By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Standing next to the guitar made famous by the "Father of Country Music," Betty Lou Jones laid out Tuesday morning at the Jimmie Rodgers Museum the ambitious plans for the 60th Anniversary of the Jimmie Rodgers Festival.
"We are planning for the biggest festival yet," said Jones, as she was surrounded by memorabilia and pictures of the "Blue Yodler."
"Jimmie Rodgers and his legacy has meant so much to Meridian, Lauderdale County and the state, not to mention the world of music," Jones said. "We are going to bring some great entertainment here this year."
Jones, who is the president of the Jimmie Rodgers Foundation, said the foundation members have put together a wide assortment of activities, music and entertainment for this spring's event that will start May 16 at Dumont Plaza in the Festival Kickoff Block Party. The event will feature The All Night Long Blues Band and starts at 6 p.m.
The festival will be centered in downtown Meridian featuring events at the Temple Theater, Dumont Plaza, MSU Riley Center, Singing Brakeman Park and the Meridian downtown business district. The festival will wrap up May 26 at 2 p.m. with the Wreath Laying Ceremony at the gravesite of Rodgers in Oak Grove Cemetery. In between those two events, and actually before the first note is ever played, events will be conducted to highlight the music that Rodgers created, which is loved by so many around the globe.
"This is a historic event for Meridian and the state," said George Thomas, Meridian city councilman. "This is a cultural event that showcases how music is part of the history of this country."
Thomas also said this festival is a testament to how even local Meridian residents and business leaders can have a far reaching influence on not only the national level but on a global scale.
"We honored Hartley Peavey last week and that shows you can be a worldwide success in Meridian," Thomas said.
The first event will be the Jimmie Rodgers Pageant held March 2 at the Temple Theater. This year the pageant will also include the Lauderdale / Meridian Miss Hospitality Contest.
Back this year will be the Jimmie Rodgers Festival Poster Contest. This contest, sponsored by Community Bank and offering a $500 prize and VIP status to the festival, was well received last year. Festival organizers expect the contest to start growing to a statewide, or even regional popularity.
A new event this year will be a Sporting Clays Tournament at Camp Binachi located on Highway 19 South. In addition to the tournament, there will be drawings and raffles.
After the official kickoff of the festival with the block party May 16, a music symposium is planned for Friday, May 17. Musicians, music journalists, and experts in the field of music will be presenting a panel discussion and lectures. That night music lovers will have a smorgasbord of music to taste during the Juke Joint Night. All over downtown Meridian, local restaurants and bars will be showcasing a variety of music beginning at 9 p.m.
Saturday, May 18, the Jimmie Rodgers Talent Competition will take the stage at Singing Brakeman Park beginning at 9 a.m. This will be followed by the headliner of the festival, country music artist Rodney Atkins. Advance tickets are available now at www.itickets.com for $12.50. Gates open at 5 p.m. All day long food and beverage vendors, arts and crafts, and children's activities are planned for the family experience.
Another addition to the festival this year is one in which car enthusiasts will embrace. A Cruise In and parade, "Cruisin with Jimmie," promises to be lots of fun. The cars, coming in from all over the region, will have their chrome shined to a blinding sheen on display on Front Street at Singing Brakeman Park.
"We may be announcing even further entertainment events coming for this year's event," Jones said.
For more information about the festival, go to www.jimmierodgers.com or call the Jimmie Rodgers Museum at (601) 485-1808.