July 9, 2013 10:26:56 AM
The Mississippi Arts Commission awarded the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation a $1,000 grant which was used for sponsoring blues artist and headlining act Grady Champion at last week's Independence Day celebration event, "Fireworks on the Water."
The grant was a small portion of about $1.5 million awarded statewide this fiscal year, according to MAC officials. The grants were available through continued funding from state legislators and the National Endowment for the Arts.
CCHF Executive Director Nancy Carpenter said the contribution, coupled with support from local businesses and residents, helped make the event a success as it received a healthy turnout despite less than cooperative weather.
"We had an estimated turnout of about 5,000. We were expecting 8-10,000 but we were faced with canceling based on the weather. We were assessing what the loss would be if we canceled but what the gain would be for our sponsors if we continued," Carpenter said. "We called it a gutsy move at the time because it could have rained more, and we were concerned about the vendors and wanted them to do well."
MAC Interim Executive Director Sallye Killebrew said in a press release that MAC grants provide funding for theatre performances and staging of festivals like Fireworks on the Water, among other arts-related activities.
"With these funds, the organizations work diligently to help tell the unique story of their community, and to reinforce the value of building a creative economy," Killebrew said. "These groups prove that arts programs are vital to stimulate economic growth."
Carpenter said CCHF worked with the city of Columbus, Lowndes County, Columbus Air Force Base and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make Fireworks on the Water a memorable and enjoyable event for the men and women of CAFB and area residents.
"Overall, I thought it was a great success. We had a lot of positive feedback," Carpenter said. "We encourage all of our recipients of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau grants to apply for MAC. Fireworks on the Water received a grant which assisted in deferring the cost of our entertainer, who I thought was wonderful. We were thrilled with his performance."
Champion, who recently performed at this year's South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, was the winner of the International Blues Challenge in 2010.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.