[EDITOR’S NOTE: Author Teresa Blake is a member of the Carolina RCDC, which hosts Carolina Monday Nigh Jam, mentioned in this article.]
Add music venues to the lengthy list of business and community establishments that are navigating the winding road to opening back up amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Scattered about Itawamba County, small venues like Lindsey’s Music Barn, located at 1030 Highway 370 near Marietta, are treading new waters as they cautiously open their doors. The music and dance hall’s proprietor, Ricky Lindsey, was receiving calls from anxious patrons a few weeks before Gov. Tate Reeves gave the go-ahead for businesses like his to reopen.
“I started getting calls from folks two or three weeks before everything opened back up,” Lindsey said. “It wasn’t just our patrons who were ready to come back, our band members were anxious to get back to playing, too.”
In the weeks since reopening, Lindsey said the crowd has picked up considerably.
“I believe people are being cautious when it comes to getting back in the full swing of things,” he said. “It’s going to take some time to get back to what it used to be.”
Lindsey’s Music Barn is open every Friday night. The building is cleaned and sanitized after every gathering.
“It’s a juggling act,” Lindsey said. “But we are getting it done and looking forward to filling the house again.”
Tombigbee Jamboree, located at 704 Access Road in Fulton, is open every Saturday night with music, dancing and concessions. The venue started its operation back three weeks ago.
Owner Jackie Johnson told The Times they have been pleased with the crowds attending their venue.
“We’ve had good crowds. It hasn’t been barnstormers, but all-in-all it’s been pretty good,” Johnson said. “Everybody is happy to be back out, that’s for sure.”
Johnson said they deep clean and disinfect their facility weekly.
“We shine the place up every week. Outside of that, it’s business as usual,” he said.
Prior to the pandemic, Carolina Monday Night Jam, held weekly inside the Carolina Community Center, had more than a decade’s worth of musicians and singers from all across North Mississippi joining in its music circle. But the coronavirus put that track record on pause.
Now, 11 weeks later, the longtime gathering is attempting to get back off the ground.
Tommy Todd, organizer of the Carolina Monday Night Jam, told The Times the crowd has been slow to return to the weekly music session since it opened its doors again on June 1.
“It’s been tough,” Todd said. “We’ve been open for three weeks and we’re still seeing low numbers.”
Precautionary measures to keep the Carolina Community Center sanitized have been a priority for the event’s organizers, but they come at a literal price.
“We went up from $3 to $5 on our admission,” Todd said. “We operate on what little money we take in at the door. It’s something we had to do to help cover the added cost of making sure we do this right.”
Todd said they aren’t serving the potluck meals they have in the past.
“We have individually wrapped snacks and drinks,” he said. “We also have one person serving coffee instead of the self-serve counter being available.”
To keep in line with the governor’s guidelines, the musicians’ circle now has the chairs spread 6 feet apart. It’s one last measure to make sure everyone who attends is as safe as possible.
Todd says although precautions have been taken to keep the longtime event safe and welcoming, it’s time that is key to how things will be post-pandemic.
“In July we’ll discuss how things are going and what the next step is moving forward,” Todd said. “Only time will tell how things will turn out for us all.”