NEW ALBANY, MS – Changes are in store for the city’s Down from the Hills Bluegrass Festival and Mississippi Bluegrass championships this year. The festival is scheduled for May 22nd and 23rd, 2015
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.
“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.
While the event has had strong and steady attendance throughout the years, 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 to expand the festival into a two day event to be held at Park Along the River in downtown. In addition to music the event will now include an arts market, a farmers market and a “Farm to Table Dinner” to be hosted on Friday night and served on the footbridge at the park. Chef John Stokes of Water Valley will be preparing the meal from locally grown and harvested ingredients.
“New Albany’s biggest attraction is, without a doubt, our historic downtown,” says Sean Johnson, the city’s tourism director. “The Tanglefoot Trail and our independent retailers are bringing in people from all over the region. Moving the festival closer to where this traffic is will not only help the festival in terms of attendance, but we hope that it will also help to show our visitors the culture and old roots of New Albany as well as the ‘Hill Country’ region of Mississippi in general.”
Organizers said that having a location nearer to downtown New Albany and other attractions would help with not only the attendance, but the overall feel and exposure of the festival. “The Union County Fairground Board and Mississippi Extension Service have been wonderful partners through the years. This year construction at the fairground site helped make the decision to move the festival location, Smith said.
The music for the event will begin on Friday night at the park with a free concert by Sean Watkins, the founder of the bluegrass band, Nickel Creek, as well as an opener to be determined.
The championships will open on Saturday morning (May 23) with competitions for Mandolin, Dobro, Guitar, Banjo, and Fiddle. The competition judges include two national bluegrass champions Weston Stewart, former National Banjo Champion as well as Mississippi Champion and Johnny Bellar, National Dobro Champion and Mississippi winner in past years as well as two other judges who are well versed in performance and judging . The evening will bring concerts from the Eisenhauer Band, the Cakewalkers and more.
The festival is funded by VisitMississippi, the Mississippi Arts Commission, the City of New Albany, The Union County Heritage Museum and other sponsors. For more information about the festival or to inquire about vending or competing, visit www.MississippBluegrass.com or call 662-538-0014.