This Is How We Do It: 7 Things You Can Learn from Sam Shugart & the Georgia Throwdown

Laurel Griffith

Monday, August 20th, 2012

When Sam Shugart speaks about Georgia Throwdown he sounds like an evangelist.  He has a message. He believes it. He wants you to believe it too.  He isn’t sure about every detail - after all this is the first time a music festival on this scale has come to Albany - but the organizer is confident about his vision.  Shugart says there will be 100 bands performing during the three-day festival.  The team released 20 names on Sunday, assuring the public other announcements will be made as plans become finalized.  We wait on more specifics, but in the meantime there is a lot to learn from this organizer, promoter and businessman.   

1. Have a vision.

Shugart sees the future. When music comes to town, revenue streams, business opportunities and renewed community spirit follow close behind.  He maintains Georgia Throwdown is about 2012 and beyond. Some bands that are unavailable this year will take prominent positions in the 2013 line-up. Vendors will clamor for space. People say it can’t be done, but Shugart’s “Why not?” is more of a challenge than a question.

2.  Take a risk.

Bringing a music festival to southwest Georgia is not “business as usual”. Shugart knew the project would require research and calculation to see if the initial idea was feasible. He did his homework and took the plunge. The seas may be choppy and the weather could be bad, but this boat has set sail. 

3. Build a team.

It takes a lot of brainpower and specific expertise to bring a music festival to life.  Georgia Throwdown began with a group of three  – Evan Barber, Justin Andrews and Shugart. Soon the group expanded to include twelve key individuals.  Shugart delegated responsibilities to capable people with proven track records. This practice frees the organizer to focus on the big picture and advance the vision instead of getting tied up in the thousands of important but swirling details. 

4. Work hard.

It is obvious Shugart and his team love what they do and that’s a very good thing. They’ve been living Georgia Throwdown for many months and it will only become more consuming in the weeks ahead. Much of the work occurs behind the scenes – contract negotiations, legal agreements and vendor arrangements. The thousands who attend won’t recognize what it took to bring the music festival to life. Shugart and his team will know because they made the sacrifices to make it happen.

5. Think practically.

The team knows the recession has made people careful with their cash. Consultants told them they were leaving money on the table, and advised them to charge higher ticket prices, but Shugart decided to make the festival as affordable as possible, with plenty of “ bang for the buck”.  One- day tickets will be $45.00 and three-day, weekend passes are available for $85.00 purchased online at either or  Shugart says the priority is proving themselves for the future.

6. Establish a win-win situation.

Shugart insists on creating a situation where everyone benefits. “This way of thinking is the culmination of my 41 years on this earth, “ he explains.   “ If you form a win-win, greater good, symbiotic relationship, it just works. I can’t even explain how. It just does. “  Team members have already seen positive results from the cooperation of corporate sponsors, individuals, and non-profit organizations. One example is the site work currently being done at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds. Shugart says heavy equipment is currently working at the fairgrounds, doing over a $100, 000 worth of improvements. The fairgrounds will be more attractive for other events including the fall fair and the American Kennel Club coon-hunting event.   Proceeds from festival rent and parking will be used to fund other Exchange Club community projects.  

7. Remain true to yourself.

The Georgia Throwdown team knows how other music festivals have done things. Shugart says the team adopted proven methods but also made decisions with this community in mind. “Our plans are for this event, in this location. This is the way we do it.” Southwest Georgia is a patriotic community. Shugart says they will have formal flag raising and lowering ceremonies.  Spiritual life is important in this area. The festival will also feature gospel and praise and worship music on Sunday morning – certainly not something you’ll find at other music festivals.  But then again, Sam Shugart is no ordinary organizer.  It stands to reason Georgia Throwdown won’t be an ordinary event.

Festival information is also available at and at twitter@soweGAfest.  For vendor information, email


About Laurel Griffith

Laurel Griffith is a freelance writer. Before moving to Albany, she published a magazine for six years in Dothan, AL.