Handy Festival ‘Posting the Blues’ With Special Postal Cachet Featuring Design Work by UNA Students

Jul. 24, 2013


Handy Poster CachetBy Amanda Abernathy, Student Writer

FLORENCE, Ala. – The design work of two University of North Alabama undergraduate students will be spotlighted when the Florence Post Office offers a special postal cachet in honor of the 32nd W.C. Handy Music Festival. 

The cachet – to be unveiled during the annual “Music on the Lawn” festival event at 2 p.m. Thursday, July 25, at the downtown post office – depicts the historic W.C. Handy Home (where the “Father of the Blues” was born in 1873) and the official 2013 festival design. The winning design was created by UNA students Mackenzie Kimbrough of Tuscumbia and Maurice Mull of Tanner. 

“It’s kind of mind-blowing that a design that started off as a poster for a contest is now worthy to be put on an envelope,” Mull remarked. “It’s a real blessing to be part of something like that.”

Mull is a human-resource management major and a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. Kimbrough is a marketing major with a minor in family studies. Both students are members of the UNA Honors Program. The design was created as a class assignment for an honors computing course taught by Ron Davis, an assistant professor of computing information systems at UNA. Students from that course have also submitted winning images for the three previous festivals.

“I am really pleased with Mackenzie and Maurice’s design,” Davis noted, “and I am also very proud of the effort that all of the students in this class made.”

Thursday’s special Handy event at the Florence Post Office brings the Handy history full circle – back to a historic building in the heart of Handy’s hometown.    

“This is a terrific example of the way our community comes together to share in the commemoration of a musical legend,” Florence City Council President Dick Jordan explained, “and to reflect on the community as we celebrate its history.”

According to Florence Postmaster Pamela Lasell, 2013 marks several milestones for Handy’s native city, including the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Florence Post Office and the 140th anniversary of Handy’s birth. By the time the building opened, Handy (who died in1958) had moved the year before to Memphis, Tennessee, in order to further his musical career. It was during that same period (1913-1918) that he and Harry Pace operated the Pace & Handy Music Co. and published some of Handy’s most famous songs, including the composer’s signature tune, “St. Louis Blues.”

By 1970, Handy‘s log-cabin birthplace in Florence had been moved from its original location on Beale Street and Cherokee Street, then reassembled at its present location, 620 W. College St., across from Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital and Riverbend Center for Mental Health. A musical celebration marked the opening of the museum. A decade later, renowned jazz musician and Sheffield native Willie Ruff suggested to a group of local citizens that a celebration be developed in honor of Handy’s musical heritage.

“Then we decided, ‘Why not have a festival?’,” recalled Peggy Steele Clay, one of the festival’s founders. “From there, the idea was hatched for the formation of a group called the Music Preservation Society.”

In 1982, the society hosted the first W.C. Handy Music Festival, with jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie as the concert headliner. That 32-year tradition continues this week as the Handy festival – now a 10-day celebration that’s ranked one of the top music events in the Southeast – hosts a headliner concert by contemporary blues artist Keb’ Mo’ at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 27, at Norton Auditorium on the UNA campus.

“The festival was designed for people to get together and have fun,” Clay added. “(Back then), the shopkeeper and the judge were dancing together on Mobile Street. And even though we were in an economic downturn, we said, ‘We’re not dead yet.’ ”

For details on Thursday’s cachet event, or on the festival itself, contact the festival office at 256-766-7642 or visit the festival’s website at www.wchandymusicfestival.org.

University of North Alabama senior journalism major Amanda Abernathy, of Athens, is serving as an intern this summer for the 2013 W.C. Handy Music Festival.

A high-resolution image of the winning Handy design is available in our Photo Gallery at: http://www.unalionsden.com/archive/photo.php?id=6704