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I Went Not Down To The Crossroads-Travel Blog | Commentary-Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival

"Usually a person will accept a known risk rather than blaze off into the unknown." ~Louis L'Amour¹

For 15 straight years I've celebrated my birthday by going down to the Crossroads, in Clarksdale, Mississippi and "do the Sunflower", an annual Blues and Gospel festival that is held during this first part of August and a lot times, falls on my birthday, which it did this year.

But this year, I didn't go. I ended a 15 year streak, by choice. Over the past 15 years (since 1995) I've made great efforts to go the Sunflower, sometimes only making it on a Saturday and having to spend the night in my car because I didn't have money for a hotel. Other times I've spent Friday through Sunday in some of the nicest hotels Clarksdale has to offer. Even staying on an extra day and not leaving till Monday or Tuesday, just to check out the local scene or catch up on some gossip.

It was a turning-point in my life, to end a 15 year tradition, primarily out of protest.

It used to be that the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival was free to the people, from the streets of Clarksdale all the way to the stage! You could walk around the town then stroll right up to the stage. It was awesome to be so close to the great musicians that represented Blues music and it was obvious the performers enjoyed looking out into the crowd, having eye-contact and hearing the cheers. But that all ended in 2012. The year the fences went up around the front of the stage, effectively blocking "free access" to that area.


That was the year Robert Plant, singer of Led Zeppelin, played at the "free concert", believe me, it WAS packed though! Even in the reserved seating area, but that' a different story.

I had not missed a festival since my first one in 1995 and there were no boundaries back then. I even hung out at the back of the stage and shared my beer with the musicians! It was awesome back then.

So with Robert Plant being the headlining act that Saturday night in 2012, I figured maybe the fences were a one time deal. But next year proved me wrong and each year since the fences were put up, so I heard, because I quit going out of protest.

I don't blame the organization that puts on this festival for wanting to make money off the event so they can bring in notable talent, but fencing off the stage area reserving it for people that make donations (of up to $10,000.00 or more), that don't even show up for the show, hurts more than the citizenry that travel to get there, it takes away from the band's joy of actually playing to a crowd!

Anyway, breaking such a long standing tradition of celebrating my birthday down at the Crossroads... has irony, as I stood at the "crossroads" of life and decided to make the path to the annual, Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival, a path less traveled. But, 2018 marks the 30th Anniversary of the festival and that might be worth going to and the front of the main stage is not the only place in town.

P.S. This blog entry was started about 3 years ago, during the time I should have been at the festival, celebrating my birthday.

¹ Louis L'Amour quote through Milo Talon from the book The Man From The Broken Hills.

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