The Southside Blues Festival, which has become a focal point of the July 4 celebration in Southside Columbus since its founding 15 years ago, will return Saturday after a one-year hiatus.
The day-long event will feature continuous music at Townsend Park from 11 a.m, until roughly 11 p.m., including gospel, blues and hip-hop performers. Headliners will include Crawford native and Atlanta-based rapper Mark Silbie, local favorites Keith & Margie and the Jackson-based group Mike Rob and The 601 Band. Local food and crafts vendors will also set up to sell their wares throughout the day.
“We’re excited to have the festival back after COVID-19 stepped in and stopped things last year,” said Southside native and District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith, who co-founded the event with the late Ward 1 city councilman Gene Taylor in 2006.
“A lot has happened since 2019, including the passing of Gene, so this year will be an opportunity to reflect on his effort in making this community event a reality,” Smith said. “It will also be a celebration of the growth of the event. I think in the 15 years since it started, the community recognizes it as something that allows us to come together as a community for entertainment, fellowship and enjoy the holiday and just get along with each other. It’s a very positive thing for our community to enjoy.”
Smith said while this year’s festival will be confined to one day, future festivals will expand, “The idea this year was ‘Let’s just get it going again,’” Smith said. “I think going forward, we’ll add days like we’ve done in the past and continue to grow.”
Fireworks in Starkville
Across the river, Starkville Parks and Recreation Department will hold a Fourth of July celebration Sunday to honor America’s Independence Day.
Fireworks will shoot off at 9 p.m. at the Starkville Sportsplex on Lynn Lane, but other festivities will start at 5 p.m. Open to the public, anyone can bring lawn chairs and soccer balls and socialize, SPRD Marketing Manager Erica Rivers said.
There will also be inflatables for kids to enjoy and food from Mom and Pop’s, Get Rolled Ice Cream Shop and Mr. Snowball food trucks.
While SPRD had fireworks last year, individuals had to stay in their cars due to COVID-19 precautions. This year, the Fourth of July celebration is back to normal, Rivers said. No masks are required for the event.
“I think it’s a great opportunity when this past year we haven’t had the joy of being able to be with our loved ones and friends and being able to celebrate our true freedom as Americans,” Rivers said. “This is kind of our first step back with July 4 of being able to celebrate on a large scale.”
Parking will be in the grassy area of the complex, Rivers said, and Starkville Police Department officers will direct traffic.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said she is thrilled to have an Independence Day celebration once again in Starkville and encourages all community members to come celebrate.
“This is a national celebration, and we are overdue,” Spruill said. “We didn’t get to enjoy it last year, and it’s time for us to enjoy it this year. Everyone needs to come out and feel like we’re all back to our usual selves and celebrate being the greatest country in the world.”
Other public Independence Day events throughout the Golden Triangle are scarce this year, but in Columbus, Magnolia Motor Speedway will host its annual race and fireworks show, starting 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. The event will feature the United Sprint Car Series (USCS) Outlaw Thunder Tour. For ticket information, visit magnoliadirt.com.