ROBERTSDALE — A new weekend event called Rockabilly BamaLama Music Festival that was scheduled to take place June 30-July 2 at the Robertsdale Coliseum was canceled after day one.
ROBERTSDALE — A new weekend event called Rockabilly BamaLama Music Festival that was scheduled to take place June 30-July 2 at the Robertsdale Coliseum was canceled after the first day, leaving bands, vendors and attendees looking for answers and refunds.
Musicians pulled out over breached contracts. Vendors lost money. Attendance did not match statements made about sales. And it was all supposed to be a fundraiser for a charity that supports people with autism, but that connection has been disassociated by the charity and event organizer.
According to Judith Galloway, marketing director of CGE Productions, the company behind the festival, RockabillyBamaLama had been in the works for four years. Unforeseen circumstances, extreme heat, lack of ticket holder participation and attendance were cited as reasons for the sudden cancellation, as stated in a post on the festival's Facebook page on July 1 at 9:36 p.m.
The post assured ticket holders that refunds were in process. However, comments on the post — and subsequent interviews by Gulf Coast Media to confirm people's thoughts — indicated there were additional factors contributing to the festival's downfall.
Vendors, such as Maria and Henry Gavin, owners of Paw Paw's Roasted Corn and More, reported discrepancies between the advertised festival arrangements and the reality on-site.
The couple noted that representatives from the health department, as promised on the vendor application on the Rockabilly website, were absent.
“We went to the Robertsdale Health Department when we got in town, and they told us they never heard of the Rockabilly festival,” the two vendors said, agreeing with each other when one spoke.
The Gavins traveled over an hour from Tibbie to Robertsdale. They said they spent an estimated $2,000 on gas, food and supplies.
Confusion extended to performers as well. Johnny Angel, band leader of Helldorado, said he discovered his band's participation in the festival only after a friend sent him a flyer with Helldorado mentioned in the lineup.
“Well, that’s news to me,” Angel said. “I never even heard of this BamaLama festival.”
After contacting Galloway, Angel agreed to perform. However, on July 1, Angel received a call advising him not to travel to the festival, as the stage was allegedly being dismantled. To date, he has only received a deposit fee for his performance.
Members of a band that did perform on Friday, June 30, told Gulf Coast Media that after arriving in town on Thursday, Galloway guaranteed them a hotel room for five bandmates. According the band — members wished to remain anonymous while they and multiple other artists talk to lawyers — upon arriving to the hotel, they were informed that were no rooms reserved for them and the hotel was full.
After calling Galloway, the band was asked to cover their own hotel rooms. Members said Galloway told them she would reimburse them for their expenses.
"Now, I'm in the hole $1,100, had only received a $200 deposit," the band member said.
Upon their arrival, the band discovered there was no area for them to showcase and vend their merchandise, a space they say they were promised.
“At the end of Friday night, I spoke to Judith and said if I do not receive the rest of the money by noon Saturday, I am shutting it down,” the festival participant said.
People did go to the festival on Friday, but the setting and amenities were not what they expected.
“The atmosphere I arrived into was not at all the same that was presented online or what was eluded to at all,” said Vannie Bohlen, a vintage and retro music fan. “There was only maybe one-tenth of the vendors that were promised. No clear entry. No one checking tickets. No signs that clearly displayed what was happening at all.”
Bohlen's sister-in-law traveled eight hours from Tennessee and took time off work to attend the weekend-long festival. She spent between $475 to $550 in gas, food and missed wages.
Eddie MacIntosh, a member of the band Pepperpot Bats, withdrew from the event in May, citing concerns about its integrity.
MacIntosh said Galloway, in communication via email, informed the Pepperpot Bats the music festival would support a nonprofit called Living Autism US-Epilepsy SUDEP. In the email, Galloway wrote, “We are producing for Living Autism US, Autism-Epilepsy-SUDEP. All net proceeds will be dedicated to the Green Plains Virginia 700+ acre development, which is a Live-Educate-Work-Social-Recreate development.”
MacIntosh said he asked for an EIN number but was never given one.
“Our management was dubious of the integrity of the event. The charity didn’t have a registered EIN number,” MacIntosh said.
He also said he heard a band's name was used in an advertisement without their permission.
