Gov. Phil Bryant speaks before the Governor’s Concert in Centennial Plaza.

GULFPORT – “Now this is a birthday party. And if you’re going to have a party, you better have it on the Gulf Coast.”

This was Gov. Phil Bryant’s proclamation Saurday evening as he stood on stage, facing a crowd of thousands of people gathering on the green grounds of Centennial Plaza.

They all came for the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration’s finale: the Governor’s Concert, which 20,000 people were expected to attend.

With the Mississippi Bicentennial Chorus and Orchestra in place behind him, Bryant did not sing while he was on stage, but did reflect on the state’s 200 years, specifically its first 100.

Gov. Phil Bryant stands on stage with the Mississippi Bicentennial Chorus as they sing the National Anthem before kicking of the Governor’s Concert in Centennial Plaza.

“As we began to think about how we would celebrate this great bicentennial, we realized Centennial Park …was the perfect place to start,” Bryant said. “They had planned on doing this 100 years ago but a little thing called World War I interrupted it. Men were going off to war, and they missed the opportunity to celebrate 100 years of statehood.”

Fast-forward 100 years. Thousands of Mississippians and people from surrounding areas came together for a two-day celebration of 200 years of achievement, history and culture.

“I want you to sit back, relax and enjoy the evening, recognizing that this only comes along every 200 years,” Bryant said as he wrapped up his introduction. “We might miss the next one.”

The Band Perry, a renowned country music group from Ridgeland, headlined the finale concert.

The band, whose members include siblings Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry, performed several of their hits, including If I Die Young, some new material and covers.

Bicentennial celebrations are also planned for Oxford and Jackson later this year.

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Sereena Henderson managed Mississippi Today’s social media and reported on Mississippi culture from August 2016 until June 2020. She was also a member of the engagement team and curated and delivered the daily newsletter. Sereena, a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is a graduate of the Ole Miss School of Journalism and New Media.