The second annual “I’ll Be Home for Christmas Festival” in Clarksdale and Coahoma County will have similar events to its inaugural year, but everything will be bigger and better than ever. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas Festival” founder Josephine Rhymes expressed those very sentiments.
“We want to do these things again, but we want to do them bigger,” she said.
The festival will run after Thanksgiving and continue with events throughout November and December. “It’s an event to bring unity and joy and happiness and satisfy all ages,” Rhymes said.
The festival cost a total of $20,000 in 2022. Rhymes said she is hoping to raise $25,000 for the 2023 festival. A total of $14,000 has already been raised for this year’s festival, with the Clarksdale Board of Mayor and Commissioners contributing $5,000, the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors contributing $3,000, and Visit Clarksdale (also known as the Coahoma County Tourism Board) contributing $6,000. The Crossroads Economic Partnership, also known as the Chamber of Commerce, holds all of the money.
“All of our funds are deposited with the Chamber, and we draw money out through requisitions to the Chamber,” Rhymes said. “We take our bills to them and then they pay it.”
Rhymes came up with the idea of bringing the “I’ll Be Home for Christmas Festival” to Coahoma County when she was in Paris. Her daughter, Tarra Slack, also the City of Clarksdale Director of Personnel, Safety, and Marketing, encouraged her to start the festival.
“I’ve been to Paris to one year and saw all the lights right before Christmas,” Rhymes said. “I saw all the lights and I said we can do it in Clarksdale. So I talked about it for two years, and my daughter said, ‘Mom, stop talking about it. Let’s do it.’ We got this committee together.”
Rhymes chairs the committee for the festival. Slack, Christopher Coleman, Yolanda Howard, Lisa Dixon, Joyce Cole, Kyra Robinson, Audrey Womble, and Courtney Jones are the other committee members. Howard is also a Visit Clarksdale board member.
The “I’ll Be Home for Christmas Festival” will begin with the lighting of the Second Street bridge in Clarksdale on Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving. A ribbon-cutting for the upgraded Sasse Street park will be on Dec. 19 and incorporated with the festival. A Holly Jolly Christmas Trolley will tour the community and give candy out. Candy was given to children at the Head Start preschool program and a nursing home in 2022. The Aaron E. Henry Community Health Center provides the trolley. A New Year’s Eve Christmas Gala will be on Dec. 31. A full schedule with details about all of the festival’s events is expected to be released in the near future.
Rhymes also said the Clarksdale police, fire, and public works departments and the Coahoma County Sheriff’s Department helped make the festival a success in 2022.
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