Collins to host the 30th Annual Okatoma Festival

Covington County’s largest event is quickly approaching, and a big milestone will certainly help make sure it’s a great anniversary celebration.

Organized by the Covington County Chamber of Commerce, the Okatoma Festival in Downtown Collins began under a Mississippi Economic Council program to promote pride within communities from across Mississippi.

“Covington County native Gerald McRaney came home for the first Okatoma Festival,” Chamber Executive Director Marie Shoemake said. “A record breaking crowd turned out from all around.”

Of course, it did help to have the star known for such programs as “Simon and Simon”, “Major Dad”, “Promised Land”, and “This is Us” drawing the crowd.

“Gerald spoke praise for his hometown and Mississippi, and it made us all proud,” Shoemake said. “The Okatoma Festival received recognition from MEC, and the festival continued to grow. After three-years, MEC went another direction, but the festival was now a cornerstone event in Covington County.”

Even though they had a great jumpstart, the Chamber of Commerce and the volunteers supporting it certainly had plenty of work to complete to keep the festival fun and exciting for so many years.

“I’m amazed and excited that we’ve reached 30 years,” Shoemake said. “This is a community celebration, and it showcases what organizations have done for a year. We love to get churches and children involved, and it builds a spirit of community pride. Children grow up, and they come home for the festival. It’s a great time for people who have moved away to come back for a reunion. We get really excited this time of the year.”

For this year’s entertainment, organizers selected a country duo quickly becoming established in Nashville. According to information provided by the duo, one of Sirius XM’s prestigious picks for a “Highway Find”, Smithfield will be the Grand Marshals and featured entertainment at this year’s Okatoma Festival.

Besides the main event, there will be music and entertainment all day on two stages. There will be 20 to 25 food vendors, a car show, a children’s fair, quilt show, art contest, 5k run and fun walk, and plenty of other activities. There will be about 200 craft and artisan booths. Plus, the popular parade is back this year with the first marching step at 10:30 a.m.

The theme, noting the Okatoma Festival’s 30th anniversary and Covington County’s Bicentennial, is simply “Celebrate.”

“It’s our time to celebrate and come together,” Shoemake said. “We’re going to have something for everyone to do.”

For more information, contact the Chamber of Commerce by visiting or calling (601) 765-6012.

(The News-Commercial)

Okatoma Festival Entertainment Schedule

Saturday, May 4, 2019


8:00 AM 5k Run/Walk – Collins Presbyterian Church

8:30 AM 1 Mile Children’s Fun Run for 14 and under

9:00 – 9:15 AM OPENING CEREMONIES Festival Main Stage

WELCOME President, Chamber of Commerce



NATIONAL ANTHEM Babette Duty & Susan Dean

9:00 – 9:45 Cool Water Gospel Family

9:45 – 10:30

10:30 Introduction of Mississippi Scholars

10:30 – 11:15 Okatoma Festival Parade

11:15 – 12:00 PM Jones On Stage

12:00 – 12:15

Introduction of Mississippi’s Miss Hospitality

Recognition of Covington County Board of Supervisors

Recognition of Other Elected Officials

12:15 – 1:15 Smithfield

Introduction of Okatoma Festival Queens

Introduction of Other Pageant/Program Winners

1:30 – 2:30 The Funkalicious Delicious 7

2:30 – 3:30 Jo vs Giants

3:30 – 4:45 Brennan Pitts & Company

5:00 – 6:00 As You Were – Army Musical Outreach

6:00 – Jones & Pine

8:00 PM (End)

Okatoma Festival Entertainment Schedule

Saturday, May 4, 2019


10:00 – 10:30 Cross Ties

10:30 – 11:15 Okatoma Festival Parade

11:15 – 11:45 Cross Ties

12:00 – 12:30 MAIN STAGE FOCUS

12:30 – 1:00 Jessie Howell

1:00 – 2:00 Ms. Tabitha

2:00 – 3:00 Zach Koch

3:00 – 5:00 Mississippi Flush Blues Band

Rotarians hear musical talents of Eli Whitehead

April is Autism Awareness Month. The Collins Rotary Club was recently entertained by a musically talented autistic student, Eli Whitehead, center. Eli played three selections on the keyboard. His father, Sam Whitehead, right, discussed the characteristics of autistic persons. Eli is a senior at Seminary High School. Eli and Sam were the guests of Zane Collins, left.

