Yolanda Edmonds walked through a sea of merriment on the Meridian City Hall lawn: an artist painting children’s faces, families playing carnival games, kids riding ponies and jumping inside bounce houses. She grabbed a microphone and called for everyone’s attention. Reaching into a container full of raffle tickets, Edmonds randomly selected one and announced the name of the winner, who excitedly stepped up and accepted his prize, an American flag-patterned guitar.
This day, Sept. 3, 2016, marked the launch of what Edmonds then called Meridian Day. Together with her husband, Tim Edmonds, she had spent close to 20 years promoting boxing matches in Meridian, Miss., as part of Team TNT Promotions and knew she could put her promotional skills to use to create a festival for her community.
Nicknamed the “Queen City,” Meridian was once the second-largest city in Mississippi behind Jackson, but was about eighth in size in the 2020 census due to flight out of the city such as other Mississippi towns have suffered, leaving economic challenges and a near-30% poverty rate in the wake. But the Edmonds couple believes in its revival and future.
After throwing ideas back and forth to one another at home, the pair decided that whatever they created would have to be a free event that they funded out of pocket. Edmonds set meeting with owners of local businesses such as Meridian Underground Music to take part and organize prize giveaways, with the flag-patterned guitar as the first event’s centerpiece.
Magnolia Beverage Company also helped to support the festival “from day one,” Edmonds says. The organizer made her own fliers, brought in vendors and even made arrangements to set up pony rides, all through TNT Promotions.
‘All In for as Long as I Can’
For her inaugural event, Edmonds brought in local musical talent from Meridian to perform throughout the day, including Scott McQuaig and the Tomcats, Aa’Keela and the Beats, LuV Undercover and guitar soloist Jim Brock. The positive turnout, which Edmonds deemed impressive for a locally organized community event, encouraged her, but a comment from a festivalgoer that first summer day sticks out in Edmonds’ mind.
“A man who was visiting from out of state came around to see Meridian Day, and he told me that if I stuck with this something good would come out of it,” Edmonds says. “He talked to me about the Jimmie Rodgers Festival and how it took time for even something like that to take off, but that I could do it, too. Well, I’m no quitter, and I took that to heart.”
“When I set out to do something, I go all in and continue with everything I have for as long as I can,” she adds.
Good to her word, Edmonds continued to put in the work to build Meridian Fest into an annual event, now held on the last Saturday of each August at Meridian City Hall (601 23rd Ave., Meridian). In 2019, Edmonds changed the festival’s name to SummerFest, both to distinguish it from a similarly named event the City of Meridian organized and to mark her community celebration as something all her own.
SummerFest will take place this year on Saturday, Aug. 27, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. In addition to live music from the Meridian native group Daniel Houze Band, SummerFest 2022 will feature games, pony rides, craft and food vendors, face painting, a cornhole tournament, an antique car show, prize giveaways and more.
“These last couple of years, Virginia Nelson Carnie of Queen City Social has been a big help to us in helping to get the word out and get people interested,” Edmonds says of the social-media personality. “She’s dedicated to promoting Meridian in everything she puts out online, and we’re grateful for everything she’s done to help us out through TNT Promotions.”
‘Goal Was Never Glory or Fame’
TNT Promotions grew out of Tim Edmonds’ career as a professional boxer, after having been involved in the sport since he was 14 years old. Wanting to promote the Meridian boxing scene, Tim and Yolanda Edmonds joined with a friend named Joseph Gordon and launched what was originally Trinity Promotions.
A few years later, they instead decided to rename the organization Team TNT Promotions, after Tim Edmonds’ privately owned boxing gym in Meridian. Gordon died in 2021, leaving the Edmondses to operate the company alongside their children: Tyi, Timorie and Rashaad.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Tyi Edmonds took an interest in boxing that led Tim and Yolanda to open a gym in 1998, when Tyi was 8 years old. The gym, named Team TNT Boxing Club, held its first professional show in 1999. A decade later, the Edmonds partnered with Paul Joyner, a trainer from Relson Gracie 601 in Meridian.
“From the beginning, the goal was never glory or fame but helping neighborhood kids on our own dollar, just like what we do with SummerFest now,” Yolanda Edmonds says. “Our gym helps get kids off the streets and gives them direction through boxing, where they’re learning a skill. We also promote local boxing matches and help Meridian boxers build up their careers.”
Yolanda Edmonds has worked with the City of Meridian for 20 years, spending the last 15 years with the Meridian Police Department, where she currently serves as senior secretary for the Criminal Investigation Division. Tim Edmonds has been a member of the Meridian Housing Authority for the last 15 years, and the couple’s son, Tyi Edmonds, is a professional boxer currently signed with MG Ring Productions whose next match is set for Friday, Aug. 12, at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, Ariz.
“My goal with TNT Promotions and SummerFest has always been to establish something that will last a lifetime,” Edmonds says. “I know there are larger festivals around and that people are used to what they’re used to, but SummerFest has always been about giving something free to my community that stands out for being something that comes from someone who loves where she is.”