Homeland Security increases manpower for Sunflower Festival crowds Aug. 10-12

CLARKSDALE – With the internet buzz over rock star Robert Plant headlining Clarksdale’s Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival approaching fever pitch, Homeland Security chief Randy Stewart is racheting up manpower to keep crowds safe while enjoying the show.

“We originally planned to bring a team of 25 officers from Tunica, but have increased the number to 35,” Stewart announced here Wednesday at a joint security task force meeting at Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center.

According to Sunflower VIP chairman John Sherman, more than 20,000 visitors are expected to attend the free 25th anniversary celebration on Saturday, Aug.11, when the former Led Zeppelin vocalist and multiple Grammy Award winner takes the stage in downtown Clarksdale.

“We are receiving emails from music fans traveling from Australia, Brazil, Switzerland, Spain, and all sections of the U.S.,” says Sherman who thanked the security task force for their vital participation. 

Updating other members at Wednesday’s meeting, Stewart said, “We will have a presence, a command center assisting local law enforcement, and our officers will be sworn in as Coahoma County Sheriff’s deputies.” 

Participating Wednesday were representatives from Emergency Management, the Clarksdale Police Department, Fire Department, Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department, Wood Security, Northwest Regional Medical Center, the Delta Area Rural Transit System (DARTS), and Sunflower River Blues Association. 

Stewart explained that Homeland Security was organized following Hurricane Katrina to train and send rapid response teams to work with large crowds.

He said their work is federally funded and will be at no cost to the city of Clarksdale or the festival.

Officer Jerry Rodgers of the Clarksdale Police Department said uniformed officers will be present in the crowd within the festival boundaries.

Teams from Wood Security also will be positioned in the festival area and around the Main Stage; Northwest Regional Medical Center will provide a medical station, and the Fire Department will operate a cooling center on Third Street near the festival entrance.

Additional festival news may be viewed at www.sunflowerfest.org

With Michael Smith, director of safety at Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center, holding a large aerial map of downtown Clarksdale, Homeland Security chief Randy Stewart (left) explains the overall security plan being organized for the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival August 10-12. Pictured at right is Pat Woods of Woods Security that is handling festival site security.

Fine-tuning security plans for the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival expected to draw 20,000 visitors to Clarksdale on Saturday, Aug. 11, to hear rock star Robert Plant perform on stage, are members of a joint security task force including (from left) Randy Stewart of Tunica of Homeland Security; Pat Woods of Woods Security; Michael Smith, Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center safety director; and JohnnyTarzi , director of Emergency Management, who chairs the task force.