Down Home Blues Festival preparations

Leflore County workers spread pea gravel in the beds outside the museum at Florewood Park on Monday. Sharing the work are, from left, Ted Turner, Collin Jackson, Alvin Winston and Chancery Clerk Christine Lymon.

Florewood Park was being spruced up Monday for what’s hoped to be a big crowd for Saturday’s Down Home Blues Festival and Fish Fry.

The all-day music and food festival opens at noon at the former state park at 1999 County Road 145, less than a half-mile south of U.S. 82, behind the Cannon Chrysler dealership and Lamb’s Photography. Music starts at 2 p.m.

The headliner is the unstoppable Bobby Rush, the 85-year-old blues legend. Concert promoter John Ray brought Rush to the Delta on Monday, and Rush appeared for an interview and played a song on “Delta News Morning.”

“I’ve been through Greenwood but not in a long time,” Rush told the Commonwealth. “I come down here to the Greenville Blues Festival every year for the past 40 years. I started it up with Muddy Waters and played every year.”

Also on the ticket for Saturday are Willie Clayton, Lenny Williams, Sir Charles Jones, Nellie Travis, Nathaniel Kimble, Tre Williams, LJ Echols, Poka Jones, Isaac Lindsey and the Village Band, Jay Morris Group and Big Yayo.

“Ticket sales have been doing very well,” said Ray, who added, “The show’s going on rain or shine.” He praised county Supervisors Anjuan Brown and Sam Abraham, and Chancery Clerk Christine Lymon, for their support and the work they’ve done on the Florewood Park site. “They have been beautiful to work with. We are really looking forward to it.”

On Monday morning, county workers were fixing up the flower beds and bushes at the entry to the site, as well as in front of what used to be the museum building. With workers freshening up the pea gravel at that building, even Lymon, in jeans, running shoes and a T-shirt, had a rake in her hand. A front-end loader worked to level ground near the open concert meadow with mounds of crushed limestone nearby to top off the soil.

“We are just thrilled to be out there,” Ray said. “They have done an awesome job.”

Supervisors, led by Brown, whose District 3 includes the park, are hoping for some spin from the event to finally make the 100-acre park into the asset it could be for the county. Florewood opened as a state park in 1976, designed to recreate an 1850s cotton plantation, with a main house and other buildings. The park was the site of many wedding receptions and a Christmas celebration with handmade cedar garlands and candles. It hosted charity events, Civil War re-enactments, car shows and class reunions.

When the state closed it in 2004, it was already in need of repairs. Now, some of the buildings would need work to be opened again, but the grounds themselves are green, tree-lined meadows perfect for an outdoor stage and some lawn chairs and blankets.

Leflore County signed a 25-year, $10 lease in 2007. Brown and Abraham have talked at supervisor meetings about their hopes that a successful concert at the park will help grow the site into an attraction and an asset for the community.

Ray said the work done by the county to get it ready for Saturday has already improved it. And he hopes his event will bring it exposure to even the people who live in Greenwood but have never ventured to the park.

The Down Home Blues Festival is sponsored by Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Larry’s Fish House, WGNL and Kirk Ford.

Ray said he wanted to get the word out that people should not park along U.S. 82 or County Road 145 because their cars would likely be towed away. There will be plenty of parking at Florewood Park, he said. And although the concert is advertised as BYOB, Ray said no glass will be allowed — just plastic bottles and cans. Blues fans should bring their own lawn chairs, camping chairs and blankets.

The early-bird specials were still being advertised online on Monday for $19.99 per person. General admission at the gate will be $29.99 with VIP tickets available for $49.99 that includes free parking, access to a special VIP area, and a free fish basket. For more information, call 866-901-5486.

Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or gmaliska@gwcommonwealth.com.

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