New Biloxi festival celebrates Coast culture, food, art, music


The city of Biloxi and the Biloxi-Gulfport Black Chamber of Commerce's inaugural Multicultural Heritage and Legacy Festival will be 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Point Cadet Plaza, 100 East First Street.

The Southeast will be represented in the musicians and artists who will give presentations at the festival. Cheryl Bell, director of parks and recreation, said Biloxi's mixed cultural heritage makes it fit for a multicultural festival.

"Biloxi is such a melting pot and I felt we need to celebrate all the cultures," she said. "This is our first event, so everything is at a minimal cost and we have 60 vendors with ethnic foods and arts and crafts. There's a children's village where the artists will be under the tent with the children and will help them make Mother's Day cards."

Entertainment will include international jazz violinist Michael Ward. A longtime resident of New Orleans, Ward studied at Southern University in Baton Rouge. His recordings include the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Blood on the Fields" with Wynton Marsalis and "Hoodoo Moon" with Kenny Neal.

Jazz, rhythm and blues and urban contemporary are all genres associated with the music of D. Saunders and DEI-One, who also will perform. Saunders was recently named the vocalist for the B.B. King All-Stars band in New Orleans. His popular singles include "Move" and "Feelings," both of which received radio airplay locally and are singles from his 2014 LP "The New Old School."

Scottish and Irish bands also will play, and there will be a performance by the Vietnamese Dragon Dancers.

Among the artists represented will be Gullah culture artist Sonja Evans. Evans is a native of Beaufort, S.C. Her paintings use color to depict black culture. She often adds tin, wood and found items to her paintings, which she says are divinely inspired.

Ocean Springs artist Ellen Ellis Lee will share her mixed-media artwork that is inspired by fashion and culture.

Other featured artists and musicians will be jazz saxophonist Kyle Turner, jazz flutist Althea Rene, the Change of Pace blues band, The Little Things and Don Smith.

Wallace Upshaw, entertainment coordinator, said the food court will feature selections Vietnamese, African-American, Italian, Greek, Caribbean, Cajun and Japanese cuisine, as well as Gulf Coast seafood. There will be a Best Ethnic Food contest, also.

Admission is $5 at the gate. A $25 VIP ticket offers a meet and greet with the entertainers.

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