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Star shine can chase away winter doldrums in South Mississippi

MARTINA McBRIDE
MARTINA McBRIDE

Carnival season has begun. And for those in South Mississippi looking for even more occasions to dress up or get out on the town, the entertainment schedule into spring is packed with laughs, sports and music acts old and new.

"I think we're going to have a very good year here at the Coliseum," said Matt McDonnell, executive director of the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center. In addition to the schedule already posted, McDonnell said his staff is finalizing the entertainment lineup for the Crawfish Festival in April and plans three announcements this month for concerts coming in the spring.

Cowboys and cowgirls will be in town Jan. 20-23 to compete in the rodeo finals and for the first time, "Cowboys & Country Music" concerts are part of the rodeo. When the cowpokes are done riding, a stage will drop down from the ceiling and the music will start -- at no extra charge. Finding Favour will kick it off Jan. 21, followed by Jon Pardi, Brothers Osborne, Rend Collective and Dan + Shay, nominees for best vocal duo for a 2015 Country Music Award.

It's hard to get more diverse than the schedule at the Coliseum through April, with Hoopsfest, a beer fest, monster trucks, boats and sci-fi on the way.

Concerts coming to South Mississippi casinos and music venues are just as eclectic.

Did you miss seeing Arlo Guthrie and The Moody Blues back in the day? Arlo is bringing his Alice's Restaurant 50th anniversary tour to the IP Casino and The Moody Blues will no doubt sing "Nights in White Satin" at the Beau Rivage.

In a blues mood? The Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight, will be in the house at the Beau Rivage and a mellow crowd will be at the Coliseum for the Southern Soul & Blues right before Valentine's Day.

Jay Leno and Vicki Lawrence & Mama will provide some laughs and a free Asian show at Golden Nugget Biloxi or the Peking Acrobats at the IP Casino will add a twist to Coast nightlife.

Ready for some baseball? "We'll get a Major League game this year," said Overtime Sports president Tim Bennett, who manages MGM Park in Biloxi. The Milwaukee Brewers will swing by Biloxi on Saturday, April 2, for the first baseball match-up with the AA Shuckers ahead of Biloxi's April 7 season opener. Some of the former Shuckers players who were called up at the end of last season could be back at MGM Park as Brewers, Bennett said.

It was quite a first season for the Shuckers and the stadium, which also hosted the Cruisin' The Coast salute to veterans with the Beach Boys and the governor; Hurricane Katrina anniversary events; prize fights; a Flo Rida hop-hop concert; and fireworks shows.

"What we intended from the beginning was to make the park a place where the coastal community could all gather in one place for entertainment and sports," Bennett said. In addition to the Shuckers' games, high school and regional college baseball teams will compete at the stadium. Bennett said they are working on booking concerts, including a Youth Symphony Orchestra show in early July.

"It's going to be an eventful year," he said.

Emily Burke, spokeswoman for IP Casino Resort, said the schedule is released as tickets go on sale about two or three months out. "We have a lot more announcements coming," she said.

Harrah's Gulf Coast is preparing for another concert series on The Great Lawn this year.

"Right now, we're looking at what artists are available," said Shay Smith, marketing director. Last year, Kenny Rogers, Kellie Pickler and Lee Greenwood were among the performers who took the stage as their fans found a spot on the lawn at the edge of the water and enjoyed the music and a cold drink as the sun set.

"That's what the Coast is all about," Smith said. People came from across the Gulf Coast and the South to experience it, filling the hotel rooms and boosting the economy.

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