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‘A Visit From the Boss’ dinner theater benefits the community

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Dinner, a Show and “A Visit From the Boss”

Get ready for Hawkins UMC Missions Committee “A Visit From the Boss,” a play written and directed by local resident Richard VanDenAkker.

The event will take place at the Hawkins UMC Gymnasium, 373 Halls Ferry Road, Nov. 14, 15 and 16 starting at 6 p.m. nightly. For $10, attendees will also enjoy an all-things-Italian dinner and silent auction.

Proceeds benefit Beautiful Deliverance, a faith-based addiction program, and Eagle Lake UMC flood relief.

In the play, Riley Bendix, the main character, eagerly awaits his boss’ arrival to dinner when things take a wrong turn.

“It’s a story about a man who gets an email at work saying that the big man upstairs wants to come down and meet him and his family,” VanDenAkker said. “He rushes home to tell his wife and finds out that his best suit has been donated to the River City Rescue Mission, accidentally. Then, while he’s waiting for his boss to show up, an old man, a homeless guy, shows up wearing his best suit. The guy basically spends the evening there with him and talks about his life, his issues and things like that, and Riley learns a lesson about helping others from it.”

The play originated after Hawkins UMC members saw Eagle Lake residents in need after the nearly year-long flood in the Mississippi Backwater. 

“The Eagle Lake Methodist Church has been open since the flood, and they have kind of been a place where people go in and work on houses, use the bathroom, make lunch and, if they know that a group is coming, they’ll feed them,” VanDenAkker said. “We are hoping that this will help to cover the cost of some of the food because they are providing food for people who are working up there and stuff like that.”

The Hawkins United Methodist Church hopes that with this event they can encourage others to come together and do more for the community.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Hawkins United Methodist Church at 601-636-2242.

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Vicksburg Blues Society brings the blues to Margaritaville

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Sam Joyner performs Jan. 25 at Margaritaville. (photo by D. Willmott from the Sam Joyner website.)

Blues is a genre of music that originated in the Mississippi Delta and on plantations among enslaved Africans. Since the 19th century, people have put their pain into songs and used the blues as a form of therapy that allows them to express their daily struggles out loud with a crowd that more than likely understands exactly what’s going on in their lives.

People have made careers out of singing the blues, and others sing the blues just for the joy of it.  The Vicksburg Blues Society was formed to help keep the blues alive in Vicksburg, and since being a part of this historic town, they’ve brought live blues music to many of the local businesses.

On any given weekend you can find a blues singer or instrumentalist serenading a crowd with their talent at restaurants like the Biscuit Company or at one of the casinos in town.

This month the Vicksburg Blues Society is bringing the music to Margaritaville’s Land Shark Bar & Grill, 1310 Mulberry St. Each Saturday in January, a talented blues artist will perform at Margaritaville for the public to enjoy.

Below is the list of the artists playing the next several Saturdays. All performances are from 6 to 9 p.m.

Jan. 11, Calvin Duncan Jr

Jan. 18, Carlos and Cucho

Jan. 25, Sam Joyner

For more information contact the Vicksburg Blues Society at 601-634-6179.

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Mike Gillis follows his dream of screening a film at the Strand Theatre

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Cast and crew. Front: Ellie Jones. Second row, left to right: Morgan Nelson, Brelynn Beck, Elana LaTorre and Sarah Randolph. Third row: Cassie Lampkin, Mike Gillis, Hannah Krapac.

For 34 years, Mike Gillis dreamed of creating a movie to play at the Strand Theater in Vicksburg, and today he is making that dream come true.

Since September, Gillis has worked alongside Strand owner Jack Horne, and local actors Cassidy Lampkin, 17, Brelyn Beck, 16, Ellie Ahna, 10, and others to film, direct and star in a short film about overcoming heartbreak.

“It’s about a young lady named Riley, played by Brelyn Beck, and she has her heart broke for the first time,” Gillis said. “She goes to the dance studio and is just all tore up.”

The movie tells the story of Riley’s broken heart healing with the help of her dance partners and a gentle custodian. She discovers that heartbreak isn’t the end of the world and reinvests herself into doing what she’s always loved: dancing.

“I don’t want to share anymore,” Gillis said. “You’ll have to come to the premiere to see how it all ends.”

Gillis has a long history of working in media as a novelist, videographer and more, even winning a national award with his work on the screen play for “When I Loved You.”

A few of his most recognized films are “Change of Hearts” and “Around the Next Corner.”

“This is going on my 16th year, and I’ve worked in the industry for about 20 years on my own,” he said about working in film. “My first feature-length film was ‘When I Loved You,’ and it starred Cassie Lampkin, who is also in … ‘Trieste Adagio.’

“We were finalists at the Los Angeles Film Festival, [for “When I Loved You”] and that was a great honor. It’s like being nominated for an Academy Award. I was very happy, and I am very happy with this right here. I think we’re going to do very well.”

With his new short, as-yet-unnamed film, Gillis hopes to expose the actors and the local public to the world of film making and appeal to a youthful audience to teach them that heartbreak is not the end of the world.

“I think that this production will show that there’s people that do go through things,” he said.

“I shoot a lot of things here in Vicksburg. Most of my shots are here in the state, and I hire local actors. It brings some culture here to Vicksburg so people can see how things are done in the movie industry.”

Though the short film is not yet complete, Gilles plans to premiere it at the Strand Theatre (717 Strand St.) in early January and invites people of all ages to enjoy the film for what could be a life changing experience.

“If I can change one person’s life with this then my job is done,” he said. “These girls and all of the actors have been working so hard, and I’m so proud of all them, and they deserve to be seen.”

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Local bands host 22nd annual Jamming with the Kids

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Local bands are hosting Jamming with the Kids, a Christmas toy fundraising event, on Thursday, Dec. 5, at The Anthony, 127 Country Club Drive.

“This is going to be our 22nd annual Jamming with the Kids,” said event director Kemper Ehrhardt. ” it starts at 6 p.m. and ends whenever we get finished. That’s usually when we run out of items to raffle or auction off.”

In addition to an auction of items donated by the community and a raffle, the event features music for folks to enjoy and fellowship.

Beyond Walls Ministries, a program affiliated with the Warren County Chaplin’s Office, will be distributing the proceeds from the event to children with a parent incarcerated during the holidays.

“We’ll have local bands performing and a cash bar,” Ehrhardt said. “Most people enjoy coming out each year because this might be their only chance to see a friend. We usually have people come from all over to donate and participate.”

Performers include John Howard Dennis, Lee H. Abraham & Friends, Ralph Miller, Patchwork, My Brother’s Kemper Band and Simpatico, and expect to see a few special guests.

The idea for Jamming for the Kids came after Ehrhardt noticed that some children in the community weren’t given the same opportunities as others, and the event has grown each year.

“We started this because we saw that some parents might have fallen on hard times and weren’t able to provide gifts for their children,” Ehrhardt said. “We didn’t want some kids to think that Santa wasn’t thinking about them, and [we] decided to do something. We started off our first year with maybe a couple hundred dollars and some toys, and now we have groups that donate huge checks each year.”

Admission is $5 or an unopened children’s toy, and raffle tickets are $1 each. Must be 21 or older to attend.

For more information, call Kemper Ehrhardt at 601-629-2003 or visit the Facebook event page.

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