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Howlin' Wolf festival changes hands

May 21, 2014

BY JOSH PRESLEY
news@dailytimesleader.com

Starting this year, the Howlin’ Wolf Memorial Blues Festival, typically held the night before the Prairie Arts Festival in West Point, will be under new management.
Howlin’ Wolf Blues Society’s active board members have handed over all functions of the annual blues festival to the newly formed Prairie Belt Blues Foundation (PBBF), headed up by Southern Ionics owner and blues festival sponsor Milton Sundbeck.
Blues Society President Kenny Dill said in a statement issued to media that the transfer will infuse new leadership into the festival, which began in 1996.
“Milton Sundbeck has always been a major supporter of the festival,” Dill said. “The offer by him and the PBBF seems to be the perfect time to hand over the blues festival to an organization that has the potential to make the festival bigger and better.”
Sundbeck said there was a desire to take the festival to a new level, and bring in new blood and new organization with many of the blues society board members getting older and ready to retire. He said PBBF’s goal is to honor all blues legends and to promote West Point for growth and development.
“The city has already received visitors from 42 states and 23 countries on the Mississippi Blues Trail,” Sundbeck said. “Blues music is part of our DNA in the South, and it’s something a large number of people are interested in.”
He said the name of PBBF comes from this area of Mississippi, from Tupelo down to Noxubee County, being referred to as the “black prairie” because of the fertile black prairie soil.
“There was a tremendous amount of agricultural farming in this area, and blues music really got started here,” he said. “Not to mention Howlin’ Wolf was born in West Point and grew up here.”
The blues festival will continue to fall the Friday night before the Prairie Arts Festival, and the PBBF will promote blues and give people in the community the opportunity to enjoy the music, according to Sundbeck.
PBBF Vice President and Blues Festival Coordinator Richard Ramsey said the festival brings in many people from out of state and country to West Point.

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