The Marching Southerners will make Burgess-Snow Stadium thunder with the notes of Jacksonville State University’s fight song September 5.
Outside the stadium, members of the Jacksonville area will gather to taste the food of local restaurants—all in the name of charity and community.
Next Thursday is the annual Spirit on Mountain Street taster’s fair and pep rally. Mark Jones, Director of Recreational Sports at JSU and Council President of the Jacksonville City Council, says the event is “a way to bring JSU and the community of Jacksonville even closer.”
The city of Jacksonville has been holding a “Taste of the Town” event since 2006. The fair served two purposes—as a charity drive for the Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center (JCOC), and as publicity for local restaurants.
Jones is also chairman of the Town and Gown committee, which is composed of five members of Jacksonville’s city government (including the mayor) and five members of JSU’s administration, including President Meehan.
He says the Town and Gown committee decided to combine the fair with a community-wide pep rally as a way to build community between the University, local grade schools and the population of Jacksonville.
“It introduces the people of Jacksonville to the University in the hope that they will support us on Saturday at football games,” he says. “It also introduces students to local restaurants, so they can patronize them.”
David Glass, who organizes the taster’s fair, says that he “usually has about 40 restaurants from the Jacksonville area” that participate in the event. Restaurants participating this year include BBQ-favorite Cooter Browns, Loco Mex, Struts and Jeffersons.
“The way it works is, we sell tickets for $1 apiece, and you can buy them in groups of ten,” Glass explains. “Then you take a ticket to one of the restaurants’ booths and you trade it in for a sample portion of whatever they serve.”
Glass says that the city of Jacksonville gives restaurants 50 cents back on every dollar that they spend to encourage them to give people more food for their tickets. For every ten tickets sold, the buyer’s name is entered into a drawing for two club-level JSU football seats at a home game of the winner’s choice.
According to Glass, the Spirit on Mountain Street event drew about 1,200 people last year, and he expects 2,000 this year.
The “Taste of the Town” portion of the event begins at 6 PM, and will end at 8 when the community-wide pep rally begins.
Mark Jones, mentioned at the outset, says that last year’s pep rally was “the largest attended pep rally” JSU held.
This year’s rally will be a little different—after the Southerners’ pregame show (which begins at 7:45 PM) is over, the Kitty Stone Elementary Singers will perform the national anthem.
Then the Jacksonville and Pleasant Valley High School bands will join The Marching Southerners on the field to perform each school’s fight song.
Jacksonville Christian Academy is also participating in the event, but doesn’t have a band, so the Southerners will perform their fight song for them.
After the performance, each school’s football coach, including Coach Clark, will take the field and speak. JSU’s cheerleaders will also make an appearance, led by a new head coach.
Jones says that “the 36265 area code is the key to the whole event,” because the purpose is to raise money for the JCOC. Twenty-five Jacksonville churches make up the JCOC, which is a food pantry for people in immediate need of assistance.
The JCOC offers support to families in need of school supplies, help on their power bills or even just food to put on the table. Instead of asking for help from a single church in the Jacksonville area, families can go to the JCOC and receive help from all of them.
Repeated attempts to contact the JCOC for comment in this article were unsuccessful.
Jones says that the Spirit on Mountain Street event raised $9,000 for the JCOC last year. Because more people are expected to attend this year, he hopes the event will raise even more.
Both David Glass and he encourage students to “invite everyone” they know.
“Come enjoy the community, and a neat walk-around event,” says Glass.