Hurricane Katrina

Fearless festival

VANCLEAVE - It took an evil storm to create the need for a FearNot Festival but many who'd gathered at The Shed on Saturday said they were glad to drink some beer and finally hear some rare live music in post-Katrina South Mississippi.

"I think any festival that brings Southerners together to try to ward off fear of hurricanes has got to be good," said Kelly Mundell. The Long Beach expatriate said she moved to Vancleave after the storm took her home.

The FearNot Festival was designed to boost morale at the beginning of hurricane season, and to pay homage to those first responders, law enforcement and media who worked during the storm and its aftermath.

Brooke Lewis, an owner of The Shed, said it's time for some comforting here.

"It's basically to bring everybody together because everybody's got fear going into hurricane season 2006, and we're getting people together to tell them that it's going to be okay," Lewis said.

Revelers in lawn chairs listened to the outlaw country sounds of Country Fried while the sun baked the crowd that seemed tranquilized, likely by the thick aroma of The Shed's famous barbecue.

Festival attendees also said South Mississippi has filled its quota for destruction and heartbreak.

"I don't wish it upon anywhere else, but I hope it doesn't come here," Mundell said.

Wayne Johnson of Moss Point sat relaxing in the shade with a positive outlook on the storm season.

"We've lived through the worst. The odds are with us," said Johnson, who recently finished repairs on his home.

For contractor Dwight Peterson of Williamsburg, Va., the festival was a chance to take a break from rebuilding South Mississippi.

"Our loader broke down today, fortunately," Peterson said. "We were going to knock off early anyway for this. This is fun. It's great to get some barbecue."