The week's rain and non-spring-like temperatures are expected to take a break Saturday, which is good news since the day is filled with loads of activities locally – especially in the downtown area.
The day kicks off with Meridian's longest road race – The Anderson Cup.
Celebrating its 30th year, the annual athletic event features a 5K run and 2-mile walk – both beginning at 8 a.m. – and a 1-mile fun run, which begins at 8:45 a.m. For the first time, chip timing will be used to calculate the races.
Registration on the day of the race is from 6 a.m.-7:30 a.m. Fees are $25 for the 5K and 2-mile walk; and $20 for the 1-mile fun run.
This being a milestone year for the Anderson Cup Road Race, two commemorative items are featured.
The event's official T-shirt was designed by Will White, a fourth-grader from Clarkdale Elementary School. Meridian and Lauderdale County students in grades K-fourth submitted their entries for the opportunity to design the logo.
"We had more than 2,000 entries," said Belinda Wiggins, member services director at Anderson Health & Fitness Center.
"We chose the Top 25, then put that on a website where people could go on and, with a donation, vote on their favorite picture," Wiggins said. "Votes could all be submitted on ballots without donations."
In addition, a commemorative medallion has been designed for the road race's 30th anniversary. Each road race participant will receive a medallion.
More than $4,000 was raised at last year's road race. Wiggins anticipates and even higher total for this year's event, which is sponsored by Dr. Azahr Pasha of the Pain Management Center of Meridian.
Proceeds from the road race will benefit Anderson Regional Medical Center's Pediatric Therapy Department.
"Pediatric Therapy helps more than 100 children receive physical, occupational and speech therapy services," Wiggins said. "The donations and profits from the race will assist in providing additional equipment for the special needs children."
For more information about the road race, call Anderson Regional Health & Fitness Center, (601) 553-6622.
Another annual fitness charity event will also celebrate its milestone year on Saturday – Meridian Walk for Wishes, which marks its 10th year. The event benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mississippi Chapter.
Held in conjunction with the Threefoot Festival, the event is open to all ages – individuals and groups.
"Any donation will allow them to walk," said Brenda Golisch, chairman for this year's event, which begins at 9 a.m. at The Doughboy Monument.
Sam's Club is sponsor of this year's Meridian Walk for Wishes. This is the company's first year to sponsor the event.
“Last year, we had the opportunity to help fulfill a child's shopping spree wish by being a stop in her shopping extravaganza,” Meridian Sam's Club Manager Jason Collie said.
“The associates and club had a great time with her and we continue to look for opportunities to put a smile on the faces of the children fighting a tough battle,” Collie said.
“Make-A-Wish Mississippi is so thankful to have Sam’s Club as the Presenting Sponsor of this year’s Meridian Walk for Wishes," said Jane Walsh, development manager of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Mississippi Chapter. "Make-A-Wish could not exist without generous people like those at Sam’s Club.” Last year, more than $30,000 was raised at the Meridian Walk for Wishes.
"We intend to break that amount," Golisch said.
Walsh said she is grateful for the community's support, which resulted in 113 wishes for the chapter in 2012.
“The funds raised at the Meridian Walk will be used to grant wishes to very brave children who are battling what most of us cannot even imagine,” she said.
“We rely on donors – whether they be individuals, businesses like Sam’s Club, schools, events, etc. – to fund the wishes we grant,” said Walsh. “... The average cost of a wish is $5,000 so, as you can imagine, our funding challenges are tremendous."
Registration on the day of the walk will begin at 8:30 a.m. A commemorative T-shirt has been created in conjunction with this year's theme: The Dream Team.
"Everyone from our area who donates and participates is part of the Dream Team because they are making dreams come true," Golisch said.
Refreshments will be served after race and door prizes awarded. Prizes will be awarded for the individual and team who raises the most money. Also, Wish Kids will share their stories of their fulfilled wishes.
For more information, call (601) 483-2509.
The highly anticipated Earth's Bounty's second season opens at 8 a.m., with a tribute to all things strawberry – a strawberry pie-eating contest.
Held on the first Saturdays of April through October, the festival will be from 8 a.m.-1 p.m., at Singing Brakeman Park on Front Street in downtown Meridian. Members of the Meridian Area Farmer Market will have a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale, and other vendors will offer delectable such as cakes, pies, jams, jellies and other homemade products. Earth's Bounty is a Certified Farmers Market with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce.
This year festival features a new presenting sponsor – Greater Meridian Health Clinic, which has joined forces with Meridian Main Street. The health clinic will provide the first of seven free health screenings at the monthly Earth's Bounty festival. Saturday's screening will be for dental health, and the screenings will be conducted by a local dentist.
