This year marks the 200th anniversary of statehood for the State of Mississippi, and South Mississippi is rolling out the red carpet for a weekend of “World’s Fair” style festivities to celebrate 200 years of progress. Officials were on hand today at Centennial Plaza where events will take place to announce plans for the two day event on March 31 and April 1, the first of three celebrations to be held throughout the State.
“This is a celebration of our history, heritage and culture,” said George Schloegel, retired CEO of Hancock Bank and former Mayor of Gulfport, who is chairing the South Mississippi Committee. “We have much to be proud of as Mississippians. We want everyone to get involved and be a part of this historic event.”
Schloegel said there are many ways Mississippians and visitors can participate. First, the two day event that features non-stop entertainment has free admission and is open to the public. The committee invites everyone to make plans to enjoy all of the events planned throughout the weekend. The site will open from 9am – 10pm on Friday, March 31st and from 10am – 10pm on Saturday. To get all of the up-dates go to www.ms200south.org and like us on Facebook at Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration South.
Schloegel said the committee also wants to invite Mississippians to participate as exhibitors, food vendors, parade participants, volunteers and corporate sponsors. All of the information you need to learn how you can be a part of this event is found at the website.
One of the key areas of the festival is the “Salute to Mississippi” where exhibits will be set up to celebrate our arts, heritage, history, military, education, cities, counties and state agencies. Cynthia Sutton of the Ocean Springs Chamber-Tourism-Main Street is chairing part of this effort with a number of other key leaders across the region. There is no fee to participate and exhibitors can go on line to the website and sign up to be a part this amazing showcase.
Calvin Coleman of Naomi’s Catering is chairing the “Taste of Mississippi” committee with Becky Jenner to celebrate the State’s Coastal and International Cuisine. The area celebrates food that is such a central part of the lives of Mississippians. The committee is seeking the finest food vendors to showcase at this event, and also plans to introduce a taste of the international cultures that have influenced the region’s lifestyle. Interested vendors can go to the website to submit an application. There will also be “Craft and Domestic Beers” featured to celebrate Mississippi’s three local breweries.
Because this event has so much to share in the way of educational achievements, Dr. Steven Miller of the University of Southern Mississippi is chairing the committee to bring this to the forefront. Throughout the weekend, families are invited to bring their children to the event to experience the unique exhibits the committee has put together to challenge their senses and expand their minds. On Friday from 9am – 2pm, 4th grade school groups will participate in a special tour. Interested teachers can go on line to sign up for the tour and participate in a historic ceremony on Friday at 11am when the Mississippi Commemorative Stamp is unveiled by the United States Postal Service.
“We are honored that the US Postal Service has selected the event in South Mississippi as the site to unveil this historic stamp,” said Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes. “I understand the new stamp will celebrate the contribution Mississippi has made to America’s music, giving our state tremendous international recognition.”
Near the Education Center at Centennial Plaza is a “Salute to the Military”, which has been such an important economic engine for the State. Chaired by General Joe Spraggins, there will be historic displays as well as combat equipment on display to provide the public with a hands-on look at the strength of our nation’s military, so predominant in South Mississippi. The committee also wants to salute our active duty military by inviting them to join in the festivities on Friday night from 5-7pm for a special picnic on the grounds.
As you would expect, Saturday’s festivities kick off at 11am with the “Parade of Cities and Counties” featuring officials marching in with ceremonial flags. The parade is chaired by Mark Duffy who said it will also include Mardi Gras marching clubs, college and high school bands, costumed historic figures, the military and our beloved classic cars. Those interested in being part of the parade can go on line to apply.
George Schloegel said this event would not be possible without the outpouring of support from business and corporate supporters, the Mississippi Legislature and the Mississippi Development Authority. “The way our leaders have come forth to support this event is inspiring,” he said.
Schloegel said if you have not yet signed on as a corporate sponsor, there is information on the website that offers the ways you can get involved. Rebecca Kajdan is leading this effort with Tish Williams and packages can also be custom designed to meet the marketing needs of sponsors. One of the benefits of being a corporate sponsor is tickets to the Corporate Village, a relaxing oasis near the main stage area.
“It is going to be a celebration like no other,” said Schloegel. And no celebration of this magnitude can be accomplished without a team of volunteers. “We need everyone to get involved.” Those interested can go on line to sign up as an event volunteer.
Officials from the State of Mississippi and the Mississippi Development Authority will be in Gulfport on Wednesday, February 15th at 2pm for a press conference to announce the stellar line-up of entertainment planned for the two day celebration.