Music fans, get ready for the famous North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic this weekend

Published 9:33 am Thursday, June 22, 2023

By Davis Coen

The annual North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic returns this weekend to the Betty Davis Ponderosa at 7252 Hwy. 7 South, in Waterford, MS, Friday and Saturday, June 23-24, with gates opening Thursday at 5 p.m. The festival grounds are located about 15 miles north of Oxford and 12 miles south of Holly Springs.

The widely acclaimed, much anticipated event is regarded by many in the Mid-South as a musical kick-off to the summer and has had two straight years of record-setting attendance numbers.

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The Picnic is a non-profit organization that began in 2006. The goal of The Picnic is to enhance the appreciation, performance, preservation, and interpretation of North Mississippi Hill Country blues music to its fans and followers.

Camping is also encouraged for attendees to gain the full experience and safely enjoy the long list of talented musical acts, of various roots-related genres, many of whom reside in Lafayette and Marshall Counties and take part on a yearly basis.

Some mainstays are co-creator Kenny Brown (who not only headlines but puts on the event with wife Sara), Oxford-based Kudzu Kings, Eric Deaton, Rocket 88, and a slew of Burnsides and Kimbroughs.

Other performers at the Picnic are Alvin Youngblood Hart’s Muscle Theory, Cary Hudson, R.L. Boyce, Memphissippi Sounds, Trent Ayers, and Rising Star Fire & Drum Band.

Also, legendary harmonica player, Grammy Award winner and Mississippi music legend Charlie Musselwhite will make his debut performance at the Picnic for a stripped-down Saturday evening duo performance.

“It’s one of those really special events that is much greater than the sum of its parts,” said volunteer and performing artist Robb Roaten. “At the Picnic you’ll meet people from the North Mississippi region, but also from far away states and other countries. It really is a destination event for Hill Country blues music fans all over the world.”

Roaten, who also joins his Memphis-based band Just Groovin’ Experience for a Saturday afternoon set, began his involvement with the festival after participating in a Hill Country guitar workshop in 2015. Since then, he’s assisted Sara Brown with the event’s extensive necessary preparations.

“Sara is a gifted administrator and keeps all the pieces of a big event working together and Kenny Brown is a living music treasure,” said Roaten. “Kenny grew up learning music under the wings of greats such as Joe Callicott and R.L. Burnside. He loves to share what’s been shared with him to the next generation of Hill Country blues lovers, finding new audiences for the musicians that taught him.”

When the Picnic returned in 2021, after a hiatus caused by Covid, it was stronger than ever and sold out for the first time.  “As people explored music deeply during the pandemic, there is as much interest in Hill Country Blues as ever,” said Roaten.

Helping to increase the buzz, international renowned rock band The Black Keys had just released an album influenced by Hill Country Blues, with Eric Deaton and Kenny Brown on the album.  In turn, the group became one of the official sponsors of the Picnic.

Tickets are available online at for $25 per day, with add-ons for camping, and a small cooler fee. There is also a package deal which includes everything for $65, for the entire weekend.


Additional options include a VIP ticket, although the Early Bird rate deadline has now passed.  It’s also important to know that ticket sales at the gate will be cash only, and that there are no pets, glass, or firearms permitted.


Besides the wonderful music and camping, the communal aspect of the event is equally important.  There’s a palpable air of a shared family bond, not only among the musicians but also the longtime Picnic goers – many of whom have been attending since earlier days, when it took place up the road in Potts Camp, MS.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the 2023 Picnic,” said Sara Brown. “We guarantee great music for your enjoyment.”