Friday festival aims to help children’s hospital

Published 5:00 am Thursday, April 16, 2009

The eighth annual Mississippi Gran Prix’s party will beginpre-race Friday in downtown Brookhaven with a family-friendlyfestival aimed at raising money for the state’s leading children’shospital.

Gran Prix Festival Coordinator Joe Fleming said the myriad ofevents planned for a closed-off Cherokee Street beginning Friday at4 p.m. will have the ultimate goal of raising $5,000 for the BlairE. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson. The medical institutiontreated around 1,400 Lincoln County children last year alone.

“We always want to make it a crowd-drawer,” Fleming said. “We’renot in it for the business, to make money, but to let … theBlair. E Batson officials know the city of Brookhaven supportstheir hospital.”

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Before the festival proper begins after 5 p.m., there will be aceremony for Blair E. Batson’s 2008 champion and cancer survivorColby Barrett, 11, of Brandon, who served as the Gran Prix’s grandmarshal last year. City and county officials are expected to be inattendance for the event which, also like last year, will seeFleming shave his head as a show of support for Barrett.

There is no admission fee to the Barrett welcoming party, andpeople are encouraged to attend.

Once the festival begins, it will offer plenty of activities fora small fee. Tickets to the event cost $15 and includebadmission toa cookout, live music, good seats for the Bank of BrookhavenCriterium race and lots of children’s activities.

Tickets are available at the festival or in advance at Bank ofBrookhaven, The DAILY LEADER, Janie’s Pastry Shop, Just Kiddin’,Mr. Charley’s Fun Jumps, Robenee’s and the Human PerformanceCenter.

For the kids, the festival will feature the MississippiDepartment of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks laser gun tent,inflatable playpens and a basketball arena provided by Mr.Charley’s Fun Jumps, Just Kiddin’ of Brookhaven’s Tricycle GranPrix and hands-on art activities.

The festival will also feature live music from three Brookhavenacts – country singer Chad Simmons; newly formed group Aces High,who will be making their performing debut at the festival; andteenage country singer Kelsey Jackson.

For the adults, a drawing will be with the chance to win itemssuch as a one-year membership to HPC, a remote-control John Deerebulldozer toy, a gas cooker, a Feather Touch T-6 fishing rod and aPlaystation 3. The give-away items are on display in the booth atthe Haven theater.

Fleming and Gran Prix officials are hoping for big crowds andbig totals.

Race planners are hoping the three-day event will raise $100,000for Blair E. Batson, with the festival itself aiming for $5,000.Donations will be accepted.

This year’s effort is a continuation of last year’s, when theGran Prix was able to raise $30,000 toward the construction of anew emergency room at the hospital.

“Without the support and funding such as we put on here inBrookhaven, there wouldn’t be a hospital our children could go toand get the best care,” Fleming said.

As the festival goes on, the reason for the celebration – theMississippi Gran Prix – will begin. The Bank of BrookhavenCriterium, a closed-circuit race around downtown, will begin at 7p.m.

On Saturday, the bike race will move to the country for itssecond event, the Human Performance Co. Road Race, which will seebikers complete three, 25-mile laps beginning at Heuck’s RetreatBaptist Church, looping through Wesson and back.

The Just Kiddin’ Time Trial will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday, asbikers compete in a four-mile timed event beginning at Union HallBaptist Church on Nola Road.

The 2009 race’s final event – the Physiotherapy AssociatesCircuit Race – will be held Sunday at 7 a.m. The final event is aclosed-circuit race around the campus of Copiah-Lincoln CommunityCollege.

Close to $20,000 in prize money will be awarded to the winnersin various categories once the scored and times from the fourevents are tallied.