By Ida Brown / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Cross Mountain Praise Band will kick off the first of a five-week series of concerts in downtown Meridian billed as Downtown – After 5 Alive.
Regional and local artists and musicians will headline the spring edition of the popular concert series, which kicked off in fall 2012.
"It was such a hit last fall that we decided to expand the series to include a spring edition," said John McClure, executive director of Meridian Main Street, which produces the series.
Dumont Plaza will once again be the setting for the concert series, which will be held five consecutive Thursday evenings, beginning March 28. According to Rick Courtney, concert producer, the spring series will feature a diverse group of artists.
"We've got some really, really great talent – a combination of local and regional – that I think everyone is going to be excited with," Courtney said.
The lineup will include:
• Cross Mountain Praise Band – a Southern gospel-bluegrass ensemble from Porterville.
• Homemade Jamz – billed as "The Youngest Blues Band in America," the blues-based trio of siblings is from Tupelo.
• Amy Lott and The Usual Suspects – a multi-instrumentalist singer and songwriter from Meridian, Lott was a regular at the the fall concert series. She will be joined by several local and area artists, including singer/songwriter and Jimmie Rodgers impersonator Britt Gully
• Steve Wilkerson – a familiar artist at the annual Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival and other local venues, Wilkerson is likened to Jerry Lee Lewis in his piano style and is also recognized for his singing and song writing skills.
• Grady Champion – the Canton-based singer and harmonica player recently named "Mississippi Blues Artist of the Year" is known for his outstanding music performances – in the audience, as well as on stage.
In addition to the array of musical talent, Downtown – After 5 Alive also will offer children's activities – including face painting, sidewalk art and balloon making – as well as food and beverages.
"People who attend don't have to worry about cooking before heading out to Dumont Plaza," said Leesa Harris, event chairperson. "We'll have food and beverages for sale ... so people can come down and hang out and enjoy a good time with their family."
The free family-oriented, mini-festival is made possible through presenting sponsor Beyond Capital Inc. Ken Watts, owner of the company, said it was an easy decision to support Downtown – After 5 Alive.
"We had such a wonderful time with the fall series, accompanied by terrific weather," Watts said. "I am committed to downtown Meridian and everyone who participates in downtown. When I was a child, we were able to enjoy The Lively Arts Festival; that was a special time for Meridian ... We want to see those days again in Meridian, and we are seeing them with events such as this."
Each concert is sponsored by a local business. These include: Slay Steel, Sequel Electric, Structural Steel, Insurance Solutions, The McGinnis Lumber Company, Lala Enterprises and Mississippi Company.
Beer sponsor is Mitchell Distributing/Bud Light and grant assistance and other support has been provided by Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism, the Mississippi Arts Commission, Mississippi Main Street Association, Mississippi Power Company and the city of Meridian.
Noting the variety of entertainment offered in downtown Meridian throughout the year, McClure said Downtown – After 5 Alive simply gives residents one more event to enjoy.
"Part of our mission is to bring people downtown and have a positive experience and also support downtown businesses," he said. "People can enjoy themselves and, if they've got the kids and they want to go home so the kids can do their homework, they can do that. If they've got the time, they may go to a restaurant and go to another venue and listen to more music."
• March 28 – Cross Mountain Praise Band (Slay Steel, sponsor)
• April 4 – Homemade Jamz, (Sequel Electric, sponsor)
• April 11 – Amy Lott & The Usual Suspects (Structural Steel Services, sponsor)
• April 18 – Steve Wilkerson (Insurance Solutions of Mississippi and The McGinnis Lumber Co., sponsors)
• April 25 –Grady Champion (Lala Enterprises, sponsor)
Concerts are held on Thursdays, from 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m., at Dumont Plaza in downtown Meridian.