SUNFLOWER BLUES FEST LEADERS NETWORK WITH CHICAGO, OTHER CITIES
OXFORD – Key leaders of Clarksdale’s Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival and the director
of the Chicago Blues Festival – the world’s largest free blues festival, exchanged ideas here Nov.
10 at a unique conference for event coordinators.
"Sharing information with Barry Dolins from Chicago and other festival coordinators across Mississippi
was a tremendous benefit," commented John Sherman, Sunflower co-chairman.
"Dolins talked about Chicago being "the end of the line" (the historical railroad line) for blues
musicians from the South," said Sunflower co-chairman Melville Tillis.
"We offered to initiate publicity for both festivals as "the beginning of the line," Tillis continued.
Photos of the Sunflower, Clarksdale’s largest tourism event and one of the country’s top free festivals,
were featured in brochures for the conference that was sponsored by the Mississippi Arts Commission and
the Mississippi Development Authority (state Tourism).
Attending were more than 50 festival and event leaders from Oxford, Hernando, Kosciusko, Starkville,
Columbus, New Albany,Greenville, Tupelo, Vicksburg, Grenada, Ridgeland, Cleveland, Okolona, Jackson,
Rolling Fork, Aberdeen, and Byhalia.
Other conference speakers were Sara Anne Gibson, executive director for the Kentuck Museum Association in
Northport, Ala., and Jon Kay, director of Traditional Arts Indiana.
Diversifying programs, staying in the black, tips on fund-raising, and building identity were subjects of
discussion at the Oxford conference.
"The Sunflower already has a well-established identity," commented Larry Morrisey, heritage director for the
Mississippi Arts Commission that annually awards grants to the Sunflower Festival.
Sherman and Tillis agreed that ideas from the conference would assist Blues Association members planning their
19th annual celebration scheduled Aug. 11-13, 2006.
To benefit next year’s festival, the association is throwing a pre-Thanksgiving concert with five bands at
Ground Zero Blues Club Wednesday night, Nov. 23.