It looks like winter is just about over on Main Street.
And with the birds chirping in the morning, and the people pulling out their short pants, and the flowers and ideas daily stretching from bud to bloom, a substantial layer of optimism has taken its annual place alongside the pollen of the spring air in our little Mississippi town.
Things are happening.
The 4th Annual County Line Music Festival is approaching at a rapid pace. Our #2 local festival (after October’s Okeelala) will complete its solar cycle on April 21st and sprawl across downtown from The Claude Gentry Theatre to the Azalea Court Main Stage.
There will be a first-time music video film festival going on at the theater starting at 2 pm. We already have entries from Mississippi filmmakers in Jackson, West Point, Clarksdale and Clinton, expecting plenty more. Couched around those original works will be three or four classic movies about music – think Elvis, the Beatles, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles – showing at 10 am, 12 pm and 4 pm.
An independent film called “The Gift” will also play during the day. This critically-acclaimed short was shot on location in Tupelo in 2015 by Scottish filmmakers Gabriel Robertson and Ken Petrie (and co-stars local actress Amye Gousset). You can take a guess as to what musical figure it might be based on. Tupelo … know anyone from there?
Even our own Six Shooter Studios will get into the act as we release Marietta-native Chance Stanley’s debut video “Crosstie Town” to close-out the theater day.
Down on the Azalea Court Main Stage, the festivities will start bright and early at 9 am. Baldwyn High School’s marching band will open the day with the national anthem, followed immediately by a stage full of talented and unique musical talents from across Mississippi. Ronnie Caldwell & JoJo Jefferies, The Sean Austin Band, Rust Bucket Roadies, TomFoolery, The Paul Tate Trio, Chance Stanley & The Michael Brothers, Of Warriors & Poets, Mark “Muleman” Massey & grammy-winner Billy Earheart, AND the 1st Baptist Church children’s choir will all entertain, from 9 to 5-ish.
Baldwyn’s Eric Nanney of the band Twenty Mile will host the Main Stage, and when he’s not doing that he’ll run down the street and help Paden Bell at County Line Music with their annual Singer-Songwriter competition, another huge part of the day’s events.
And the coupe de grace, for me at least, will be the All-Day Karaoke Contest at Tom’s Drug Store. Yes, that Tom’s Drug Store. The one with the big neon sign. Bimbo Griffin, Stuart Cockrell, and I have been working on restoring that historic icon for, I think, 80 years now. And finally – good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise – I’m actually going to let the public come inside. The answer to whether or not patrons will truly have an option of drinking a milkshake or buying a hamburger made there that fateful day remains somewhat murky. We’ll see. But I know we can sell you a Coke, and you can sing your heart out with Scott Bratton and his karaoke machine, and you can look around at some of the neat things on display, graciously passed down to us by local historians Simon Spight and Claude Gentry.
Mixed in with all of this are a bunch of new businesses from one end of Main Street to the other that weren’t there last year. Nothing but good in that.
So … spring has sprung, I guess.
I asked Eric Nanney if I could get in his singer-songwriter contest – I play guitar and fiddle around with music myself – and he said “sure.” He said, “Just brush up a couple of the songs you’ve written and come on down. We’ll have you a spot.”
I actually hadn’t written anything yet – I just figured I could do that sometime before April 21. Maybe on the walk over. Maybe I don’t have too good of a chance of winning, but I’m optimistic.