Hospitals in Collins and Magee form partnership

The board of directors of Magee General Hospital and the board of trustees of Covington County Hospital announced the collaboration of their hospitals through the execution of an administrative services agreement. This collaborative agreement will allow these two rural hospitals to work together to share the benefit of best practices, to evaluate strategies for enhancement of care coordination between them and to identify opportunities for lower cost through shared services and expertise.

Under the collaborative agreement, the administrative leadership of Magee General Hospital will be provided by Gregg Gibbes, Covington County Hospital’s current Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Gibbes will be serving as the administrator for both hospitals. The agreement will take effect April 15.

“As recent publicity has shown, the financial stability of rural health care in Mississippi is rapidly declining, placing many of our Mississippi rural hospitals at risk.” said Benny Hubbard, Chairman of the Board of Magee General Hospital. “As leaders, the members of our Board of Directors have recognized the need for bold action to maintain safe sustainable health care in our Magee community. Our collaborative agreement with Covington County Hospital is one of those bold steps. This agreement will help both of our hospitals identify innovative ways to improve our offering of healthcare services for the benefit of patients and our adjacent communities.”

Future cooperative ventures could include specialty physician services, electronic health record implementation, support services, care coordination and population health management.

“Contrary to speculation, this collaboration is not an acquisition of Magee General Hospital by Covington County Hospital,” said Robert Johnson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Covington County Hospital. “Our focus is to work together with Magee General Hospital to meet the healthcare needs of our communities in more efficient and sustainable ways.”

Magee General Hospital is a 64-bed facility, which has operated independently for more than 70 years. Covington County Hospital, in existence since 1951, operates independently as a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital with a 60-bed nursing home, five rural health clinics, an Adult Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and ambulance service. For Mississippi rural hospitals operating independently from larger health systems, the future is challenging.

“The survival of independent rural hospitals demands collaboration,” said Gibbes. “This is the first step toward long-term sustainability of rural healthcare in our region. I look forward to working with these two rural hospitals and leading this important effort.”

Board takes steps to hire superintendent

Members of the Covington County School Board have officially signed a contract to receive assistance in hiring the next superintendent since the State of Mississippi now requires superintendents to be appointed instead of elected following legislative action in 2016.

Mississippi School Boards Association Executive Director Dr. Michael Waldrop met with school board members and their attorney during a work session before their regular monthly meeting at the district’s office Monday, April 8, 2019.

The board chose a service level worth $4,700, plus travel and clerical expenses. This level allows the MSBA to help with advertising for potential applicants, vetting and background checks, and other steps required to find quality applicants. It also puts the burden of interviews on the local level, which could be a positive for the board to meet more people face to face before making a selection.

“Y’all have chosen a search y’all will have a little more responsibility for,” Waldrop said.

Waldrop also explained requirements set by the state for superintendents, such as being in charge of A or B schools, moving schools up a level and maintaining the advancement, or a seated superintendent or assistant superintendent the past five years. There are also alternative ways to find a new leader, such as departments directors, principals, and business professionals.

“You can’t take their word for it on their resume,” Waldrop explained. “You have to verify it.”

Now that the contract is signed, there are many other steps to take. There will be a profile created for potential candidates, ads placed in Mississippi and every other state through school board associations, and a final timeline. The new superintendent will more than likely take office on January 1, 2020.

The school board set a window of five weeks for applications to be accepted.

“We’re going to cast a really broad net as far as searching for candidates,” Waldrop told the board.

Board President Lynn Smith said the board unanimously chose to move forward with hiring the MSBA. Current Superintendent of Education for Covington County Dr. Arnetta Crosby won the previous election and is currently serving as an elected official; however, according to Smith, her term will expire December 31, 2019, with the appointed person taking office January 1, 2020.

