By ANGIE CARNATHAN
Starkville Parks and Recreation is hosting the first Rockin’ the Park, a community event bringing together music, sports, concessions and much more for the whole family, on Sept. 17 at the Sportsplex’s four softball fields.
“The Park Commission is committed to providing more family events to the community,” city parks Director Matthew Rye said. “We didn’t want to compete with Mississippi State University football, and this date seemed perfect since MSU hosts LSU on a Thursday night.”
Rye said Cindy Melby has been essential to the planning of the event.
“I’ve had the opportunity to view other communities much smaller than ours as they host large concert and community events that are very successful,” Melby said. “I could imagine that Starkville would really enjoy something similar, but with a good dose of unique features like the ones we’ve incorporated.”
Rye said the many activities will include youth and adult sport competitions, six jumper inflatables, a dunking booth, a car cruise-in, a softball game featuring local celebrities and plenty of live entertainment. The funds collected at this year’s activities will go toward future Rockin’ the Park events.
“We are trying to provide an annual event for the community that will be fun, relaxing and entertaining at a low cost,” Rye said, adding that organizers hope to be able to make the event bigger and better with each passing year.
The sports competitions are being sponsored by NBA player and Starkville-native Travis Outlaw. Rye said securing the former Starkville resident’s involvement was easy because of Outlaw’s longtime commitment and willingness to give back to his community.
Sporting events will include a local celebrity Wiffle ball game pitting Team Wiseman, led by Mayor Parker Wiseman, against Team Stricklin, led by MSU Athletic Director Scott Stricklin. Each participant will be asked to collect donations for Starkville Parks and Recreation, and the player who raises the most money will be named the MVP of the game.
Wiseman said his coaching strategy could be summed up in a simple phrase: “Play hard and play together.”
Rockin’ the Park will also include an official announcement ceremony, Wiseman said, honoring Starkville as Mississippi’s Healthiest Hometown. The city was given the distinction by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation on June 29 and will receive a $50,000 grant to support ongoing community health initiatives.
“This should be a great day,” Wiseman said. “The Parks Commission and Matthew Rye have done an excellent job organizing the event.”
The live entertainment is scheduled to begin about 6 p.m., immediately after the celebrity Wiffle ball game. Performers scheduled thus far include a plethora of music styles to entertain every age group.
“We have chosen two up-and-coming artists based out of Nashville to be the first two entertainment groups of the night,” Melby said. “Brinley Addington is a more traditional, popular country act and Scarletta, a band that has toured with Lady Antebellum, is made up of a female lead singer who has an amazingly gifted band that includes an American Idol star fiddle player no one will want to miss.”
There is also a group performing that Melby said she hopes will have everyone dusting off their dancing shoes.
“C+Plus is a 12-piece band from Alabama known for their ability to perform great dance music and the covers we all like to hear,” Melby said. “They are extremely entertaining, and we want this to be a fun, high-energy event.”
Melby said a dance floor space will be provided.
Door prizes will be awarded throughout the day, and Rye requests that any local business interested in donating a prize contact him at (662) 323-2294. In addition, a concession stand will be provided by Coca-Cola.
“We are very excited to have the partnership of Clark Beverage Group, Inc.,” Rye said.
Rye and Melby both said they expect Rockin in the Park to stand apart from other community events by providing unique activities such as a mass youth singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a dunking booth where people will have the chance to dunk local celebrities such as the mayor and and Park Commission Chairman Dan Moreland. Both said the event will be family friendly from beginning to end and affordable.
The entry fee is $5 and children under 6 will be admitted free of charge.
Melby said she hopes people will spread the word to their families and friends to come out and make some fun memories, and Rye said he hopes the event will be something people look forward to for years to come.
To stay up to date on Rockin’ the Park events as they unfold, go to http://www.facebook.com/starkvilleparks  and select the “Like” button or go to http://www.starkvilleparks.com/rockin-the-park/ .