Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil draws national acts to downtown 2009: Luis Cardena

Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil draws national acts to downtown

Luis Cardena climbs up a Ferris wheel that he and other workers set up for this weekend's Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil.

It's probably the sound of about 20,000 people gathered in the same place for the same purpose -- the Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil. The music and food festival, founded 23 years ago as a backyard party, has grown into a professionally run, two-day event that dishes out more than 25,000 pounds of crawfish and presents acts with national reputations. "I think it's been amazing to watch it grow, not just in size but in importance to the community," says Dilcy Hilley, vice president of marketing for the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. "People want tickets to the Crawfish Boil, want to go to the Crawfish Boil ... It's become the cool place to be." This year's festival has an overall budget of about $850,000, according to Gary Weinberger of Red Mountain Entertainment, the promoter and producer. About half of that will be spent on programming, booking talent such as Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Jason Mraz, 311 and the All-American Rejects. He took over leadership of the boil in 2002 and turned to Red Mountain for concert expertise, relying on Weinberger's company to secure acts, take care of ticketing and ensure the operation runs smoothly. Growing year by year

"When we started doing this, we said we were going to be very smart, do the best we can, get a little bigger and little better every year," Schaeffer says.

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