Southern Heritage Festival (2000s)

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This article is about the revived Southern Heritage Festival of 2004-2011. For the 1979-1980s event, see Southern Heritage Festival.

The Southern Heritage Festival was a two-day music festival organized by the African American Arts & Heritage Foundation, which is headed by promoter John Ray. The event featured R&B, soul, blues, funk, hip-hop and gospel acts, and hosted craft vendors and other attractions.

The festival started in 2004 as the Original Southern Heritage Festival, drawing on the history of Ray's similarly-named festival that debuted in the 1960s. The festival largely took over the mantle of the Birmingham Heritage Festival which was held each year from 1993 to 2003.

Lawrence Walker's Ascension Event Management Group put on the last festivals. It survived several changes of venue and years of disappointing attendance before finally folding in advance of the scheduled 2012 event, which was set to feature Keyshia Cole, Angie Stone and Chaka Kahn. Walker announced that one of the event's main investors had pulled out at the last minute, forcing the cancellation.



The 2004 festival was held at the Alabama State Fairgrounds and drew about 25,000 people, a third of what organizers had hoped for. Performers included Ludacris, Bobby Womack, The Gap Band, The Isley Brothers and Byron Cage.


The 2005 festival was held August 6 and 7 at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham's Civil Rights District. Featured performers included Frankie Beverly and Maze, Slick Rick, Juvenile, Doug E. Fresh, Tausaunt, ConFunkShun, the S.O.S. Band, Midnight Star, the O'Jays, the Mississippi Mass Choir and Prince Yelder and the Disciples. Attendance was around 32,000 for the event.


The 2006 festival was held on August 4 & 5 on a single stage at the site of the future Railroad Reservation Park used successfully by the Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil. 2006 performers include Patti Labelle, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Clarence Carter, Jagged Edge, Kem, and the Little Memphis Blues Orchestra. According to early estimates, attendance was around 15,000.


The 2007 festival was held on September 1 & 2 in the vicinity of Kelly Ingram Park. Musical acts included Cupid, Urban Mystic, Con Funk Shun, Zapp, Brick, and Tony! Toni! Tone!. Day passes were $10, with more than 10,000 free passes distributed through WBHJ-FM, WBHK-FM, and WAGG-AM.


The 2008 festival was held August 30 & 31 in the vicinity of Kelly Ingram Park.




Alabama State Fairgrounds
Buildings Alabama State Fair cattle barn · Bill Harris Arena · Birmingham International Raceway · Exposition Building · Kiddieland
Events Alabama State Fair · Birmingham Fairgrounds Flea Market · Fair Park redevelopment · Fall Carnival · Southern Heritage Festival · Spring Fling
Exhibits Batmobile Rescue Ship · Engine No. 4018 · Historical Panorama of Alabama Agriculture · Vulcan
Organizations Alabama State Fair Authority · Birmingham Bandits · Birmingham Magicians · Birmingham Power · Magic City Court Kings


  • Bryant, Joseph D. (August 6, 2006) "New venue, better view for Heritage Festival." The Birmingham News
  • Oliver, Robin (June 21, 2005) "Heritage downtown: Festival moves from fairgrounds in search of higher attendance." Birmingham Post-Herald
  • Colurso, Mary (August 28, 2007) "Southern Heritage fest tweaks dates, location." The Birmingham News
  • Levins, Angela (May 14, 2015) "7 Alabama music festivals silenced." The Birmingham News