(CLARKSDALE, MS) Spring is rapidly springing, and that means that festival season is upon us! This weekend’s Juke Joint Festival, Saturday, April 12th, in Clarksdale, Mississippi is the unofficial blues festival season kickoff. The fest may only be celebrating its 11th edition, but it is already the stuff of blues legend.
“2013 was the biggest Juke Joint Festival yet, and so far, 2014 looks to top it,” according to festival co-organizer Roger Stolle. “Last year, we had attendees from at least 28 foreign countries, 46 U.S. states and 53 Mississippi counties. Our fest even picked up mentions in both The New York Times and Travel+Leisure last year.”
This year’s main event is Saturday, April 12th – 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 Juke Joint Festival’s Official Website. The Saturday festival features 100 blues acts, a dozen stages, racing pigs, a 5K/8K run, multiple children’s activities, history bus tours, arts & crafts vendors, Southern food offerings, real juke joints, a student art/writing contest and much more.
Daytime activities are free thanks in large part to major sponsors like C Spire, official technology sponsor for the festival, Isle of Capri, Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Division, Clarksdale/Coahoma County Tourism Commission and Miss Del’s General Store, among others.
Nighttime music requires a wristband. Pre-sale wristbands for the festival’s 20+ Saturday-night “juke joint” venues are available at Juke Joint Festival’s Official Website ($15 pre-sale; $20 at door).
“Juke Joint Festival is half blues festival, half small-town fair and all about the Delta,” according 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 10th’s Juke Joint Festival Kick-off at 5pm featuring a Juke Joint Festival poster signing by artist Cristen Barnard and live lobby blues by Sean “Bad” Apple. At 6pm, the FREE kick-off moves onto the Delta Cinema main stage with Grammy Winner Jimbo Mathus and his Tri-state Coalition band performing, followed by student performances by Clarksdale’s own Dancing Divas of the Delta and Griot Arts.
Then, on Friday, April 11th, related events include educational presentations at the Delta Blues Museum and book signings and live blues at other downtown businesses and entities, including the Rock & Blues Museum. At night, many of Clarksdale’s classic blues clubs and jukes will run.
After Saturday’s Juke Joint Festival itself, a Sunday of additional related 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.