The Visit Clarksdale tourism commission approved the sponsorships of four upcoming local festivals at its July meeting.
The top sponsorship was $6,500 for the 29th annual Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival scheduled for October 14 to 16.
Jen Waller, one of the festival’s organizers, said the sponsorship was $5,000 in 2020.
“Of course, it was 2020 and we ran into the COVID situation, but we did put on a tremendously good festival if I do say so myself,” Waller said.
Waller said Matt Foss out of the University of Toledo is the other organizer. She said nearly everything was online last year. Typically, Waller said around 500 individuals attend the festival and there were 3,000 viewers online last year.
“We really felt like it really promoted the area and festival and did a good job,” Waller said.
Waller said the festival will be hybrid in 2021. Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire will be featured. Most of the events will be at the Cutrer Mansion.
She said she is hoping for 4,000 online viewers in addition to the in-person guests. She said Coahoma Community College is the top sponsor for $5,000 every year, but this year the sponsorship is $10,000.
“We’re just trying to expand and grow,” Waller said.
She said there will be a Tennessee Williams Festival exhibit at the Mississippi Book Festival August 21 in Jackson. She also said the Tennessee Williams Festival will be partnering and marketing with the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown, Mass. September 23 to 26. She said Foss may attend the festival in Massachusetts and the marketing could help draw individuals to the festival in Clarksdale.
Waller said there will also be marketing with the Deep Blues Festival, which is the same weekend in Clarksdale.
The Tennessee Williams Festival originally asked for a $7,500 sponsorship, but Visit Clarksdale board member Bill Gresham suggested $6,500 instead.
“I don’t think it’s growing as fast as it should,” Gresham said.
Visit Clarksdale board president Roger Stolle did believe the Tennessee Williams Festival can grow.
“The potential is huge for sure,” Stolle said.
The board approved a $5,500 sponsorship for Red’s Old Timers Blues Festival on September 4.
Visit Clarksdale executive director Bubba O’Keefe said the festival will be at the stage at the Sunflower River on Martin Luther King Drive and Sunflower Avenue. The music lineup will play from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“The thought is that after 7 people can go out to the clubs and things,” O’Keefe said.
James “Super Chikan” Johnson will be the headliner.
“The theme of Red’s festival is unique among our festivals in that it really is about the old timers, 60 years and up,” Stolle said.
“It takes advantage of the stage we don’t often see used.”
He said the festival is also free.
“He is working on some other sponsors as well,” Stolle said. “I think that our support will certainly help him get other support as well.”
The Visit Clarksdale board approved a $4,500 sponsorship for the Deep Blues Festival October 14 to 17.
One of the festival organizers Hannah Young said there would be six headlining bands at the New Roxy and it would be smaller than usual.
“On average, our expected audience will stay usually three or four nights,” Young said. “I’d say mostly three.”
Robin Colonas, another festival organizer, said things are not completely back to normal and European travelers would likely not attend.
“I wanted to keep it affordable so people will also go and pay the cover charges at other venues and I want to make it accessible for people to move around,” Colonas said.
Gresham mentioned the sponsorship was $2,500 last and asked why there should be an increase. Colonas said the Deep Blues Festival has been able to bring in guests from different areas.
The Visit Clarksdale board approved a $1,000 sponsorship for the Bad Apple Blues Guitar Workshop and Festival Sept. 27 to Oct. 2.
It is the same weekend as the Mighty Roots Music Festival.
O’Keefe said Bad Apple Blues Club opens at 3 p.m. and tourists who come through in the afternoon will be able to attend. Sean Apple is running the festival and workshop.
“He is a very talented musician and he’ll provide a guitar workshop so people would come and stay the week,” O’Keefe said. “And over the last day, they would have a festival.”
“It’s a really exciting event to have particularly for downtown,” said Stolle in agreement, adding it would put heads in beds all week and legends of Mississippi blues would be able to demonstrate their styles.
Stolle said Bill Abel is the second instructor and the festival part is free on Saturday.