By Ida Brown / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
For six decades, the annual Jimmie Rodgers Festival has been a local mainstay that has attracted worldwide attention – from the celebrities who perform to the fans who come to celebrate the life of the legendary bluesman and country singer.
Since 1953, the festival – which started as Jimmie Rodgers Day and later evolved into a week-long event – has attracted big names in country music, including Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Marty Robbins, Hank Williams Jr., Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, George Strait, Alan Jackson, The Judds, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, Charlie Pride, T.G. Sheppard, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Daniels and many, many more. And in addition to locals, festival-goers have include fans from Chunky to California to Canada.
Today, the festival is a three-day celebration that continues to offer great performances and attracts numerous fans.
"We're very excited about this year's 60th festival. There's not many festivals in the world that have successful 60-year runs as we have," said Betty Lou Jones, president of the Jimmie Rodgers Foundation.
For the 60th anniversary, organizers have planned an event reminiscent of the festival's glory days – several nights of entertainment from various music genres.
"It's across the board – rock 'n' roll, as well as blues, gospel and country music. After all, Jimmie Rodgers touched all genre of music," Jones said.
And as the annual festival continues to mark milestone years, organizers plan to provide affordable entertainment for the community, while attracting tourists and "turn Meridian into a destination for country music, featuring live music," she said.
The festival will kick off Thursday with Roots-n-Blues Night at Dumont Plaza at 5:30 p.m.
Native son Moe Bandy will headline the event. Bandy, who was honored with a star in the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center's Walk of Fame in 2013, has an extensive history in country music than includes numerous awards, including 10 No. 1 hits and a Country Music Association "Song of the Year."
Also appearing Thursday night will be Jimmie Rodgers-look-alike Britt Gully and his company of entertainers, The All Night Long Blues Band and Jimmy Duck Holmes.
General admission for Roots-n-Blues Night is $5.
Friday's offerings include a music symposium featuring country music journalist Barry Mazor, Meridian radio personality Ken Rainey, Mississippi Public Broadcasting's "Highway 61" radio show host Scott Barretta and special guest Jimmie Rodgers Snow, a festival historian. Snow attended the first Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival in 1953 and is a relative of Hank Snow, who, along with Ernest Tubbs, started the festival.
Later that evening, the MSU Riley Center will salute the Rodgers Festival with a presentation of The Time Jumpers, featuring Vince Gill. Following the performance, the Jimmie Rodgers Festival will sponsor Juke Joint Night, which will offer live music all over downtown Meridian at Echo Lounge, Faces Lounge, Brickhouse and Rhythm and Blues.
The festival's finale will kick off festive and early – Saturday at 8 a.m. – with the traditional Jimmie Rodgers Talent Contest, an arts and crafts show, a car show, children's activities, food and beverages.
Jimmie’s Jam is slated to begin at 5 p.m. and will feature headliner Rodney Atkins, Blue Mother Tupelo, Betsy Badwater and Trademark.
All Saturday activities will take place at Singing Brakeman Park in downtown Meridian.
Tickets for Jimmie’s Jam are available on itickets.com, at The Jimmie Rodgers Museum at 1725 Jimmie Rodgers Drive, or by calling the museum at (601) 485-1808 or Southern Sportsman on Front Street at (601) 693-41110.
Sponsors include WTOK-TV, Lauderdale County Tourism, Structural Steel Services, Mitchell Distributing, Southern Pipe and Supply, Bo Haarala Autoplex, A and B Electric, Yates Construction, Peavey, Community Bank, City of Meridian, WOKK. WALT, WMOX, WEXR, Supertalk, Classic Country, The Beat and The Buzz.