Rockabilly Revival brings tourism dollars to county

By Emily Pitts


Once again, this year’s Rockabilly Highway Revival was a success, not only for vendors, audiences, and musicians, but for local businesses as well.

“We’ve created a really good event,” said McNairy Regional Alliance (MRA) representative and Rockabilly Committee member Russell Ingle. “It’s brought improvement to downtown; it honors our past and musical heritage. And it’s all done with the intent of bringing people downtown and giving businesses an opportunity of opening doors.”

Last year, the Rockabilly Café, a restaurant in downtown Selmer, had its grand opening on the day of the Rockabilly Festival. The café seats 63 and at this year’s festival, it stayed packed all day. 

“We had people waiting outside the doors,” said owner Lola Nichols. She estimates that anywhere from 750 to 1,000 people ate at the Rockabilly Café this year during the festival.

“We had a really great day,” she stated. “We’re really happy to have the Rockabilly Festival here. We had lots of people from out of town and lots of compliments.” 

The iconic downtown eatery Pat’s Café also had a record day.

“We had done two days business by 4:00,” said café owner Harold Knight. “A lot of these people are getting our food for the first time. That’s what I like about it.”

Downtown retailers enjoyed the day as well. When asked about how her business fared on the day of the festival, owner of West Court Choices Shirley Cupples replied that sales were up slightly, but “What we really enjoyed was visiting with people from out of town. They’ll come back next year prepared to buy.

“I think it’s just a wonderful thing for the community,” she added.

“We have found that businesses that adapt to take advantage of the Rockabilly festival were the most successful,” said Ingle. For example, the Village Coffeehouse downtown offered a special strawberry blender in conjunction with the festival and Vine and Branches invited Merryberry Cupcakes into their business on festival day.

Economic Development director Ted Moore reports that $9.1 million is spent by tourists in the county annually. A big part of this, especially during the Rockabilly festival, is spent in local hotels. County hotels reported being full or nearly full the weekend of the festival.

MRA reports that even more efforts are currently being planned to bring locals and visitors alike into the county and into downtown. 

“We need to support the businesses we have,” said Ingle.

The Rockabilly festival itself is funded by contributions from McNairy Regional Alliance, Arts in McNairy (AiM), Selmer Business Alliance (SBA), and the City of Selmer. Some of these organizations fund events or sales to recoup the money they donated to the event; any other profits that are made go back into an account which will be used to fund next year’s festival.

The eventual goal is to make the festival a stand-alone event, with no need for contributions from MRA, AiM, SBA, and the city, as well as one that lasts longer than one day.