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Cleveland in New York

The New York-Mississippi Central Park Picnic is one of Mississippi’s greatest assets. For the past eight years, I have helped produce this wonderful event up in the Big Apple.

The 33rd Annual New York – Mississippi Central Park Picnic took place last year on June 9. Mississippi writers, artists, blues and bluegrass musicians, as well as delicious Southern cuisine were all on tap at the picnic. Mississippi Stars Shine in 2012, was the theme that saluted actors and producers from Mississippi who received awards for their work within the last year.

The event was created in 1979 by Mississippi native and Ole Miss graduates Rachel McPherson and Kay McDuffie along with a handful of Mississippians living in New York City who wanted to highlight their state in a positive way. The annual event brings thousands of Mississippians and friends together every year in New York’s Central Park. The picnic is one of Mississippi’s greatest advertisements as media from around the U.S. and world cover and write about this special event.

Each year, our Mississippi governors attend the event and say a few words to the crowd about Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant attended the picnic for the first time last June and from the stage he delivered comments concerning our special culture and how it has impacted the world. Representative Greg Harper and Hattiesburg Mayor, Johnny Dupree were also in the audience, as were university presidents, Dan Jones of Ole Miss and Mark Keenum of Mississippi State.

The live entertainment was provided by The New York City Slickers, an outstanding bluegrass band from Brooklyn that just made a loop through Mississippi, performing in Jackson, Cleveland, Clarksdale, and Oxford. Canton, Mississippi bluesman Grady Champion, and one of New York’s most noted blues guitarists, Jon Paris, also played for the 2012 event.

Treating the New York crowd each year to a little Mississippi flavor is always an enlightening moment, and every year, the Mississippi Catfish Cooking Team from Yazoo City prepares 500 pounds of southern fried catfish and 120 pounds of hushpuppies. And, every year you can smell the fried catfish for half a mile in Central Park in any direction.

The event also includes exhibits showcasing tourism and retirement destinations found throughout the state, the Mississippi Freedom Trail, the U. S. Grant Association and several more. “Best Dessert” and “Best Picnic Spread” contests were held, as well as a contest allowing picnic-goers an opportunity to name the Red Carpet Catfish Couple featured on the 2012 New York Mississippi Picnic commemorative poster.

Spreading the word to the world about our great state each and every year through the annual New York – Mississippi Central Park Picnic is a bonanza for Mississippi. If you have never attended, I encourage you to do so. If you have, come back next year and bring some friends!

This year’s picnic will be held on Saturday, June 8, 2013. See you there.

Scott Coopwood, a seventh generation Deltan, lives in Cleveland, Mississippi, with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications (deltamagazine.com); the Delta Business Journal, (deltabusinessjournal.com) the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta; and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current (theclevelandcurrent.com). Scott’s company also publishes two weekly e-newsletters. Coopwood publishing concerns now reach 250,000 people. Scott is also a 1984 graduate of the University of Mississippi. He can be reached at scott@coopwood.net.

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