WHERE CAN you find Tybee Santa, boots stompin’ in time to your favorite Christmas tunes, food, fellowship, and cheap drinks?
It’s time for the Homegrown Holiday Hoedown, y’all! The annual celebration of music and local love returns to The American Legion Post 135 Ballroom this weekend for festive mischief, merrymaking, and fundraising for local charitable causes. Attendees can take photo booth snaps with Santa Claus, dance to live entertainment, eat delicious food (included in the ticket price), and enjoy a cash bar at the annual celebration.
For many years, Savannah alt-country rockers The Train Wrecks teamed up with Lowcountry string band The Accomplices to throw the big bash. When Accomplices members and Hoedown organizers Zach Smith and Colleen Heine moved to Colorado this year, many worried that The Hostess City’s favorite holiday party wouldn’t happen.
“This year, we were saying, ‘What do we do?’ So we decided to keep it in the family,” says Train Wrecks drummer and Hoedown organizer Jeremy Hammons.
The 2017 Hoedown features performances from The Train Wrecks, Accomplices frontman Matt Eckstine accompanied by a variety of friends, and Accomplices drummer Stan Ray, who will perform songs from his beloved Christmas catalog.
“Matt has a new album out and a new band,” Hammons points out. “And Stan Ray is the only person I know who writes original Christmas music! He’ll be there. It’s Matt and Stan from The Accomplices, then The Train Wrecks. We’re keeping it simple this year.”
For a town saturated in holiday events, Savannah continues to count the Hoedown among its favorites. And in a city where music fans (in)famously wait to purchase tickets at the last minute, the event sells out online every single year.
Hammons attributes the concert’s success to its localized spirit, a strong dedication to having as much fun as possible, and the unique environment that’s created in the Ballroom.
“It’s something no one else does,” he says. “You come in, you get the live music show all night, it’s in the Legion, which is a cool room, you get dinner, Tybee Santa is there having fun. It’s a different thing, and it’s the biggest thing we do every year. We’re planning this thing two months in advance every year. You come in, enjoy, and it’s at the Legion, so it’s cheap drinks and just so much fun. We get you fed, get you some drinks for next to nothing, there’s good music, a photo booth.”
Southbound Brewing will be slinging delicious beer—and those who purchase one will also get a special, limited edition, Hoedown-branded koozie. Beloved local sandwich/soup/salad joint Kayak Kafe handles the catering this year, providing fresh, delicious eats for all.
“This is a new partner for us this year,” Hammons says. “We asked if they wanted to do the Hoedown, and immediately they were on board. Everyone who is a part of this is all local. We’re pulling from people we’ve met from town—the people doing the food down to the photo booth, they’re all people The Train Wrecks have met, and we’re paying them to come be part of our realm.”
The Hoedown is about more than good tunes and good eats. Every year, Savannah’s favorite Americana, country, and roots bands team up to spread goodwill through town, hosting a toy drive event at the show and donating to local nonprofits. This year, Loop It Up Savannah is the Hoedown’s charitable organization. By bringing new art supplies, like watercolor paints, children’s scissors, glue sticks, acrylic paint, and paint brushes, canned goods or other nonperishable foods, gift cards for grocery stores or Home Depot, new children’s shoes, socks, and underwear, new or gently used children’s sweaters, jackets and coats, book bags, and new toys, Hoedown fans will directly assist local families and kids in need during the holidays and all year round.
“Loop It Up Savannah keeps it local, so it’s not just toys, it’s art supplies that they use throughout the year, and we love that,” Hammons attests. “Everyone should bring new, unwrapped toys, art supplies, and school supplies. Though the year it all gets distributed to people who really need them. Bring some stuff for the kids.”
The bands look forward to playing seasonal favorites for the crowd, and Hammons hints that the audience might hear some special collaborations and even a couple Tom Petty tunes in honor of the beloved musician. It’s always an eclectic evening, and that’s just how the gang likes it.
“It’s an experience,” Hammons grins. “A Christmas experience, but a very odd Christmas experience.”