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Sibley Zydeco Festival offers local flavor of music and more

Leroy Thomas of Leroy Thomas the Zydeco Roadrunners will be one of seven performers at the Sibley Zydeco Festival on June 9. The event at Ben Corner Plantation off of U.S. 61 South will also feature a rodeo, trail rides, an ATV track, vendors and more. (Submitted photo)

NATCHEZ — Zydeco lovers say there’s something about the strum of the spoon on a washboard or the sound of the accordion that makes it difficult to stand still.

“I love the beat; it makes you want to move,” Sibley Zydeco Festival founder and organizer Jerry Lyles said.

Last year 3,000 people went out to Sibley to catch the tunes, the crowd and the Bayou cowboy activities at Ben Corner Plantation off of U.S. 61 South, Lyles said.

On June 9, Lyles hopes even more will show out for this year’s fourth-annual festival.

Leroy Thomas, known as the “jewel of the Bayou” and lead of the Zydeco Roadrunners, will be performing again this year at the festival.

“Everybody’s so friendly, you know,” he said of the Sibley festival with Cajun twang.

Thomas said his father, Clifton Chenier, was the king of Zydeco. Chenier recorded “Baby, why you want to make me cry” in 1981, and nearly every Zydeco band plays that song, Thomas said.

“It’s been popular for close to 30 years,” he said.

His cousins, uncles — everyone played music growing up, and Thomas played in his father’s band for 15 years.

“I traded in a radio for an accordion,” Thomas said.

He was only 8 years old when he started honing his skills for zydeco music, which Thomas said is a blend of a number of musical genres.

And there’s nothing better for Thomas than watching a zydeco newcomer move their body to the beat, especially when he catches that one person in the crowd who’s not dancing start to clap, move their head and eventually take it to the dance floor.

“That’s the best feeling in the world,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the genre became popular in New Orleans “a couple generations back,” but has since spread worldwide. Thomas has toured in 46 states and to two countries, playing repeated shows year after year in a number of locations.

Lyles said the festival has expanded beyond the zydeco genre. Seven groups from Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia and Florida will be performing.

Tucka will perform his version of what he calls swing music, Jeff Floyd will share his southern soul music and other artists are Columbus Toy, Big G, Donnell Sullivan and Dave Mack, Lyles said.

“We have to mix (the genres) up, so there’s something for everybody,” Lyles said.

Lyles said there’s also a recreational component to the festival.

A horse trail ride starts at 4 p.m., and it will give attendees and their horses a chance to ride down U.S. 61 South.

An ATV track on the property will be open all day, and rides are $5. Participants must use safety gear, Lyles said, with no exceptions.

A rodeo starts at 7 p.m., and mud and trail riding will continue all day long.

Lyles said he’s had calls from people in Texas, Georgia and Louisiana from people interested in making a weekend out of it.

And since tents, grills, coolers lawn chairs and blankets are allowed, some are camping out Friday evening.

Lyles, who first got the idea for the festival when he saw a Zydeco performance and gathering outside a Harley Davidson shop in his wife’s native city of Alexandria, La., said he expects a good crowd of motorcyclists traveling down for the event.

Food vendors will be on site, and Lyles said any vendors interested in setting up at the event should contact Lyles at the number below.

Live performances start at 2 p.m. Saturday, and Lyles said the whole family is invited to enjoy the music, the crowd, trail rides or just sit in the shade.

Admission is $20 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children younger than 6. For more information call 601-392-1030 or visit www.sibleyfestival.com.

“There’s food, family atmosphere, you can watch the rodeo, ride ATVs or go on a trail ride — as many things going on to strike a chord with everyone,” Lyles said.