Weekend Ticket: Longwood Afternoon rocks Saturday

Published 12:16 am Thursday, November 2, 2017


NATCHEZ — Southern rock and blues may not be the first thing visitors think of when visiting Natchez, but Lou Ellen Stout thinks it should be.

This Saturday, Stout plans to showcase Natchez’s burgeoning appetite for deep-South music at the third-annual Longwood Afternoon community music festival.

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“Natchez is, to me, a music capital of Mississippi,” Stout said. “We have musicians from all walks of life. Natchez produces a lot of talented people.”

The event will feature six live bands, a petting zoo for children, a cornhole tournament with cash prizes, various food vendors from around Natchez and craft vendors selling homemade wares, all on the 90-acre grounds of the antebellum house Longwood.

This year’s music lineup includes Natchez natives as well as artists from around the region with event’s headliner, Bishop Gunn.

Doors open at 10 a.m., but the music starts at 11 with the  Vidalia-native band, Easily Distracted. The entry fee is $25 per-car, regardless of the number of attendees in the vehicle.

Sammy Qadan, Clay Parker & Jodi James, The Anteeks and Magnolia Bayou will play throughout the day before Bishop Gunn takes the stage at 5:30 p.m.

Stout said charging per-car instead of per-person allows families to come out together for a fun afternoon for an affordable price.

This year’s slogan for the event mirrors the aspirations of its founders, Stout and Katie Freiberger: “We aren’t Woodstock yet, but we are working on it.”

The festival’s first iteration in 2015 drew a crowd of 200 people. The 2016 event rose to approximately 600. This year, Stout said, she hopes to triple the number of attendees again.

Freiberger, who first had the idea for a music festival at Longwood in 2014, said the event was designed to draw attention to Natchez’s antebellum houses while highlighting local artists.

“Katie approached me and said, ‘What do you think of having music at Longwood?’” Stout said. “I was really excited. What better way to make people aware of these properties here in Natchez?”

Freiberger, a member of the Pilgrimage Garden Club which owns Longwood, said she was “looking for modern uses of the property” when the idea for a music festival was conceived.

“The goal was to get people on the grounds to see these Natchez treasures,” she said. “You’ve got to use these houses.”

And the effort has worked, she said.

Freiberger said people who have lived in Natchez their whole lives without visiting the antebellum houses often come to Longwood Afternoon.

“It’s just a great party,” she said. “We have so much heritage here. So many different influences. We want to develop it as much as we can.”

Stout said a contributor to the popularity of the event is the success of the local band Bishop Gunn.

“We’ve known everybody in Bishop Gunn since they’ve started,” Stout said. “We’re blessed to have them again but they’re just coming home.”

All the artists, Stout said, are musicians recommended to them by someone in Natchez or from friends around the South.

“They’re awesome, everyone here is awesome,” she said.

As the festival has grown, Freiberger said she and other coordinators have added more and more musicians and vendors and improved sound equipment for the stage.

The number of art vendors, Stout said, has also grown.

Approximately 15 vendors are signed up to attend the festival as of Wednesday, Stout said, selling items ranging from bottle art to pottery and jewelry.

The star of the event, however, is still Longwood, Stout said.

“You hear about Longwood and Rosalie and Stanton Hall, but you go and experience the richness of the treasures we have in Natchez, and it’s breathtaking,” Stout said. “You see the stage and Longwood in the background — it’s just beautiful.”