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Today is June 4, 2020

Celebrate FestivalSouth

Mississippi’s only multi-genre, multi-week arts festival celebrates 10 years!

By Sandra M. Buckley

Celebrate FestivalSouth

“FestivalSouth is one of the leading cultural tourist attractions, regularly drawing guests from every state and internationally.” —Mike Lopinto, Ph.D., FestivalSouth artistic director

What’s in a name? The name “FestivalSouth” calls to mind a celebration of Southern culture. And, that’s exactly the goal of FestivalSouth, the premier cultural arts event that pays tribute to the rich artistic talent and heritage of Mississippi and the South. 

“FestivalSouth is the only multi-genre, multi-week arts festival in Mississippi,” said Mike Lopinto, Ph.D., FestivalSouth’s artistic director. “This year, in just over two weeks, nearly 70 events of all types aimed at multiple audiences are planned. There is literally something for everyone.” 

Held each summer throughout the Hattiesburg area, FestivalSouth is celebrating its 10th anniversary season this June 8-22. Tens of thousands of people will embrace the ultimate opportunity to experience vast genres of art that span across music, theater, film, dance, artwork, photography and much more. Created to provide unmatched access to an extraordinary caliber of performers and talent, FestivalSouth aims to entertain and spark wondrous curiosity in everyone, of every age, with a host of free and ticketed events. 

This one-of-kind festival sets Mississippi apart in the region, allowing the Pine Belt to continue to establish itself as a premier arts destination in the Gulf South. Each year, it attracts around 20,000 attendees, and it is ideal for a family summer vacation destination or a simple day trip. “FestivalSouth is one of the leading cultural tourist attractions, regularly drawing guests from every state and internationally,” Lopinto added. 

“If someone appreciates any genre of the arts, they will be able to find it at FestivalSouth,” said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker. “Hattiesburg has always possessed this acute awareness and appreciation for the arts, and I believe that is heavily influenced by our two universities, The University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University. Both cultivate new talent every year, and a major byproduct of their work is a stronger appreciation for the arts.”

Echoing that sentiment, Lopinto added, “The rich arts culture nurtured in our two universities and fostered throughout the community makes the Pine Belt uniquely situated to produce the quantity and quality of events that we do year round. FestivalSouth is just the showcase of these rich cultural offerings.” 

Presented by the Hattiesburg Concert Association, and supported by the Mississippi Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, FestivalSouth takes place at venues across the Pine Belt. “From local coffee shops and churches to the Mannoni Performing Arts Center and the Saenger Theatre, we perform in venues in both Forrest and Lamar counties,” Lopinto said. 

On any given day during FestivalSouth, live music is on tap, ranging from string quartets and orchestral chamber music masterpieces to blues, jazz and rock to traditional bagpipes, world-renowned pianists and almost everything in between. FestivalCoffee is a popular morning time series hosted in local cafes that entertains guests with numbers “from Broadway to Celtic music and beyond,” said Lopinto. “These have become quite popular and draw standing room only crowds to enjoy their morning coffee and great music.” 

Much more than music is in store, with an incredible lineup of other events, such as contemporary dance and choreography; art and photography exhibits; a 5K supporting the Hub City Service Dogs charity; and the inaugural 2019 FestivalSouth World Championship Golf Classic charity tournament.

Additionally, theatrical performances are proven crowd favorites every year, from Shakespeare classics to grand productions. “Professional, large-scale musicals have been a part of FestivalSouth each year,” said Lopinto. “This year is no exception as the Hub City Players, the area’s professional theatre company, presents ‘Sister Act.’ Elaborate set, costumes, singing, dancing and a full orchestra make this a not-to-be-missed event.”

The Hub City also transforms into a hub of film activity, complete with film screenings, competitions, directors, producers and actors. “The FestivalSouth Film Expo showcases independent film making, particularly those with Mississippi ties,” said Lopinto. Known as FSFX, its opening night is a spectacular rendition of a Hollywood-style red carpet event. 

This year’s FSFX theme is a tribute to Mississippi’s own, Elvis Presley. “We are particularly excited for the Music in the Movie series featuring homegrown artists like Elvis and B.B. King,” said Lopinto. “Elvis will be featured in two of his most notable films, ‘King Creole’ and ‘Viva Las Vegas,’ while B.B. King will be showcased in the much-lauded documentary about his career.” The series will also include showings of fan-favorite films such as “Purple Rain,” “The Dark Crystal,” “All That Jazz” and “This is Spinal Tap,” and some with live orchestra accompaniment.

FestivalSouth offers children’s activities with numerous fun, interactive opportunities, including exploring dance, acting and learning about music and instruments from around the world. And, FestivalZ engages teens with events such as acting and film school; the chance to dance and perform in a music video; and a live music talent showcase.

The FestivalSouth grand finale will feature legendary singing sensation Linda Eder, who will once again join the FestivalOrchestra for an unforgettable evening. “Linda Eder is a Broadway legend that sold out the Saenger several seasons ago,” said Lopinto, adding that she draws tourists from across the country to Hattiesburg for the rare opportunity to hear her sing. 

FestivalSouth is truly a unique event in – and for – Mississippi. Now in its 10th year, it continues to grow and expand through showcasing world-class cultural arts to Mississippians and tourists – with a legacy that will live on in those who have been a part of the memorable experience.   

“It’s amazing that we blinked and it’s 10 years later!” added Lopinto. “Each year, FestivalSouth has gained momentum, reaching more and more people and involving more and more participants. The success lies in the generous populous of artists and arts lovers in the Pine Belt – they are what the festival celebrates and showcases to the world.” 


Visit for more information, including the full event schedule and how to get involved. 


Make Your Mark: The Mississippi High School Drawing Competition

“Like the host of wonderful events organized for FestivalSouth, this exhibition serves to enrich our community and celebrate the arts and artistic excellence of students from across the state.” —Mark Rigsby, The University of Southern Mississippi 


In conjunction with FestivalSouth’s celebration of the arts, Hattiesburg’s University of Southern Mississippi hosts a statewide art contest and exhibit called “Make Your Mark: The Mississippi High School Drawing Competition.” 

“Our main goal is to recognize the creativity, artistic talent and drawing skills of high school students from across the state,” said Mark Rigsby, associate professor in art and design and museum director at the university. “This show gives them an opportunity to exhibit their work in a formal gallery setting and compete for cash awards. This show also pays tribute to arts education in Mississippi and the hard work and dedication of art teachers across the state.”   

The annual competition is open to all high school sophomores and juniors who will be juniors and seniors the following year. Up to 70 original drawings are selected in mediums that include charcoal, graphite, ink wash, marker, pen and ink, pencil, mixed media and scratchboard. “There is such a wide range of talent and skill showcased by this exhibition, from beautifully detailed representational portraits and illustrations to highly expressive abstract works of art,” said Rigsby.

The exhibit runs from June 3 through August 24 in the university’s Gallery of Art and Design. “All the drawings are hung on gallery walls and formally displayed with consideration for lighting and individual labels for each work,” Rigby said. “This is not your typical high school art exhibition.”

These young, budding artists represent all areas of Mississippi, with past participants from Batesville, Beaumont, Brookhaven, Clarksdale, Cleveland, Collinsville, Columbia, Crawford, Fulton, Gulfport, Grenada, Hattiesburg, Heidelberg, Jayess, Laurel, Leland, Liberty, Madison, Meridian, Natchez, Ocean Springs, Olive Branch, Oxford, Pascagoula, Richton, Taylorsville, Tupelo, Vicksburg, West Point and more.

“Each year, I am truly amazed by all the works submitted for the show,” added Rigsby. “We have so many talented, creative and artistic students in Mississippi.”   

The exhibit and the gallery are free and open to the public, Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Call 601-266-6788 for more information. 

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