The thornless honey locust graces the plush lawn of the Founder’s Garden, spawning legumes that feed small, hungry creatures and providing shade to passers-by. Every May, the deciduous perennial tree buds golden-green flowers whose thin petals glow in the spring sunlight. Prized for its strong wood, its absorption of carbon dioxide, and its enrichment of nitrogen in the soil, the thornless honey locust is often planted to alleviate the stress of urban environments. Like the tree soon to be dedicated to him, David Alan “Top Dawg” Lewis was a giver. The most devastating flaw to the analogy, is that while the tree is likely to live for 150 years, Alan fell to his death at the young age of 29 while saving his beloved dog at the edge of waterfall.
Alan’s sudden death sent a shock through his tight-knit yet expansive web of friends. They sought solace in what connected them, the memory of Alan and his love for music. After his funeral last May, his friends and family members gathered by the dozens at The Blind Pig to join in a jam fest honoring the man who brought so many good people together. “Last year when we got together for Alan’s memorial service, and we put together a show on the fly, it was the most positive energy, and the idea was sparked that we needed to do it again. Around Christmas of this year, we decided that we needed to make it a reality.”
The idea for Alanfest grew from fond memories of their dear friend and reflections on the presence they felt in commemorating him through music. Alanfest, a three-day event including an Earth Day benefit concert, will feature artists who were favorites and friends of Alan, as well as some who were simply moved by his story.
The proceeds of Alanfest will be given entirely to The David Alan Lewis foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headed by Kevin and several others who were profoundly affected by Alan’s death, seeks to endow a scholarship, which will forever exist in his name. Alan, a graduate of the University of Georgia’s landscape architecture program, had a remarkable aptitude for merging the natural environment with that of an urban location. However, this scholarship will not necessarily be given to the standard straight-A scholarship applicant. Instead it will be given to candidates who share the earnest drive and perseverance that defined Alan.
Kevin recollects an incident characteristic of Alan’s heart and determination; “I sat down at his desk and flipped through some stuff, and I found a stack of letters. Each was dated about six months apart, all on UGA stationary. He had mentioned something about wanting to be a landscape architect, but at the time, I was clueless as to what that was. The letters each informed him that his application for admission had been denied, but that he should reapply for the next term. And he had, again and again, because he knew what would make him happy, and that the University of Georgia is where he wanted to receive his degree. He was eventually accepted… after about three years of applying. We're going to keep all of that in mind when we select recipients of Alan's scholarship.”
For his many family members and friends, the process of planning the event has been therapeutic. “I see Alan in all that I do, and so do my friends,” says Carlan, “And getting to talk to my friends on a daily basis—we’ve recognized the value of our friendships. I’ve cried a hundred times through this process. I have to look at his pictures and pick out which are the best ones and try to do it objectively… But it’s been encouraging; it’s been a triumph of the human spirit. It’s not about any of us; it’s about Alan. He was worth it.”
Despite its beauty and benefits, the thornless honey locust often goes humbly unnoticed in a garden abounding with bright flowers and décor. Likewise, Kevin Carlan remarks, “Alan was such a subtle guy.... small in stature and soft spoken. But he was the best at everything that he pursued; he was a class 5 kayaker, Eagle Scout, aquatics director, billiards player, guitarist, landscape architect... the list goes on.… But first look, you'd just never know how amazing the guy was. That was one of the things I admired the most about him.”
Thanks to the thought and effort of his family and friends, Alan’s legacy will endure. When its flowers bud in May at the anniversary of Alan’s passing, the thornless honey locust will aptly represent the beauty of a life well lived.
Friday, Apr. 20 2 p.m. 42 Degrees Open House (win AlanFest tickets!)
9 p.m. Pub Crawl (begins at The Roadhouse)
11 p.m. AlanFest 2012 Roundup at The Roadhouse
Featuring live music by Rusty Lindsey Band and The Chad White Experience
Saturday, Apr. 21 8 a.m. Community Cleanup (meet at New Earth Music Hall)
11 a.m. Alan's Tree Dedication (Founders Garden, UGA)
2 p.m. Friends and Family Jam Session
Featuring The Current Rise, The Morrison Brothers Band, Rusty Lindsey, The Chad White Experience and many more local artists
8 p.m. AlanFest 2010 (New Earth Music Hall)
featuring I <3 Bangradio, MC Hollywood Ent, Sumilan, The Rusty Lindsey Band, Cherry Royale, Dubconscious. Tickets on sale at www.alanfest.org.
Sunday, Apr. 22 11 a.m. Earth Day/Farewell Brunch (Blind Pig Tavern)