CLARKSDALE – To ensure the safety of its blues and gospel supporters from the coronavirus pandemic, the 33rd annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival is being postponed until 2021, according to festival chairman Melvita Tillis Presley.
Dates of the 2021 festival are August 13,14, and 15, according to Maie Smith, booking chairman.
Presley said the decision was reached over the weekend via a telephone conference with members of the festival’s executive board.
She said the decision reflects the board’s concern over Mississippi’s current spike of virus cases and the Sunflower’s compliance with social distancing guidelines.
“We look forward to an extraordinary festival next August, and invite fans to visit our website www.sunflowerfest.org for updates and more information,” said Presley.
Organized in 1988 by LIVING BLUES magazine co-founder Jim O’Neal and Dr. Patricia Johnson, the Sunflower has been cited as one of America’s Top 10 Places to hear authentic music. It was honored on its 25th anniversary in 2012 with its own Blues Trail Marker.
The festival remains free and open to the public and has been supported for decades by the Mississippi Arts Commission.
The Sunflower is a sister festival of the International Notodden Festival in Norway. Its 2020 festival was cancelled months ago in accordance with Norway’s strict guidelines to combat the coronavirus virus. According to Ed Murphy, retired festival booking chairman, this move has been successful in significantlty reducing Norway’s number of virus cases.