Back in 2006, Mike Jackson (of Mike Jackson Home Builders) and his adult kids, Beth and Brian, came up with the idea of starting a summertime family friendly boat party on the Elk River. Although it started out small, now the annual Elk River Boat Party attracts upward of 300 boats, and is a highlight of the summer for boating families in North Alabama. This year it will be held on Saturday, July 2nd, and will go from 3pm until dark.
Mike has a custom built home on the river, known as the General Jackson. He, his kids, and his sweetheart, Bridgett Browning, greatly enjoy throwing the party for the community. They are all committed to making this 10-year celebration the best ever, and started working hard to pull it all together back in February. When Mike first built the two-story boat pier for the General Jackson, he knew the upper floor was the perfect place to have a band play live music. The sound carried across the water, and was its own best advertising. They found a great Huntsville based band called Kozmic Mama to come play for the inaugural event, and “Mama” has been coming to the party ever since. Kozmic Mama has opened for such legendary artists as Bob Dylan and Gladys Knight for performances held at the Von Braun Center, and is considered to be one of the best bands in the area. Their genre is everything from blues to rock to R&B, and they perform songs made famous by everyone from Janis Joplin to James Brown to the Staple Singers. They also have a solid repertoire of original music, all of which gets woven into the playlist for the evening’s concert. Most importantly, the playlist, like the party itself, is family friendly. At the end of the concert, Mike and Bridgett get on jet skis, go out to each boat, thank the guests for coming, and give out commemorative koozies.
Here are some comments from sponsors as well as guests with regard to the party:
• “It is an enjoyable annual event that we look forward to so we can just listen and dance to the music with our family and friends.”—Connie and Phil Carpenter, Giles County Furniture
• “This is a great event. Mike and Bridgett put a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work into making this event happen. This is an event that anyone can attend. This is an awesome event that I personally enjoy being a part of and look forward to hearing an awesome band each and every year.” --J.J. Brindley, Brindley Construction
• “I really enjoy the boat party and would like to see it continue in coming years. This is a fun event everyone looks forward to.”—Allen Johnson, Allen Johnson Farms, LLC
• “We always look forward to the boat party! It’s become a fun tradition. It’s awesome from our view to look out and see all the boats tied off together and folks celebrating together, and of course the scenery, just beautiful. Throughout the year we run into folks that heard us on the river and they make it a point to be there every year. It’s just a really special gig to us, and so are the people we do it for!!!” –Carla Russell, Kozmic Mama
• “The Annual Elk River Boat Party is just good clean fun for everyone! There is nothing like it—tying up with several boats on a hot afternoon filled with music. It is undoubtedly an event we look forward to every year. We sponsor it because it’s the best party on the river. Safe, fun and well-organized, we anxiously await every year to see the banners go up. It just keeps getting bigger and better every year. If you have never been, you must come out, because you’ll never miss this party ever again.” Greg and Shonn Lunn, New South Concrete
• “It’s one of the first boat parties on Anderson Creek and has become a 4th of July tradition that many have come to look forward to and enjoy each year.”—Travis Lewter, Advanced Electrical
• “We love the Boat Party because, the generosity of Mike and Bridget Jackson bringing good friends together for the last 10 years has bonded this community in a way that makes it such a great place to live. Anyone that lives in this community looks forward to July every year because of the open generosity and welcoming spirit of this lovely couple.”—Barry and Lori Goff
Mike has estimated that close to 3,500 people have attended in more than 300 boats, and this year the number is expected to go higher, perhaps reaching as much as 4,000. “This year, with it being on the 2nd of July, there will be people arriving on Friday night and staying through ‘til Sunday or Monday. People are starting to plan their vacations around this,” he said. Kids can go water skiing, ski boarding, and the AL Marine Police as well as the Rescue Squad will be on duty, watching out for everyone. As a way of saying a huge thank you to our first responders, there will be a raffle for a fully loaded Yeti cooler that will be given away at the 72 Roadhouse on the evening of June 24th during the sponsor appreciation dinner. Raffle tickets cost $10, you must be 21 to enter, and do not need to be present to win. Proceeds from the raffle will go to the Rogersville Volunteer Fire Department. “They do so much for us, and we wanted to do something special for the community for this 10th anniversary,” said Bridgett.
As you can imagine, putting on an event of this size takes several sponsors, some of whose enthusiasm was expressed above. The list of sponsors has grown every year, and there are several new sponsors that the organizers wanted to make sure felt welcome. They include: Randy Michael of Athens Aluminum, Allen Johnson of Allen Johnson Farms, LLC, Steve Knox of Steve’s Barber Shop, Rogersville Hardware, and Ryan McKee of Tobacco Express.
The only way to get to the party is by boat, and the directions are as follows: from the Tennessee River, go north on the Elk River and under Lee Hi Bridge (U.S. 72 bridge). Turn left into Anderson Creek and the party is on the right. The nearest boat launch is the Lee Hi Bridge boat launch.
For more information, go to 10th Annual Elk River Boat Party on Facebook and then get yourself to the celebration, even if you have to hitch a ride!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner