Free music festival to grace Jack Waite Park on Easter eve – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

NATCHEZ — The “Harmony in the Park” music festival is coming back to Jack Waite Park, at 9 McCabe St., this Saturday after a two-year hiatus.

Harmony in the Park was the brainchild of local music enthusiast Jack Kelly, who founded the event in 2019. Kelly took no credit for the festival’s return this year.

She said she is thrilled that it is happening again thanks to Greg Everhart, who has experience in the entertainment business from running the Downtown Natchez music venue Locust Alley, and Natchez music producer KeJuane Hawkins.

“They’ve put this whole thing together,” Kelly said. “I didn’t do anything but stir it up. … It’s like having a baby that is grown up. It’s out there in the world, it’s healthy and I think it’s going to make it.”

Kelly’s dream was to have a free music festival of diverse local performers to promote unity in the Natchez community in a little hidden park that some do not recognize is there.

“I planned it out forever before it ever happened,” Kelly said, adding former Mayor Darryl Grennell helped her see it through.

“Darrel was the one that said ‘I love it. Let’s do it,’” she said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen the first time. For the first hour or so we were looking at each other thinking ‘Where are all the people?’ But sure enough, they started to come. We ended up with a wonderful show.”

Kelly said the festival was almost not going to happen after two years of not having it because of COVID-19. Radio Zydeco had already planned to perform here but without anyone to help orchestrate the festival Kelly said she was close to calling them and canceling the whole thing. However, Everhart stepped in and managed to pull together a lineup of performers larger than the inaugural year in just eight weeks, she said.

“It’s going to go on longer and start sooner,” she said.

The music starts at 11 am and lasts until 6:30 pm featuring YZ Ealey, the Alcorn Gospel Choir, Matt Willis Trio, Radio Zydeco, Hawkins and the N Rhythm band and the Kimble Funchess band.

The festivities will also include food and art vendors and will be hosted by Alvin Shelby, a “local hero” who also entertains with piano music at The Kitchen, Everhart said.

“The idea and everything for it was already there,” Everhart said. “I just put together a line-up and made it happen. Unlike other music events I’ve done where we’d try to pull in people from out of town, this is an event for the people of Natchez, so we tried to gather up people from the area.”

Everhart said his hope is that people will show and enjoy a great lineup of free music and “pay a little attention to the message” the festival tries to convey, that Natchez is one community.

“Music is always a good instrument to bring people together,” he said.

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