BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Will Birmingham turn out for a free concert by Jimmy Fallon’s house band? Jack Schaeffer certainly thinks so.
He’s booked The Roots -- a musical powerhouse on late-night TV -- for the festival formerly known as the Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil.
Schaeffer, the primary organizer for the July 26 event, has Birmingham's two "American Idol" winners, Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard, on the lineup, as well.
The festival has a new name -- Schaeffer Eye Center CityFest -- and a new location at Railroad Park in Southside.
"This event is about our city and our people," Schaeffer said during a phone interview. "I want to make this look and feel like Birmingham."
The free, daylong festival will stretch across the 19-acre park, which runs along First Avenue South between 14th and 18th streets. CityFest will combine live music with four other components: food trucks and vendors, a Beerfest with craft brews, an artists' marketplace and a children's zone.
"This festival is not just about music anymore," Schaeffer said. "It's really a showcase of what's happening in Birmingham."
The Roots, a hip-hop and soul band, have earned TV fame on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (2009-2014) and now "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” The group has 11 studio albums to its credit, along with three Grammy Awards and three NAACP Image Awards.
Hicks, a country-soul singer, and Studdard, an R&B crooner, are favorites here, after winning the "Idol" crown during the show's glory years and bringing the city to national attention.
Previously, Schaeffer had intended to morph the venerable Crawfish Boil into an event called Uptown Live, setting up shop in the entertainment district near the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex.
His ideas for the new festival stayed the same, Schaeffer said, but the location needed to switch, partly because the BJCC is busy with three other events that weekend. The "American Idol" Season 13 tour stops at the BJCC Concert Hall on July 26, bracketed by two other shows featuring Tank (July 25) and Steely Dan (July 27).
"I thought it would be too much chaos," Schaeffer said. "This opened up the opportunity for us to have it at Railroad Park."
The Crawfish Boil actually has ties to Railroad Park, and Schaeffer said the park was designed to accommodate a festival like this one.
"We're extremely excited that we're back at the park," he said, pointing to the Boil's five-year tenure in that location.
The Crawfish Boil, founded in 1985, went through several incarnations and location changes during its 28-year history. From 2003 to 2007, the festival settled into an empty lot at First Avenue South and 18th Street. This area later would be transformed into Railroad Park.
Schaeffer's festival moved in 2008 to make way for the park's initial landscaping and construction. The Crawfish Boil found its new home at the BJCC -- in a parking lot on Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard North between 22nd and 24th streets -- and stayed there through 2013.
With CityFest, Schaeffer is hoping for another long run, making a break with the past but maintaining his commitment to an annual festival in Birmingham.
"Birmingham needs a festival, and everybody knows that," Schaeffer said. "For Birmingham to grow, we have to keep our youth. When they're 24 and graduating, deciding where they want to live, we have to give them something to do. We also want to show that Birmingham supports the arts. … Personally, I feel an obligation to the city of Birmingham. As long as people continue to show up at the festival, we will continue to do it."
Sticking to the basic blueprint he announced in April, Schaeffer will partner with concert promoter Live Nation and the City of Birmingham for the new CityFest. The lineup isn't complete; look for one or two more acts with national reputations, Schaeffer said.
Corporate sponsorships, sales of VIP tickets and food and beverage sales will fund the festival, Schaeffer said. Prices for VIP tickets haven't been announced, but these passes will include the usual perks, such as separate areas for stage viewing and socializing.
A nonprofit organization, the Schaeffer Foundation (formerly called the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation), is linked to CityFest, as it was for the Crawfish Boil. Under Schaeffer’s guidance, the foundation has been a longtime supporter of charities such as Camp Smile-A-Mile. The foundation also partners with Miles College, providing scholarships for students suffering from financial hardships.
CityFest is likely to take over Railroad Park from about 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. this year, Schaeffer said. The timeline isn't nailed down yet, but The Roots, as the headliner, will perform a 90-minute show that starts at 9:30 p.m.
Schaeffer estimated the potential crowd size at 10,000-20,000 people.
"Anything over 10,000 people would be a tremendous success," he said. "If we have nice weather and people turn out … It should be a magical day in the Magic City."
And who are you; the proud lord said, that I must bow so low?