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Council's new food rules for festival draw howls from vendors

OXFORD — The Oxford Tourism Council’s revamped selection process for food vendors at the Double Decker Arts Festival is drawing protests from some would-be participants.

Recently, several businesses that applied for one of the 25 food booths at the festival received a letter asking them to resubmit their application with menus including something unique to Oxford.

As of last Friday, The Oxford Eagle reports, only 11 businesses met the criteria. One pizza restaurant owner called the requirements silly. A barbecue restaurant owner said the council committee that will select vendors has no right to dictate his menu.

In a written statement last Thursday, the Tourism Council said the committee was established after the council received complaints that previous years’ offerings weren’t local enough.

The council said the original intention of the festival was to attract visitors to Oxford by “offering a unique experience.” The food vendor committee was set up to find ways to create that experience.

Tate Moore, owner of Square Pizza, received a letter requesting him to resubmit his application. In the letter, the committee asks vendors to create a “Double-Decker only” dish or use ingredients from local producers, such as farmers, or using well-known local recipes.

According to the council’s letter, a pizza franchise is serving a pizza topped with Mississippi Gulf Coast shrimp; a corn dog vendor will use sausage made from pork from a Lafayette County farm; a cake company will use butter from a local farm and a hot dog vendor has made a homemade chow- chow.

“How about I use Oxford water in my flour?” Moore said. “Is that local enough?”

Moore called the requirements silly and has elected not to resubmit his application.

Buck Warden with the Rib Cage also received a letter and has also decided not to reapply.

“During Double Decker, the restaurants want to showcase what we do every day so that those visiting can get a taste and decide to come back and visit our restaurants,” he said. “Telling me that what I sell isn’t good enough is somewhat insulting, too. Last time I checked, barbecue is pretty Southern. In a way, it’s pretty comical, but serious, too, because Double Decker is a big day for us.”

Warden said the usually very busy weekend is a strain on his staff as it is and having to create a new menu item would add to the stress.

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