Faded brick, chipped eggshell paint and eroding asphalt surrounded the courtyard of the Southside Center for the Arts in Opelika Sunday night, where tiki torches had been lit to ward off mosquitoes and grayed pressure-treated pine picnic tables with patio umbrellas were set up for guests to sit and listen to local duo Martha's Trouble play.
The second annual Concourse/south, Opelika's downtown arts and music festival, began last night with Supper & Songs at the Center for the Arts.
For $60, ticket holders enjoyed a four-course meal provided by Zazu Gastropub, live music from the band, wine and craft beer.
Proceeds from the gathering went to benefit O Grows, a program partnered with Auburn University, Opelika City Schools and the Food Bank of East Alabama, that seeks to encourage school reform and hunger relief through communal gardening and an emphasis on localized produce.
"Two neighborhoods [in the area] are two of the five most food insecure areas in Lee County," said Sean Forbes, executive director of O Grows. "Everybody intuitively knows the relationship between being hungry and doing well in school and staying out of trouble."
The courtyard overlooked one of the gardens O Grows maintains and operates, which had rows of flowers and vegetables with signs personalized by workers and an adjacent yard with several ducks, chickens and goats.
Eight round dinner tables were set up inside the main hall of the building with the low-light of candles and center pieces made with flowers from the garden outside.
A long table near the door was adorned with a wide array of local merchandise for the raffle and silent auction, which included coffee from the Hornady Coffee Company, Gypsy Girl jewelry, Artisan Bread Boutique gift cards and weeklong passes to Concourse/south.
A menu detailing the food for the night was written on a dry erase board by the door, which included scallop ceviche, red ranger chicken roulade, wood-grilled Alabama oysters and a chipotle-rubbed local venison loin.
Graham Hage, the owner of Zazu, said he gets his vegetables locally from O Grows to use in his restaurant and realizes the importance of events like these for local businesses.
"We've only been in downtown Opelika for just under two years, so it's important for us to get our name out there, support the local economy with the vegetables they grow for us and to get everybody that supports downtown Opelika together," Hage said.