“A Backyard Party” Down Home Blues Festival set for July 3

SPECIAL TO DAILY TIMES LEADER

This year marks the 35th annual Original Down Home Blues Festival on July 3 at the Oasis Complex, located on Highway 45 Alt in West Point.

The gates open at 4 p.m., and music will begin at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased ahead of time by calling 295-5841.

In memory of its founder, Sylvester Harris, who passed on in 2015, the festival will feature The Crossroads Band founded by Harris, along with Steve Perry, DJ Hound Dog and more.

The Original Down Home blues festival began in the Union Star community during the late 70’s. The first event was held on Manning Field, where artists such as J Blackfoot were featured along with many other artists. The festival would soon outgrow Manning’s Field and later move to Boatman Field. The blues played on, with artists such as Clarence Carter, Bobby Rush, and Denise LaSalle. In 1993 in particular, the 11th annual festival, headline artists such as Lynn White, Blues Boy Willie, Break Bone Blues Band and local blues legend the late Jake Moore. The communities would come together, along with blues lovers from across the nation. It was the Down Home Blues Festival, that brought people together, regardless of race, religion, origin, or location.

The annual event continued to grow. Location changes occurred once again, beginning with The Crossroads, located in Mayhew. This host location, featured artists such as TK Soul, The Love Doctor, and Reggie P.

In July of 2008, Harris hosted the 29th Annual Original Down Home Blues Festival. Sylvester was excited about hosting this particular festival, like no other because the 2008 Presidential Campaign was in full swing.

The founder of the North Mississippi Democratic Coalition, located here in West Point, Harris was fired up and ready to make another historical moment possible. Campaigning to elect our nation’s first African American President, Barack Obama, he prepared a week-long celebration. It became a political platform, good food, fun and some down home blues. Featured artist would be the infamous Grammy Award winning blues man Bobby Rush.

Rush was also presented with the Key to the City, honoring him at the Harris Family BBQ also known as Tony’s.

The event later moved back to West Point and was held at The Oasis Club on Hwy 45 Alt N. A few years passed, and the festival was put on hold due to the illness of Harris.

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