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Atwood Music Festival seen as Memorial Day weekend tradition

MONTICELLO – Memorial Day weekend consists of blistered hotdogs,chargrilled hamburgers, the smell of charcoal and ice-cold drinks.For more than 30 years in Monticello, the holiday weekend also hasmeant music, lawn chairs and a good time.

The 37th Annual Atwood Music Festival, sponsored by the LawrenceCounty Chamber of Commerce, in Monticello will kick off Fridayaround 5:30 p.m. and end Saturday evening. The event this year willfeature more than 40 vendors selling arts and crafts and variousfood items, airboat rides and about 18 musical acts, includingheadliners Easton Corbin and Jake Owen.

“It’s been around forever,” said Entertainment Director Cindy Carr.”It’s the event of the year in Lawrence County.”

Advance weekend passes are currently on sale for $35 for adults and$25 for children at select locations including State Bank, FirstBank and Macy Taylor’s in Brookhaven and Ramey’s, First Bank, andthe chamber of commerce in Monticello.

Tickets may also be purchased at the gate. Adult gate ticket pricesare $20 per day and children gate ticket prices are $15 per day.Those aged 6 to 14 are considered a child and those 5 and under arefree.

“You can’t go see one of these Nashville headliners for $35, muchless two of them anywhere else,” said Carr.

There will be roughly six musical acts leading up to Corbin, whowill be playing Friday around 9 p.m.

Easton signed to Mercury Records Nashville in 2009 and released hisdebut single, “A Little More Country Than That,” followed by aself-titled debut album in March 2010. His song reached number oneon the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts in April 2010. His secondsingle, “Roll with It,” also reached number one on the countrycharts. Another single, “I Can’t Love You Back,” was released tocountry radio stations in November 2010.

About nine artists will perform before Saturday’s headliner,Owen.

Owen is a Grammy Award-nominated country music artist. He signed toRCA Records Nashville in 2005 and released his debut album”Startin’ with Me” in the same year. His debut album produced threesingles, all of which reached Top 20 on the Billboard Hot CountrySongs charts. A second album, “Easy Does It,” has accounted forthree more singles.

Carr, a self-proclaimed “country music nerd,” said when she looksfor musical acts she tries to find artists that will entertaineveryone from kids to adults and book up-and-coming headliners thathave already achieved success.

“The average person doesn’t know this stuff, but when they hear itthey’ll recognize it,” said Carr.

Opening for Owen will be local band Brookville.

Brookville began in early 2010 and has since performed for numerousNashville artists. Brookville is comprised of Vonda Laird, ChrisWright, Tommy Walker, Todd Easley and Randy Allen.

The band is excited about being in the lineup for this year’sevent.

“The great thing about playing at Atwood or something like that isthe sound system,” said Laird. “It’s not every day you get to singon that type of stage and sound system.”

With a record-breaking crowd of more than 3,000 people on any givennight last year, the festival could have a similar turnout. Carrhad mentioned there are currently no more reservations at thecampground and the event is receiving good response from all overthe state.

“My suggestion is get there early, get a good spot for your seatand hang out,” said Carr.

Rooted in Mississippi soil since 1975, the festival is like atradition for many of the families that attend.

The event began as a Bluegrass festival to increase awareness forthe Atwood Water Park. Since then, the festival has includeddifferent types of activities and continues to re-invent itself toattract the large audiences it does each year.

“You gotta keep up with the times,” said Festival Director AngelaCalcote. “You gotta keep your younger people coming; if you losethose, it dies out I guess.”