Festival of Music hosting annual fundraiser

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, February 3, 2015

NATCHEZ The Natchez Festival of Music hopes to draw more Natchezians to their 25th anniversary celebration with changes to their annual fundraiser.

Each February, the festival hosts an event to raise funds in support of the upcoming season. Though the event is typically a cocktail party on Valentine’s Day, this year the event will be a seated dinner at the Carriage House Restaurant.

“With the 25th anniversary we thought it would be fun to have a dinner,” Event Chairwomen Stephanie Butts said.

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The festival hopes to attract more people to the event with the seated dinner, said Chairman of the Board Mary Lessley. The group has also reduced the ticket price in hopes that more people in the community will be able to support their event.

“We want to offer opportunities to everybody and are encouraging younger people to come,” Butts said.

The seated dinner will still have a Valentine’s theme with the title “Love in Bloom!,” but the focus of the event will be on the festival’s 25th anniversary, Lessley said.

The event will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday and will feature a cash bar, a three-course meal prepared by Chef Bingo Starr, two auctions and live entertainment by Grammy-award winning tenor Robert Grayson, Jonathan Ray and Crystal Morris.

Though the live auction that features tax-deductible vacation packages has been a part of the fundraiser for some time, the silent auction adds a new element to the event.

The silent auction will feature the works of 20 local artists who have donated items to the event. The pieces of art will be a variety of items, including pottery, jewelry, wooden bowls, acrylics, watercolor and more.

The festival hopes having two auctions will generate more interest from the community and increase its overall profit to $25,000, Lessley said.

“The silent auction will be a tremendous asset for this event,” Lessley said.

Proceeds from the fundraiser aid in covering artists’ salaries, venues, sets, costumes, orchestra, rentals and travel and business expenses, Butts said.

Depending on what events the festival offers, the group spends nearly $150,000 each year, Lessley said.

“If citizens in the Miss-Lou area want this type of exposure (to the arts) for their children and grandchildren for another 25 years, they need to support every event,” Lessley said.

Butts and Lessley encourage those who wish to attend the event to purchase tickets by Wednesday, as the seated dinner is limited to 120 people and Starr needs a headcount for food preparation.

Tickets are $75 — $40 of which is tax deductible — each and can be purchased at the Natchez Pilgrimage Tours office or by calling 601-446-6631.

Tickets for the upcoming Natchez Festival of Music season, including tickets to this year’s signature event, will also be available at the fundraiser.

The signature event features The Best of the Mississippi Blues: An Evening of Robert Johnson with Vashti Jackson on Saturday, May 9.

The festival will take place from May 2 to May 23.