SURRATT: Returning to my youth to cover jazz and party in the street

Published 4:00 am Friday, April 21, 2023

This past weekend, I reverted back to my younger days (and paid for it), taking on the task of covering the Alcorn Jazz Festival and the Vicksburg Convention Center’s Arts and Music Fest.

I say reverted back to my younger days, because in my early years, I worked for weekly newspapers where the title of “editor” means you did everything but run the press and repair the plumbing. It also meant that you were the news staff; no photographer to take pictures, no other reporters to assign stories or delegate coverage — you did it all.

When you’re a weekly editor in South Louisiana, you cover a variety of activities from the local government to sports to fairs and festivals. And there were a lot of fairs and festivals; some tied in with other events like Mardi Gras in Addis, La., and that meant grabbing a notebook, the camera and a ton of film (this is pre-digital, folks) and heading out to face the masses.

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And when you get to the destination, the eye rarely leaves the camera and the notebook is out of the pocket as you take photos and write names. By the end of the day, you’re hot, tired and sweaty but happy because a shower and bed await and your wife has got your favorite dish on the table.

Saturday’s activities were just like being back with the weeklies. I was splitting time between the Jazz Festival in the convention center exhibit hall and the Vicksburg Arts and Music Fest out in the street and thankful for the building’s elevator. I haven’t moved around like that in a long time and for a few hours, I felt young again. Sunday morning, I was old again and feeling my age.

Because the Jazz Festival began in the morning, I was able to enjoy some good jazz and Big Band for several hours before I had to leave and file some photos. My only regret that morning was walking out on the Hinds Community College band playing “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” my favorite Count Basie number.

Early afternoon I was back and photographing the activity on Briggs Hopson Jr. Boulevard in front of the convention center, where people were listening to bands with impromptu Can-Can and line dancing groups sprouting up and other folks — young and old — keeping time to the music.

I closed out the way I began the day with the Jazz Festival and concerts by the Jazz Educators and the Randy Brecker Quintet.

I hear there has been some talk about moving the Jazz Festival back to the Alcorn campus. I hope that’s not the case. The Randy Brecker Quintet concert was well-attended by local and area residents. The convention center provides a good venue and the Arts and Music Fest provided the visiting bands a chance to walk around, relax and listen to other forms of music.

Both festivals provided residents a chance to hear and see performances from good bands and do it for free. That’s a rare opportunity — to hear good blues artists and hear a multi-Grammy Award winner in concert for free.

Both events were good programs. I hope nothing changes in the future.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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