When Signature Magazine publisher David Gustafson threw out the idea of hosting a Oscar-style, red carpet award show in conjunction with FestivalSouth’s annual ‘Best of the Pine Belt’ competition five years ago, even his own staff raised an eyebrow or two.
But thanks to their encouragement and hard work – and the overwhelming support of the greater Pine Belt community – the annual Best of the Pine Belt Award Show became a reality and has quickly become one of the biggest and most-talked-about nights of the year.
Following some unforseen scheduling issues, this year’s award show will be held on Friday, June 28 – nearly a month later than previous years – but a change to a later date means it will return to the Hattiesburg Saenger Theater for its fifth consecutive year, which Gustafson said was an important part of the decision.
“We considered moving to a different venue, but the historical downtown theater is where the award show was born and we felt it was important to remain there,” he said.
Made possible thanks to the support of Keith’s Superstores, Mississippi Music, First Bank, and FB Wealth Management – with support from Visit Hattiesburg – the Friday night award show doesn’t begin until 8 p.m. this year, but the street party kicks off at 6:30 when guests begin to arrive to the red carpet fanfare that has become a staple of the evening.
With Signature’s own ‘paparazzi’ on hand to snap photos of folks, attendees are encouraged to channel their best Hollywood vibes and strut the red carpet with family and friends.
Meanwhile, inside on the (air-conditioned) stage, the always-popular BOPB-nominated band, Madewood, will perform an upbeat and energetic set to get the audience pumped up and ready for the show.
The award show itself begins promptly at 8 p.m. with a performance that everyone will be talking about.
Interest piqued?
Good. It should be.
In addition to lots of surprises, this year’s featured musical guests include: Thomas Jackson, GothDad, Midnight Revel, The DLX, Down & Good, Royal Horses, the Pine Belt Pickers, and others.
With more than 100 different categories, not all of the awards can be handed out live during the show, but this year 12 categories that have received exceptionally-high participation will be featured, including:  Best Local Chef, Best Tattoo Artist, Best Hattiesburger, Most-Effective Non-Profit, Best Mover & Shaker, Best Unsung Hero, Album of the Year, Best Live Musical Act, Best Local Comic, Best Musical Duo/Group, Best Local Podcast, and Best Volunteer.
A limited number of $20 tickets are available for purchase online at:


Photo by Keith Kujath