By ALEX JACKS
Oxford is known for many things — the University of Mississippi, football and the square. For many however, the most well known quality of the quaint city is its arts and music scene.
As one of the major artistic and musical hubs in the state, it is no wonder the city hosts a festival every year to celebrate food, music and the arts. This year, more than 65,000 people will descend on Oxford for the 22nd annual Double Decker Arts Festival on April 28-29.
Taking its name from the city’s historic double decker bus that was imported from England in 1994, the festival showcases Oxford as a town that supports the arts, Double Decker Arts Festival Coordinator Lee Ann Stubbs said.
“It has grown to become one of the premier festivals in the region,” she said.
The Double Decker Arts Festival began in 1996 from the vision of Oxford Mayor-Elect Robyn Tannehill and current Mayor George Patterson, who served on the Oxford Tourism Council at the time.
“The festival literally started in the bed of a pickup truck serving as a stage for music and only a handful of art vendors,” Stubbs said. “Robyn saw a vision and created something that has probably exceeded many people’s expectations. It is pretty amazing how much the festival has grown in 22 years.”
The festival attracts thousands of people each year during the last weekend in April to experience the best of Southern culture in the heart of the Deep South, she said.
“The diversity of both art and food vendors has grown tremendously over the years,” Stubbs said. “Each year, the festival continues to grow, which in turn fills the hotel rooms in the city of Oxford. It provides a huge economic impact to the city by having people spend money at restaurants, hotels and stores throughout the event.”
The festival has become an unofficial reunion weekend for Ole Miss alums and people that enjoy visiting Oxford, Stubbs said.
“It has become the spring weekend to come back to visit because of its richness in food, music and the arts,” she said.
In order to continue expanding the festival’s economic impact, Stubbs said she and the city work diligently to improve at least one aspect of the festival each year.
“Each year, we try to improve the festival — whether it’s through the layout to ensure safety or expanding the music lineup, we work hard to make sure our festival attendees have an experience that makes them want to come back from year to year,” she said. “We continue to see both festival attendance grow as well as the number of art vendor applications that we receive grow each year.”
Operating the festival would not be possible without the help of city employees and student interns, Stubbs said.
“As the festival draws near everyone in our office pitches in,” she said. “We also have interns that work with us that help tremendously, and volunteers that we couldn’t do it without. We work with pretty much every department in the city throughout the planning of the festival.”
The festival functions as a team effort and provides internships and jobs to the community, Stubbs said.
Now in a two day format, the festival will kickoff on Friday with the Double Decker Oxford Artists Guild market, Thacker Mountain Radio’s live broadcast and music from Jimmy “Duck” Holmes and the Muddy Magnolias.
“Saturday is an all-day affair featuring over 140 artists from around the United States, Southern food and a diverse selection of music,” Stubbs said. “The festival offers a variety of activities for people of all ages.”
The award winning festival has received acclaim from magazines such as Garden and Gun and Southern Living, and was named the Best Public Event by the Association of Destination Marketing Executives in 2012, the Best Festival by the Oxford Eagle the past five years and was a 2014 and 2015 recipient of the Top 20 Event award.
“It’s hard to even say that my work is a job because it’s so fun to see the festival go from start to finish,” Stubbs said. “I’ve been attending the Double Decker Arts Festival since I was a child and it’s a wonderful feeling to say now that I have a part in planning it.”
For more information about the Double Decker Arts Festival, visit doubledeckerfestival.com.
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