A Legacy of Celebration

Two hundred years of the City With Soul is something to celebrate, and with a calendar chock-full of exciting events throughout the city, we’re looking forward to a full year of fun!

JSU’s marching band, Sonic Boom of the South, performs during Jackson Bicentennial’s kickoff celebration at Thalia Mara Hall. Image: Drew Dempsey

Festivals, parades and exciting events throughout the year are nothing new around here; we’ve been home to some of the most remarkable events in the region for years. You’re invited to get into the spirit of Jackson, Mississippi by joining us as we celebrate 200 years of the City With Soul at one of these tried-and-true events, where a good time is guaranteed.

A group of colorful parade revelers and participants
Hal's St. Paddy's Parade

Hal's St. Paddy's Parade - MARCH

When Malcolm White started the St. Paddy’s Parade in the 1980s, he had no idea it would become Jackson’s premier springtime event.

From a group of friends strolling down Capitol Street dressed like characters from their favorite Tennessee Williams plays to thousands of attendees flocking to party in downtown Jackson, St. Paddy’s has taken on a life of its own in our city.

Every year, participants don colorful outfits and decorate magnificent floats and march through the streets of Jackson in a jubilant celebration that is part Mardi Gras, part St. Patrick’s Day, part tailgate and block party, and wholly Jackson, Mississippi. After the parade, everybody is invited to Hal & Mal’s - where it all began - for a festival and party featuring live music.

“When I moved here in 1983, Jackson felt like an empty canvas, so I started throwing stuff at the wall,” explains White, who had the wild idea to start a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “Word spread, and we started at CS’s downtown. It was on a Thursday during rush hour, and people going home from work were not happy.”

That year, White’s friend, Jill Conner Browne, decided she would be a “Sweet Potato Queen.”

“She completely made it up,” he says. “She and her friends bought old prom dresses and tiaras and started handing out sweet potatoes.”

Now, the Sweet Potato Queens® are a longstanding Jackson tradition, with people coming from all over the country - and world - decked out in full costumes for the parade.

The Hal’s St. Paddy’s Parade has become more than just a wild hair, but a Jackson mainstay.

halsstpaddysparade.com

A man in sunglasses and straw hat plays a keyboard
Wellsfest. Image: Greg Campbell

Wellsfest - SEPTEMBER

The city’s longest-running festival started as a small afternoon of music drummed up by, once again, Malcolm White.

“I had gotten married at Wells Church and the pastor, Keith Tonkel, refused to let me pay him for officiating,” says White. “At the time, the church was raising money to renovate the sanctuary. The only thing I knew how to do was run bars and restaurants and put on events.”

So, to thank Tonkel, White decided to host a festival – WellsFest.

Today, WellsFest is one of the city’s premier fall events featuring live music and family fun at Jackson’s Jamie Fowler Boyll Park in LeFleur East. The alcohol-free event features world-class musicians - many from Jackson - fun and games for children, a delicious offering of food options, and over 50 of the best craft and art vendors in Mississippi at the Wellsfest Vendors Village. Don’t miss out on the popular silent auction that features fantastic prizes from local merchants, restaurants, and hotels.

This year, Good Samaritan Center is the beneficiary. And, it’s free to attend.

wellschurch.org

A group of revelers sit at blue tables with tall buildings in the background
Farish Street celebrations. Image: Drew Dempsey

Farish Street Heritage Festival - SEPTEMBER

For over 40 years, the Farish Street Heritage Festival has welcomed visitors to historic Farish Street. This African American community festival celebrates the Jackson community and the past, present and future of the Farish Street Historic District.

Once the economic hub for Jackson’s African American community in its heyday, Farish Street was lined with five and dime stores, dress shops, florists, doctors’ offices, restaurants, a movie theater, churches, and more.

Now, the Farish Street legacy not only lives on but is celebrated at the Farish Street Heritage Festival each fall. Attendees can hear music by national, regional and local performers on three stages. Enjoy arts and crafts, a Kiddy Cottage for children and, of course, hearty helpings of soul food and other cultural delicacies.

farishstreetheritagefestival.com

A colorful retail display with reindeer, a shirt and books
Mistletoe Marketplace

Mistletoe Marketplace - NOVEMBER

For 41 years, Mistletoe Marketplace has served as the Southeast’s premier holiday shopping event, often referred to as the official kick-off of the season.

Presented by the Junior League of Jackson, Mistletoe Marketplace brings nearly 30,000 shoppers to the Mississippi State Fairgrounds and raises funds to support dozens of the league’s community projects.

Each year, league members tend to outdo themselves with breathtaking decorations and a wide array of unique merchants, but in 1980, it was just an idea coming to life. The power of women coming together to make something truly magical happen was on full display, with Mistletoe Marketplace Chairman Renda McGowan at the helm.

The first year, everything was do-it-yourself for the league’s ladies, with no corporate sponsors and a small decorating budget.

Today, Mistletoe Marketplace is a shopper’s delight with events and merchants galore and a long and growing list of corporate sponsors. Thanks to Mistletoe Marketplace, the Junior League of Jackson regularly returns over $1 million to their impactful community projects throughout the Jackson area.

“For the last 42 years, shoppers at Mistletoe Marketplace have helped the Junior League of Jackson raise over $21 million to support the mission of the League and fund community projects,” says Katie Lightsey Browning, 2021-2022 JLJ President. “Over 150 merchants from all across the country come together to showcase their unique and exclusive products to over 30,000 shoppers that attend each year. Mistletoe Marketplace draws a captive and loyal base of attendees who spend millions of dollars each year. In addition to shopping, Mistletoe Marketplace provides fun and exciting special events for all ages!”

mistletoemarketplace.com

a young woman in a winged costume
Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree. Image: McMurtray Photography

Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree - DECEMBER

The Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree is as historic as the neighborhood that serves as its backdrop.

What began in 1933 is now widely considered the world’s oldest outdoor singing Christmas tree tradition. Approaching 90 years of spreading cheer, the Belhaven Singing Christmas tree is one of the historic neighborhood and Belhaven University’s most beloved traditions. It all started as a small, informal gathering for students and faculty of Belhaven College.

They would gather to watch Belhaven music professor Mignonne Caldwell’s choir sing in the formation of a Christmas tree. Realizing the appeal, Caldwell moved the event outdoors and a wooden Christmas tree frame for the choir was constructed by engineer C.V. McLain.

Since its humble beginnings, the tree frame has grown taller, candles were swapped for LED lights, and the number of carolers multiplied.

Today, over 1,000 people bring blankets and chairs to witness one of the country’s oldest Christmas traditions on Friday and Saturday, the first weekend of December. Performances are free and open to the public in the Belhaven Bowl Stadium.

“This annual event has become a family tradition to kick off the Christmas season and we are honored to present this gift to our community,” says Tim Walker, Director of Choral Arts at Belhaven University. “Mississippians and those from surrounding states make the pilgrimage every year to see this special performance.”

belhaven.edu