First induction without Delta Music Festival

Published 12:06 am Friday, April 27, 2012

FERRIDAY — When Linda Gail Lewis joins 21 other musical talents in the Delta Music Hall of Fame Saturday, it will mark the first time the ceremony isn’t associated with the Delta Music Festival in a decade.

Since 2002 when Ferriday’s three cousins were first inducted into the Delta Music Hall of Fame, the ceremony has always been part of the Delta Music Festival.

But with a shrinking budget looming over the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, which funds the Delta Music Museum’s operating costs, the festival was just not in the cards this year.

“With how budgets are like they are around us, there’s just not going to be a festival this year,” Director Judith Bingham said. “We’re just waiting to see what happens in the legislature.”

The festival started when the Ferriday museum changed its name to the Delta Music Museum and moved to its current location on Louisiana Avenue.

With that change, the museum also began to fall under the umbrella of the Secretary of State’s Office to fund operating and maintenance costs.

The festival was generally on the first Saturday in April, but moved to September in 2010 due to lack of funding.

Funding for the festival had previously come through a grant that the festival didn’t receive that year, so the museum reached out its hands looking for support in any way it could find.

With the help of the City of Vidalia and several Concordia Parish businesses, the rockabilly tunes went on for one more year.

But this year the Secretary of State’s office is attempting to work with a $70 million budget for all of its operations.

The office is responsible for elections and state archives — along with 15 other museums.

In order to meet a required $1.5 million in savings proposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, all museums except the Old State Capitol in downtown Baton Rouge and the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport would be shut down.

Those two museums alone consume $2.3 million of the $3.9 million museum budget.

But not wanting the hall of fame induction ceremony to disappear as well, Bingham said the museum came up with the idea to host the event at the Ferriday Arcade Theater.

After speaking to the guest of honor, Bingham said having the event while Lewis was already in town would be easier for everyone.

“She tours all over the country and in Europe, so we wanted to have the ceremony while she was already here,” Bingham said. “We have really gotten involved to make this event a success.”

The Delta Music Museum partnered with Brown Books Publishing Group to bring Mickey Gilley, Linda Gail Lewis and Annie Marie Dolan to the Natchez City Auditorium Saturday.

The event will also feature a book signing by J.D. Davis, author of “Unconquered: The Saga of Cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart and Mickey Gilley.”

Davis will sign copies of his book, which all attendees will receive with the purchase of a ticket.

Lewis will be inducted at 8 p.m.

Following the induction ceremony, Lewis and Dolan will perform.

At 9:15, Mickey Gilley will take the stage.

Tickets bought in advance are $25 for general admission and $35 for preferred seating. Tickets bought Saturday will be $30 for general admission and $40 for preferred seating. Tickets can be purchased at the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau, Concordia Parish Chamber of Commerce and Delta Music Museum.

Proceeds of ticket sales will also go to the museum.