We have to have an appointed person in place then,” Smith explained. “We have a great deal of respect for the current superintendent, Dr. Crosby, and we invite her to be a part of the process… We owe it to the legislators and the taxpayers to find the best person for the job.”

(The News-Commercial)

Circus coming to town

A circus is coming to Collins! The Kelly Miller Circus will be at the Collins City Park at the Industrial Park on Tuesday, April 16. There will be two shows: 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at .

Covington County Relay for Life set for May 11

The Covington County Relay for Life is set for May 11, 2018, at the Collins Civic Center. The event will kick off with the annual Survivors’ Reception at 5 p.m. with opening ceremonies for the Relay for Life beginning at 6 p.m. The Relay for Life is presented in conjunction with the American Cancer Society as a way to bring awareness to those battling cancer and remember those who lost the fight. The Relay for Life will end at midnight on Friday night with a grand fireworks display, but fundraising continues through August. Everyone is invited to participate in the event.

City of Collins recognizes Municipal Government Week

The City of Collins is proud to join the Mississippi Municipal League and its 295 member municipalities across the State of Mississippi in celebration of Municipal Government Week, January 14-20, 2018.

City government is, without question, the government closest to the people. At a time when people nationwide seem to have less faith in their government, we in municipal government want to be sure the people here at home are aware of the critical services we provide.

Over 50% of Mississippi citizens live in a city, town, or village. In addition, thousands more rely on cities for places of employment, professional services and retail trade centers. These citizens look to us to provide important services such as police and fire protection, garbage pick-up, street and sidewalk maintenance, electric, water and sewer service, parks and recreational services, and much more. It is a constant challenge for Collins to provide such services within our budget and in the face of requirements imposed on us by other levels of government.

During the current legislative session, the City of Collins will join municipalities across the state in support of a bill that would increase the amount of sales tax diverted back to each city by the State of Mississippi. This increase in sales tax revenue must be used for street, water and sewer improvements. The best part of this proposed plan is that our city will receive additional revenue without increasing anyone’s taxes.

Even in challenging times, I believe that our elected officials and employees are doing a great job in meeting the needs of our citizens. I am proud of our city’s record and look forward to the opportunity to showcase our services during Municipal Government Week. Please visit our website at (, like our official Facebook page or call City Hall at (601) 765-4491 if you have questions or concerns.


Suzette Davis City Clerk

Black Heritage celebration scheduled in Collins

The 20th annual Black Heritage Celebration of Covington County will take place during the month of February with the theme “A Legacy of Strength…A Future of Hope. Honoring Veterans.” The celebration includes a Beauty and Beau Pageant; Youth & Teens Health Fair and Heritage Museum. The celebration will end with a Heritage Parade on Saturday, Febraury 25 at 12 noon on Main Street in Collins. Entertainment will follow the parade.

Veterans Jamboree to be held October 15

On October 15, 2016, Veterans OutReach will be holding our third annual Veterans Jamboree fundraising event in the Collins Civic Center on Highway 49N.
Our current plans are to start the day at 9 a.m. with food vendors, arts and craft booths, open until 5 p.m. At 10:30 a.m. Veterans OutReach will offer a catfish plate lunch for sale on the Collins Civic Center grounds until 5 p.m.   We are also selling raffle tickets on a Browning Bolt Action Rifle and a Yeti cooler package.
We will have free live entertainment inside the civic center until 5 p.m.; classic cars, trucks and motorcycles will be on display throughout the day on the civic center grounds.  A Military group with military equipment will also be present on the grounds.
Our concert will begin at 6:30 p.m. with country music singer Travis Clark; and at 8 p.m. music by Mountain Faith until 9 p.m.  Mountain Faith is a modern bluegrass group from North Carolina that has appeared on America’s Got Talent and the Grand Ole Opry.  Tickets for the concert are $20 each plus tax.
All donated funds and profits generated by this event will be used for the aid and comfort of our elderly veterans residing in the MS State Veterans Homes.