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Ole Brook Fest plans family fun

New time, new food, same festival.

Entering its 35th consecutive year, the 2009 Ole Brook Festivalhas been pushed back approximately three weeks in the hopes ofachieving clear skies and cool weather. But other than a new timeslot and a few tweaks to the more than 150 crafts, art and foodvendors expected to attend, the city’s premier family festival ispoised to continue its run of success.

“We’re putting together another family-based, family-focusedfestival that we think is going to be our best one yet,” said JeffDoremus, chairman of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce’s Ole Brook Festival Committee.

The admission-free festival will begin Friday, Oct.2, at 5 p.m.,run until around 10 p.m. that night and pick back up the nextmorning, going until around 10 p.m. again. All festivities willtake place in and around Railroad Park in downtown Brookhaven.

The festival has always been a Saturday-focused event, Doremussaid, but the decision was made the prolong the party this year togive visitors and vendors more time to meet, make friends andstrike a deal.

Organizers are also hoping to avoid the weather in 2009, hesaid. Rain dampened the festivities in 2008, though strong crowdsbroke through with the sun around noon.

Doremus said chamber officials have invited new food and craftvendors to the festival this year, promising to spruce up thetime-proven event with new tastes and sights. Organized sections ofthe festival include Art Alley, which will feature a variety ofartists and their works from around Mississippi; a number of craftvendors and exhibits; and two children’s areas.

Doremus said chamber officials took special care when screeningvendor applications this year, looking to add more quality to thelineup.

“What we’re looking for is a craft of type of item that standsout as being made of a very high quality type of material, or whatthey are bringing is significant,” he said. “What we are notlooking for is the plastic flag-sellers. We’re really kind oflooking for those kinds of folks who are bringing that higherquality type of merchandise for our folks to choose from.”

Extra attention has been paid to the non-spenders as well.

The Friday installment of the festival will feature liveentertainment performing throughout the night, while an improved,lengthened talent show will go on throughout Saturday. Specialguests attending this year’s festival include Christian illusionistJared Hall, a NASCAR display featuring the Joe Gibbs’ Racing SprintCup Show Car and Mississippi School of the Arts senior and former”American Idol” contestant Jasmine Murray, who will be the talentshow’s celebrity judge.

Entertainment Chairman Tyler Bridge said the Friday nightperformances on the festival’s stage near The Inez will follow acountry music theme and feature experienced acts. The music beginsat 5 p.m. and ends around 9 p.m.

Scheduled to perform that night are youth singer Hannah BelleSutherland, Brookhaven vocalist Vonda Laird and local bands TheColonels and Ghost Town.

Bridge said the acts were selected because their experience inlive music should translate into a lively show for Ole Brookattendees.

“These guys have been doing it a long enough time that they knowhow to read a crowd,” he said. “They know if they need to kick itup a notch or turn it down a notch. They know how to please acrowd.”

Saturday night’s performances will already be kicked up a notchbecause those singers will be competing for cash prizes.

Chamber program director and talent show chairwoman Kay Burtonsaid the prize for the first place overall winner would be $500,with second place earning $250 and third, $100. The Ole Brooktalent show will also serve as a qualifier for the 2010 Mid-SouthFair Youth Talent Contest, a national competition.

“We hope to have 40-50 competing,” Burton said. “We’ve tried tocut it short in years past because we’ve had to be off the stage by1 p.m. But since we have more time on the stage this year and we’reoffering pretty nice cash prizes, we’re hoping to have morecontestants.”

Interested performers may enter the talent show by calling thechamber at 601-833-1411. The registration deadline is Wednesday,Sept. 30.

Chamber Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfield said lastyear’s show produced a record crowd, estimated at around 7,000,despite morning rains. He expects more of the same this year.

“Pending good weather, this should be the best festival in 35years,” he said. “A lot of planning, continuous improvement andfeedback from our vendors and participants have helped us fine tunethe event.”

Brumfield said the enlargement of the Ole Brook Festival thisyear is meant to negate the impact of the shaky economy by givingvendors more time to peddle their wares. The expense associatedwith booking multiple big name musical acts has been replaced bylocal talent and a focus on one entertainer, this year illusionistJared Hall.

Brumfield said the 2009 festival was running “neck and neck”with last year’s expenses, which were more than $20,000.

“All indicators so far are that the event will be a tremendoussuccess,” he said.

Not just for the festival, but for Brookhaven as a whole.

“(The festival) brings crowds of people into town who drivethrough our major retail thoroughfares,” Brumfield said. “We hopethey’ll stop and shop with those retailers on their way, eat at outrestaurants and maybe take a drive through our car dealerships andcheck out the 2010 models.”

Additional information on the Ole Brook Festival is available bycalling 601-833-1411.