Pull out all the stops for Pepsi Pops!

5.10.19 / Old Trace Park / 7:30 pm / Jackson, MS

Mississippi Symphony Orchestra

There’s hardly a more picturesquely perfect evening than Pepsi Pops, as dusk gives way to dark, warmup bands give way to symphonic pops, picnics feed the body and music feeds the soul.

Pepsi Pops, now in its 37th year, is a staple for generations. Folks come as kids, dancing freely all about. Later, they come as couples, then as young parents and even grandparents, still watching the boats bob in the water and the youngsters — theirs or someone elses’s — kick up their heels and embrace the Broadway, movie tunes and pop rock with a spirit uniquely their own.

It’s a casual outing that can be as worry-free or as fancy as you like. The Manship and Pig & Pint will be on hand with tasty food and ice cold Pepsi products, if you don’t get around to packing in your own. But, if a homemade picnic is just part and parcel of this iconic event’s pleasure, get out that basket and you could be in the running for the “Best Picnic Design” contest and prizes.

Picnic judge Bo Bowen, who’s embraced the duty with Barry Plunkett in recent years, shared some secrets about what catches his eye. “There’s one thing that Barry and I are always fascinated by, and that’s the family or the friends who put together a big display,” he says, with themes, perhaps candelabras and flowers — maybe even matching shirts.

He kids that, for years, they’d do tasting tours in the crowd, wandering by on the lookout for homemade picnics with an observation, “Oh, that looks really good.” Invariably, picnickers would say, “Would you like a bite?”

“They thought we were just mooching off them,” he says, laughing, as he recalled some of the outstanding things that’ve crossed their lips, from homemade pickles and interesting salads to Jane Alexander’s homemade pimiento cheese. “It was to die for. You almost want to bring your own crackers, because you know she’s going to bring it.”

They’re no longer suspected of freeloading. Plunkett came up with ribbons and big tags that say “Judge” — just in case there’s any doubt, Bowen says.

Frequent attendee Margaret Johnson Sudduth has enjoyed Pepsi Pops by boat and by land over the years. “My father used to take us on the boat every year, when we first started going. … Just park the boat on the water and you could hear the music really well. That was a lovely experience,” she says.

“In these later years, I have gone with my daughter, who has small children. That’s really fun. They can just run and play out there — before, during or after the music.” Last year, Sudduth took her mother, now in her 90s. They settled in chairs at the top of the park’s sloping hill, to enjoy the concert and the breeze.

Pepsi Pops is fun and low-key, with a great dose of lighthearted music and fireworks to finish. It’s a tradition. As Bowen says, “It kicks off the summer and what I call the patriotic season.”

Stars and stripes and Pepsi Pops forever!

Pepsi Pops Concert

5.10.19 / Old Trace Park / 7:30 pm / Jackson, MS

Tickets $15 in advance; $20 at gate; $5 ages 5-18

Purchase here >

The Pepsi Pops concert program includes:

  • National Anthem

  • Tribute to Irving Berlin

  • Magic Bullets Polka

  • Selections from The Music Man

  • Theme from MASH

  • A Tribute to the King: The Music of Elvis Presley

  • Armed Forces Salute

  • The Magnificent Seven

  • Pops Hoedown

  • Solace

  • Selections from Grease

  • Beach Boys Medley

  • God Bless America

  • Stars and Stripes Forever


  • 4:30 PM - Park gates open

  • 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM - Kids playground & face painting

  • 5:30 PM - Pre-concert entertainment begins

  • 7:30 PM - MSO Pops concert begins

  • 9:30 PM - FINALE - Sky full of fireworks


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