2023 Sheriff Buford Pusser festival begins

ADAMSVILLE, Tenn. — A festival kicked off to honor a man who fought for justice and inspired a nation.

The Sheriff Buford Pusser Festival returned on Thursday, serving as a way to mark everything he did for McNairy County.

Pusser was a legendary lawman who served as the sheriff of the county from 1964 to 1970. He was known for his tough stance against organized crime and corruption in the county.

His efforts to clean up the area made him a local hero.

Pusser’s life and career were the subject of the 1973 film “Walking Tall,” which chronicled his battles against bootleggers, gambling rings, and other criminal elements.

The film was a box office success and helped to cement Pusser’s status as a folk hero in the area.

Tina Jarrell, a curator at the Buford Pusser Museum, shared more.

“He was [6-inches, 6-feet tall], 250 pounds. He campaigned not to carry a gun, and he didn’t the first three years he was in office. But he didn’t walk around with a particular stick like they showed in the movie. That wasn’t true. He would grab whatever was handy, a table leg, a fence post, etc. He grabbed a fence post, sent three to the hospital, and three to jail, that is what started the whole stick legend,” Jarrell said.

The festival will be held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The festival has been going on for 35 years, with all kinds of activities for everyone to enjoy.

The carnival will be all three days from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

There will also be live music:

  • Wayne Jerrold Band Thursday at 6 p.m.
  • Classy & Grassy Friday at 6 p.m.
  • Open Mic Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Ezella Robinson Saturday at 4 p.m.
  • Bigbee Ramblers Saturday at 6 p.m.
  • Clayton Q Saturday a 8 p.m.

There will also be a car show and a showing of the film “Walking Tall” for everyone to see.

Jerrell shared the inspiration behind starting this festival.

“The museum opened in 1988. They had over 6,000 people in attendance, and so that made them know that people are going to come far and wide for Buford. And so they started having this festival 35 years ago,” Jarrell said.

Actor James Stokes was in attendance, signing autographs and meeting fans of his previous shows and films.

He was also promoting the newly announced “Walking Tall” remake, where he will be playing Pusser.

Stokes said that it feels absolutely amazing to be playing Pusser, and that he is honored.

“The people down here at the museum, the mayor, the city council, I’ve talked to them. They have been nothing but generous and kind and open to the entire fact of us bringing that name back to light,” Stokes said.

Jarrell also expressed that this festival will just keep getting bigger and better every year.

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