For more than a decade, bluegrass musicians and fans from around the southeast have been coming to New Albany to play traditional music and to compete for more than $8,000 in prizes at the Mississippi Bluegrass Championships. Also known as “Down from the Hills,” the event was sanctioned by the Mississippi Legislature in 2010 as the official Bluegrass Championship for the state.
The event will be held in downtown New Albany at the Park Along the River on West Main Street. This is a change of venue from past years when the even was held at the Union County Fairgrounds. Construction at the fairgrounds and the addition of a Farm to Table Dinner over the Tallahatchie River brought about this change. Competition on Saturday will begin at 10 a.m.
Competitions in mandolin, dobro, guitar, banjo , fiddle and bluegrass band will be held in youth, apprentice and adult. Admission is $5, adults and children under 12 free, and attendee’s admission will get the competitor into one competition.
Friday night’s schedule will include Oxford’s Chef John Stokes’ cuisine of Grilled Quail stuffed with Delta Grind Grits, Baby Vidalia, and Marjoram, a salad of Union County Tomatoes and much more as a part of the locally grown food that is part of the nation wide Farm to Table movement to bring people closer to the local sources of food. Sean Watkins of Nickle Creek will offer a free concert after the dinner.
“Preservation of the culture and music of our region is part of the mission of the museum. We want to showcase the talent and dedication of the youth and adults who make this music and keep the traditions alive,” said Jill Smith, director of the Union County Heritage Museum.
The event has had strong and steady attendance throughout the years, and organizers believe that the event can be larger. For the 2015 event, the Union County Heritage museum has teamed up with the city’s tourism department, the Master Gardeners Biscuits and Jam Farmers Market, and the Folk Art Market to expand the festival into a two day event to be held at Park Along the River in downtown.
Saturday, the festival will begin early with the opening of the award-winning Biscuits & Jam Farmers market. Throughout the day bluegrass musicians from around the South will be competing for more than $8,000 in prizes on the main stage, while impromptu jam sessions occur throughout the shaded park. In the evening, attendees will be treated to concerts by the Cakewalkers and Eisenhauer Band.
As well as music, there will be an arts and crafts market, a variety of great food (including BBQ and shrimp boil), and things for the kids including pony rides and a petting zoo.
Organizers hope that the event’s proximity to downtown and its unique shops and restaurants will add another element to the festival.
“The festival, shopping and restaurants, and the Tanglefoot Trail are all within walking distance of one another, and we’re hoping that people will come and enjoy a full day in New Albany,” says New Albany tourism director, Sean Johnson.
For more information about the festival, visit www.mississippibluegrass.com or call 662-534-1047. The event is $5.00 to attend or compete in the bluegrass competition. Free parking is available.
Scenes from the 2014 bluegrass competition. For more about Banjo Champion Weston Stewart:
Jill N. Smith, Director
Union County Heritage Museum
114 Cleveland Street
New Albany, Mississippi 38652