The new president of Summer Motion is an eager go-getter who has a burning desire for his hometown.
Kind of sounds like that other guy who ran the festival so successfully for so many years.
If former prez Chuck Charles was Mr. Summer Motion, then Cade Mahan must be his long-lost brother.
Mahan has taken the baton from Charles, the man Ashland now calls Mr. Mayor, and it sure looks like a smooth transition.
If you don’t know Mahan personally, then you know him him in a roundabout way.
His grandfather, Henry Mahan, was the longtime pastor of 13th Street Baptist Church. His mother, Sudie Davis, is a longtime area businesswoman, and his father, Danny Mahan, is a professor at Ashland Community and Technical College.
They all went to the same grade school as Cade — Hager Elementary. Cade is a 1991 graduate of Paul G. Blazer High School who wanted out of town as quickly as possible. He did that and then couldn’t wait to come back.
It turns out, Ashland wasn’t so bad after all.
“I realize there are not many other places out there any better,” said Mahan, the kitchen manager at Applebee’s. “Every town has its little quirks, just like we do. What better place for me to try to make a mark and help better the community than the town I grew up in.”
Mahan is no rookie when it comes to Summer Motion. His mother got him involved in the festival in 2005 and his duties have grown exponentially since then.
“My first year I was volunteering and helping out,” he said. “Later that fall, Chuck approached me and said ‘Hey, I want you to come on the committee.’’’
The 30-man committee Charles assembled is a jack-of-all-trades group with a desire and can-do attitude. Most, if not all, have rallied around Mahan since he was named to replace Charles last summer.
Mahan seemed like the most logical choice as a replacement. He had experience and was under Charles’ wing for several years. It even had gotten to the point where workers started asking Mahan about festival decisions when Charles wasn’t available.
But the time commitment that comes from running the festival, which by the way isn’t a paid position, can be overwhelming. The pressure that comes with it during those three summer days can be daunting, too. Charles handled all that well and handled the natural criticism that comes from being in that position, too. It goes with the territory.
Mahan has thick skin — when you run a kitchen at an eatery like Applebee’s, there’s some pressure, too — so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Charles is a people person and his job as the vice president of the Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital health foundation fit in nicely with being the Summer Motion president. Raising funds for foundations and festivals can cross the same lines.
“In these financially trying times we’re in right now, it’s even more of a challenge,” Mahan said. “I’m not only responsible for putting on this great event, but responsible for gathering the capital. Chuck had gotten to the point where all he had to do is make a phone call.
“In my trying to raise all the funds, I have a little more work in front of me. Some of these business leaders I know in a roundabout way; I’ve catered a function or they’ve been in the restaurant eating. I’m letting them know I’m not going to let this go downhill or deteriorate. I want to build on the success we had and I’m only trying to make it bigger and better. I’m reaching out this year and hoping everybody is back onboard or even willing to donate a little bit more.”
Not only has Mahan inherited running Summer Motion, but it’s the 25th anniversary of the popular festival. That makes it a little more special, he said.
“We want to make this one the best ever,” Mahan said.
Every year it seems the bar gets a little higher for one of the South’s most popular summer festivals. Of course, a lot of attention comes from the musical groups booked. The groundwork has started on that as well.
Mahan has a long history in the food service and customer service arenas, but his love is tourism and promotional work. Being in charge of a festival like Summer Motion should bolster that resume a little more, although that’s not why he took the position.
He took it to make a difference in his hometown.
Mahan, like Charles, knows it’s not a one-man show. It takes a village, as they say.
“Chuck did an outstanding job of building a really great team,” Mahan said. “It’s an outstanding group of people on the committee. It’s like a little family. A lot of the people on there have been for years. We have such a good working relationship.”
Mahan and his fiancée, Jenny Spencer, plan to get married this summer — after Summer Motion, of course. He said his soon-to-be wife understands the time commitment and her commitment to him being the festival president. They have a 2-year-old son, Robert Ky, and she has a daughter, 9-year-old Rilee.
“She’s got my back wholeheartedly,” Mahan said of Spencer.
His employer also understands. Last summer, he had 10 paid days off to help with the festival. Applebee’s has been a major sponsor for years, he said.
Mahan said even though Charles is seemingly on the Summer Motion sideline, his presence as mayor of Ashland certainly isn’t going to hurt.
“The city has always been super great to Summer Motion,” Mahan said. “He knows the struggles and opportunities we face.”
Rest assured Summer Motion is in good hands with Mahan as the new leader.
There’s a new sheriff in town, but he has a lot of the same traits as the old one.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.