A large crowd gathered at the Opelika Public Library last Thursday night to see acclaimed columnist and novelist, Sean Dietrich.

Known for his commentary on living in the South, Dietrich, commonly referred to as Sean of the South, played guitar, sang and told stories as he charmed attendees for nearly two hours.

“It’s my hope to make people feel good for a few minutes, make them laugh,” Dietrich said of his goal for the event. “… Sing some songs. Have a good time. That’s it, I have no purpose other than to meet my friends and shoot the breeze.”

Throughout the night, Dietrich candidly talked about his family, fishing, God, traditions, quirky regional customs, butter beans and more — all through the lens of his Southern Baptist upbringing.

His act was witty, cunning and as sharp as the contour lines of his full-figured red beard. At its best, the event featured all the elements of a (clean) standup comedy act combined with a southern gospel concert.

The crowd in attendance hung on every word Dietrich said. The punchlines were never-ending. The wisdom and worldliness shown through his tales of humble beginnings could have brought a sinner to the altar, a cynic to a rolling laugh.

While Dietrich largely gained popularity from his editorially focused writing, his vocal chops hold a candle to your local church choir leader. Additionally, Dietrich has acting experience. He debuted on living room TV screens in an Alfa commercial in 2020.

For a man who oozes such composure and confidence, Dietrich said his breakthrough moment on the little screen was a step outside his comfort zone.

“Doing the Alfa commercials was a definite stretch of my comfort zone, but I had a lot of fun,” Dietrich said. “It’s still very difficult to see yourself on TV. I don’t like it. As soon as the commercials began airing, for instance, I went to get my haircut and the woman cutting my hair got this huge grin on her face. She said, ‘Hey! You’re the guy from the Alfa commercials!’ I sort of blushed and said, ‘Yes, ma’am, that was me.’ She said, ‘Ohmigosh, I can’t stand those commercials.’”

Perhaps luckily for all parties involved, there was no acting from Dietrich Thursday night. He candidly addressed the crowd as a relatable peer. It was an honest, brazen and entertaining take on life — southern life. And according to Dietrich, life in the South is good. Ultimately, events like Thursday night help him share that good with others.

“The South is a unique culture unto itself,” Dietrich said. “It’s an old culture, and it’s our heritage. In an age of technology, and mass communication, sometimes I worry that regionalism in the United States is drying up. I’m just trying to keep the good parts of the South alive in story and song.”