Two years in the making, the 10th Gateway to the Delta Festival will be held Saturday in downtown Charleston.
The daylong festival, the largest such event held in Tallahatchie County, will ring the Court Square area.
As a kickoff to this year’s 10th anniversary, festival organizers have added a Friday night musical event from 7-9 p.m. on the east side of Court Square. The band S.L.A.S.H. will churn out Southern rock and country during the free, live concert. Refreshments will be available for purchase.
On festival day Saturday, a fun run/walk at 8 a.m. will precede the festival’s official opening at 10.
During the opening ceremonies, Charleston Mayor Sedrick Smith will welcome attendees, followed with prayer by the Rev. Ken Watson. Shelby Grace Boone will sing the national anthem.
The festival, a community project of the Charleston Arts and Revitalization Effort (CARE), is scheduled to wrap up by 11 Saturday night.
Throughout the day, free live musical entertainment will be featured at the performance stage set up on the west side of Court Square.
Artists, spanning a wide range of genres, will include gospel singer Glenda Brock Woods at 11, Joe Kendall and The Rustenhaven Band at 12, Trailer Park Disco at 1:15, the Oxford All-Stars Band at 4, Dexter Allen at 6:30 and Almost Famous at 9.
Festivalgoers are invited to bring a chair and camp out near the stage, or to enjoy the hospitality in the company of former classmates at one of numerous class reunion tents that will be situated nearby.
Dozens of Gateway vendors will encircle Court Square Saturday, their booths laden with a veritable cornucopia of arts and crafts, specialty items and sundry other goods and services.
A car show area will provide automobile enthusiasts as well as casual observers with a visual feast of both brawn and beauty.
From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., a dedicated kids zone will be brimming with activities designed to tickle the funny bone of the young and not so young alike, including numerous inflatables, a petting zoo and even a mechanical bull. A fee is required for some kids zone play, but the purchase of a $15 wristband will provide unlimited good times in the zone.
Several awards will be bestowed at the main stage. The “CARE Volunteer of the Year” honor will be presented at 3:30 p.m. The mayor will announce this year’s “Hometown Hero Award” recipient at 3:45. Car show winners will be revealed at 4.
A variety of Gateway-themed specialty items will be available for purchase, including T-shirts and posters.
Raffle tickets for a special Gateway package will be sold, with the winner announced at 8:30 p.m.
The 10th Gateway festival was originally scheduled for the fall of 2020, but the pandemic forced cancellation. That inspired organizers to double down on their efforts to make the delayed 10th anniversary all the more special and memorable.
There are no COVID-19 restrictions for Saturday's event, but CARE does encourage the wearing of masks, social distancing and hand-washing or sanitizing as often as possible. Plus, this year's festival will come with some built-in safety features.
"Additional hand-washing stations and restrooms will be available," said CARE Executive Director Dana Clolinger. "Vendor and craft booths will have extra spacing to allow everyone to still enjoy the festival, but to feel safe during the event."