By Sheena Barnett
TUPELO – As winter shuffles away, Northeast Mississippi is finding plenty of reasons to celebrate, from cars to music to movies to the King of Rock ’n’ Roll.
A few festivals have already happened, including Oxford and Starkville’s film festivals and Tupelo’s Don’t Be Cruel BBQ Duel and Craft Beer Festival, but there’s still plenty to do this spring.
The city with the most going on is Tupelo.
New Albany, Starkville and Oxford all have their major festivals coming up soon, but Tupelo has eight big events this spring.
That makes sense to Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton.
“We’re are a major hub, and festivals are not just for the citizens of Tupelo,” he said. “We take great pride in hospitality in Tupelo.”
Quality of life is something Shelton takes seriously. Fun events, whether for adults or the whole family, attract both single young professionals and families. The festivals bring in revenue for the city, too.
He’s been a supporter of NOleput, a reinvention of the former Oleput Festival that took place in Tupelo in the 1990s.
“While festivals like NOleput aren’t for everyone, the benefits they bring to Tupelo benefit everyone,” Shelton said. “NOleput is something to remind us that we can’t take ourselves too seriously, and to relax and have a good time.”
Here’s a roundup of major events happening in the area this spring.
NOleput: April 5, Tupelo. The original festival, Oleput, ran its course in the 1990s, but this year it has been revived as a New Orleans-style party. The festivities are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. April 5 in downtown Tupelo near the Ice House. There will be food and music by the likes of Homemade Jamz Blues Band, Jamie Davis & Soul Gravy, Holy Ghost Electric Show and Forefront. Learn more at facebook.com/noleputtupelo.
MS Modern Micro-Fest: April 5, Starkville. The Mississippi Development Authority/Year of Mississippi’s Creative Economy is sponsoring a new creativity-inspired festival, scheduled for 6-11:45 p.m. on Maxwell Street in downtown Starkville. The festival includes fashion by Hi Lo and music by bands like RBTS WIN, The Box Tiger and Oh, Jeremiah. There also will be food and craft beer. It’s free. Visit ms-modern.com for more.
Amory Railroad Festival: April 10-13, Amory. A 5k, live music, car and truck show, carnival, arts and crafts, food and more are at this 36th annual festival in downtown Amory. Entertainment includes former “The Voice” contestant Cole Vosbury, Greg Dillard, Bikini Frankenstein, Aaron Vance and Priscilla Barker. See a complete schedule at amoryrailroadfestival.com.
North Mississippi Green Festival: April 12, Tupelo. The Girl Scouts Heart of the South Council sponsors this annual festival that focuses on the environment. The fourth annual event is at Ballard Park, is free, and includes music, arts and crafts, face-painting, a petting zoo, games and more. Visit girlscoutshs.org/greenfest for more.
Cotton District Arts Festival: April 12, Starkville. More than 125 artisans, as well as a Juried Arts competition and show, are at this year’s festival in downtown Starkville. There’s also a 5k, Writer’s Village, pet parade, Taste of Starkville restaurant competition and student art competition. Live music includes Ace Cannon, Young Agent Jones and Big Joe Shelton. All festival information is at cdafestival.com.
Tupelo Film Festival: April 17-19, Tupelo. The 11th annual event has a new location: the Malco in Tupelo. The festival includes features, documentaries, shorts and more made both locally and all over the world. It also includes workshops and the Mississippi High School Film Competition. Look for updates at tupelofilmfestival.net.
Oxford Craft Beer Festival: April 19, Oxford. This year’s festival includes the first-ever South Eastern Pizza Classic, with pizzerias from SEC schools competing to win the best pie award. The fest is at the Colonel’s Quarters from noon-6 p.m. Tickets are $45/general admission, $15/designated drivers. There are also early bird discounts, and VIP tickets are available.
Double Decker Arts Festival: April 25-26, Oxford. Charles Bradley, The Bo-Keys, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Dent May, Rosco Bandana and the Wild Feathers will all perform at this year’s Double Decker in downtown Oxford. More than 100 artists will surround the courthouse Square, and food vendors will offer a variety of delicacies. There’s also a special fair just for kids. Find the full scoop at doubledeckerfestival.com.
Blue Suede Cruise: May 2-4, Tupelo. Rev your engines at the BancorpSouth Arena for the classic car festival, the Blue Suede Cruise. There will be a drive-in movie, poker run, live music and more. Visit bluesc.com for more.
Dudie Burger Festival: May 3, Tupelo. Step back in time with the Oren Dunn City Museum’s Dudie Burger Festival, which celebrates the famed dough burgers. The burgers will be for sale, and there will be music and games. Visit the museum’s website at orendunnmuseum.org.
GumTree Festival: May 9-11, Tupelo. Artists from across the country will converge on the courthouse lawn in Tupelo for the 44th annual festival. There will also be food, a 5k, live music and a songwriter’s competition. It’s always kicked off with the Gum Ball party. Watch gumtreefestival.com for updates.
Down from the Hills Heritage Music Festival: May 17, New Albany. Bluegrass musicians from across the state will battle it out at the annual State of Mississippi Bluegrass Music Championship. There are competitions for individual instruments and bands, with cash prizes. The festival includes food, arts and crafts, a quilt show and educational programs. Admission’s $5, and everything starts at 10 a.m. at the Union County Fairgrounds. Learn more at mississippifiddlers.com.
Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival: June 5-8, Tupelo. The King’s hometown celebration includes tribute artist concerts and competitions, live music, food, 5k, a carnival, pet parade, disc golf and more. The tribute artist events will take place at the BancorpSouth Arena, and other events will be in downtown Tupelo. Tickets for the tribute artist competitions and concerts are on sale now. Details are still forthcoming on Fairpark concerts, so watch tupeloelvisfestival.com for details and to buy tickets to all of the events.
TCT’s Street Fiesta: June 14, Tupelo. Tupelo Community Theatre’s annual fundraiser and street party will take place in front of The Lyric in downtown Tupelo. Watch tctwebstage.com for more details as they are announced.