Talk of the Town - January 2018
- story by Ellis Anderson, photos by Ellis Anderson and Brenda Comer
On January 13th, mile-high hairdos, rhinestones, and exaggerated décolletage will become the order of the day as Bay St. Louis celebrates Dolly Parton’s birthday.
The event is piggy-backed onto the town’s monthly Second Saturday Artwalk which has been held for more than two decades and has established itself as one of the most popular art happenings in the state.
For the past three years, the January artwalk has been known as “Dolly Should” – as in, of course Dolly Parton should come to Bay St. Louis for her birthday.
“Country” is the theme of the day, so festivities include a hayride, square-dancing, a pie contest, a Dolly-themed art show and a pop-up beauty parlor, just in case you left your beehive at home. Cloggers will perform and a community mural will be taking shape at Main and Second streets.
Talk of the Town
Organizers are expecting even more contestants this year. Photographer Ann Madden and silversmith Sandy Maggio own Smith & Lens Gallery and are the creators of the annual birthday bash.
“Getting people who attend to commit to even a little bit of country costume makes it a big party,” says Madden. “And folks who go all out just seem to come alive under that big hair. So it’s a fantastic, feel-good, family event.”
Madden and Maggio came up with the idea of artist-themed birthday parties to spice up the Second Saturday Artwalks. They began with a “Frida Fest” in July 2014, to celebrate the birth of legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The premier fest surprised everyone with its instant popularity.
The event is self-generated by the Old Town Merchants Association, without any assist from the city. Madden and Maggio say that it only works because most downtown businesses volunteer to participate. A restaurant might offer a country-themed special, while a shop might host a pie contest or hayride. Event publicity takes place mostly through social media.
“This town is just incredible,” says Maggio. “Everybody pitches in.”
Which is made easier since the event is wrapped around such an iconic musical artist. Both women point to Parton as an inspirational figure, beloved for her philanthropy, as well as her music. The star’s down-home simplicity is another reason for her appeal.
“Who doesn’t love Dolly?” says Madden. “For nearly sixty years, she’s been making music without compromise. She’s unapologetically herself.”
“I’ll bet the wigs are already sold out on the coast,” says Maggio.
Maggio’s big dream for this year’s celebration?
“My number one wish is that Dolly would just show up with her entourage,” Maggio says. “I would just die.”
“And of course, I want everyone to think of Bay St. Louis as a fun, happening little place,” she continues. “Because we are.”
Participants in the Dolly Look-alike contest should register between 5 pm and 7 pm at Smith & Lens Gallery, 106 South Second St. The entry fee is $10, with prizes being original “works of art.”
Check back here soon for a full roster of Dolly Should events/times/places.