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Monday, March 23, 2015

Clarksdale, Mississippi's Juke Joint Festival is "half blues festival, half small-town fair, all about the Delta"

Clarksdale, Mississippi's 12th annual Juke Joint Festival unites crazy old bluesmen and leaky juke joints with paddling pig races and greasy soul food!

Clarksdale, Mississippi – Clarksdale, Mississippi’s Juke Joint Festival may only be celebrating its 12th edition, but it is already the stuff of blues legend.
“2014 was the biggest Juke Joint Festival yet, and so far, 2015 looks to top it,” according to festival co-organizer Roger Stolle. “Our annual festival now attracts attendees from almost 30 foreign countries, almost 50 states and over 50 Mississippi counties. Still, the most important number here is the number of bluesmen in their 70s, 80s and even 90s who play our fest."
This year's from-the-old-school lineup includes blues legends like Cedell Davis, Big George Brock, Leo "Bud" Welch, Elmo Williams, Hezekiah Early, LC Ulmer, Cadillac John Nolden, Eddie Cusic, YZ Ealey, Robert "Bilbo" Walker and others. The festival doesn't ignore the upcoming young guns of the blues, of course — players like Clarksdale's 20-something Omar Gordon, 30-something Anthony "Big A" Sherrod and 16-year-old internet phenom Christone "Kingfish" Ingram.
"The first acts we book are our region's older, culturally-connected blues performers," explained Stolle. "Then, we spread out from there. There is an insane number of blues musicians in town during Juke Fest week! It's like no other event in the world."
This year's main event is Saturday, April 11th – all day and late into the night – with related events kicking off Thursday and continuing through Sunday night. The official line-up of events can be found on-line at Saturday's Juke Joint Festival itself features 100+ blues acts, 12+ daytime stages, 20+ nighttime venue stages, racing pigs, a 5K/8K run, multiple children's activities, history bus tours, arts & crafts vendors, Southern food offerings, a student art/writing contest and much more.
Daytime activities are free thanks in large part to major sponsors like C Spire (official technology partner), Isle of Capri (rooms still available), Clarksdale/Coahoma County Tourism Commission and Miss Del's General Store, among others.
Saturday's nighttime music requires a wristband. Pre-sale wristbands for the festival's 20+ Saturday-night "juke joint" venue stages are available at — $15 pre-sale. (Wristbands go up to $20 on the day/night of festival — Sat., April 11th. Details on web site.).
“Juke Joint Festival is half blues festival, half small-town fair and all about the Delta,” said to co-organizer Nan Hughes. “There will be tons of official and related events all weekend long for both families and music fans. You literally cannot do, see and hear everything. It's completely overwhelming – in a good way.”
The festival weekend starts early with Thursday, April 9th's free Juke Joint Festival Kick-off at 5pm featuring a festival poster signing by artist Cristen Barnard and live lobby blues by Preston Rumbaugh, followed by the annual Miss Sarah Awards.
Then, at 6:30pm, the free Kick-off moves onto the Delta Cinema Stage for a special Mississippi Hill Country Blues Tribute to fallen heroes Robert "Wolfman" Belfour and Martin "Big Boy" Grant — featuring Sean "Bad" Apple, Robert Kimbrough Sr., Andre Otha Turner, RL Boyce, Little Joe Ayers, Stud and more. This is followed by a performance featuring Clarksdale's own Dancing Divas of the Delta with music by bluesman character Watermelon Slim.
Wristbands and merchandise will also be available at the Kick-off event.
Then, on Friday, April 10th, Clarksdale's related events include educational activities at the Delta Blues Museum and book signings, live blues and more at other downtown businesses and entities, including the Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art and the Rock & Blues Museum. At night, Clarksdale's blues clubs and jukes will run till the wee hours.
After Saturday’s epic day/night Juke Joint Festival, itself, a Sunday of additional related downtown events will cap off the weekend – including the annual free Cat Head Mini Blues Fest and the Second Street Blues Party. The Rock & Blues Museum and Delta Blues Museum will be open as well as several downtown restaurants and businesses. The weekend wraps up with live blues at Red's Lounge and other venues that night.
According to tourism sources, all of the local hotel rooms have been booked up for months. Fortunately, official festival sponsor Isle of Capri in nearby Lula, Mississippi, still has hotel rooms available and will run a bus shuttle to/from festival on Friday and Saturday, 4pm-midnight. Special room rates are available by using the savings code "JUKE 15". Book special room rate at 662-363-4600. Info on hotel at
Full music line-up, event schedule, pre-sale wristbands, parking info, sponsor list and much more available on-line at Festival hotline (Mon.-Sat., 11am-4pm), 662-624-5992.
NOTE: The “Juke Joint Festival” name and logo are registered trademarks and cannot be used by outside parties without the express written consent of the Clarksdale Downtown Development Association/Juke Joint Festival. Third parties may not create unauthorized “Juke Joint Festival” products (e.g. T-shirts and apparel) or advertising (e.g. event banners and print ads).
#jukejointfestival #clarksdalemississippi #mississippiblues

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