LaGRANGE — It was a bittersweet opening for the Sweetland Amphitheatre at Boyd Park on Friday.
Less than an hour before a crowd marked the occasion, Jim Boyd — for whom the park is named, along with his late wife, Annette — died at his residence in Vernon Woods Retirement Community. He was 81, and was to cut the ribbon.
“If you don’t know, the origin of the name ‘Sweetland’ for this amphitheater is that over 30 years ago, the Boyds, Jim and Annette, started a parade on the Fourth of July to honor our country, our community and the patriotism that we all share,” said Mayor Jim Thornton during the ribbon cutting ceremony. “It was known as the Sweet Land of Liberty Parade for Youth.”
The crowd marked Boyd’s passing with a solemn moment of silent prayer.
Still, the show must go on.
Hundreds of amphitheater-goers toured the $8.6 million venue, which seats 2,500 people and begins its inaugural summer concert series next week. Musicians Barry Waldrep, Kelli Johnson and Brian Hall took the stage for the first time and performed for the crowd as food vendors sold hot dogs, pizza and beverages.
“Its an incredible place,” said LaGrange resident Kay Durand. “I think it’s better than Chastain” Amphitheater in metro Atlanta.
The mayor agreed.
“There aren’t many cities of 31,000 people that enjoy something like this,” he said. “… It’s all possible because of the history we have here of public-private partnerships.”
He was referring to a $6 million grant from the Callaway Foundation that financed the bulk of the construction’s cost, supplemented by money from the city of LaGrange and Troup County.
The mayor also thanked voters who approved a 2011 special-purpose, local-option sales tax, or SPLOST, that also partially financed the amphitheater’s construction.
“You supported the additional funding for this, and you deserve the credit,” he said.
Sweetland’s next concert is slated for April 16 with Atlanta bands Band-X and Members Only.
“Band-X is a high-energy group of talented musicians and lead singers who provide adrenaline-charged, interactive live entertainment, (and) Members Only is a dynamic group of young performers bringing the most accurate and high energy recreation of popular ’80s hits,” according to Sweetland’s website.
For tickets or more information, visit www.sweetland.events or call 706-298-5434.
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.