- This article by Amy George appeared in the August 17 issue of the Deer Creek Pilot
Even though the courthouse square will be fenced off, temporary county and city offices will take up a lot of the former vendor space, and most of downtown has been demolished—the show will go on.
“Rolling Fork needs a festival,” said Bear Affair Co-Chair and Lower Delta Partnership Director Meg Cooper. “We need something positive to look forward to. We need something to celebrate. So, we decided to move ahead with the Great Delta Bear Affair.”
The theme is fitting: “Bearly Here but Building Back.”
And the planning committee decided that part of building back means going back to the foundations. “We decided that we wanted to go back to our roots and invite some of the original artists that helped us get where we are,” said Cooper. “A lot of people suggested that we take advantage of the disaster and invite a big act. But Rolling Fork doesn’t have the capacity to handle that right now.”
Already, there is a great line-up taking shape for the October 28th festival. The entertainment roster so far includes country rocker, Walker Wilson, who performed on The Voice. Wilson’s grandparents are from Sharkey County, and he grew up attending the Great Delta Bear Affair. Keith Johnson, great nephew of hometown Blues legend Muddy Waters will be back with his classic Blues’ sound. Everybody’s favorite Elvis, Tim Johnson, will be on stage. And Crescent Circus, who appeared for the first time last year, will be back with a new act. “There will be entertainment from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.,” promised Cooper.
There will be activities for kids, including blow-up playhouses and slides, and an art tent. Freedom Ranch wildlife outreach and education center from Purvis will present their Animal Outlaw show. And there will be Mound Tours as well.
Although the committee is going back to the basics, there will be some exciting venue changes. The Bear Bash and Silent Auction, which is always held the Thursday before the Bear Affair will take place at Mt. Helena. A portion of auction proceeds will go toward tornado recovery, as will the $5 Bear Affair admission fee.
The Friday conservation education day for fourth graders will take place at the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge Complex Visitor’s Center, near Onward. “They allow partner organizations to use the center from time to time and it will be a wonderful opportunity for students to see the center,” said Cooper. She said the usual conservation organizations will be present to give educational presentations.
“We usually limit the education day to no more than 400, but we will have to limit it even more this year,” she said.
There will be other challenges, as well.
“We are remaining flexible because it’s hard to know what downtown will look like at the end of October–but we are having the festival downtown,” said Cooper. “There is a lot of empty space.”
The main concern of the planning committee is having electricity available to power the stage and the sound system.
“We have talked to Entergy and we hope to have one pole up and connected,” said Cooper. “We are telling all our vendors to be prepared to have generators,” she said. “We plan to set up a food court away from the stage, so the generators aren’t too bothersome.”
There won’t be a dog show. And for safety reasons, there won’t be fireworks either.
But what there will be is “Bear Repair.”
“Dayton Scoggins (the chainsaw bear carver) came through here last week on his way to a carving competition in Arkansas,” said Cooper. “He went around town and looked at the bears and said they can all be repaired.”
Scoggins will arrive early in the week of the Great Delta Bear Affair and begin his repairs of all the downtown bears.
A fitting sign of hope for this resilient little Delta town.
The Great Delta Bear Affair is still seeking festival sponsors and vendor applications. Contact greatdeltabearaffair.org if you are interested.