Skip navigation

Dont Blink, but Ever-Popular FestivalSouth is Celebrating 10th Anniversary

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 15:36pm | By: Van Arnold

FestivalSouth gets underway next month at venues across the Pine Belt area.

Recognition of immense talent permeating the piney woods of South Mississippi jump-started the formation of FestivalSouth®, which has become a cultural staple of Hattiesburg and the surrounding region.

The popular arts/music festival is celebrating its 10th year this June with a fun-filled line-up of activities, performances, and opportunities.

Presented by the Hattiesburg Concert Association (HCA), FestivalSouth is Mississippi's only multi-week, multi-genre festival, offering both free and ticketed events that showcase the area's rich creative economy. Featuring many University of Southern Mississippi faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and happening in several Hattiesburg campus venues, the festival offers something for everyone.

Artistic Director Dr. Mike Lopinto marvels at the astonishing growth FestivalSouth has experienced in one decade. When he's not coordinating artists and shows for the festival, Lopinto serves as assistant to the dean for Arts PR and Marketing in USM's College of Arts and Sciences.

“It's amazing that we blinked and it's 10 years later,” said Lopinto. Each year, FestivalSouth has gained momentum, reaching more and more people and involving more and more participants. The success lies in the generous populous of artists and arts lovers in the Pine Belt. They are what the festival celebrates and showcases to the world.”

This season includes several teaser events leading up to the official opening on Saturday, June 8. Starting with the FestivalSouth World Championship Golf Classic and Best of the Pine Belt Pub Crawl on May 31 through a sneak peek of Broadway's Sister Act, featuring the Hub City Player's, the stage will be set for two weeks of fun, with nearly 70 events at all times of day and for every age.

FestivalSouth is the brainchild of Dr. Jay Dean, professor and associate dean of USM's College of Arts and Sciences, and David Ott, president of the Hattiesburg Concert Association. Dean served as director of the University's Symphony Orchestra for more than 30 years before announcing his retirement from that position in 2018.

Lopinto points out that both men recognized the deep talent pool that was either living in the Hattiesburg area or regularly visiting as students and guests. The idea was to create a way to capitalize on that obvious fact.

The festival has evolved into a substantial tourist attraction for the Pine Belt, earning distinction as one of the Top 10 classical music festivals in the United States. Much of the funding for the elite artists and related programs comes from donors and sponsors.

As he reflects on 10 years of exhaustive planning, marketing and execution, Lopinto says that he humbled and honored to play a role in Hattiesburg's rich, creative community.

“I feel lucky to have been embraced so and have the pleasure of trying to showcase the best of Hattiesburg for a decade now,” he said. “The communities' support has been the secret ingredient that makes all the hard work in assembling this each a true joy.”

Some festival facts

When FestivalSouth completes its 10th anniversary season this summer, it will have:

  • Produced more than 850 events in 100 venues, including over 150 children and family specific events and 27 statewide events for the Mississippi Bicentennial.
  • Put to work a primarily volunteer staff of approximately 40 per year, worked more than 120,000 hours and, nearly 75 adult and Youth Ambassador volunteers annually, contributed more than 13,000 service hours.
  • Employed nearly 3,000 people including performing and visual artists, marketing and advertising specialists, transportation companies, sound, light and event technicians, and caterers. Even more donated their time and expertise to support the arts in our community.
  • Seen more than 250,000 attending and participating in FestivalSouth events.
  • Received sponsorship and financial support from our community totaling nearly $1 million. In kind support averaged $170,000 annually, totaling $1,700,000 in our history.
  • Stimulated the area economy by $1.5 million, equaling $15,000,000 during our decade of service.

To learn more about the festival, or to purchase tickets, call 800.844.8425 or visit: