HomeOpinionOPINION: We can’t have nice things without working for them

OPINION: We can’t have nice things without working for them

The AMP is the finished (so far) product of a vision Jimmy Exum had more than a decade ago when he was sitting on a concrete slab in a ditch in a plot of ground owned by the City of Jackson.

There may be a million steps between Exum sitting on that concrete slab and 3,000 people sitting in lawn chairs listening to a concert that happens a number of times each year in that same location.

The AMP doesn’t happen without Exum’s vision and Jerry Gay’s agreement to help him out because he thinks it’s a good idea.

It also doesn’t happen if they don’t convince Jerry Gist that this is a good idea and it would benefit the entire city of Jackson if they allowed it to happen.

And those are the big early steps. That’s not getting into the early physical labor of transforming the land from a drainage ditch in an abandoned lot to a beautiful green amphitheater with a slop gentle enough to put lawn chairs on while listening to the performance on the stage.

But there’s one thing that underlies the entire project and stays with it from ditch to concert that makes it happen. It’s two words that a lot of people don’t like: Hard work.

And it still takes hard work to make the concerts happen now.

There’s a crew of people who set everything up a few hours beforehand each Friday for The AMP at the Market concerts, and then it takes some time to bring it all down that night before they go to bed.

And that process has been streamlined over the past decade. Apparently that process was a lot more difficult the first year The AMP hosted concerts.

But most things that we enjoy around here don’t happen without the hard work of at least a few people.

And the concerning part about that is “the hard work of at least a few people” is usually done by a lot of the same people for different events and different reasons.

Two of the biggest annual events this city has enjoyed in past decades are the NAIA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Oman Arena and the Miss Tennessee (now Volunteer) Pageant.

Of course, there’s a lot of work that went and goes into coordinating both of those events. But once the coordination is done, there’s a lot more work into the execution of those plans.

And that’s one reason the NAIA tournament stayed here for 22 years, because the NAIA could trust the people of Jackson to be quality hosts for 32 teams coming into the Hub City for a few days. Mary Beth Hopper of Southwest Tennessee Tourism Association was one that a lot of people wanted to come help, and she did a good job of not only putting people in the right places for a tournament but making sure they had an enjoyable experience that they came back every year to do it again.

The same could be said for the pageant. The people who first brought the pageant to Jackson 70 years ago had the luxury of having a quality group of volunteers that showed up every year to ensure a quality experience for all contestants, their families, their sponsors and anyone else who might’ve shown up. And over 70 years, that volunteer group has obviously had to evolve as volunteers had to stop because of age, health or death, new volunteers showed up every year.

The African Street Festival presented by the Society for African American Cultural Awareness and the Jackson International Food and Arts Festival are probably the two biggest annual events in Jackson that require a similar amount of volunteerism. The Jackson Twilight Symphony is probably another one.

The African Street Festival has surpassed three decades of existence, and JIFAF just passed one decade. But they both take a lot of work to happen.

I’m 43 years old, and a lot of the volunteers at these events look older than me (gracefully older than me, but older than me nonetheless).

There’s a big push for Jackson to be marketable to the younger generation of professional people, who want to have something to do without having to go to Nashville or Memphis to do it and want to support local businesses, artists and people in general.

But the younger generation (I’m going to go ahead and include my 43-year-old self in the older extreme of that group) needs to understand that having those things to do comes at a price.

Jerry Gay worked so hard the first night The AMP hosted a concert that he was telling Jimmy Exum if they didn’t get help soon he’d had to quit. Just think what opportunity Jackson would’ve missed out on had no one told them they’d help out.

I just hope my younger friends think about that as Jackson grows as does its quality of life opportunities that for Jacksonians to enjoy things at home they’ve never enjoyed before, Jacksonians have to say yes to doing work they might not have ever done before.

That applies to just about every facet of life – at work, church, extended family, neighborhoods, civic groups, non-profits, etc.

But the more people that help, the easier the work becomes. I think the fact that Gay and Exum are still around coordinating The AMP at the Market concerts is proof of that.

Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at brandon@jacksonpost.news. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.

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