50 show up to show support for proposed museum

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 18, 2002

A photograph of blues singer Billie Holiday decorates the hallway window on the second floor of the old YMCA building on Clay Street as Calvin “Bud” Carson plays the harmonica with Mark Doyle, second from left, and Jeff Fulkerson on guitar at the Vicksburg Blues Museum open house and fund-raiser event Tuesday night. Reflected in the glass of the window is Terry Easterling of Vicksburg who joined the Vicksburg Blues Foundation and attended to hear the entertainment. “It’s about time they did something to recognize the heritage of the blues,” Easterling said. (The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

[12/18/02]Raising money was the goal when about 50 people gathered in the former Downtown Y Tuesday night to show their support for creation of the Vicksburg Blues Museum in part of the building.

“Vicksburg should have had a blues museum a long time ago,” said Willie Dixon-Vicksburg Blues Society board member Mike Davis. “It’s overdue.”

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Organizers plan to have the museum established in the facility at 821 Clay St. by March. Their group name honors Dixon, a Vicksburg native and blues legend who lived most of his life in Chicago.

The museum will have hands-on exhibits as well as artifacts and lectures.

“Vicksburg is where the Delta begins,” said Lucille Ridges, who performed at the fund-raiser. “Vicksburg blues are overshadowed by the Civil War, but there have always been blues here in Vicksburg.”

Davis said he hopes two other blues museums in Clarksdale and Leland will work together, promoting and supporting lectures and seminars on blues education. “There is no reason why this facility cannot be the leading blues museum in the country,” he said. “We’ve got a great location and resources available to us.”

Michael Hayes of Nashville bought the YMCA building in April 2000 and allowed the Y to continue using the facility while he and his family decided what to do with the space.

“We looked around to see what was the best thing for Vicksburg,” Hayes said. After researching the area and its culture, he decided to turn it into a blues museum. “It’s going to bring a lot of people downtown.”

He and the Willie Dixon-Vicksburg Blues Society are hoping it will bring between 40,000 and 100,000 tourists to the downtown area.

“It’s a different tourism market than that of the park,” Hayes said of the Vicksburg National Military Park several miles east of the museum on Clay Street.

The museum will occupy the first and second floors of the building. The other two stories of the four-story building will be turned into one- and two-bedroom apartments. The Y moved to its new facility at 267 YMCA Place, off East Clay Street in August of this year.