
The music was perfect. Having local musicians was, of course, a given. But, man, these guys are ta-len-ted!
McCaa was a great pick to lead things off with a light pop feel that was neither sugarcoated nor offensive. Excellent vocals and just the right feel for the first act.
I don’t know now to keep myself from near hyperbole in describing how great I thought The MoBros were. These young guys -- one’s only16 -- were nothing short of fantastic. I’m not a big blues fan, but they sure brought it home with a maturity belying their years.
Joal Rush & The Wares did some pretty cool things. I was very impressed with one number that must have had about a 7- to 10-minute instrumental coda reminding me of some of the best fusion jazz I’ve heard.
And then there’s Patrick Davis.
I had never gotten to hear him perform before but had heard so many good things for so long. I wasn’t disappointed. Although I couldn’t stay for the entire set, Patrick proved why he’s in the big leagues now.
Patrick knows how to work a crowd, performing good, solid contemporary and country music. Having his Dad, Rusty Davis, join in was an extra-special treat.
I was especially taken with how Patrick was taken with the kids that stayed up late to sit at his feet. Patrick acknowledged the age-range of the audience by pointing out that kids shouldn’t drink while jokingly urging those who had to join the kids in singing along.
Of course, food was a big deal due to the controversy of recent weeks. The primary food vendor ended up being Smokin & Grillin. I got myself a plate about a third of the way through the evening and enjoyed every bite.
I spent my college years in Memphis, which is known as a barbecue mecca. The city is best known for tomato and vinegar based sauces. I don’t eat barbecue very often, but when I do, that is the style I think of.
I was very glad -- as many places do in South Carolina -- that Smokin & Grillin included not only mustard-based, but a tomato-based one as well. My review can really be summed up with one word: Yum!
Then there’s the Town Green itself.
What a marvel! For those of you there April 23, try to imagine what the old East Back Lot looked like before the transformation. It’s hard to see it anymore. And to think, there are actually more parking spaces than there were before. The new trees were starting to green up, the grass was beautifully taking hold.
I was happy to see scores of people taking advantage of the appropriately named sitting walls. That was exactly why they were installed.
The Meet Me at the Green concert was only the beginning.
I understand there will be a formal dedication of the Green’s trees later this summer. I would urge the city or the Downtown Camden Guild to consider using that as a chance to host a “taste of Camden” event where the surrounding restaurants and caterers get to show off their menus to the public. They could set up little stalls with small samples of their fare. Retail merchants could be out there, too, allowed to hawk their wares during that time.
Some of us half-joked with State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk that she could hold a campaign rally on the Green.
I can see an Easter egg roll or hunt on the Green next year. Weddings, theater-in-the-round and, of course, more concerts come to mind.
Camden Police Chief Joe Floyd told me he hopes he won’t have to close Broad Street to special events anymore, or at least not as often, thanks to the Town Green.
There are so many possibilities. And that’s the beauty of that 2 percent hospitality tax some people complain about. A little bit from everyone accomplished a big thing.
Look at what you’ve done, Camden. You did this, and you should be very, very proud.