The W.C. Handy Music Festival

W.C. Handy Music Festival 2020!
Socially connected while physically distanced music medicine for the soul!

The Music Preservation Society, Inc., and the W.C. Handy Festival Steering Committee, is pleased to present the socially connected while physically distanced 39th W.C. Handy Music Festival. Much planning has gone into ways to offer activities that incorporate adherence to the recommendations from the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control during these unprecedented times.

You may miss some of your favorite Handy events this year, however we hope to offer those again next year as we celebrate our 40th Festival! Enjoying music and more from a distance is a new experience for us as we continue to pay tribute to the legacy and contributions of Shoals area music, while honoring the memory of the one and only "Father of the Blues", William Christopher (“W.C.”) Handy.

Some things won’t change. Official Handy t-shirts and posters featuring the 2020 design can be found at Counts Brothers Music in Muscle Shoals, Colbert County Tourism in Tuscumbia, and Florence Lauderdale Tourism in Florence. Comfortable, breathable, Handy face coverings with the W.C. Handy logo in either blue or white are also available.

Thanks to all of those organizations and businesses which have sponsored the Festival for many years and have responded to the challenges of this year. We appreciate the event coordinators who had planned and confirmed events weeks ago, but who later made the decision to adapt to our current situation. Some of them have provided special messages to share with you. When our Music Preservation Society Board of Directors supported those creative coordinators as they made it possible to present the 2020 Festival by offering virtual activities, drive-in concerts, and even a boat access only event.

Information and concessions will be available at Colbert County Tourism and Convention and Florence-Lauderdale Tourism centers. For updates, see our official Handy Festival website, our Facebook, or call 256-766-7642. The Handy Festival hopes that everyone will adhere to recommendations from health care experts to ensure a happy and healthy summer for all. Thank you for supporting the W.C. Handy Music Festival.

So this year, even though we may not see you in person, we hope you will enjoy the Handy Festival, and that you’ll decorate your parasols and continue to strut…

Messages from Our Coordinators

Da Doo Run Run Cancelled

Given the evolving public health situation and potential spread of COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 "W.C. Handy Festival Da Doo Run Run 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run" originally scheduled for July 25, 2020. We are saddened that we won’t be able to host our favorite running event of the year in the Florence-Shoals area. Please know that this decision was not made lightly, but we must put the health and well-being of our community first. We appreciate your understanding in advance.

We aim to make the 2021 "W.C. Handy Festival Da Doo Run Run 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run" bigger and better than ever.

Look forward to seeing everyone back in 2021!

- Sonya Zaremba, Coordinator

Handy Concert Cancelled for FUMC

After much thought and lots of prayer, the decision has been made that Florence First United Methodist Church will not have a Handy Concert this year. In view of the rising numbers of the corona virus, we feel it is in the best interest of our congregation and our friends in the community to cancel the concert.

Though the concert is cancelled, the “spirit” of W.C. Handy is not! You will be hearing lots of Handy-ish music in our worship services during the month of July, Rest assured, “River in Judea” will be one of the traditional pieces you will not miss!

Take care, be safe, and join us online at 10:45 a.m. each Sunday during the month of July at for a month of spirituals, gospel pieces and maybe some jazz as we celebrate W.C. Handy week virtually this year.

With a song in my heart!

- Linda

2020 Design

2020 Handy Festival Brochure Design

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Carl Brackin Presents the 2020 W.C. Handy Festival Design

May 12, 2020 – The Music Preservation Society, Inc. is proud to announce that Carl Brackin, Jr., a local artist, has generously donated his talents to create the W.C. Handy Music Festival design for the year 2020. Brackin, a 2004 graduate of the University of North Alabama, graciously agreed when contacted by Festival organizers and asked to create a design that spoke to the impact of music on the Shoals while referencing the unusual circumstances caused by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Working in various media, including photography and graphic art, Brackin has submitted several popular designs which have usually ranked at or near the top of those submitted each year. His was the winning design featured during the 2015 Handy Festival. Brackin explained that when he began creating, he “selected elements of music and healing, along with depth, movement, and an active public location with visual references to local landmarks in a series of vibrant and warm colors. The dancing doctors are a nod to doctors and health care personnel prescribing music to heal the soul.” Brackin said that he looked for “a cohesive pattern of locations. Among them are landmark theater/entertainment venues that both support Handy Events and utilize neon in their signage including Shoals Theatre in Florence, Ritz Theatre in Sheffield, Music Hall Of Fame in Tuscumbia, the Roxy in Russellville, and FAME Recording in Muscle Shoals.” When offered the usual compensation annually paid to W.C. Handy Festival design competition winners, Brackin said, “I will be honored to decline the prize money so you may use it on further promoting the 2020 Handy Festival. Consider the poster as a donation from me to the Music Committee.”

