There are typically a wide range of activities to ring in the New Year in Clarksdale.
Several bands played at different clubs around town as part of the local New Year’s Eve tradition, but as 2021 began - and COVID still lingers - things were different.
There were some virtual performances, Lucious Spiller played at Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art the afternoon of New Year’s Eve and Bill “Watermelon Slim” Homans played at Bluesberry Café.
Those who put together events for when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Day found the turnouts were not the same as usual, but were still able to enjoy themselves.
Hambone Gallery on East Second Street has consistently had bands play the later hours of New Year’s Eve. That did not change as 2020 came to a close, but owner Stan Street acknowledged the crowd was not the same.
“People are not going out,” Street said. “They’re just not.”
The Hopeless Case Band with Street, Mississippi Marshall and Lee Williams played at Hambone Gallery.
“Someone has to,” Street said. “We have to move forward. We can’t go backwards. We’re going to get out of this. Some people have to take a step forward. Some people have to do something. People want to hear music. They want some happiness in their life. The music never stopped in this place. Well, it did for a couple of months.”
Street said Hambone Gallery will now be open regularly Tuesday through Thursday nights.
Marshall said there was not much else going on in Clarksdale the later hours of New Year’s Eve.
“If we don’t celebrate, then who is?” Marshall said.
“We can always figure a lot of reasons why we don’t do many things, whether COVID or not. The reason I wanted to do was because I was ready to ring in this New Year and kind of put 2020 behind us and celebrate with my friends.”
The Auberge Clarksdale Hostel on Delta Avenue also had a New Year’s celebration, but owner Robert Weinstein also acknowledged the COVID pandemic caused a lower turnout. He also said the rain on New Year’s Eve may have deterred people from coming.
“We don’t open at nights, but when we do, we just do it for certain events,” Weinstein said. “Last year, we did a Christmas sweater one. We want to start opening and doing more with the bar than we have in the past. Just having the community in and our guests and stuff like that on New Year’s or whatever. So we decorated. We went all out.”
While proper COVID precautions were taken at the celebration, Weinstein expects things to improve in 2021.
“Now that the vaccines are out, it looks like there’s a light right at the end of the tunnel there,” Weinstein said. “Certain businesses that have been absolutely crushed and decimated for nine months now need to be able to try to make a living. That’s what we’re doing.”