Word of South rocks Cascades amid severe weather

Television producer Ravi Howard interviews rapper-poet Nate Marshall at The Edison's Innovation Hall. 
Photo submitted by Bleu Bell

For five years, Tallahassee has headlined award-winning poets, musicians and writers in a unique three-day festival. This past weekend, not even a tornado watch and heavy rains could stop the celebration of art known as Word of South at Cascades Park.

Each year, the unrivaled jubilee draws a diverse and growing crowd as nationally recognized artists mix with local Tallahassee charm. Diverse lineups attract crowds and volunteers of all ages and walks of life. The lawns of Cascades were decorated with dancing feet, food trucks and umbrellas ready to withstand a storm for the sake of exchanging art.

“I’m pretty uninterested in art that is just mine or about me and my own personal fulfillment. The art is both an invitation and opportunity to like have other folks at the table in the creation part of it and also when it goes out to the world,” said accomplished south side Chicago native, poet, actor and rapper Nate Marshall.

Marshall is an example of the myriad of artists channeling their culture into a creative outlet in the new age. Reading excerpts from his first book “Wild Hundreds,” a collection of poems arranged into an urban love song to the south side of Chicago.

Friday’s festivities included performances from blues and rock artist Shakey Graves, real name Alejandro Rose-Garcia, and family band The Currys. Saturday saw a full lineup including Los Angeles rapper Open Mike Eagle, Atlanta-Journal Constitution reporter and Florida A&M graduate Tia Mitchell, Florida Book Award presentations and Florida Artists Hall of Fame inductions.

Guests enjoyed free food at the Southern fried brunch at the Edison tent Sunday afternoon. Old and new fans alike grooved to the Spanish-influenced beats of The Iguanas, a New Orleans jazz and rock band established in 1989. Couples danced in between bites of breakfast burritos and complementary wine spritzers as the wind and rain persisted in the background.

“The crew did a great job having everything exactly as we needed it, so for us, the less we have to think about it, the more we can focus on just playing music. So, we were able to just get up there and do what we do,” said Joe Cabral, saxophone maestro of The Iguanas.

Although many events were canceled due to Sunday’s weather, the Como Mamas drew a full house at Fifth & Thomas and several artists performed at The Moon including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member John Sebastian and indie-folk duo The Sea, The Sea.

“This is a really unique community experience, bringing music and literature together. There are people from Tallahassee but also that have been around here and then come back and it’s really awesome to see people who have outgrown but come back to their roots,” said Kellie Fahy, FSU student and intern to Mark Mustian, the founder of Word of South.

Mustian has big plans for Word of South 2020 and expects to see the event grow even more. To learn more about the annual festival and lineup, visit www.wordofsouthfestival.com.