The annual W.C. Handy Festival design is featured on the front of the 2020 T-shirts, posters, brochures, and other marketing materials. Mr. Brackin will sign a limited number of the posters. There will also be unsigned posters available for purchase. This year’s Handy Festival will be held July 17-26, 2020, with Handy Headquarters again being located in the Southall-Moore House, 215 East Tuscaloosa Street, across from Wilson Park in Florence. Posters and other concession items will soon be available for purchase at The Handy Festival Steering Committee will follow guidelines to help ensure a safe Festival. All attendees will be asked to adhere to social distancing recommendations.

W.C. Handy Festival Tribute to Edsel Holden

William Christopher “W.C”. Handy was “Father of the Blues”. The Festival in his honor came about as an idea birthed after a conversation between Dr. David Mussleman and Dr. Willie Ruff, making them the “Fathers of the Handy Festival”. However, it was Edsel Holden who became the Handy Festival’s “God-Father”. Edsel served on the original Music Preservation Society Board of Directors, and through the years spent considerable time making the Handy Festival successful. He worked at all hours of the day and night, talking with owners and managers about featuring live music in local restaurants, bars, and other businesses, putting together performers to create ‘dream team’ jazz trios, quartets, and quintets, and convincing sponsors to fund it all. The result was one of the best weeks of the year in the Shoals area: the W.C. Handy Music Festival. Edsel never stopped loving and assisting (and helping to direct) the Handy Festival. His flair for presenting music benefited the entire area. The Music Preservation Society Inc. honors the memory of Edsel Holden, and will be always be grateful for his untiring support of the W.C. Handy Music Festival. His loss resulted in many phone calls expressing sadness and disbelief that this vibrant lover of music had sung his last song. Some of the many who reached out via email to express sadness at losing him include:

Laszlo Gardony: “I always think of him as a friend, and I am very sorry to learn that he is gone. He was a sparkling light for everyone who knew him and he will be deeply missed. Laszlo”

Denise Thimes: "He will truly truly be missed by me. A ‘one of a kind’.”

Susann Hamlin: "Edsel will be sorely missed by many. I will pray for his family."

Bill Huber: "Although I was late in coming to know Edsel, I am grateful that I did get to know him, and share his passion for music, delight in people, and joy in life. I’m glad the Handy Festival is in good hands; each Festival is a proper and fitting tribute to Edsel and his vision. Sincerely, Bill Huber"

Robert Redd: “I was so sad to hear this. Edsel was a great guy! One of the first people I met when I came to the Handy Festival around 20 years ago. He welcomed me and was so gracious and made me feel right at home! His presence was such an integral part of what has shaped the Handy Fest to be such a wonderful experience for us all. He will be greatly missed. Robert”

Sonny Harris: “I'm very sad to hear about Edsel. He was a wonderful man and musician. He was one of those who makes things happen, who inspires and involves and encourages people to do big things, to be the best they can be, to take advantage of the great opportunities life can bring. Edsel is responsible for giving me the opportunity to have 20 wonderful years of playing music with great musicians. I will always be grateful to him and to you and to all the others who made Handy happen for me. Handy was one the few most important events and influences in my life - unforgettable times and events and people!! Please pass this email along to his family. Thank you very much. Love and best wishes to all. Sonny”

Tori Bailey: Edsel shared his enthusiasm for listening to and performing great music, and his expertise in putting together excellent shows. Edsel loved the W.C. Handy Festival, and knew what an asset it is to our community. He raised funds for music events and venues, and he provided valuable insight, advice, and encouragement to the Handy team all the way through Handy Festival 2019. I cannot imagine how it will be not seeing him and talking to him (and taking direction from him!) during the month of July. He leaves a void that cannot be filled, and he will be missed.

Our Sponsors

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The WC Handy Music Festival

Contact Us

Music Preservation Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 1827
Florence, AL 35631
(256) 766-7642