FORT PAYNE, Ala. — For the last 15 years, Boom Days has proven to be one of the most significant cultural events in northeast Alabama, but how did it start?
While Fort Payne has played host to several musical events throughout the years, including June Jam and the Mountain Music Festival, there were several years in the early 2000s without any music celebration in the city.
“There [were] a lot of different venues around that had festivals year-round or towns that did certain festivals, and the leaders at that time wanted to create something that was a festival for Fort Payne,” said Fort Payne Mayor Brian Baine.
Baine says the name “Boom Days” comes from Fort Payne being known as a “boom town” in the late 1800s.
According to boomdays.com, “boom town” is a more common term for the “era when a company or group of companies would find a location that had the natural resources to meet the need of their company.”
For Fort Payne, those natural resources were coal and iron.
The Fort Payne Coal and Iron Company was formally organized in 1888 with investors envisioning a “Pittsburgh of the South.” Later on, Fort Payne would drop the notion of being known for coal and iron in exchange for becoming the “Sock Capital of the World.”
Baine stated the event’s founders originally intended to honor the city’s musical heritage with Boom Days.
This year’s event might not feature the musicians Fort Payne is best known for, the Alabama band, 2021’s lineup promises some names that are well-known to the area, including Still Kickin’, the Bellamy Brothers, and Sawyer Brown.
While Boom Days is a celebration of Fort Payne’s rich history in music and industry, it is also an opportunity to gather as a community.
“Small towns want a sense of community, and oftentimes, events are the way for communities to pull together,” said Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer McCurdy. “It gives them an opportunity to stop what they’re doing and go out with neighbors, with their friends, and do something within their community.
“Boom Days is the event that does that for our community,” McCurdy continued. “This is also by far one of the best weekends for our local businesses, other than the holiday season.”
Last year, the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there may be some hesitancy to return this year, Boom Days, held on September 17 and 18, will be in full swing.
“There have been some concerns this year with the rise of COVID, but we just felt like having the event would help people get back to some kind of normalcy,” Baine continued.
The mayor stated hand sanitizing stations would be available and people are free to wear masks, but as an outdoor event, he said Boom Days should be relatively safe.
“We’re trying to do everything that we can to make it as safe of an event as it possibly can be,” concluded Baine.