The pie-eating contest will be among eight competitors whose names will be drawn from those who register to compete. This first annual eat-fest will be overseen by Guy Woodward, International Pie-Eating Competitions commissioner, and Donnie Slayton, certified food consumption referee. The pie-eating champion will receive a trophy, a gift certificate for two for a show at the MSU Riley Center, dinner for two at Weidmann's restaurant and an official Earth's Bounty T-shirt. The second place finisher gets a trophy, a gift certificate from Murphy's Depot Deli and an Earth's Bounty T-shirt. Hopefuls can register on site.
Saturday's activities will also include entertainment by Al Brown, Otha Barham and Tony Pasco, a musician and songwriter who has music featured on TV's Duck Dynasty among his credits. Popular children's activities will once again include a jumpy house, a bungee jump and visits with Tiny, Meridian Main Street's Belgian mare mascot.
Fans of Earth's Bounty will have the opportunity to display their support for the festival by becoming Friends of Earth's Bounty for a contribution of $25. For their support, Friends will receive an Earth's Bounty tote bag-perfect for loading up on produce and other goodies-a membership card and certificate, automatic registration for the Grand Prize drawing each month, and a 25 percent discount on the official Earth's Bounty T-shirt. Only Friends of Earth's Bounty qualify to receive the tote bag.
You can join online at http://meridianmainstreet.org/friends-of-earths-bounty or sign up in person at any Earth's Bounty. T-shirts may be purchased by the general public for $20.
For more information about Earth's Bounty, including vendor registration and membership in Friends of Earth's Bounty, go to www.meridianmainstreet.org and click on the Earth's Bounty banner.
Earth's Bounty-Local, Fresher, Better will continue its second season on May 4, June 1, July 6, August 3, September 7 and October 5. Admission to all festivals is free.
The annual Threefoot Festival will mark April's first artful weekend. Sponsored by the Meridian Council for the Arts, the family-oriented day activity will feature fine art by local and regional artists throughout the Southeast, hands-on children's activities, entertainment and a variety of food – all in the shadow of the Threefoot Building, Meridian's 84-year-old, 16-story landmark.
An offshoot of Arts in the Park, the Threefoot Festival is described by organizers as "a great place where children can be introduced to the arts, and adults can enjoy and buy fine art."
More than 600 children enjoyed the hands-on activities at last year's festival. Located on the front lawn of city hall, this year's children's activity area will incorporate the theme "The Secret Garden." Activities will include painting and other crafts, as well as the Meridian Symphony Orchestra's popular Instrument Zoo – which offers children hands-on experience playing instruments from every every instrument family: strings, brass, woodwind and percussion
Meridian Museum of Art will be open to visitors and will display an art and photography competition of works by local and area students in grades K-12. The art contest's media categories include painting, drawing, mixed media and 3-D sculpture. Photographs incorporating photographic technical skills and creativity will be featured in the photography contest. First, second and third place cash awards/ribbons and honorable mentions given in four age categories K-2; third-fifth; sixth-eighth; and ninth-12 grades. Awards will be presented on the festival's main stage at 11 a.m.
The Threefoot Festival also will feature more than 25 artists displaying and selling art in a variety of mediums, including paintings, sculptures, jewelry, basket weave items, stained glass, pottery, photography and woodwork. Featured artists include Linda Smith of Meridian, cement art; Dolly Smithhart of Indianola, stained glass; Charles Friday of Valley Grande, Ala., acrylic painting; Steve Windham of Brandon, wood sculpture; Marek Shelagh Dlouhy of Jackson of DCZ Designs, jewelry.
Entertainment will be presented on the festival's main stage and will feature a wide variety of artistis. The lineup and times (which are subject to change) are:
• 10 a.m. – Josh Burton, solo artist
• 11 a.m. – Back Pocket, group
• Noon – Terry Lee Poole & the Goatees
• 12:40 p.m. – Queen City Gypsies
• 1 p.m. – Crash Hamilton & The Stuntmen
• 2 p.m. – John Paul Dove
• 3 p.m. – Steve Watson Trio or James Edwards, Joey Ethridge and Amy Lott
And no festival would be complete without food. Vendors – local churches and organizations – will sell a variety of palate-pleasing foods, including pizza, burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, funnel cakes, barbecue, homemade lemonade and more.
The Beer Wagon will feature what Rawson describes as the World Famous Threefoot Bloody Mary – which is garnished with more than just a stick of celery. The recipe includes pickled okra, a string bean, and a skewer of cocktail onions, olives, sausage and cheese.