Sunflower Fest draws international media

Favorite Saturday daytime acoustic stage expands into three cool locations

    CLARKSDALE – Flooding their website in Italy are dozens and dozens and dozens of artistic photographs from last summer’s Clarksdale’s Sunflower River Blues and Blues Festival.

    They range from musicians in action: William Bell, La La, “Bud” Welch, Super Chikan Johnson, RazorBlade, Kingfish, Sweet Angel, Kenny Brown and others to scenes of The Crossroads, Greyhound Bus Station, Ground Zero’s front porch and walls of Orlando Paden political signs.

    They are coming back for more with more photographers this summer. Thirteen 13 in all.

    “Last years experience in Clarksdale was really amazing, so we are organizing again with another group and we’ll stay in Clarksdale for the entire duration (August 10-15) of the festival,” Simona Ottolenghi, tour leader said in her email request for media credentials.

    Last year’s group showed its photos everywhere on the web, she added.

    Welcoming them this year will be three cool acoustic stages confronting the steamy daytime August temperatures they encountered last summer.

    These popular events will be located beneath the air-cooled VIP Tent on John Lee Hooker Lane; inside the air-conditioned Levon Bar and Grill at 232 Sunflower, and inside the air-conditioned Crossroads Cultural Arts Center, 332 Delta Ave.

    All are free and open to the public.

    Performing on these stages with lively interaction and conversations expected between artists and audience are 14 musical acts starting at 10 a.m. Saturday and continuing through 4:45 p.m. when the main stage reopens with the Bill Abel Band at 5 p.m. Christine “Kingfish” Ingram picks up the pace at 6 p.m. followed by Terry “Big T” Williams, Vasti Jackson, Sweet Angel, and Lonnie Shields.

    Opening Saturday morning’s acoustic stage beneath the VIP Tent at 10 a.m. will be David Dunavant followed by Pat Thomas, Lil Willie Farmer, Lucious Spiller, an Educational Program, Leo “Bud” Welch, and Sharde Turner and the Rising Star Fife Band.

    Deak Harp and Lee Williams open the Levon’s Bar and Grill acoustic stage at 1 p.m. Saturday followed by Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Kenny Brown, and Terry “Harmonica” Bean.

    At the Crossroads Cultural Arts Center Mississippi Marshall kicks off at 1 p.m. followed by Bill “Howl-N-Madd Perry, Watermelon Slim, and Anthony “Big A” Sherrod.

    Sunday’s Gospel Stage inside the air-conditioned Civic Auditorium begins at 4 p.m. with the Clarksdale Mass Choir followed by The Singing Echoes, Ned Johnson & the Jonestown Crusaders, The Myles Family, and closes with headliner: Lee Williams & The Spiritual QC’s.

    The Sunflower hosts a VIP Tent for supporters who purchase weekend tickets to enjoy seating at linen-covered tables with unlimited beverages beneath an air-cooled tent near the main stage. For more information, telephone 662-627-5301.

    VIPs also are special guests for Thursday night’s “Grits, Greens, & Barbecue” supper featuring live entertainment by Richard “Daddy Rich” Crisman, Marshal Drew, and Sean “Bad” Apple. The event’s famous menu was created originally to introduce Norwegian cousins from Notodden, Norway, to Southern Soul Food. It includes Abe’s famous barbecue, turnip greens and cornbread from Chef Louise Campbell, and Charlie Musselwhite’s favorite baked cheese grits.

    For updates and a complete lineup, visit the festival’s website:

    The Sunflower Festival has been heralded by USA Weekend as one of America’s Top 10 Places to hear authentic music. In 2012 it was honored with its own Mississippi Blues Heritage marker, and Visit South has named it Mississippi’s Top Pick of blues festivals in 2016.

    The festival is staged entirely by volunteers who work year-round raising funds to keep the event free and open to the public. Members are 50 percent African American and 50 percent Causacian and range from professionals including lawyers, doctors, teachers, and accountants to secretaries, road crew workers, cooks, retirees, and a prison guard from Parchman.

    The non-profit 501 c 3 organization has been supported by grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission since it was inaugurated. It is funded also by HPI, Coahoma Community College, Merit Health, Clarksdale Public Utilities, local banks, businesses, individuals, and memberships.