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How friends passionate for the arts helped develop Mississippi’s only multi-week arts festival

The year was 1997.

A group of Hattiesburg community members had a vision and a shared passion that at the time they had no idea would flourish into Mississippi’s only multi-week arts festival.

You may recognize the name Festival South, but the idea was a shared notion from a group of friends eager to share the magic of the arts.

The group, which started as HCCCA but now is known as HCA, involved many community arts programs and multiple notable figures.

Well-known arts champions like Rebecca Stark, Kim Howell and Connie Roberts joined forces with the incredible minds of former USM Symphony Conductor Jay Dean and current Festival South Creative Director Mike Lopinto.

They came together to dream.

The dream was not impossible, because the idea of filling the city with art and music was shared by Forrest General, Bryan Nelson P.A. and city and county government officials. All were willing to invest in the idea that brought the festival to fruition.

David Ott remembers the start of something beautiful. That something was Festival South.

“So many people believed in the vision we had for an annual festival that brought Hattiesburg alive in what had always been a slow time of year for our community, June,” Ott said.

According to Ott, one of the key goals for Festival South was to stimulate business for Downtown Hattiesburg and the community at large.

“It is an economic driver for hotels, restaurants and many other small and large businesses in our community,” Ott said. “I know we will see it grow to be able to attract even more talent in coming years.”

Dean and Lopinto continue to lead HCA and Festival South as they begin their 9th season.

Through the process, they have placed the honor of Chairman of the Board of HCA to Ott, who is a longtime arts supporter, friend and advocate for Hattiesburg.

It is a role that Ott takes seriously.

“Our goal has always been to work with other community arts organization to bring our community the best art we can find using our local talents as well as the amazing and creative artists from around the region and country,” Ott said. “The amazing musicals, opera, symphony, bluegrass, jazz and country music over the years confirm this is something that contributes to our quality of life.”

Ott wants everyone in the city and surrounding areas to join in on the magic that is Festival South.

“Hattiesburg is the center of art in our state with the talent at both USM and WCU as well as those in our schools,” Ott said. “The focus on Artie and programs for younger ages is especially important. Every study shows that students who are engaged in arts, especially performing arts, do better in school.”

Although it is a very busy time for the arts in Hattiesburg, there is always so much to do in the city.

It’s why Ott, Dean, Lopinto and all the volunteers of Festival South work so hard to share that with others.

“Being a part of this has been so rewarding,” Ott said. “This is all about building our future, and that excites me to be a part of it.”

For a full list of schedules for Festival South, click here.

To learn more about David Ott, click here.

About Bryan Nelson P.A. Attorneys at Law:

The offices of Bryan Nelson P.A. are located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Hattiesburg is known as the "Hub City" because of the major highways and railway lines that pass through the city. From our offices located in Hattiesburg, our attorneys are able to travel to at least fifteen (15) county seats within an hour or less. Hattiesburg's convenient location has spawned one of the most economically active, dynamic and fastest growing areas in the Southeast.

The firm's practice consists of representing individuals, as well as a variety of both large and small businesses, including insurers, banking institutions, construction firms, transportation concerns, nursing homes, medical providers, and other professionals.

Members of the firm have extensive experience in both civil litigation and legal transactions. In the realm of civil litigation, members of the firm specialize in disputes arising from commercial transactions, construction defects and design, labor and employment, automobile accidents, premises liability accidents, medical malpractice, workers compensation, admiralty and offshore accidents, environmental claims, and mass tort litigation. From a transactional perspective, the firm furnishes legal services associated with personal transactions such as estate planning and administration, trust preparation, conservatorships, and guardianships, as well as business transactions such as the formation of business entities, purchase and sale agreements, and real estate transactions.

About Festival South:

FestivalSouth® is Mississippi’s only multi-week, multi-genre arts festival, offering both free and ticketed events to local residents and cultural tourists. Presented by the Hattiesburg Concert Association (HCA), this year’s festival promises to be a two-week experience you won’t forget!

Whether it’s classical, jazz, country, or gospel, FestivalSouth® offers music for every age range and musical taste. Our FestivalArtists bring craftsmen, artisans, and tourists together to experience unique art and sculpture exhibits from local talent. Dance events bring exciting movement to the festival, while Artie Events for kids offer fun, fun, fun for FestivalFamilies. Two exciting new events in the festival this year are the FestivalSouth® Film Expo and Festival5k. Both events are fresh and exciting additions to the Festival that are sure to impress our audience!

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