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More than 200 festival and event planners throughout Mississippi and the Southeast attended the 2nd Annual Back Stage Pass conference on Jan. 23-24 at the Golden Moon Hotel & Casino, which is located at the Pearl River Resort in Philadelphia, Miss.

Event planners gained valuable information about how to produce successful festivals and events, along the theme of "Revealing your Town's Authentic Character".

Mississippi Development Authority's Tourism Division, along with the Mississippi Main Street Association and the Mississippi Arts Commission, hosted Back Stage Pass for the second consecutive year. Additional sponsors included Mississippi Development Authority's Marketing & Entrepreneur Center, Pearl River Resort, and Webz Advertising.

"Almost every community has a festival, and our goal is to help event planners create new events or further develop existing ones that involve and support the creative sector and increase tourism dollars spent in the local economy," said Jeannie Zieren, MMSA director of community relations. "Our hope is that attendees develop relationships with each other, as well as with the presenters, artists, exhibitors and sponsors, and discover new ideas and resources to take back home and implement."

The 2013 presenters included: Trisha Black, Spirit of Athens; Brenda Caradine, Tennessee Williams Tribute; Beth Carriere, Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau; Jim Foster, Gulf Coast Heritage Trails Partnership; Jacqueline Lee, ShyPR; Amber Lombardo, Webz Advertising; Jeanne Luckett, Luckett Communications; Michael Luster, Arkansas Folklife Program; Kristin McLaren, Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board; Shanna Murray-Luke, Shanna Murray-Luke Consulting; Wesley Smith, Washinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau; and Michelle Weaver Jones, Mississippi Department of Archives & History.

The 2013 exhibitors included: Ardenland, LLC; Artistry in Wood; Big Front Porch Productions; Blue South Entertainment; Custom Carving & Engraving; Da Story Weaver; Desoto Magazine; F&S Music KC Publishing; Fruit of the Earth Basketry; H.C. Porter Gallery; Lyle Wynn Hand Forged Blacksmith Items; Mississippi Development Authority Marketing & Entrepreneur Center; M&M Book Publishing Co.; MS Press Association/Services; MSU Stennis Institute; Sculptor Harold W. Miller; Singer/Songwriter Katrina Byrd; and The Oxford American Magazine.

Mississippi Arts Commission Roster Artists who performed included: Annie B. McKee, Benjamin Morris, Big Joe Shelton, Emily Tschiffely, G. Mark LaFrancis, Grady Champion, HanaLena, Jerry Jenkins, Katrina Byrd, Lane Chapel Male Quintet, Lannie Spann McBride, Rebecca Jernigan, Richelle Putman, Steve Nowell, Scott Albert Johnson, and Stephanie Artz & Mark Howell.

"The Artist Showcase is a great way for artists to put their talents in front of an important audience—with a strong probability of walking away with new gigs and opportunities," said Mary Margaret Miller, Mississippi Arts Commission's heritage director. "The 2013 Artist Showcase was the best yet."

A Dine Around on Wednesday evening of the conference was hosted by the Community Development Partnership, Main Street and Chamber in Philadelphia. Attendees enjoyed gourmet appetizers at the historic Depot in downtown, followed by fried chicken and soul food at Peggy's restaurant and ended the evening with dessert and a live performance at the new 424 Blues Cafe on the historic Square.

A first time door prize drawing, presented by the conference hosts to benefit both the artists and attendees, took place at the final networking break. A stipend with a $1500 value was presented to two lucky attendees to hire any artist or performer on the Mississippi Artist Roster to perform at their community festival or event in 2013.

The winners were Allie West of Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and Marika Baliko of Meridian Main Street.

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Ocean Springs, a town with a reputation as an “arts community” has several art galleries and was hometown to the late Walter Inglis Anderson, a nationally renowned painter and muralist.

Mississippi Main Street Association
P.O. Box 55747 | Jackson, MS 39296
Phone: 601/944-0113
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District Offices:
P.O. Box 445 | Columbus, MS 39703 | 662- 364-0435
426 Northpointe Lake Dr. | Oxford, MS 38655 | 601-941-5409
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