If there’s one thing the Delta is known for, it’s music. And food. And when you visit a festival in the Delta, these local specialties are on display in all their glory.
Washington County has a festival for every taste, a perfectly synced jam or gutbucket wail for every sensibility.
The fall festival season gets underway with a bang when the 39th Annual Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival happens at the Washington County Convention Center in Greenville on September 17.
Hailed as the largest blues fest in the Delta and the oldest in the United States, bluesmen from near and far will tune up and plug in to get the music flowing in Greenville.
Next up is the Sam Chatmon Festival, happening in downtown Hollandale September 23-24. Expect to enjoy “bikes, barbecue and the blues” at this event named in honor of local guitarist and singer who cranked out the blues from his home base in Hollandale until he passed away in the early 1980s.
The biggest event on the fall calendar is no doubt the 4th Annual Mighty Mississippi Music Festival and 17th Annual Highway 61 Blues Festival, a combined fest that takes place September 30 through October 2 on the banks of the Mississippi River at Greenville’s Warfield Point Park. Almost 30 acts of various country, folk, blues and rock genres will perform.
“At Mighty, we pride ourselves on introducing new acts that are about to become household names,” said musician Steve Azar, co-founder of The Mighty Mississippi Music Festival. “Last year it was Chris Stapleton. This year, it’s New Orleans-based The Revivalists, and the hottest thing going out of Nashville, Maren Morris.”
Azar said Rolling Stone picked his festival’s headliners, The Revivalists, as one of the “Top 10 bands you need to know in 2016.”
He said he’s also excited because he’ll introduce a new band of his own, Steve Azar and the Kings Men.
“The band consists of a handful of B.B. King’s former band mates as well as one member from Elvis Presley and Little Milton,” he said, adding the band just recorded its first record in Club Ebony in Indianola.
Other acts to be featured on the Mighty Mississippi stage include Texas singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham, G. Love and Special Sauce, Cedric Burnside, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers, Mr. Sipp, and more.
“I think this being our 4th annual, we have come up with a pretty good program,” Azar said, adding there are also “late night movies indigenous to our Delta and SEC football on the Jumbotron.”
“A third stage in the tent camping area gets cranked up at midnight, a Delta village showcases great art and food,” he continues, “and of course our two main stages, The Mighty Main Stage and Highway 61 Blues Stage, together feature a mix of music like no other I’ve ever seen.”
Azar calls the event’s VIP Experience “unreal.”
“From the ‘I Give a Crop’ tent, which includes a weekend of beer and wine, to the ‘GIN VIP’ tent, which includes a full bar and all meals from Friday night through Sunday, it’s a good ticket to buy for sure,” he said. “Both have a direct line of sight to the Mighty Main Stage.”
The fest is now part of a lineup of events known as “Bridging the Blues,” a project of Executive Director Wesley Smith at the Greenville and Washington County CVB. It seeks to link various blues-related events in the larger cultural area that includes Delta regions of Arkansas, Mississippi and Memphis. The King Biscuit Festival of Helena and the Mighty Mississippi/Highway 61 festivals are the biggest of Smith’s Bridging the Blues roster (the entire slate may be seen at bridgingtheblues.com).
For Azar, though, the Mighty Mississippi is a one-of-a-kind, a standout among the area’s other happenings.
“Our roots of blues and celebration of the farmer has set us apart from the pack I feel,” he said. “With the Mississippi River as our backdrop, what better glorious setting than that to celebrate all our culture and history?”
The culinary scene will heat up October 13-15 when Greenville hosts a tamale cornucopia.
“The Delta Hot Tamale Festival originated as a result of a study conducted by Southern Foodways Alliance which stated that Greenville has more hot tamale restaurants and food stations than any other city in Mississippi,” said Daniel Boggs, chief executive officer for the Greater Greenville Development Foundation/Main Street Greenville.
It’s a fest appropriate for a region noted for tamale culture. In fact, Greenville’s tamale eats are included on the Mississippi Delta Hot Tamale Trail, which Boggs said is “a project of the Southern Foodways Alliance and Viking Corporation” which “notes the history of the hot tamale through a documented oral history archived on its website, Tamaletrail.com.”
In addition to tamales, the fest will offer appearances by various chefs and authors and a musical lineup with a yet-to-be-announced headliner. There are tamale cooking and eating contests, craft vendors and more.
Boggs said attendance has doubled every year for the past four years, and 20,000 are expected to attend in 2016.
“The Delta Hot Tamale Festival embodies everything that is great about Mississippi,” Boggs said, adding that the family-friendly three-day event “will highlight, promote and celebrate regional artists, musicians, authors and Southern food vendors.”
Last but not least, the sixth annual Leland Frogfest will round out the fall fest season on October 22.
“The festival features a chili cook-off, kids’ art activities, train rides, arts and crafts vendors and live music,” said Melia Christensen of the Leland Chamber of Commerce. “We’re really focused on creating a great experience for the whole family, and all our kids activities are free.”
With so much to do, there’s no reason to not be out and about during a Washington County fall.
The bridge spanning the Mississippi River into Greenville welcomes music and food lovers to a variety of festivals happening throughout the fall. From the Mighty Mississippi to the Hot Tamale Festival, there’s something for everyone.
The fest is part of a lineup of events known as “Bridging the Blues, “ linking various blues-related events that include Delta regions of Arkansas, Mississippi and Memphis.
The biggest event on the fall calendar is no doubt the 4th Annual Mighty Mississippi Music Festival and 17th Annual Highway 61 Blues Festival, a combined fest that takes place September 30 through October 2 on the banks of the Mississippi River at Greenville’s Warfield Point Park.
The 39th Annual Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival is slated for September 17. It is hailed as the largest blues fest in The Delta and the oldest in the United States.