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Howlin' Wolf festival ready to howl

 

William Browning

 

On Thursday afternoon, Richard Ramsey, the executive program director of the Howlin' Wolf Memorial Blues Festival, said "the phone calls are still coming in." 

 

Where from?  

 

"All over Mississippi," he said, and from Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and Missouri. 

 

He was talking about people wanting tickets to tonight's 18th annual blues festival in West Point. The show will take place in the auditorium on the Mary Holmes College campus. The doors open at 6 p.m. The tunes start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. 

 

Ramsey was excited about the size of the potential crowd. The show, he noted, routinely "fills up hotels from here to Tupelo." He was more excited about the music the crowd is coming to see. 

 

"The blues are alive and well in Mississippi," he said. "And we're going to set Mississippi on fire for what it's known for." 

 

The festival Ramsey organizes is named for Howlin' Wolf, a legendary blues performer born Chester Arthur Bennett in West Point in 1910. Ramsey operates a museum dedicated to Wolf, who gained worldwide fame during his career, on Westbrook Street. The museum is open today from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

 

The performers slated to take the stage tonight in West Point include Mark "Muleman" Massey with organist Billy Earheart, who played with Hank Williams Jr.; Ben Prestage, a one-man band who plays four instruments at once; Homemade Jamz, a trio from Tupelo consisting of three siblings; and New Orleans musician Bryan Lee, who is known as "the Braille blues daddy." 

 

Ramsey said the fact that the Howlin' Wolf Memorial Blues Festival is taking place inside with air conditioning is rare for Mississippi blues festivals. He then added, "That doesn't hamper our ability to have a good time." 

 

A guitar will be raffled off during the show. Food and drinks will be served. 

 

Asked what type of crowd he expects, Ramsey laughed and said he knows elementary-aged children are coming and he also knows an 84-year-old is going to be in the crowd. 

 

"We don't discriminate," he said. "The blues knows no boundaries and that's what we are about." 

 

As for the single best location to watch the show, it's already taken. 

 

"I'm the M.C.," Ramsey said. "I've got the best seat in the house." 

 

On Saturday in West Point the Prairie Arts Festival will take place in West Point. About 300 fine arts, crafts and food vendors will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be live music all day, a 5K run/walk in the morning (registration begins at 7 a.m. at 510 E. Broad St.), a car show and other attractions. 

 

For more information on the Prairie Arts Festival go to wpnet.org/wp_paf.htm. 

 

For more information on the Howlin' Wolf Memorial Blues Festival go to wpnet.org/Howlin_Festival.htm.

 

 

 

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