Sunflower Awards

Press Release from the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, 8/16/2011

The Sunflower Blues Association’s highest gospel honor- The Julius Guy Gospel Heritage Award –  is presented to Claudett Williams (right) for her contributions in gospel. She is presented the engraved plaque on the Saturday night main stage by Melville Tillis, co-founder of the Sunflower Gospel Festival, and Maie Smith, festival co-chairman.

The Sunflower Blues Association’s highest blues award – The Early Wright Blues Heritage Award – is presented to Shelley Ritter (right), director of the Delta Blues Museum for her contributions to blues. Presenting the engraved plaque are Melville Tillis and Maie Smith, festival co-chairmen.

With the 2011 Sunflower Festival dedicated to Blues Legends – six members of the Sunflower Family who participated in the festival for more than two decades – family members and friends are presented  engraved plaques on the festival main stage Saturday evening. The group shared memories on stage and also during a special forum Friday afternoon at Ground Blues Club of Clarksdale. Pictured are (from left) Melville Tillis, festival co-chairman; Joshua Wiley and Joe Wiley, brothers of Foster ‘Tater’ Wiley; Angela Moore, daughter of Sarah Moore; Maie Smith, festival co-chairman; Calvin Moore, son of Sarah Moore; Anjeanette Johnson, widow of Big Jack Johnson; Lisa Jefferson, daughter of Wesley Jefferson; and Mae James, widow of Michael James who is represented on stage by her sister, Lee.  A plaque also honored James Alford.

Kicking off activities of the 24th annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival is the unveiling of a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker honoring Clarksdale’s historic New World District where many blues musicians played. Pictured are Coahoma County Supervisor Paul Pearson; Kappi Allen, Coahoma County tourism director; George Messenger who spoke about Messengers, his family’s 100-year-old business;  his wife Myrtle Stringer Messenger, and others. Not pictured is Alex Thomas, director of the Mississippi Blues Trail Heritage program.

Clarksdale’s premiere blues musician, Big Jack Johnson is honored with a bronze Walk of Fame sidewalk plaque outside Red’s Blues Club on Sunflower Avenue before a large crowd Friday afternoon. Pictured are Coahoma County Supervisors Dr. Roger Weiner, Chris Overton; Jack Johnson Jr. (kneeling); Anjeanette Johnson, the bluesman’s widow, and others.

Red Paden, owner of Red’s Blues Club and best friend of the late Big Jack Johnson, presents a painting of the bluesman to Anjeanette Johnson (right) during the Walk of Fame unveiling Friday afternoon. Presiding at the ceremony was Tana Vassel of the Chamber of Commerce.