07/21/19: Sunflower Fest promises international attractions Aug 9-11
32nd annual event dedicated to the late Anthony Saffold
CLARKSDALE- If it’s true Paris shuts down in August, Clarksdale’s 32nd annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival is poised to welcome, entertain the crowd, and prove its status as an international music destination August 9-11
More than 38 bands have been booked to perform on the Sunflower’s Main Stage and eight acoustic stages in air-conditioned clubs and restaurants, according to Maie Smith, booking chairman.
Gospel music is celebrated Sunday afternoon and evening in the Civic Auditorium. Auditorium.
“Although we consider all of our musicians headliners, James “Super Chikan” Johnson will be closing Friday night’s main stage and Anthony “Big A” Sherrod and the All Stars are the finale Saturday night,” she continued.
“Admission is free, and everything is within walking distance in historic downtown Clarksdale,” Smith continues.
Performing will be acoustic masters ranging from Jimmy “Duck” Holmes with his Bentonia-style blues, Pat Thomas and Bill Abel with Delta blues, Kenny Brown, Shardee Turner, and Lightnin’ Malcolm with Hill Country blues to the rocking hot styles of Otis “TCB” Taylor and Terry “Big T” Williams.
Acoustic stage sites include Ground Zero Blues Club, Levon’s Bar and Grill, Crossroads Cultural Arts Center, Hattie’s Jeans, Hambone Gallery, Red’s, Blues Berry Café, and Messenger’s.
The entire festival is being dedicated to the late Anthony Saffold, a member of the Delta Blues Museum staff and a tireless supporter of the Sunflower, says Melvita Tillis Presley, festival chair.
The Saffold family will be honored on the festival main stage Saturday night, Aug. 10, which happens to be Anthony’s birthday.
“Anthony was more than our custodian; he was an integral part of the DBM family” says Shelley Ritter, DBM executive director.
“Anthony served the museums needs in whatever capacity was necessary: trimming the crepe myrtles, welcoming visitors and giving them personal tours of the museum, recommending places to eat along with his personal favorite dish, motivating staff with his ever-present smile and quick sense of humor, mentoring the arts and education students on public behavior, driving the DBM float in parades throughout the county, and keeping staff and visitors informed on basketball and football scores in the SEC and NFL.”
Although the Sunflower is committed to remaining admission free, it sponsors an air-cooled VIP Tent adjacent to its main stage with amenities for patrons who donate to the festival: seating at linen-covered tables, unlimited beverages, and invitations to its traditional Thursday night “Grits, Greens, and Barbecue” supper.
The soul food menu originated to introduce the Sunflower’s Norwegian sister city visitors to Southern soul food and became popular with all. It includes Mrs. Louise Campbell’s turnip greens and cornbread, Abe’s famous barbecue, Charlie Musselwhite’s favorite baked cheese grits, and watermelon served by volunteer Sunflower Supremes.
For decades the Sunflower has been supported in part by the Mississippi Arts Commission. It was founded in 1988 by Jim O’Neal, co-founding editor of LIVING BLUES magazine and research director for the Mississippi Blues Trail and Dr. Patricia Johnson.
For festival updates, lineups, VIP and membership forms visit www.sunflowerfest.org managed for decades as a gift to the Sunflower by webmaster John Moore and 305 Spin of Sedalia, Mo.