Soul Sessions Podcast: Rev. Chris Cumbest and Kathy Clem Talk WellsFest

On today's show the Reverend Chris Cumbest, pastor at Wells United Methodist Church, and Kathy Clem, the Executive Director of the Good Samaritan Center, talk to us about WellsFest, the annual family friendly festival held each September in Jamie Fowler Boyll Park.

After a year off and a year virtual, Cumbest says they're excited to bring this annual tradition back in person.

A man plays a saxophone and another plays a guitar
Raphael Semmes (right) is a stalwart performer at WellsFest
Credit: Greg Campbell

Chris and Kathy talk with Soul Sessions host Paul Wolf in today's episode.

IN THIS EPISODE:

WellsFest | Good Samaritan Center

Listen to Rev. Cumbest and Clem on Soul Sessions

Transcript:

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Paul: This is Soul Sessions, conversations on culture from Jackson, Mississippi. I'm your host, Paul Wolf, bringing you a look at the people, the places and the events that make us the City With Soul. On today's show the Reverend Chris Cumbest, pastor at Wells United Methodist Church, and Kathy Clem, the Executive Director of the Good Samaritan Center, talk to us about WellsFest, the annual family friendly festival held each September in Jamie Fowler Boyll Park. After a year off and a year virtual, Cumbest says they're excited to bring this annual tradition back in person.

(Music) We're the City With Soul. We're the City With Soul.

Paul:
Welcome. Reverend Chris Cumbest and Kathy Clem. Thank you both so much for being here.

Kathy:
Hey there, Paul.

Chris:
Thanks for having us.

Paul:
A big event coming up for Wells United Methodist Church. It's called WellsFest and it's at Jamie Fowler Boyll Park. Tell me a little bit about how long WellsFest has been going on. I can't imagine if you've never been to WellsFest, but maybe you just give me a quick rundown, a little history, and a little bit about what we find there at WellsFest.

Chris:
Sure. WellsFest has been going on for 38 years, is how long it's been going on. It began kind of small, as a thank you gift from Malcolm White to Reverend Keith Tonkel who had done his wedding and would not take any gift for that. So Malcolm said, "Well, we'll just do a little festival for you to help with your building fund." Maybe the first year, Keith allowed that, but then it became an opportunity to give back to the community.

Since then, we've been partnering with nonprofit organizations and other groups to help support our community. It offers a great music festival to the community, as well. So, it's a gift of music. Admission is free, to come in and listen to a lot of our wonderful local artists and musicians who come and donate their time and energy to this festival, but also to come and share a lot of fun, a lot of life together. This will be our 38th year, and we're excited about being back in the park this year. We had one year off, and then we did it virtually last year, so we're excited to be back in the park.

Paul:
It was a challenge during COVID, but back at Jamie Fowler Boyll Park with an art sale, plant sale, food, kids activities, lots of music, and an art auction is part of this, too, right?

Chris:
That would be on Tuesday night, September the 20, we'll be having the Art Night at Duling Hall. Along with that, there's opportunities to view that. There will be a bidding that we learned from last year, that we can do some things online and gain some momentum. So, the art will be on our website, and if you want to see the piece live, it will be there. What a gift it is for the artists who help contribute to that. There's some wonderful pieces. We've been putting them on our Facebook page this past week or so, just letting people see what's out there.

Paul:
One of the things that I think really resonates about WellsFest is that it is family-friendly. No alcohol, no drugs. It's just an easy ,clean festival to bring everyone, from the children all the way up to the grandparents, and enjoy a day of music, art, food, and fun.

Chris:
We do have a children's area, and there's inflatable stuff and craft stuff to do. We're adding a few things this year for a little bit older children. We're excited to be back and to doing that and continue that, as well. Always, also, WellsFest offers a wonderful opportunity for people to volunteer, and we on our website have an opportunity for you to sign up. Certainly, we are open to if you're needing service hours for that, we can certainly help accommodate that, as well.

Paul:
Yeah. Kathy Clem is here with us too. Her charity, Good Samaritan Center, being the feature charity, the benefactor this year from WellsFest. You all have had a history of supporting local organizations. Why is it so important to make that a component of the festival?

Chris:
It does several things. It helps raise awareness of a lot of those agencies and nonprofits that we continue to support throughout the years. It gives people an awareness of their ministries, their opportunities. We're excited about the Good Samaritan Center. They've been partners with us before, and it's kind of a win-win thing, Paul, for all of us to be able to share together in promoting what's good in our community and what's helpful for others. Good Samaritan's been giving to us and are helping our food distribution, so we're helping them with some resource to help create a place to store more so that they can be better about sending that out. Kathy can tell you more about all of those things.

Paul:
Yeah. Kathy, speaking of which I know that having partners in the community so important to Good Samaritan Center. What does this partnership this year mean for you all?

Kathy:
Well, it's a lot of things, but mainly it's about funding for a really amazing program that we started during COVID called Hub for the Hungry, a collaboration to rescue food. Food is being thrown away, good food, all over the city, all over the state. Since the beginning of COVID, we're talking about 4 million pounds of food, which is over 3 million meals. That's a lot of food that would have gone into the landfills, and instead we were able to feed a lot of struggling, food insecure people. What we do with some other partners is we rescue it, and then store it temporarily, and then we give it back out to organizations that are helping either through soup kitchens or food pantries, different churches, different organizations, different nonprofits. We want to make sure that food's not thrown away and that people aren't hungry.

Paul:
Kathy, that's an amazing program that I know you all put a lot of heart and soul into. Chris, let's switch gears just a little bit here, and find out from you about your favorite places in Jackson. If you had 24 hours to show off your city, the City With Soul, where would you take your family and friends? What would you do?

Chris:
That's a good question. I commonly get to do that with my kids when they come in from Atlanta. We spend a good bit of time in Fondren. We're excited about the new things that are happening there, as well. The museums are incredible. The Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of History have just been incredible additions. And the Museum of Art, been there an awful lot. One of our other partners that we share with, Ministry Operation Shoestring, always does a wonderful event there that's great to share with.

Then, just the area. Last Lent, we spent time walking the trails around. There's some good trails here in town that are able to be used, for those who like to get outside and walk and do those sorts of things. Wonderful restaurants, both downtown and around the city that you have an opportunity to participate in. I would probably be remiss if I don't mention Hal & Mai's in this conversation, with the wonderful music that takes place there is where we commonly go, as well.

Paul:
All right, Chris, let me ask you this question. Jackson, Mississippi is a special place. I think you show that in the care that you have for the community here, but I want to know in your own words, what makes Jackson special to you?

Chris:
It's a City With Soul. Certainly, we've endured some struggles here of late, but yet there's incredible opportunity. It's our capital city and there's so much diversity here in this community, which is important to me, and I think to us as a state. It's a neat place to be, and to live, and to share life together.

Paul:
We'll put links to WellsFest and the Good Samaritan Center in our show notes. Reverend Chris Cumbest and Kathy Clem from the Good Samaritan Center, thank you so much for being here.

Chris:
And thank you.

Kathy:
Thank you for having us.

Chris:
And thanks, Visit Jackson.

Paul:
Soul Sessions is a production of VisitJackson. Our executive producers are Jonathan Pettus and Dr. Ricky Thigpen. To learn more about our organization and mission, head to visitjackson.com. I'm Paul Wolf, and you've been listening to Soul Sessions.

(Music) My City

Paul Wolf

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Paul Wolf