A SOUTHERN STORY

Visit the Magical Mississippi River in Clarksdale

Clarksdale

Clarksdale is in the Mississippi Delta about 10 miles from the Mississippi River. It’s proximity to the river is what gives the land rich soil perfect for farming cotton.

I grew up in Clarksdale and spent my whole life there until my parents decided to move to Oxford after I graduated. That was the hardest decision my parents had to make, and it’s because Clarksdale had been their home since they were born.

The small town offers so much more than what outsiders might see. To truly understand why so many people love it, you have to look into its history and learn everything that makes it home. As glad as I am to be out of a small town, I miss the people who live there every day.

I could walk into any store or restaurant and know 99 percent of the people there, and the 1 percent I didn’t know knew my family. You never meet a stranger in Clarksdale. Everyone is connected.

Visitors were always treated with the utmost respect and showed what “Southern hospitality” truly meant. Growing up, I loved helping my dad in his store on weekends and after school. I sat behind the counter, interacted with customers, and had the time of my life.

He always reminded me to be kind to every person that walked into the store and treat them the same. He knew he didn’t have to remind me of that, but I think it made him feel better saying it every day.

Clarksdale
Corso as a child.

The people in Clarksdale are one-of-a-kind, and I truly mean that. While everyone has their differences, at the end of the day, your neighbors or friends around town would do almost anything to help you.

During my junior year of high school, a close childhood friend of mine passed away from cancer. I’ve never seen a community come together with so much love and empathy for each other than they did during that time.

That’s what ultimately showed me the type of people I have grown up around, and I’ve been forever grateful that I have that kind of community that loves me and supports me no matter what. 

Clarksdale is famous for many things, but I think food is one specialty. It’s packed with family-owned restaurants that have been passed down through generations.

The most famous is Abe’s BBQ. The barbecue there is the best I’ve ever had, and I always try new barbecue when I can so I can compare it to the BBQ from home.

The building isn’t the fanciest, but I’ve learned that sometimes those are the best restaurants you can find. The atmosphere is also relaxing and inviting. The staff remembers you and will always ask how you’re doing.

It’s located right at The Crossroads where, according to legend, musician Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to become one of the greatest blues players. 

The Juke Joint Festival is held each spring to recognize the rich history and culture of the Mississippi Delta. The festival lasts from Thursday to Sunday, but visitors stay as long as they want to truly enjoy the town.

Downtown is shut down to traffic on Saturday, the main day, when people set up tents along the streets downtown to sell art, jewelry, T-shirts, and so much more.

There’s 13 stages of live blues music scattered around downtown, and people love to walk around and experience each.  They have a petting zoo, child’s train, pig racing, and other small, fun attractions for kids.

Each year, thousands of people visit Clarksdale and enjoy the Juke Joint Festival. Growing up, I didn’t think anything special of the festival until I saw a license plate from Alaska. I’ve also met numerous people from overseas, such as France, London and Ireland. 

Another interesting spot in Clarksdale is Hopson Commissary. It’s an old plantation from the 1850s that has been turned into a tourist spot. It has the main area, a bar for adults and a hotel. The property has a rustic feel, which attracts many visitors.

In 1944, the International Harvester Company perfected the first single-row mechanical cotton picking machine here. Right by the entrance, visitors can see of one of the first cotton picking machines.

I actually lived across the street from Hopson growing up for a few years, and it was the best time I ever had. I loved being able to walk across the street and see what was going on.

Clarksdale

One plus to living in Clarksdale is that the mighty Mississippi River is a short car ride away. I spent a lot of my time at the river growing up. Everybody had a cabin on the river, and we spent the holidays with family there.

We would have bonfires on the sand and eat s’mores. The sunsets in the Delta are unique, but seeing the sun set over the Mississippi River is amazing. 

While there are many interesting and exciting places to visit, I think my hometown is special, and not just because I grew up there. Growing up, I didn’t appreciate Clarksdale as much as I should have. It’s taken me 20 years to appreciate it like I do now, and I think later on in life, I’ll love it even more.

I’ve never felt the love and support I did walking around in Clarksdale, nor have I had barbecue as good as Abe’s. There’s just a little bit of magic in Clarksdale that you have to visit to experience and understand.

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