River park opening Saturday|[6/03/05]
Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005
A 14-foot column of water will be at the center of the city’s $2.8 million downtown art park being dedicated Saturday.
Although not yet finished, the area dubbed “The Art Park at Catfish Row” will be opened at 11 a.m. in a 20-minute ceremony. Other activities this weekend include the 2nd Annual Outdoor Blues Fest 2005 starting at 2 p.m. Saturday on downtown Washington Street and the Soldiers Through History program Saturday and Sunday at the Vicksburg National Military Park.
The art park’s dedication will be three days before municipal elections, when Vicksburg voters will have their say on it and other major projects under the current administration. It is being funded out of the $17.5 million bond issue that also paid for other downtown improvements, street repaving, property and plans for a softball complex off Fisher Ferry Road and other projects.
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Construction of the steamboat-themed park and catfish-decorated splash fountain has been under way for nearly a year and delayed by weather in recent months. The city authorized overtime for the project in hopes of having it completed to coincide with the end of the school year, but the general contractor said this week it could be another month before kids can splish and splash in the fountain.
“We’re working to have it ready for the Fourth of July, but I can’t say for sure,” said Hearne Hathaway, superintendent with Camo Construction of Vidalia, La.
Hathaway said that in addition to the weather, the project was made difficult because of the many unique features in the 70,000-square-foot area between Levee Street and the old Mulberry Street.
Features of the park include decorative art stacks designed to look like steamboat smoke stacks, a music and audio system, park benches and art walls. Barry Graham, an assistant to the Mayor and Aldermen, said the walls will be turned over to the Vicksburg Art Association to decorate with river-themed art.
“This will be an environment where you can enjoy the happenings of the Mississippi River,” Graham said.
The park will also have a steamboat-style whistle scheduled to blast every hour, a steamboat wheel for children and a steamboat bell they can ring.
Parts from the Sprague, a record-setting towboat that was a downtown attraction until it burned in its moorings in 1974, will also be incorporated into the project, but some remnants including the paddlewheeler, which sits along the banks of the Yazoo Diversion Canal north of downtown, were too big for the park.
The park is at the foot of Clay Street across from the downtown murals and just south of the former Levee Street Depot. A block away, the Vicksburg 2nd Annual Outdoor Blues Fest 2005 will kick off at 2 p.m. on Washington Street.
Artists scheduled to appear are OB Buchana, Jeff Floyd, Kenne’ Wayne, Tina Diamond, TK Soul and Nathaniel Kimble. Tickets will be $30 at each of four entry gates.
Last year’s event, held near Bowie Road off U.S. 61 North, drew about 3,000 people.
The Vicksburg National Military Park will also host the Soldiers Through History event all day Saturday and Sunday at the park’s Visitor Center at the main entrance on Clay Street.
Military vehicles from War World II and the Vietnam and Korean wars will be on display while re-enactors from the Civil War give demonstrations on life as a soldier in the 1860s.