As the clock ticks down to Market Street Festival 2009, organizer Main Street Columbus and an army of several hundred volunteers are busy with final preparations for the city”s largest gathering Friday and Saturday. An estimated crowd of near 40,000 is expected to enjoy all the festival has to offer – renowned live entertainment, more than 200 arts, crafts and food vendors, and dozens of special events and children”s activities.
The music of Market Street Festival is traditionally a highlight of this celebration, named a Top 20 Event in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society for 10 consecutive years.
The Paul Thorn Band and Class of 65 launch festivities with a concert Friday evening on the Main Stage on Main Street. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. The Class of 65, featuring Big Ben Atkins, entertains from 7:30-9 p.m., followed by Mississippi-native Thorn from 9:30-11 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the gates or in advance at the Main Street Columbus office at 107 Fifth St. N. The food court and beverage booths will be open during concerts Friday and Saturday nights.
This year”s festival celebrates musicians with Mississippi and regional roots.
“All our featured musical acts are Mississippi-based or from nearby,” said Main Street Columbus director Amber Murphree. “It”s a little bit different from what we”ve done in recent years, but we”ve had a great response.”
Thorn is a national artist who tours from coast to coast with his quirky, rock and blues-tinged storytelling. But the former middleweight boxing champ still makes his home outside Tupelo, where he once worked in the Peoplounger chair factory and trained for his televised fight with Roberto Duran. Kris Kristofferson once called him “one of the best kept secrets in the music business.”
“We”ve had people from all over the state and area calling to ask about where to stay because they”re coming to hear Paul,” Murphree stated. “His agent said they”ve gotten a whole lot of interest, too.”
The 13-piece Class of 65 is a popular draw as well. The group, complete with a full horn section, was founded in 1990 by Vernon native Atkins, the first white vocal artist signed to STAX Records in the 1960s. Most of the band are currently based in and near Huntsville, Ala., but four members – Jerry Beard, Ben Farrell, Ronnie Pennington and Sydney Young – call Columbus home.
Free daytime entertainment Saturday on three music stages includes artists such as The Flames, Mayhem String Band, Caleb Childs, Come On Go With Us, Tom Foolery, Bill Cooke, Little Jimmy Reed and the Crossfire Army Band. A festival guide with a complete music schedule will be included in Friday”s edition of The Commercial Dispatch.
As Saturday”s sun begins to set, music fans will gather at the Main Stage once more, for a free concert from 6:30-11:30 p.m. featuring Burnside Exploration, Stagolee and Blue Mountain. Lawn chairs are encouraged, but coolers and pets should be left at home.
Title sponsors for the 14th annual Market Street Festival are the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Commercial Dispatch and WCBI-TV.
“The generous contributions of our many sponsors and volunteers are the key to the success of the festival,” Murphree said. “This is the largest fundraiser for Main Street Columbus and is essential to our continued downtown revitalization efforts. We really look forward to seeing everyone out.”
More festival information, including maps and street closings, is available at www.marketstreetfestival.com. A full schedule and map will be published in Friday”s Dispatch.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.