Most of the city's guests arrived Friday night. They were taken to Bonita Lakes Saturday morning and the site of the proposed Southern Arts and Entertainment Center for an announcement by Mayor John Robert Smith.
"Why you're really out here today in this tent and rain is we're going to announce a truly stellar roster of Mississippi artists who have agreed to lend their names as honorary committee members to the Arts and Entertainment Center," said Smith.
The list included Sela Ward, Leontyne Price, Charley Pride, B.B. King, Faith Hill, Britney Spears, Jimmy Buffett, Morgan Freeman, Lance Bass, John Grisham and even Kermit the Frog, created by the late Jim Henson, a Mississippi native. Paul Ott, president of the project, told the visitors the Bonita Lakes site was the reason the center was placed in Meridian.
"There's no way the state of Mississippi or the legislature will ever be able to put a dollar value on what you see here because you end up with Oprah Winfrey, or a William Faulkner or an Elvis Presley in this Hall of Fame, Morgan Freeman, Faith Hill, Britney Spears, whatever, let me tell you it's going to get world-wide publicity," said Ott.
Senator Jack Gordon from Okolona, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee is one of the supporters of the Meridian location.
"It's still on the wish list but we are committed to doing what we can to make sure that this becomes a reality and we're going to be partners with Meridian and Lauderdale County and State of Mississippi in trying to make certain this becomes what we have anticipated it to become," said Senator Gordon.
Senator Rob Smith from Richland, a singer himself, also endorses the concept.
"Just like we do in education. You've got to help these artists be able to promote their wares and promote their ability to compete," said Senator Smith.