“We thought it was far too many coincidences adding up. It was all just too much to gamble on,” MacIntosh said.
Galloway told Gulf Coast Media in a previous article about the festival that the net proceeds from the event and four other CGE Productions events through April 2024 “will benefit Autism-Epilepsy-SUDEP, a residential community for all persons on the spectrum and their families and caregivers to live, work, educate, socialize and recreate. The funds will be used to help purchase and develop a 786-acre estate for the sole purpose of better living and better quality of life.”
The Sponsor My Event website featured a page highlighting Rockabilly BamaLama's intended support for a nonprofit. An article under the headline “Why should you sponsor?” read: “To be the best part of an exciting event like this is more than worth it BUT being a part of a show like this that has a cause. That cause is SUDEP Sudden Unexplained Death by Epilepsy and persons with the dual diagnosis of Autism and Epilepsy have a hi-risk of 1 in 25 of suffering SUDEP!! CGE Productions producing for Living Autism-US-Epilepsy-Sudep for the development of a 786 acre Live Work.Educate.Social.Recreate for person on this spectrum and their families and caregivers.”
During an interview in June, when questioned about the festival's connection to Living Autism US- Epilepsy SUDEP, Galloway said, “I'm not sure we have publicly stated that this festival is associated with autism efforts even though it is on the part of CGE. We have not requested from anyone that they sponsor, donate or even perform on behalf of the autism benefit. This is not classified and never has been classified as a 'fundraiser.'"
In the same interview, the CGE Productions marketing director said Living Autism US is "a 501c3 nonprofit” and that “they work and partner with the Epilepsy Foundation in the US and the Epilepsy Society in the UK.”
Living Autism UK disavowed any connection to Living Autism US- Epilepsy SUDEP. On May 8, Living Autism UK tweeted: “PLEASE NOTE if you are being asked for donations by livingautismus.com, that is NOT us. We do not know who they are.”
A IRS Tax Exempt search did not show results pertaining to Living Autism US- Epilepsy SUDEP in the state of Alabama.
The phone number for livingautismus.com was listed as (251) 278-5469. An email chain between a band whose members wish to remain anonymous and Galloway shows the number for CGE Production was also (251) 278-5469. The number for CGE Productions has since been changed.
As of July 4, all websites for CGE Productions, Living Autism US Epilepsy-SUDEP and Rockabilly BamaLama have been deleted.
DIRECTOR'S RESPONSE TO LOW ATTENDANCE, BOUNCED CHECKS
Following the festival's cancellation, Galloway said she felt remorse and responsibility for the situation.
She said the website's analytics predicted a turnout of 33,000 attendees. Only 326 tickets sold.
“First, words certainly do not make an apology, but I am going to try and convey my sincerest regrets and my most heartfelt apology for everything that has transpired from this event,” Galloway said. “Because ultimately it does fall directly upon me no matter what the extenuating circumstances were, including the heat index."
Fina Ice Company, a planned vendor for the festival, decided to drop out prior to the event. The company commented on a Facebook post created by Rockabilly BamaLama, including a screenshot of an email exchange between the company and Galloway on June 22. In the email, Fina Ice Company inquired, "Have you surpassed 1,000 ticket sales?" The organizers of Rockabilly replied, "Yes, we have!!"
"We had reservations for 1,500 gate tickets, 326 actual tickets sold, 128 cars for Friday and our vendors, and those are the funds that we had released," Galloway told Gulf Coast Media.
Regarding the checks that bounced, Galloway said a solitary check was intentionally withheld to review a transfer report prior to disbursing the funds.
Responding to allegations of non-payment, Galloway said she reassured the bands that personal arrangements had been made, and their contracts would be honored.
“We have made personal arrangements with each band that was here and with those that we canceled that did not appear,” she said. “We are paying the full contracts and all expenses. There is only one band that we have not personally communicated with but have communicated through email. This band did not leave his home, and we were able to notify prior to his travel, but his contract will be honored and fully paid.”
Galloway said she is devastated by the event's ending.
“We are incredibly sorry for the inconvenience and loss caused by this event and are doing our best to rectify this,” Galloway said. “We are working diligently on correcting any and all issues surrounding the festival.”