Summer Festival Guide | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Summer Festival Guide

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Robert Plant will perform at the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival Aug. 10 through Aug. 12.

As the temperature ratchets up and the youngsters (and not-so-youngsters) taste the sweet freedom of the school year's end, it begins to "officially" feel like summer. To me, summer just means great music festivals. If you didn't get out to those we covered earlier in the month, fear not - - Mississippi still has plenty of festivals for the rest of us.

For all of you classical music lovers, visit historic Natchez for the Natchez Festival of Music May 25 and 26. This festival features musicals, operas and recitals, and provides a music education outreach program to the surrounding counties. The festival is a recipient of a Governor's Award of Excellence in the Arts in Opera and Music Education. If you're looking for something new to do, please visit natchez
festivalofmusic.art.officelive.com for more details about this wonderful festival.

Are you ready for some country? Head down near my old stomping grounds May 25 and 26 for the 38th Annual Atwood Music Festival in Monticello. Located on the Pearl River in Lawrence County, this has been a south Mississippi favorite for as long as I can remember. Country acts such as Brett Eldredge, Craig Campbell and Randy Houser take the stage over the weekend for what's always been a great time down at Atwood. A weekend pass is $40 or $25 for children; one-day passes are $25 or $15. Check the website, atwoodmusicfestival.com, for info.

Elvis Presley fans, head to Tupelo May 31 through June 3 for the Elvis Festival on Front and Main Streets. Blues, country, rock 'n' roll, and alternative bands will pay homage to the King. Of course, you'll get your fill of various Elvis impersonators performing all of the King's hits. A weekend pass is $24. Don't forget to take a tour of Elvis' birthplace and the hardware store where he bought his first guitar. Visit tupeloelvisfestival.com for info.

Here's the event I have on my to-do list from June 1 to June 3: the 83rd Annual Biloxi Fais Do-Do and Blessing of the Fleet at the Biloxi Town Green and Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. The festival takes over the Gulf Coast from the green all the way to St. Michael Catholic Church (aka the church of the fisherman). The Fais Do-Do Street Party June 2 features live music from regional bands. Visit biloxiblessing.com for details on this well-revered Mississippi tradition.

While on the Gulf Coast, head over to Bay St. Louis for the Bay St. Louis Bay BridgeFest June 2 and 3. Hear bands such as Papa Grows Funk, Eric Lindell and Fredy Omar con su Banda June 2, and Bonerama and Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen June 3. All these bands have been featured at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Music Festival, so you won't be disappointed. See baybridgefest.org for info.

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art hosts its 19th Annual Blues Bash in Laurel, June 8. The event, at one of the state's most prestigious art museums, will include a variety of blues artists performing throughout the evening, such as The Daddy Rich Blues Band from Clarksdale, which performed last year. There will also be barbecue on the front lawn of the museum grounds. The event runs from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Contact Holly Green at 601-649-6374 for more information.

From June 9 through June 23, Hattiesburg (one of my favorite cities in Mississippi) hosts FestivalSouth, the only multi-week music and arts festival in the Magnolia State. The festival features live music every day for two weeks, and also features local artisans' work, dance and theater. Last year, I had the opportunity to perform at FestivalSouth, and it was the highlight of my summer. For more information, please visit festivalsouth.org.

Take a road trip to Bentonia June 15 and 16 for the 40th Annual Bentonia Blues Festival at Holmes Farm (313 Wilson-Holmes Road, Bentonia.) On Friday, the Blue Front Cafe will host Austin, Texas, band Old Grey Mule and Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. For a lineup of Saturday's musical entertainment, please visit the festival Facebook page.

Historic Canton hosts the Mississippi Championship Hot Air Balloon Race and Festival June 28 to July 1. 

The event promises a spectacular view of over 25 hot air balloons filling the sky, as well as children's activities, great food and awesome live entertainment. More info at ballooncanton.com.

On July 4, Canton hosts the Gospel Fest Homecoming at the Square in Canton. This alcohol-free event will feature gospel acts from around the state. Visit cantontourism.com.

I've always wanted to go to the Neshoba County Fair (July 27 to Aug. 3 this year, 16800 Highway 21 S., Philadelphia, Miss.). Not only is it a hot spot for some old-fashioned mud slinging from local and national politicians, the fair features more live music from our state's greatest musicians than any other event in the summer. Founded in 1889 and on the National Register of Historic Places, the fair is nicknamed "Mississippi's Giant House Party." July 31, look for southern rockers Blackberry Smoke; Aug. 1 features country star Trace Adkins; Aug. 2 Jerrod Niemann plays; and Aug. 3 country sensation Jake Owens takes the stage. For a full lineup of events, visit neshobacountyfair.org.

Downtown Clarksdale in the Mississippi Delta hosts the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival Aug. 10 through Aug.12. This year, Robert Plant (you may know him from that small unknown band Led Zeppelin that he fronted for years) headlines with Patty Griffin, Justin Adams and African instrument virtuoso Juldeh Camara. Also on the schedule is Charlie Musselwhite and Bobby Rush. This event is free to the public, so book your hotel now to see this amazing lineup of talented musicians. Visit sunflowerfest.org for more information.

Jackson hosts the first ever Southern Crossroads Music and Tamales Festival at the Mississippi Fairgrounds Aug. 10 through Aug. 12. Look for classic R&B, country, Latin, zydeco, blues, Americana and gospel music to fill the air, along with the aroma of homemade tamales and other tasty southern cuisine brought to you by local vendors and restaurants. For more information, please visit tamalefest.com for updates on the lineup and schedule.

If you know of other summer festivals happening in Mississippi or nearby, drop me a line at [email protected] I hope y'all have marked your calendars for these exciting music festivals, and if you see me out and about, please say hello!

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