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Preserving The Black Fife and Drum Culture in Coldwater

For 73 years, people in North Mississippi have been going to the Goat Picnic for goat sandwiches, music, dancing, and one of the rarest and most endangered forms of Black music, fife and drum. When the late Otha Turner started sponsoring the picnic, it was primarily for the residents of the rural Gravel Springs community where he lived, but over the years, the event has grown larger and has attracted people from all over the world. Now held in the nearby town of Coldwater in Tate County, the Goat Picnic still has goat sandwiches, and two nights of the best blues North Mississippi has to offer.

This year featured most of the bigger names in Hill Country blues, including Cedric Burnside (who was being followed around by a film crew making a documentary), Kinney Kimbrough, Duwayne and Garry Burnside, Little Joe Ayers, Kenny Brown and Luther Dickinson. Between the stage acts, Sharde Thomas and her Rising Star Fife and Drum band marched and played their traditional fife and drum music through the assembled crowd. Toward the end of the night, there were dancers all around the stage.

Afterwards, some of us headed just up the block to Red’s BBQ and Blues, which fortunately had stayed open late. When we informed them that others from the picnic were coming, they were gracious enough to stay open and receive them. Red’s has great food, and it was a satisfying ending to an epic evening.

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