Organizers prepared for 34th Atwood Music Fest

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2008

Monticello will be a busy place this weekend when Friday andSaturday night’s 34th Annual Atwood Music Festival is expected todraw around 8,000 people to the Atwood Water Park for two days oflive music and arts and crafts.

The festival, which features a country and Christian musiclineup, will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday and culminate in aperformance by the Charlie Daniels Band Saturday night. Otherperformers include Dixie Crossroads, Jay and the T-Birds, ThompsonWard, Ghost Town, Cowboy Blues Band and several local performers,including surprise guests.

Performances will be opened by the winner of the Atwood Idolcontest, which takes place Thursday at 6 p.m. All proceeds from thecontest will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of LawrenceCounty.

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The festival’s organizers have scheduled plenty of entertainmentfor children as well. The National Guard will be on hand with itsrock wall, the Mississippi Highway Patrol will deploy its drivingsimulator and children will able to choose from a variety of gamesand activities, including pony rides in the park.

Adult tickets at the gate are $15 for Friday, $25 for Saturdayand $35 for a weekend pass. Children’s tickets at the gate are $10,$15 and $25 respectively, with children 5 and under admitted forfree. Advanced tickets can be purchased cheaper at severallocations around Southwest Mississippi, but their sale willdiscontinue at noon Friday.

Lawrence County Community Development Foundation Director BobSmira said this year’s festival will incorporate the MonticelloMarket Place for the first time, which takes place throughout theday Saturday, adding further music, arts and food to the weekend.Monticello will offer plenty of entertainment for all people of allages this weekend, Smira said.

“People – come on down,” he announced. “There’s plenty to do,and the park is a great, great venue for an event like this.Whether you want to attend both nights of the festival or evenpeople who just want to visit the marketplace Saturday – go on intothe park, pick out a seat and plop down in front of the stage.”

Festival organizers are looking for a rebound this year ascompared to past years. Atwood Committee Chairwoman Angela Calcotesaid the last three years have been a tough time for the festival,as decreased ticket sales have put the event in a “slump.”

Calcote and festival organizers have gone the distance inplanning this year’s festival to ensure its survival, as therevenue generated one year affects the festival’s capability thenext.

“This is a year-long process – we start planning next year’sfestival in June,” she said. “We have to organize everything fromthe toilet paper in the bathrooms to making sure there’s enoughelectricity to supply all the vendors. There’s plenty that goes onbehind the scenes to make sure everything goes off without ahitch.”

Smira said the atmosphere of the festival is relaxed, and theweekend will be family-friendly.

Alcohol will not be sold at the festival, but will be allowed.Smira urged the weekend’s casual drinkers to use discretion.

“People will want to, and do bring some libations,” he said. “Wejust ask that they use common sense and discretion. Law enforcementwill stop them and ticket them if they have open containers, and wecertainly don’t want them to be drinking and driving.”

Smira also urged festival attendees to be patient when entering,as sometimes long lines can form at the gates and traffic enteringthe park can back up.

Town officials do not despair over traffic back-ups, however -the more, the merrier.

“You gotta figure, with 8,000 people in a small town, they’regonna spend around $30 to get in the festival, they’re gonna buyfood, buy things downtown …,” Smira said. “I wouldn’t evenventure to say what the dollar value will be, but the economicimpact of the festival has got to be significant.”

In fact, other than a few long lines around the town, Monticelloofficials are not expecting any troubles to arise.

“There’s really no difficulties,” said Monticello Mayor DaveNichols. “This is the first year we’re combining the downtownmarketplace with the festival, which means Highway 184 will beclosed for a day, but we’ve still got routes laid out to getbetween the park and the festival.”

Nichols is also unconcerned about the presence of the Highway 84Bypass, noting there is plenty of signage on the highway to directtravelers to the park. The festival’s popularity, he said, shouldtake care of the rest.

“People have been coming to the Atwood Music Festival foryears,” Nichols said. “This is the longest consecutive outdoorfestival in Mississippi – there are people who plan their vacationsaround this. They know where we are.”