Clocking in at one square mile in size and a population of 665 in the 2020 census, the tiny town of Leighton, Alabama leaves a BIG footprint. City leadership, led by Mayor Derick Silcox, wanted a way to celebrate all that Leighton has produced. Thus, they created Sledgefest, a music festival named after award-winning R&B, soul, and gospel singer, Percy Sledge. Sledge’s biggest hit, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, rocketed him into fame in 1966, giving his hometown of Leighton a little piece of the pie as well.

(Town of Leighton/Facebook)

Last year, the inaugural Sledgefest was part of the WC Handy Music Festival, a series of concerts taking place across The Shoals. Debby Bradford, the town’s Project and Event Consultant, states, “We didn’t know what to expect with it being our first year, and we ended up having over 1000 people”. Needless to say, Sledgefest was a success!

This year, Sledgefest has changed dates and will be a stand-alone music festival taking place on September 16th. The festival is free to attend, and will feature in chronological order starting at 1 pm: Deak Harp & Quicksand, Studio Code 502, CC Jags, and Coffee Black. Appropriately, the closing act at 8:30 is Percy Sledge’s son’s band, Howell Sledge & The Revue. The night’s program will conclude with fireworks.

The Town of Leighton invites festival attendees from near and far to stick around and enjoy all that Leighton has to offer. The stage will be set up in the middle of Main Street, and food vendors and children’s activities will be available on site all day. The town’s local art galleries will be open downtown during the festival, and The Leighton Museum will be open 1-5.

The Leighton Museum is located within Bank Independent’s flagship branch, and it tells the history of the town including local Native American pieces, Civil War and World War I memorabilia and features priceless artifacts including Percy Sledge’s signature blue coat. The museum also includes items from Jimmy Hughes, a current resident of Leighton and a famous musician who helped put Muscle Shoals’ FAME Recording Studios on the map. Sports fans will enjoy viewing paraphernalia from Ed West “The Toolbox”, a professional football player from Leighton, NBA players Leon and John Douglas, and NFL star Ozzie Newsome. Proof that big footprints come from Leighton! Literally and figuratively.

City leadership has extended Sledgefest festivities for its residents this year to heighten the celebration. The Leighton Public Library was recently renovated and will host its Grand Opening proceeding the festival on Thursday, September 14th from 5-7 pm. On Friday morning at 10 am, everyone is invited to the senior center for “Singing with Seniors”, which will include cupcakes, lemonade, and Percy Sledge-style music. At 11 am on Friday, the Town of Leighton, with the help of the Alabama Forestry Commision and Smokey the Bear, will dedicate its new outdoor classroom. At 2:30 the Leighton Police Department will be handing out popsicles at Fennell Park where children can play on the new playground equipment. Friday evening is a home football game at 7:00. Go Colbert County Indians!

Festival contact Debby Bradford points out that Leighton is a convenient stopping point for visitors on North Alabama’s Singing River Trail and is convenient to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at The Shoals. “It really is a beautiful little town, and we look forward to welcoming you,” she says.