Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and Ripley Main Street reminds you to spread some love and support by shopping locally. There are so many local businesses and services that can provide the perfect gift for that special someone in your life. Ripley offers clothing boutiques for both men and women, jewelry shops, nail salons, massage therapy, antique shopping, and florists to fill whatever need you have. Ripley also offers a variety of restaurants that will be happy to serve you on Valentine’s Day. Check out our Facebook page for gift ideas from local shops! Shopping local is one of the best ways to ensure that Ripley stays vital.
It is the season of love and the best way to kick the winter blues is through music! With that in mind, the Blues Alley just off the square is a place to see. Utilizing a matching grant received last year from the MS Hills National Heritage Area, Phase I of the Blues Alley Project has just been completed and Phase II will begin in the next few months. Through this project, Ripley Main Street Association took an abandoned alley and created an inviting space with an outdoor art gallery feel to it.
The completed section of The Blues Alley is located behind Stella Boutique, Beth’s Bungalow and Moxie Salon. This specific alley was especially chosen because the alley and nearby area is believed to be the site of a speakeasy during the alcohol prohibition era. It was also home to Gus Brown’s Café, a popular lunch stop for the Ripley Train Depot during the week and, on Saturday nights, a gathering place for the local African American population featuring good food and great music. Ripley Main Street Association wanted to create a public art space that reflected that historic era.
Recognizing that there is a definite lack of diversity when it comes to representing historical events and acknowledging a blending of the cultural gifts that were shared over time, RMSA believes The Blues Alley can be a step toward change. By promoting and featuring large murals of some artists who shared their gifts with us, it is hoped that The Blues Alley will become not just a great place to gather, but also an area used to educate and celebrate the local and regional blues musicians of this area and throughout North Mississippi. If you have not been, make listening to some Hill Country Blues and visiting The Blues Alley in Ripley part of your plan for recognizing Black History Month!
Speaking of the murals, Sam Ingram is the talented artist that created these vibrant paintings of the Mississippi Hill Country Blues artists. The blues musicians depicted in the paintings were from neighboring towns to Ripley and played their unique style of music which is known as MS Hill Country Blues. The artists in the paintings are Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Othar Turner, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and T-Model Ford.
Garry Burnside, a Ripley resident, is the son of R.L. Burnside and he is keeping blues music alive in our town. Making sure the music keeps playing by teaching a new generation an appreciation of Hill Country Blues music, Garry currently gives guitar lessons in a building next to The Blues Alley – ironically, overlooking his Daddy’s mural. Now, how is that for spreading the love?
There is more to come for The Blues Alley so stay tuned for Phase 2!