While most other music festivals in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana have cancelled for spring or moved to fall, Clarksdale’s “pandemic-ly modified” Juke Joint Festival remains ready to rock the weekend of April 17, 2021.
“Juke Joint Festival is back, y’all — a little smaller and a little more outdoors,” according to Roger Stolle, Juke Joint Festival co-founder. “Got Mask? Then, Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival is on!”
According to the nonprofit event’s organizers, hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars have been spent to create a fun weekend that keeps everyone’s health in mind.
“Thanks to our loyal music fans, Clarksdale has kept live blues going on a daily basis throughout the pandemic — sometimes in-person, always online,” said Stolle. “How do we do this? We clean up, mask up and socially distance. We do events outdoors when we can and take precautions indoors when we can’t. And we use live-streaming to fill in the blanks.”
As the global pandemic struck last spring, the 2020 Juke Joint Festival quickly switched gears and moved online with a then-unprecedented 9-hour 27-act live-stream labeled the “Virtual Juke Joint Festival Celebration.” It featured blues acts performing in front of laptops and smartphones, from the town of Clarksdale to the country of Colombia.
This year? Organizers knew it was time to go public.
“Folks are tired of staying home. They want to see some live music and experience our little historic downtown,” explained Nan Hughes, another festival organizer. “We’re just asking for their help to make this a super-positive weekend that puts business back into the businesses, safely.”
Artists participating in this year’s Juke Joint Festival include: Lucious Spiller; Jimmy “Duck” Holmes; Terry Harmonica Bean; Watermelon Slim; The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band; Super Chikan & the Fighting Cocks; Ghalia Volt; Mick Kolassa; Sean “Bad” Apple w/Lady Trucker and Artemis; Reba Russell; Bill ‘Howl-N-Madd’ Perry & Shy Perry; Lightnin’ Malcolm; Andre Otha Turner Fife & Drum Band; and many more!
This year’s Juke Joint Festival & Related Events run Thursday-Sunday, April 15-18, with the main activities on Saturday. The festival is letting potential attendees know up front that organizers (with support of the City, Tourism and Chamber) expect masking, social distancing and other health & safety protocols to be followed.
As a reward, organizers are offering an ambitious, long weekend of music, food, arts & crafts and even animals.
“When we started our festival almost two decades ago, we decided it would be ‘half blues festival, half small-town fair and all about the Delta,'” explained Hughes. “Family-friendly outdoor events like racing pigs and monkeys riding dogs help keep JJF about music and much more. There is literally something for everyone of all ages.”
A sampling of the long weekend’s highlights includes:
• Thurs., April 15 – FREE – JJF Kickoff starring Christone “Kingfish” Ingram.
• Fri., April 16 – FREE – Thacker Mountain Radio live show, JJF edition.
• Sat., April 17 – FREE – 13 daytime music stages (10am-6pm); plus street vendors.
• Sat., April 17 – WRISTBAND REQUIRED – 17 nighttime venues (details on website).
• Sun., April 18 – FREE – JJF Mini Blues Fest (10am-5pm).
The 2021 Juke Joint Festival lineup, Saturday-night JJF wristband sales, health & safety protocols and more can be found online.
Select events will streamed via LiveFromClarksdale.org, and additional visitor information is available at VisitClarksdale.com.
The festival wishes to thank all of its attendees, performers and volunteers as well as major sponsors and partners like Visit Clarksdale, Crossroads Economic Partnership, Visit Mississippi, Isle of Capri, Southern Bancorp and The Walton Family Foundation.