Blues weekend deemed a success|[06/18/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vicksburg’s blues weekend, which was headlined by a B.B. King concert, was called a success by local gallery, bar and restaurant owners.

“I didn’t have an empty seat in the house,” said Todd Molino, co-owner of The Ware House, whose lounge and sports bar featured live entertainment on Friday and Saturday. “We were packed each night, people of all ages dancing and singing – the whole nine yards. It was a great experience.”

Shirley Waring, blues weekend organizer and executive director of the Vicksburg Heritage League, said while no count accurately quantifies how many people took part in the activities, the lack of downtown parking Friday and Saturday evening was a good indication.

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“Washington Street was lined with cars all weekend, and everywhere I went there were full crowds,” she said. “It really exceeded my expectations.”

King performed for a crowd of 1,300 Thursday night at the Vicksburg Convention Center, and other venues joined in the festivities Friday and Saturday.

More than a half-dozen restaurants and bars hosted blues bands. Art galleries and museums featured blues exhibits, and a blues jam and picnic were well-attended at the Art Park at Catfish Row, Waring said.

“The purpose was to make it a regional attraction, and we did that. There was good local support, but also a good number of tourists in town,” Waring said. “It was a tremendous success in that regard, and it demonstrated that we can galvanize the downtown area to make it a destination for live music and blues.”

‘I didn’t have an empty seat in the house. We were packed each night, people of all ages dancing and singing – the whole nine yards. It was a great experience.’TODD MOLINOTHE WARE HOUSE CO-OWNERWaring said she is hoping some of the venue-owners who hosted live acts over the weekend will work with her to establish a regular schedule of live entertainment in the downtown area. Similar efforts have been made in the past with little success. However, after seeing what a good response the blues weekend received, Highway 61 Coffee Shop Owner Daniel Boone said he is more confident it can work.

“The seeds are there. It definitely felt like the beginning of something that could grow,” he said. “We’re not that far from having music somewhere downtown every night of the week, and if we could get to that point, I think it would be a good first step toward establishing a real music scene here. We’re just not there yet.”

Highway 61 Coffee House currently hosts musicians on Thursdays. LD’s Kitchen at Catfish Row has a blues band every other Thursday, and The Ware House Lounge plans to feature live music Tuesday and Friday nights, said Molino. The Loft has weekend entertainment several weekends a month.

“It is starting to fall into place,” said Waring, who also recently became the Vicksburg Blues Society president. “We can make downtown a real music venue, but we have to provide a regular schedule of entertainment and we can’t settle for hum-drum stuff. The obstacles are there, but this is something we have a real opportunity to build upon if we work together.”

Boone said his business also received great support due to another weekend event – the kickoff of the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market.

Live entertainmentA monthly schedule of events at various Vicksburg venues is available online at grassroots effort to provide locally grown fresh produce to Vicksburg residents was touted by Mayor Laurence Leyens as “an overwhelming success.”

Volunteer organizers estimated more than 1,000 people gathered throughout the morning at the Levee Street lot where a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, live music and crafts quickly disappeared during market hours of 8 to 11 a.m. Many of the 20 vendors, who included nine growers, vowed to return with twice as much when the market opens each Saturday through September, organizers have said.

“By 11, there was nothing left to buy, but there were still people there,” Leyens said. “I think there’s an opportunity for it to get much bigger and better.”

Because of a high volume of traffic around the site, city officials voted in a Monday meeting to close Levee Street from Grove north to Jackson Street on Saturdays while the market is operating. Organizer Mary Beth Lasseter said they hope to repeat the success of opening day and add growers.

“It was just a great moment. I was absolutely blown away.” Leyens said.