Behind the scenes at ‘Bands’

By Jody Conrad | Special to the Press Gazette

Jernigan’s Landing most spring and fall Friday nights is the hopping scene of Bands on the Blackwater.

Stephen Prestesater, the city of Milton’s Public Information Officer, is the man in charge of making the event happen week after week.

The stage may look the same each week, but it's not.

“Many attend and enjoy,” Prestesater said, “but few have any idea of what it takes to create the weekly entertainment.” 

Planning for the event begins a year out.

Record crowds enjoyed the 2021 spring Bands on the Blackwater season.

“We already have the fall lineup carved in stone and the flyers printed,” Prestesater said, “and I’m working on next spring’s lineup.”

There are multiple things that need to be coordinated beyond simply asking bands to show up. 

“The city has to purchase a municipal music agreement, which means we can invite the public to listen for free,” Prestesater said. “Then, we develop a Request for Proposal (RFP), and hire a production company who sets up the stage each week and handles all of the lighting, sound systems, etc.

Huge crowds came to hear the Modern Elderados perform.

"I work with the bands and receive their specific requests for how they want all of these things set up, and pass that information on to the production handlers; each band has a different way of wanting mikes, speakers, and lights, etc. set up,” he added.

Then there are the food vendors.

“They don’t just show up; everything associated with them, like how much electricity these use, etc. needs to be plotted and prepared for,” Prestesater said. “My job is to make sure we provide everyone with the best possible experience, from the vendors, to the entertainers, to the patrons.”

The spring 2021 season was incredibly successful.

“We had huge crowds, with 1,400 to 1,500 attending each week,” Prestesater said. “We only had one rain cancellation, and that band, the 12Elevens, have been re-scheduled for this fall."

The hard work preparing for the Bands on the Blackwater concerts happens long before the crowds arrive.

One of the area's most popular bands, the Modern Eldorados, is not in the fall lineup.

“We try not to schedule the same bands within a year intentionally, so more bands have exposure to our crowds here in Milton,” Prestesater said.

All of the bands who perform at the Bands on the Blackwater concerts are renowned. For example, Karli Ryan was on "The Voice." The Mikey Clams Band has performed overseas for the military. Casey Kearney sang the national anthem at a Braves game.

Members of the Blackwater Pyrates attend a recent Bands on the Blackwater event.

“These are singers and songwriters professionally," Prestesater said. “They are not just weekend warriors. Many come from as far away as Nashville.”

Next fall’s lineup has been posted, so mark your calendars.