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The Crosstie Festival: An Annual Tradition in the Mississippi Delta

By Brandi Perry

Cleveland, Mississippi, uses the slogan “Small Town, Big Vibe” to describe their Delta town. Accolades from Southern Living and Smithsonian Magazine prove this as well as many other mentions from various magazines nationwide. There is no doubt that Cleveland is one of the hippest towns in the state, but much of that acclaim is thanks to a 50-year-old spring tradition.

Named for the infamous rail lines that have run through small Mississippi towns throughout the state for more than 100 years, the rails can also symbolize the blues musicians who crisscrossed the state, laying the roots for the blues, country, gospel and jazz music around the world. With Delta State University having one of the best music programs in the country and surrounded by legendary locations like Dockery Farms and Po Monkeys, it is easy to see why the Crosstie Festival Arts and Jazz Festival is not only one of the longest-lived festivals in the state, but one of the most famous in the nation.

A creative and motivated group of individuals came together more than 50 years ago and decided their vibrant and growing community needed a festival to celebrate its rich history in arts and culture. Keep in mind there were no marketing firms, internet or billboards to post all over the state to draw a crowd. Instead, the hardworking volunteers hit the ground running and focused on word of mouth and building a reputation for their festival. Now, every year more volunteers follow the footprints of those from the past with the spirit to make each year’s event better than the year before. This fun and determined spirit are the essence of the Crosstie Festival and are also a product of the volunteer spirit found in so many small towns around the state that work hard for the betterment of their entire community. This is Cleveland.

Another fun fact about the festival concerns the nationally recognized Crosstie Festival logo. The golden yellow that adorns the center of the logo was not done on purpose to draw eyes to the logo. In the 1970s, this yellow just happened to be the cheapest and brightest material at the fabric store. As years have passed and the notoriety of the festival has spread, someone could have easily changed the color to something fresher than the lightning bolt of gold, but again, the work done to start this festival deserves to be remembered, and the logo remains a testament to the hard work and dedication that got the festival off the ground and still running today.

Starting in 1970, the Crosstie Festival has been held under the oak trees of the Bolivar County Courthouse in downtown Cleveland, not too far from the railroad track that winds its way through Bolivar County and into the city center and where the first festival was held. The 2021 festival was abbreviated due to the spread of the coronavirus statewide, but planners and participants did everything they could to make it the most normal and enjoyable event ever. Now, the 2022 festival will be an all-day event again, and they are ready to make up for everything they missed out on last year.

This year’s event will occur on April 23, 2022, in downtown Cleveland. The festival will host a juried fine art show that features hundreds of exhibitors from around the country. These exhibitors will display everything from paintings, sculptures, pottery, fabric and paper designs, hand-made furniture and jewelry. Additionally, handcrafts will be sold in a marketplace area, and food vendors and trucks will offer a variety of regional meals, desserts and drinks that make certain no one leaves hungry. All the fun for the day kicks off with a 5k road race that is safe and fun for all ages with both serious and fun competitors.

If you are interested in displaying your work as an artist, please go to the Crosstie Festival website, fill out the artist application and email three photos or slides of your work. There is a $35 fee that reserves a 10x12 space and allows competition pieces in any combination of the categories listed on the site. Keep in mind reservations are on a first-come, first-serve basis, so sign up today.

Being a member or sponsor of the Crosstie Festival has its benefits but none better than ensuring that this festival's longevity continues. Becoming a member allows you to get an in-depth look at all the workings and contests that go on before and during the festival. Being involved financially ensures that scholarships can be given to deserving students, assist with the Junior Auxiliary’s Children’s Art and Writing Contest and supports art education in local schools. Corporate sponsors and membership levels range from $2,500 to $50, and each donation is equally important to make sure the mission of the Crosstie Festival remains intact for many more years to come.

Attending the Crosstie Festival may be a highlight of your spring. From arts and crafts to music and great food, there is no better way to spend time in the Delta. Visit the Crosstie Festival website at and sign up with your email address to receive exclusive information on the festival news and updates.

The committee in charge of the festival makes it very easy for you to get in touch with them. You can email them at or follow them on Facebook or Instagram. Their social media pages may update more often with information about the festival than the website so make sure you subscribe and follow!

The Crosstie Festival is ready to show visitors they are ready to bounce back from the near shutdown created by the coronavirus and are back and better than ever. If you are looking for a good time, you need to be in Cleveland on April 23, 2022.


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