The fourth annual Back Stage Pass conference for festival and event planners in Mississippi and throughout the Southeast will be held Jan. 21-22 at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg.
The conference is hosted by the Mississippi Main Street Association (MMSA), Mississippi Arts Commission and Visit Mississippi.
Each year, Back Stage Pass produces a new program in a different city in Mississippi with original sessions and speakers to help community leaders and planners build and grow successful festivals and events. This year's conference will open with keynote speaker Robert St. John, Hattiesburg-based restaurateur and author.
“We're just very excited to be in Hattiesburg, we haven't been here in a while,” Bob Wilson, executive Director of MMSA said. “This is the first time this particular event has been held here in Hattiesburg and so we're really looking forward to that because they're really poised to have a lot of things happen in the downtown area and we want people to be exposed to that as well.”
More than 200 professionals are expected to attend the two-day conference designed for non-profit organizations, festival and event planners, fundraisers, Main Street directors and members, universities and colleges, CVB and tourism organizations, Chamber of Commerce members, and all others interested in putting on special events.
"Back Stage Pass focuses on planning for festivals and special events that reveal your town's authentic character through the sharing of ideas and like experiences with other event planners throughout the Southeast," said Wilson. "We invite event planners from towns of all sizes to join us for fun, networking and learning as we explore ways to develop and enhance events that build community character and contribute to the creative economy and overall quality of life."
The conference includes an Artist Showcase featuring performers of the Mississippi Arts Commission Artist Roster, and additionally this year, performers from Alabama and Louisiana. The showcase will be held from 5:30-7:00 p.m. on Jan. 21 at the Thirsty Hippo in Hattiesburg.
Featured artists are Alan Sibley & The Magnolia Ramblers of Mississippi, the Homemade Jamz Blues Band of Mississippi, Eric Essex of Alabama, the Mithril Duo of Alabama, Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas of Louisiana and Brian Sivils of Louisiana. Jazz artist John Wooten of Hattiesburg will provide entertainment during the exhibitors' reception at the convention center before the showcase.
“One of the shared missions of Visit Mississippi, Mississippi Main Street and the Mississippi Arts Commission is to nurture and promote creativity and creative development in the state,” said Malcolm White, Visit Mississippi director. “The Back Stage Pass partnership is a great example of how government can work together to provide constituents with training and tools needed to build top-notch events that positively affect budgets and bottom lines.”