A near cloudless early-evening sky and pleasant temperatures Friday were the happy harbingers of a crowd-pleasing expanded Music on Main celebration featuring bands and a Greek Step Show that served as the kickoff to Pine Bluff’s 175th Anniversary Celebration.
Framed by the brightly lit Jefferson County Courthouse, the night’s festivities extended down Main Street from Barraque Street to Third Avenue, with several thousand people filling the space between as they visited food stalls, listened to music and watched steppers from University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff fraternities and sororities.
“Wow,” Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said at the start of the evening, summing up her emotions. “The atmosphere, the people and all of the volunteers are all amazing. People were ready for something special and here it is. This is what Pine Bluff is all about.”
Hollingsworth addressed the crowd.
“I wish you could see you from here,” Hollingsworth said from atop the stage looking south down Main Street at the crowds assembled in front of her. “It is the best view I’ve seen in a long time. You all look fabulous. This is all about you. You have made this happen. This is what our city is about.”
Kalisha Smith came from Altheimer to enjoy herself.
“This is my first Music on Main and I love it,” Smith said. “The atmosphere is great.”
Anniversary Committee member and City Treasurer Greg Gustek was glad to see the finished product.
“This shows what you can do when the city and the county comes together to put on something special,” Gustek. “This really helps us begin to put the unity back in community.”
Harold Terry organized the evening as president of the Downtown Special Events Organization.
“We had our first Music on Main two years ago and 40 people showed up,” Terry said. “But we stayed with it. UAPB Homecoming we had 2,000 people and tonight we hope to top that number. We are trying to turn Pine Bluff into an entertainment community like Beale Street in Memphis and Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
“I am proud that Mayor Hollingsworth gave Downtown Special Events the opportunity to kick this anniversary weekend off,” Terry said.
The intersection of Main Street and Third Ave. became a battleground Friday night as step teams from UAPB’s Greek community went to war with the objective of securing a trophy.
Leading off the competition was the team from the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, who took the stage in black T-shirts and black caps with burnished gold pants. The routine showcased individual athleticism embodied by intricate moves that involved jumping, stomping and rapid hand and arm movements; as well as team precision with the men moving as one.
The APA’s left the stage to applause and cheers.
The women of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority took the stage with a mix of synchronized moves, hair flips, sass and sex appeal that got the crowd cheering.
Onlookers ranged from toddlers sitting on their fathers’ shoulders to senior citizens sitting on lawnchairs, with smiles on the faces of most of the crowd.
The bands appearing on stage included Tragikly White, On Call Band, and Nicky Parrish.
Saturday’s 175th Anniversary events begin at 10 a.m. with a parade down Main Street beginning on Harding Avenue and ending at the courthouse.
From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. the early history of Pine Bluff will come to life in Regional Park with frontier re-enactors and Civil War re-enactors encamped with cannon, artillery and muskets.
The Waterfront Building will host a presentation on black history in Pine Bluff; a medicine woman will discuss the different herbs used to heal the sick in frontier times; and a telegraph will be demonstrated.
At 6 p.m. the Black-Tie Optional Gala will take place at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.