An effort known as "Bridging the Blues" will publicize events over a 10-day period in the Mississippi Delta region across Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Beginning with the Highway 61 Blues Festival in Leland, Sept. 29-30, Bridging the Blues will help inform visitors of live music events occurring from the Leland festival all the way up to The King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Ark., Oct. 4-6.
Allan Hammons, spokesperson for Bridging the Blues, said the organization will help maximize visitors’ experiences as they explore the area rich of blues heritage.
"Our goal is to weave a fabric together that recognizes the infrastructure that is integral to this area and our future," said Hammons. "This includes places like the B.B. King Museum, the Beale Street district and the upcoming Grammy museum.
"The concept is especially important for international travelers who come here to learn about the blues. They'll obviously be spending some time in the region if they paid for a big ticket over here — we can help them have a great experience for the seven to 10 days they're here."
The idea began about two years ago when Wesley Smith, executive director for the Greenville-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau wanted to get the different states' tourism bureaus involved in a collaborative effort.
“Why not give them (visitors) more to do while they’re here and more reasons to come back next year," said Smith. "We will be able to attract more blues artists and keep them in the region longer and smaller communities gain the opportunity to schedule extra performances.
"We’re on the path to providing the every day experience blues fans expect when they visit the Delta.”
Smith said he's excited about the beginnings of the organization and believes it will contribute to both the music scene and local economy.
"This is about entertainment but it's also about economic development," he said. "These visitors will be staying in our hotels and eating out in our restaurants — which of course, is good for local business."
Visitors can track events occurring on the days in between the Highway 61 and King Biscuit festivals on the Bridging the Blues blog at www.bridgingtheblues.blogspot.com.
Juke joints, clubs and casinos from Memphis down to Vicksburg are scheduling events to encourage visitors to take a self-guided tour throughout the region.
Venues such as the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena and the Hopson Plantation outside of Clarksdale are among the lengthy list of locations scheduled to host events.
"The pairing of these two festivals and reaching across state lines is an unprecedented venture," said Munnie Jordan, executive director of the King Biscuit Festival. "It is a partnership that is built on our love of the music and our blues fans who return every year.”
Highway 61 Blues Festival Chairman Bill Johnson foresees many benefits from the Bridging the Blues movement.
“Partnering with King Biscuit is a win-win for the festivals and the fans,” Johnson said. “Fans will have two weekends of music to count on with a week of blues activities — across the Delta in both Arkansas and Mississippi Delta — in between."
While this is the first attempt to build connections across state lines, Smith said he's excited to see the program grow.
“Fans may come here for the blues, but they always fall in love with the Delta," said Smith.
Bolivar County will host multiple events correlated with the project.
Dockery Farms will present tours of the facility throughout the day on Oct. 2, along with performances by Cadillac John and Bill Able beginning at 4 p.m.
The legendary juke joint Po' Monkeys outside of Merigold will host a Blues Bash also on Oct. 2 following the performances at Dockery.
The River Resort in Rosedale will be home to the 7th annual Otherfest music festival all day Oct. 6. Local blues and rock bands will be on stage.
For more details on the schedule, contact Smith at 662-334-2711 or Jordan at 870-572-5223.
Visit www.kingbiscuitfestival.com and www.highway61blues.com to follow festival updates.
Bridging the Blues is a partnership between the Mississippi Delta Tourism Association, Arkansas Delta Byways, Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism, Mississippi Development Authority Office of Tourism and the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.