32nd annual Blues and Gospel event remembers Anthony Saffold
CLARKSDALE - If it’s true Paris shuts down in August, Clarksdale’s 32nd annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival is poised to welcome them, entertain the crowd and prove its status as an international music destination Aug. 9-11.
More than 38 bands have been booked to perform on the Sunflower’s Main Stage and eight acoustic stages in air-conditioned clubs and restaurants, according to Maie Smith, booking chairman.
And as always, Gospel music will be celebrated Sunday afternoon and evening in the Civic Auditorium.
“Although we consider all of our musicians headliners, James ‘Super Chikan’ Johnson will be closing Friday night’s main stage, and Anthony “Big A” Sherrod and the All Stars are the finale Saturday night,” said Smith. “Ad-mission is free and everything is within walking distance in historic downtown Clarksdale.”
Performing will be acou-stic masters ranging from Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes with his Bentonia-style blues, Pat Thomas and Bill Abel with Delta blues, Kenny Brown, Shardee Turner and Lightnin’ Malcolm with Hill Country blues and the rocking hot styles of Otis “TCB” Taylor and Terry “Big T” Williams.
Acoustic stage sites include Ground Zero Blues Club, Levon’s Bar and Grill, Crossroads Cultural Arts Center, Hattie’s Jeans, Hambone Gallery, Red’s, Blues Berry Café and Messenger’s.
Festival Chairman Melvita Tillis Presley said the festival is dedicated to the late Anthony Saffold, a member of the Delta Blues Museum staff and a tireless supporter of the Sunflower, says
The Saffold family will be honored on the festival main stage Saturday night, which happens to be Anthony’s birthday.
“Anthony was more than our custodian; he was an integral part of the DBM family” says Shelley Ritter, DBM executive director.
“Anthony served the museums needs in whatever capacity was necessary: trimming the crepe myrtles, welcoming visitors and giving them personal tours of the museum, recommending places to eat along with his personal favorite dish,” said Ritter, “motivating staff with his ever-present smile and quick sense of humor, mentoring the arts and education students on public behavior, driving the DBM float in parades throughout the county and keeping staff and visitors informed on basketball and football scores in the SEC and NFL.”
Although the Sunflower is committed to remaining admission free, it sponsors an air-cooled VIP Tent adjacent to its main stage with amenities for patrons who donate to the festival, including seating at linen-covered tables, unlimited beverages and invitations to its traditional Thursday night “Grits, Greens and Barbecue” supper.
The soul food menu originated to introduce the Sunflower’s Norwegian sister city visitors to Southern soul food and became popular with all. It includes Mrs. Louise Campbell’s turnip greens and cornbread, Abe’s famous barbecue, Charlie Musselwhite’s favorite baked cheese grits and watermelon served by volunteer Sunflower Supremes.
For decades the Sunflower has been supported in part by the Mississippi Arts Commission. It was founded in 1988 by Jim O’Neal, co-founding editor of LIVING BLUES magazine and research director for the Mississippi Blues Trail and Dr. Patricia Johnson.
For festival updates, lineups, VIP and membership forms visit www.sunflowerfest.org managed for decades as a gift to the Sunflower by webmaster John Moore and 305 Spin of Sedalia, Mo.