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Good times roll in downtown Brookhaven despite rain — ‘Jazzed Up’ parade turns into a party at Mary Jane Lampton Auditorium

The Downtown Jazzed Up Mardi Gras parade moved inside Mary Jane Lampton Auditorium Saturday night, but that didn’t keep the good times from rolling.

Katie Nations with the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and the Creative Economy Committee had a hunch Mother Nature would rain on their parade, so they came up with a contingency plan.

Instead of a second-line parade led by the Epic Funk Brass Band, the event turned into a dance party and concert.

“We did not let the rain dampen our spirit,” said Libby Hewitt, who took to the dance floor as The Bridge Band played.

About 150 to 200 people attended the event, which was moved into the auditorium. Several youthful volunteers — children of Creative Economy members — handed out beads, cups, stuffed animals and footballs to the crowd as they ducked inside the historic building with wet umbrellas.

Inside, chairs circled the dance floor and filled up quickly as the Epic Funk Brass Band started the show.

They were followed by Tyler Bridge and his band.

Hewitt attended the parade last year, which was followed by a street dance and concert. She had looked forward to the festivities again. She said she wasn’t disappointed at the change of plans.

“Everybody was joining in (dancing),” she said. “It had the special atmosphere and excitement of what you’d expect of a Mardi Gras event.”

She said it helped to have the students from Mississippi School of the Arts get the crowd pumped up with their dance moves.

“We had all ages,” she said. “Little bitty ones out there, the MSA kids and old people. Everybody joined in.”

MSA Executive Director Suzanne Hirsch, a volunteer on the Creative Economy Committee, said the school was happy to be a part of the fun.

“The rain didn’t dampen our Mardi Gras spirit and Lampton was a fantastic venue for a fun evening,” she said. “We had a few hundred people come out despite so many events in town and the weather. Epic Funk Brass Band started the party followed by The Bridge Band, who never disappoints.”

Hirsch said nearly all of the students who stayed on campus came to Lampton to enjoy dancing and listen to the music.

“MSA has a tradition of dancing like no one is watching,” she said. “We just want everyone to be themselves and have fun.”

Rain wasn’t on the check list, but the committee made the best of it.

“We had to make lemonade,” said committee member Quinn Jordan, director of the Lincoln Civic Center. “We did our best to maintain the structure of the event.”

Jordan’s son, Rivers, tossed footballs to people as they came up the stairs to the auditorium.

Jordan said the committee came up with the idea of a parade last year to attract people to the downtown area to visit the merchants and restaurants.

“The parade is designed for us to parade past our downtown businesses,” he said. “It’s to get people to see our downtown and walk our downtown and see what it has to offer.”

He said the restaurants offered specials and several merchants stayed open later for customers.

Jordan said the Creative Economy Committee has several more events planned including a partnership with the Lincoln Civic Center and King’s Daughters Medical Center for opening ceremonies for the Lincoln Civic Center Baseball Complex March 23. The movie, “The Sandlot,” will be shown, he said.

They’ll also have a Pitch Hit & Run MLB qualifying event in conjunction with the opening ceremonies and movie.

Nations said the Chamber and the Creative Economy Committee are already making plans for next year’s event and are keeping their fingers crossed for better weather.

“We want to do something that’s family friendly that is a good time for the whole family,” she said. “We appreciate all the businesses and organizations that helped this year.”

She said the Chamber is also planning its next events including the Goin’ to Town Car Show March 3 and the summer concert series.