How the A-Town Get Down Festival Continues to Give Back
Grateful parents enlarge and enhance their annual gift to the city that made their son feel at home.
Alex Townsend found a home, briefly, in Savannah, and his parents, Tom and Jean, have found a unique and enduring way to express their appreciation. For the seventh straight year, they are hosting the A-Town Get Down Festival, a multi-faceted tribute to the artistic expression that was a big part of Alex’s life as a student at SCAD (the Savannah College of Art & Design). An illustrator and drummer, Alex never quite felt that he fit in the St. Louis area where he grew up. In Savannah, he told his parents, “I’ve found my people here.” A short time later Alex – nicknamed A-Town by some of his friends – was killed in an auto crash at the age of 21.
A year after the Valentine’s Day tragedy in 2010, the Townsends launched the first A-Town Get Down at Savannah Station. In Alex’s memory the family also started a program in St. Louis to donate pianos to needy music students, said Tom Townsend. But in Savannah, there were two big reasons why a festival made sense as a way of keeping Alex’s memory alive.
“First, he and I went to a lot of concerts and festivals. We shared favorite bands. Music was a topic we often discussed.” Townsend said. “But second, Alex was the kind of kid that was highly creative. In your conventional school setting he often felt out of place and had some periods of low self-esteem. So a festival featuring several different forms of artistic expression allows other people to do what Alex did – and that is to discover a talent, something that they might be good at. We are so happy that Alex had been able to find his place. It was important that we didn’t lose him while he was still searching.”
From the beginning, the A-Town Get Down festival has featured more than musical performers. A graffiti artist, Peat Wallaeger, performed between acts at the first festival, and local artists representing different styles painted throughout the event. Alex’s friends helped to select the performers for the inaugural festival, and some have remained involved over the years.