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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question:  What is the W.C. Handy Music Festival?
Answer:  A ten day long series of primarily music events occurring in and around the Shoals which honors William Christopher “W.C.” Handy.  The Festival is presented by the Music Preservation Society and is intended as part of the Music Preservation Society effort to preserve, promote, and present the musical heritage of the Shoals in Northwest Alabama.

Question:  Who is W.C. Handy?
Answer:  Florence, Alabama native William Christopher Handy (1873-1958), was a famous composer of sacred and secular music (including “St. Louis Blues”).  He achieved several “firsts”, and is known as the “Father of the Blues”.  The Handy Home and Museum currently stands on College Street in Florence, Alabama.  His company, Handy Brothers Music, continues today, run by his family members in New York.

Question:    In what year was the first annual W.C. Handy Festival held? 
Answer: 1982 

Question:  What are the dates for this year’s Handy Festival?
Answer: Official dates are July 22 - 31, 2016. 

Question:    What does the Handy Festival consist of?
Answer: Live bands perform at area restaurants, clubs, parks, churches, retail stores, and other places that may host Handy lunches, dinners, late nights or anything in between. It also consists of events during which an appreciation of music is taught such as ABC's of Jazz, or the Music Spelling Bee and visits to local libraries and museums. The Festival highlights the rich musical heritage of the Shoals area.

Question:  Who are some of the past Handy Festival Headliners?
Answer: Here is a list of Previous Headliner Acts

Question:  Who are the musicians that provide music during Handy Festival week?
Answer:  Many of the musical performers are Festival favorites who have developed a following and who are requested to return year after year.  Other performers (or their agents) who may be new to the Festival are invited to contact the Festival office each year to vie for an opportunity to be featured during the Handy Festival.  Sometimes Handy Festival organizers will hear news of a particularly popular band and – if there is an appropriate venue – that band is invited to participate.  Most of our artists are local or regional.  Others are nationally or internationally known.  All are very talented and well-respected artists.

Question:  Why aren’t all of the musical performances that are offered during the Handy Festival held in one place?  Why isn’t the Handy Festival a center stage type event?
Answer: The Handy Festival was originally designed to promote area businesses and improve local and regional economy.  By placing bands in stores, restaurants, and other businesses, we hope to drive traffic into those venues, creating an opportunity for increased sales for those businesses.  For example:  if Festival attendees follow their favorite band into a store, it's most likely they will purchase something while they're there.  And maybe they’ll come back and provide repeat business for that store or restaurant.

Question:  Who plans the Handy Festival? 
Answer:  The Handy Festival Steering Committee, with the Music Preservation Society, Inc.

Question:  Why isn’t the Handy Festival held during cooler months?
Answer: The Handy Festival takes place during the summer months so that families with children can attend together and enjoy Festival events when children are not in school.  There are many events designed specifically with children in mind, such as ABC’s of Blues, Jazz & Beyond; Kidz Jamm; GeoBlues; End of Summer Reading Program; Blues-N-Bread Pudding; Musical Jazz Spelling Bee; events at the Children’s Museum and libraries; and the Youth Conference.  Since many of those who attend the Festival are not local, it would be difficult to find a time during fall, winter, or spring when children from different school systems are out of school at the same time.  Dates are also chosen to respect other annual events such as the Film Festival in March, Arts Alive in May, Helen Keller Festival in June, Renaissance Faire in October, the Independence Day Celebration on the 4th of July, as well as the Trail of Tears, Bass Tournaments, Watermelon Festival, Rabbit Festival, and others.  With our Festival is scheduled for the last full week in July, our overall goal is to provide something fun and contribute to the number of tourist attractions held in the Shoals all year long.

Question:  How can one become involved in the Handy Festival?
Answer: Anyone can contribute to the Handy Festival by becoming a general sponsor, which helps to provide funding to offset the costs of presenting the Handy Festival.  Businesses, organizations, and individuals are also invited to sponsor or co-sponsor either existing Handy Events or organize their own event.  Non profits often use the Festival as a vehicle to promote their philanthropies by hosting events.  Individuals may also participate by becoming sponsors or “Friends of the Festival”.  We are always in need of volunteers.  For more information, please contact us.

Question:  What are some of the accolades that have been accorded to the Handy Festival?
Answer: The W.C. Handy Music Festival has been selected a Top Ten Event in Alabama by Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel, a Top Twenty Event in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society each year since 1986, is one of fifty “Must-See” festivals in Alabama during the year of music (2011), was a three-time Cultural Olympiad Event (Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games), and was the Event of the Year 2007 by Alabama Tourism.  The Handy Festival is a featured Site on the National Geographic/Appalachian Regional Commission GeoTourism Map, and was selected as a 2004 ‘Local Secret! Big Find!’ by  The Handy Festival has won numerous Addy awards for the Festival campaign (Shoals Advertising Federation) and has been listed in several national publications including USA Today, US News and World Report, Southern Living, National Geographic Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Going Places (Triple A’s Travel Magazine), and Garden & Gun.  The Festival has also been touted as a boon to local economy by local Tourism and has been positively recognized by Shoals officials.

Question:  How can I contribute to the Handy Festival?
Answer: We are a non-profit organization, so your contributions are tax deductible. Checks can be made payable to the Music Preservation Society and mailed to P.O. Box 1827, Florence, AL 35630. Also, the Handy Festival Committee has commemorative items available for purchase. Items are available while supplies last and can be purchased during the Festival at the Kennedy-Douglass Arts Center Annex, 217 E. Tuscaloosa St., Florence.


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