January 22, 2013 10:15:03 AM
You often hear there isn't much to do in Columbus.
That is hardly the case this past week, especially.
The week offered an embarrassment of riches for anyone who wanted to be informed, entertained and inspired, with two outstanding events unfolding almost simultaneously at the Trotter Convention Center (and other venues) and Mississippi University for Women.
Dream 365, a six-day event honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has been around for seven years now. It gets better each year.
The Mississippi Theatre Association's annual festival is a much too infrequent visitor to Columbus. For those who attended any of the programs, the four-day event only served to whet the appetite for more.
Like any 7-year-old, Dream 365 seems to grow stronger each year. Each year brings new elements that delight and inspire -- youth events that included a spelling bee and art and essay contests; a spoken-word program that left the audience enthralled; a showing of the moving Spike Lee documentary on the tragic 1963 church bombing in Birmingham; a top-flight comedy show and, finally, Monday's breakfast, which marked the end of the activities. In keeping with Dr. King's emphasis on service, Dream 365 partnered with the United Way of Lowndes County for a Day of Service Saturday.
This year, the event included a new element -- a symbolic march in downtown Columbus Sunday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King's march on Washington and his "I Have a Dream" speech.
As a whole, Dream 365 organizers expertly crafted a program that included all aspects of its mission of emphasizing education, service and cultural enrichment.
Dream 365 continues to be a shining light among Columbus events. We have come to expect it after seven years.
Likewise, the Mississippi Theatre Association's annual festival proved to be a thoroughly entertaining and inspiring event. Almost 500 students from throughout the state participated in the event. When organizers, directors and parents are taken into account, the event brought more than 700 people to Columbus.
In addition to the remarkable young talent on display, the festival also presented a wide range of workshops, discussions and speakers to help aspiring actors improve their craft. As an added treat, world-renowned makeup artist Billy B, an Aberdeen native, charmed the crowd with an impromptu keynote address.
By design, the MTA holds its festival at a different venue each year, but director Thomas Hardy was effusive in his praise of Columbus.
"It was one of the best in memory," Hardy said. "It was just a great experience. MUW was an awesome host. We definitely look forward to coming here again."
As with any production of this scale, it takes a collaborative effort to produce that sort of success. In addition to event host MUW, the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Columbus Arts Council, the Tennessee Williams Festival and the Columbus Community Theatre all made valuable contributions in ensuring the success of the event.
When taken together, Dream 365 and the MTA festival provided a range and depth of education, entertainment and inspiration that any community, large or small, would envy.
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