Meridian, MS Festivals Fund Local Causes

By Kevin Litwin on July 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm EST
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In Meridian, there's always cause for celebration, plus there's usually a good cause that benefits from the celebration, too.

One key mission for the Young Professionals of Meridian is to become more involved in charitable efforts that give back to the community, and in this city with a rich musical heritage, what came next should be no surprise.

In 2011, YPM decided to organize a 59Twenty Music Festival at Singing Brakeman Park, with proceeds going to Care Lodge Domestic Violence Shelter, scheduling the event for October to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“The Young Professionals ended up donating more than $3,000 to us from that concert, which is vital because the state mandates that 25 percent of our total annual budget must come from financial support in the community we serve,” says Leslie Payne, executive director of Care Lodge Domestic Violence Shelter. “For those young people to specifically choose Care Lodge was so important to us, and much appreciated.”

Lightnin’ Malcolm

The 59Twenty concert is one of several annual festivals that occur in Meridian and Lauderdale County to raise money for good causes. The inaugural 2011 concert, named for Interstates 59 and 20 that pass through Meridian, was staged for 13 hours and featured musical acts such as Lightnin’ Malcolm, Wes Lee, North Mississippi Allstars and Cheryl LuQuire.

“Care Lodge has been part of this community since 1981, serving a nine-county area and helping 400-500 clients a year,” Payne says. “Our services include a safe shelter, case management, counseling, court advocacy, children's programs, transitional housing, and information on domestic abuse protective orders. We always need money, and will remember Young Professionals of Meridian for what they did for us.”

Jimmie Rodgers and Threefoot

A longer established festival in Meridian, the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival, features 10 days of music each May with proceeds going to the Jimmie Rodgers Foundation, which is devoted to preserving the heritage of country music. Artists who have performed during the 50 years of the festival include Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker and Charley Pride. The musical extravaganza pays tribute to Rodgers, a Meridian native who was born in 1897 and is considered "the father of country music."

Also happening in Meridian on an annual basis each April is the Threefoot Festival, with its proceeds going to programs backed by Meridian Council of the Arts. Threefoot is a one-day juried arts event named after the historic Threefoot Building, a 16-story art-deco skyscraper in downtown Meridian.

“Proceeds from this festival are used by the Council to provide grants in support of several artistic endeavors in the area, including school programs, Meridian Little Theatre, Meridian Museum of Art, and more,” says Casey Null, Meridian Council of the Arts executive director. “The festival takes place in downtown Meridian on the lawn of city hall, with art booths, vendors, entertainment and children’s crafts activities.”

Null says nearly $170,000 in matching grants has been contributed by the Council to arts-related organizations since 1992.

“We are all about keeping the arts alive in Meridian, Lauderdale County and East Mississippi, by helping organizations bring more events into the community,” she says. “The Council is always looking to extend the reach of arts into even more segments of our population.”

Find more on the arts in Meridian, MS.

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It's staggering the quality entertainment the [MSU Riley Center] has brought to Meridian. We are fortunate to experience this here without having to travel to larger markets. Instead, we benefit from tourists coming to us.

Wink Glover, longtime Meridianite