Each year, thousands of people make the pilgrimage down Highway 280 to Auburn, Alabama for school and sport. Though it’s known for its dining and shopping in the Birmingham area, once you pass Childersburg there’s not much to catch the eye on that long stretch of road – even the Auburn turnoff is easily overlooked if you aren’t paying close attention, its only landmark a tiny gas station.
A few miles north of Auburn stands a sign that simply reads Waverly, with an arrow directing you down a narrow two-lane road that almost immediately disappears into the woods. Having lived my whole life in Alabama, I’m familiar with those small towns that rest far from main thoroughfares. I assumed the small – no, tiny – town of Waverly, home to only about 150 residents, was just one of the many quiet, sleepy places I passed on my drives from Auburn to Birmingham and back. For most days out of the year I’m sure that’s true but, every third Saturday in April, people flock from far and wide to Waverly’s Old 280 Boogie music festival.
Back in 2000, the Alabama Department of Transportation decided to widen Highway 280, but doing so through the center of Waverly would have destroyed the town. Ultimately, the road was diverted to the south and Waverly was spared. 2001 marked the first Old 280 Boogie, an outdoor concert celebrating the highway’s diversion. The event has evolved from a small community event into a national drawing that supports approximately 1500 attendees, including musicians, music lovers, artists, and entrepreneurs, to enjoy and be inspired by this historic town.
The crowd gathers for the Boogie in an open lawn ringed by historic buildings and large shade trees, lounging in lawn chairs or sprawled on towels and blankets as bands perform on a custom stage erected between the buildings that features a historic billboard from the Heart of Dixie motel, once a landmark on Highway 280, now repurposed as a new kind of landmark. During breaks in the music, people are invited to venture into the cemetery across the road and read the gravestones belonging to people born in the 18th century, or they can purchase food or crafts from local businesses that operate in historic buildings or commercial districts that help Waverly maintain their economy.
The 14th annual Old 280 Boogie takes place on April 19, 2014; the gates open at 11 AM and the music starts at noon with performances by Junior Brown; Lydia Loveless; Pine Hill Haints; Rayland Baxter; Have Gun, Will Travel; and Shivering Timbers.
Purchase tickets at the gate for $25 dollars, or online for $20. Kids under 14 get in free! For more information, or to purchase tickets, check out https://standarddeluxe.ticketbud.com/waverlyboogie