Cash festival attendance down from past years


Tim Pratt



Hours after the conclusion of the third annual Johnny Cash Flower Pickin'' Festival Sunday, organizer Robbie Ward said he plans to bring the event back to Main Street next year.


Portions of the event were held this weekend at several Starkville locations, though a majority of the musical performances took place at Rick''s Cafe Americain.


"I think it''s very important to return to Main Street," Ward said Sunday evening. "This year was a little bump in the road because of the economy right now, but we plan to return to Main Street next year."



People from all over the U.S., and several countries, came to Starkville to celebrate the "Man in Black," but attendance was still down significantly compared to the first two years, Ward said. He estimated less than 1,000 people attended, compared to 4,000-5,000 during each of the first two events.


"It''s true there weren''t as many people there as previous years, but there were still many people from other parts of the country," Ward said. "People there had a great time, from the attendees to the performers and everybody associated with it, and we feel very confident that this event will continue."


"In a year when the economy was down, Starkville businesses and churches made this happen," he continued. "Instead of having it out on Main Street, we partnered with businesses from Rick''s to Grumpy''s to Barrister''s to Crosspoint Baptist Church. In a lot of ways you can say the area businesses served as a redemption for this year''s festival and made it happen, but we''re going to make sure we''re back on Main Street next year. We have plans for 2010 and we even have plans for 2011."


Events began Friday evening at Grumpy''s on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. with a showing of "Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison" on the Grumpytron, followed by a performance by the band "Poacher."


Ward gave tours of the old Starkville City Jail Saturday morning, where Cash spent a night in 1965 after being arrested for public drunkenness. Cash told police he was just "picking flowers."


Musician Barry Marcus put on a children''s concert Saturday morning at the Starkville Public Library, then the live music started at the Rick''s Cafe complex. About a dozen musical acts performed throughout the day, highlighted by former Cash band mate Jimmy Tittle, as well as Americana musician Justin Townes Earle and country star Carlene Carter. Earle is the son of Steve Earle, while Carter is the daughter of June Carter Cash and her first husband, Carl Smith.


Events concluded Sunday with a "redemption" church service at the city''s Sportsplex on Lynn Lane, presented by Crosspoint Baptist Church, and brunch at Barrister''s on Main Street.


"I''m really thankful we had it at Rick''s," Ward said. "If we wouldn''t have had it at Rick''s, I don''t know how many people would have showed up. I mean, it was really cold Saturday. And the only thing we scaled down was where we had the music. This year we added Grumpy''s, the jail tours, the children''s concert, Sunday brunch, the singer/songwriter showcase. The only difference was instead of having the music Saturday downtown, we had it at Rick''s. While fewer people showed up to listen to the music at Rick''s, the quality and the amount of events actually expanded this year."





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