When The Stars Came Out: The Story of the Mississippi River Festival (1969-80)

About the Book

In the summer of 1969, the Mississippi River Festival (MRF) kicked off on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Over the next 12 turbulent summers, the outdoor concert series attracted more than a million fans, showcased the talents of hundreds of legendary performers, and created countless memories among the artists, fans and workers who called the MRF their summer home.

The Who, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, the Eagles, Janis Joplin and many other rock legends played the MRF. But the festival’s commitment to music diversity allowed area fans to also enjoy classical, jazz, dance, barbershop, theater and bluegrass over the course of a summer. How many entertainment series could attract Henry Mancini AND Alice Cooper? Bob Hope AND Richard Pryor? The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra AND the Ozark Mountain Daredevils? Sir Michael Redgrave AND Julie Harris?

The Mississippi River Festival is a part of history now, but it remains a beloved piece of nostalgia for thousands of St. Louis area residents. And now, for the first time, the complete story is being told. This is the story of what happened when the stars came out.

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A Stellar Recount of Music History

When the Stars Came Out allows the artists who performed, the fans who cheered, and the dedicated folks who made it all possible to tell the MRF story in a comprehensive manner for the first time.

Meet the Author

Mark Pierce

Mark Pierce has been a journalist and corporate communications leader in the St. Louis area for more than 30 years. A graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Mark’s love of music and connections with many who played pivotal roles in the Mississippi River Festival story served as inspiration to write the first book that truly tells the MRF’s story. Mark lives in Glen Carbon with his wife, Sara.

Upcoming Events

April 16, 2023 at 2 P.M. – Madison County Historical Society Speaker Series and Book Signing

Want to book Mark Pierce for a speaking engagement?