Inaugural Casey Jones Blues Fest ushers in spring in Water Valley

Published 12:08 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2024

On Saturday, March 23, the Water Valley Main Street Association will hold its first Casey Jones Blues Festival.

This free daytime event will occur throughout the downtown area in the heart of Water Valley, with live music at the Solero Stage, located on Main St. near the historic Casey Jones Railroad Museum – whose namesake is the subject of a number of classic blues songs.

John Luther (Casey) Jones in the cab of his freight engine, the 638. This full photo appeared in the book “History of the Illinois Central Railroad Company and Representative Employes,” which was published in 1900. The photo was taken in Water Valley just north of the yard limit. (Quote and photo from the Casey Jones Museum, Water Valley, Facebook post)

There is also a Mississippi Blues Trail marker in front of the old depot and museum, honoring the legendary railroad engineer.

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The music line-up consists of accomplished regional blues artists, including Effie Burt, The Harrell Brothers, Libby Rae Watson, Garry Burnside, and headliner, 2024 Grammy Awards nominee Mr. Sipp, who was nominated in the “Best Traditional Blues Album” category.

Kicking off at 11 a.m. with the Water Valley High School band, which will present a piece prepared just for the occasion, the live music will run throughout the afternoon, finishing with Mr. Sipp’s set from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“We’re thrilled about our line-up,” said Executive Director Alyssa Benedict, who has worked tirelessly for months to obtain grants and tend to other matters involved with putting together a music festival and the various other related happenings.

Scheduled events include a 5K Run/Walk starting at 8 a.m., with the option for discounted pre-registration currently open.  Also, the “Rally at the Rails” car show will be held at Shuffield Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free, although donations are accepted and will go toward Railroad Museum revitalization efforts.

Casey Jones Museum, Water Valley (Facebook)

Attractions also include a cornhole tournament starting at 11:30 a.m. at Courthouse Commons, and a Kid’s Zone, which will have inflatables, pony rides, face painting and a glitter bar.

Food trucks, vendors of arts and crafts, and various homemade and handmade items will also be on hand, and local businesses in the area, including a number of new restaurants, retailers and galleries will hold hours.

“In the last couple of years since the pandemic we’ve been focusing on revitalizing downtown,” said Benedict, “like many small towns have been doing, and there was kind of an open space.  We already have the Watermelon Carnival in August, and wanted to find a reason to invite folks to come visit our town in the spring because we really have some cool destination spots.”

Benedict also expressed excitement about showcasing some of Water Valley’s newer local businesses, and providing them the opportunity to share in the inaugural event.

“We really have a lot of neat things that have come about in the last few years,” she said.  “It’s something fun for our locals to do and look forward to.  And, a great time to invite people to come check everything out.”

The official festival kick-off will be on Fri, Mar. 22 at the “Water Valley Wine Down,” a unique wine tasting and shopping experience, which also encourages registering early for discounted ticket prices.

For more information on the Casey Jones Blues Fest,