Free and Easy | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Free and Easy

 Jackson is full of entertainment for folks on any budget—take in a performance at the Belhaven Park one day this summer.

Jackson is full of entertainment for folks on any budget—take in a performance at the Belhaven Park one day this summer. Photo by Julie Skipper

I am not a good bargain shopper. I have friends who are. They thrill at the hunt of finding a deal. Those stores, you know the ones, that advertise department store brands at discounted prices? They love them. They'll go every Wednesday when they receive shipments and pore through the racks until one week, they find something great. I lack both the patience and desire to do that. I'm just willing to pay more to have things laid out and organized and in a smaller shop where someone helps me.

Having fun on a budget, though? That's another story entirely, and a challenge I embrace with gusto. There are so many fun, free (or inexpensive) things to do around town that I hardly have time to fit them all in. And when spring fever hits, it's the perfect time to get out and take advantage of them.

When I heard that Belhaven Park was hosting a troupe of players from New Stage Theatre in a free performance of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," I was there with bells on. The play is hilarious, and a chance to watch outside with a picnic? Genius!

Packing up a tote with a blanket and refreshments, and donning my springtime floppy hat, I eagerly joined a diverse crowd of Belhaven residents and friends of the neighborhood on a sunny Sunday evening for the show.

Some picnickers were very fancy, having put out round white tables and chairs and using real glasses for their beverages; others enjoyed fast food on their blankets or the pulled-pork sandwich plates from State Street BBQ in their lawn chairs.

For the performance, New Stage shortened the already-abridged play to last about an hour, so it was perfect even for the kids (or others with short attention spans) to enjoy without getting bored, and since it's an interactive play with lots of audience participation, everyone got to take part in the fun.

The best part? This performance was just one in an ongoing spring series in the park, so if you missed it, there are more chances to enjoy artistic performances outside. The "Being Belhaven Arts Series" continues with outdoor movies, a performance by the Mississippi Opera and the Mississippi Symphonic Community Band. A complete schedule is available at

On the heels of that, I heard about a free conversation the Mississippi Museum of Art's Collector's Club hosted one Tuesday evening with the museum's new curator, Roger Ward, and Museum Director Betsy Bradley. A friend and I decided it sounded interesting and cultural, so after work, we headed over to check it out. Ward is a new addition to the museum staff, and his experience and knowledge are beyond impressive.

The conversation truly was just that; Bradley started off by asking him questions to guide the discussion, but it really was a chance for art collectors and enthusiasts, and some local artists, to talk about trends in collecting or whatever else was on their minds. I walked away not only inspired to add more to my (meager) art collection and find some new local artists, but also eager to see how Ward's vision helps shape the already stellar programming of the museum's exhibits going forward.

The Museum of Art is always a great source for affordable fun and cultural events, and in the springtime, it makes full use of the Art Garden to do so. From "Screen on the Green" to an upcoming concert with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra to the "Music in the City" series to Live at Lunch music and "Look and Learn with Hoot" programs for children, there's free fun for everyone. Check out their events page at for a full list.

So while some may bargain hunt at stores, I'll keep hunting for affordable ways to take advantage of all our city has to offer. I hope you will, too. They're out there for the taking!

COVID-19 has closed down the main sources of the JFP's revenue -- concerts, festivals, fundraisers, restaurants and bars. If everyone reading this article gives $5 or more, we should be able to continue publishing through the crisis. Please pay what you can to keep us reporting and publishing.


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