The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra's Pepsi Pops uncorks a 30th Anniversary Gala on May 6 with bigger fireworks and a new guest host in the mix.
The concert, which has become an all-ages staple on the metro area's cultural calendar, puts together popular stage and screen tunes, patriotic songs, picnickers and a stellar setting.
Hitting the big 3-0 as Pepsi Pops is big evidence that the event is working, organizers say. It's become a signature event and an economic boost for the region, with a turnout of about 3,000 and a crowd that's been growing consistently over the past several years.
"It provides such a wonderful way for the whole family to just relax and be in the presence of live symphonic music," said Michael Beattie, MSO president and executive director.
"I don't think people realize how lucky we are. We have one of the prettiest settings in the country for this concert."
The water's surface picks up sky and sunset colors and reflections of the boats that draw near to catch the concert, providing a lovely backdrop for the musicians. The park's green lawn is packed with families and dates who bring blankets, chairs and delicious spreads, and small children romp with glowsticks and dance down front. The Pepsi Playground with a space jump, games and face painting, will be open 5-7:30 p.m.
This year, Chef Luis Bruno joins Clarion-Ledger cartoonist Marshall Ramsey and WLBT anchor Maggie Wade as the evening's guest hosts. The Jackson Public Schools String Program provides pre-concert entertainment, which will also include classic rock, blues and country by the band Southern Waye. Concessions will include Pepsi products and food by Penn's Fish House.
At 7:30 p.m., Maestro Crafton Beck will lead the MSO in a rousing concert featuring music from Chariots of Fire and The Summer of '42, melodies from Showboat and patriotic selections, including a Civil War medley, an armed forces salute and John Philip Sousa marches.
Michael Cottingham, a symphony board member, will take the podium to conduct the "Imperial March" from Stars Wars - a silent auction perk from the Jackson Symphony League Ball. Cottingham, a fervent Pepsi Pops supporter, has a master's degree in music and has done a bit of conducting at church in the past. "The Imperial March" (also known as "Darth Vader's Theme") was his pick. "Let's face it, we don't want to do one of the big, heavy things that Crafton need to do," he said. "It's a fun little piece and a lot of people will recognize that one." Leading such an outfit in music "can be exhilarating," he said.
Ora Reed will sing "God Bless America" at the concert's finale before the fireworks display.
For Pepsi Pops' 30th anniversary celebration, "We have decided to make fireworks reflect that, so it will be an even larger and longer fireworks show than we usually have," said Shelley Brown, senior marketing manager for Brown Bottling Group. The popular Pepsi Pops "is one of events we can provide back to the community as a thank you."
The event also offers a chance to help others. Bring a donation (cash, check or charge) and the MSO will forward it to the Red Cross to help the state's storm victims.