Magnolia Fest blooms in Okolona

Okolona City Clerk Kim Collins, on left, visited Denver's Closet's booth and talked with business owner Martha Henson at Magnolia Fest in downtown Okolona Saturday morning. The two-day event has grown to be a major summer celebration for the community.(Floyd Ingram / Buy at photos.chickasawjournal.com)

Okolona City Clerk Kim Collins, on left, visited Denver’s Closet’s booth and talked with business owner Martha Henson at Magnolia Fest in downtown Okolona Saturday morning. The two-day event has grown to be a major summer celebration for the community.(Floyd Ingram / Buy at photos.chickasawjournal.com)

OKOLONA – The Magnolia Festival is the summer party for Chickasaw County and was once again be the place to be this weekend.

This year’s event was themed “From Civil War to Civil Rights” and will saw the re-dedication of the Okolona Confederate Cemetery and the unveiling of a Mississippi Historical Marker for Okolona College.

The fun started Friday night in downtown Okolona with the “White Party” a ticketed event featuring the Earl Williams Band.

Saturday dawned with music on the street and vendors selling everything from hamburgers and jewelry to hats and barbecue. There was also a book signing, antiques car show and a fitness obstacle course for the kids.

At 11 a.m. a state historical marker was unveiled at the site of the old Okolona College.

Okolona College, also known as Okolona Industrial School, and Okolona Normal & Industrial School, was a college for African Americans across Northeast Mississippi and the South. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

The school is located on Highway 245 north of the junction with Highway 32 and 41. It is part of the the Okolona College Historic District.

The school was founded in 1902 by Wallace A. Battle, an African American leader in higher education at the turn of the 19th century.

A number of campus buildings were constructed at the college over the years, including Abbott Hall, McDougall Hall, the Vocational Agriculture Building and the T.D. Bratton Memorial Dormitory.

A gazebo and the ruins of a dormitory were all that were left of the site for years. Brick piers mark the three campus entrances. A neon sign, seen in many graduate photos of the time, once marked the north entrance.

Saturday night the Okolona Confederate Cemetery saw re-dedication ceremonies start at 8 p.m.

There are more than 785 known Confederate graves in the Okolona Confederate Cemetery, making it one of the largest Civil War cemeteries in the state.

Okolona held a ceremony at the cemetery to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Okolona on Feb. 22, 1864.

Work to renovate the cemetery began more than two years ago with volunteers cleaning gravestones. Landscaping at the cemetery entrance and the removal of old trees and hedge has also been completed.

The Okolona Cemetery steering committee embarked on a fundraising drive to finance the project.

Members of the Okolona Confederate Cemetery Steering Committee were: Andy Anderson, Murry Blankenship, Estelle Ivy, Martha Gordon, Perry Grubbs, Jerry Morgan, Justin Sullivan, Larry Davis, Bill Stewart, Jonathan Carter, Louise Cole, Don Houston and Kevin Thornton.

Entertainers slated to perform downtown at the Magnolia Festival were:

• Partlow Drummers.

• Porshia Harden.

• Kevin Waide Project.

• Groove Cunningham.

• Kevin Thornton

• Eddie Cotton, Jr.

• Logan.

For more information to secure booth space for next year’s Magnolia Festival, call Okolona City Hall at 447-5461.

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