By Errol Castens
Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
In this town that loves its celebrations, today’s start of the Double Decker Arts Festival is one of the most anticipated dates on the calendar.
The festival, named for Oxford’s distinctive open-top tour buses, will build on the fun and excitement of 18 predecessors, filling the Square with artists and art aficionados, musicians and music lovers, and food and foodies. It also will offer children’s games, a history tour and a host of downtown businesses offering everything from high fashion to haute cuisine.
Double Decker starts today at noon with an Oxford Artists Guild Friday Market behind FNB Bank, moving onto the Square itself at 6 p.m. with a concert by Rosco Bandana followed by a special Double Decker edition of Oxford’s homegrown “Thacker Mountain Radio” variety show at 7 and a Bo-Keys concert at 8.
“Double Decker is a great family-friendly event that showcases all Oxford has to offer with food, music and art,” said Oxford tourism director Mary Allyn Hedges. “Whether it’s sampling food, perusing artworks, taking in some bands or enjoying the children’s activities, there’s something for everyone.”
“It’s a great celebration for Oxford. It brings out the locals, and it brings a lot of visitors to town,” said Festival Director Madison Featherston. “We’re really excited about the lineup this year, and we’ve had so many compliments about having Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Charles Bradley as our headliners. It’s great to know the community is as excited about having them as we are.”
Saturday’s Double Decker activities begin with the Double Decker 10k and 5k races, starting and finishing at Mid-Town Shopping Center and winding through tree-lined neighborhoods, traversing Mississippi Hill Country terrain and skirting Oxford’s historic downtown area.
The day will offer 12 hours of live music from City Hall to Preservation Hall and all points in between. The nearly nonstop concert launches with Morgan Pennington (executive assistant to Oxford’s mayor) and ends with back-to-back performances by headliners Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Brooklyn-based Charles Bradley.
From 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, more than 100 artists and craftsmen will set up displays on the Square to offer creations from fine art to utter whimsy. The variety extends from birdhouses, yard art and wooden toys to photography, ceramic art, jewelry and far more. Artists represent a cross-section of both the Oxford-Lafayette arts community as well as known and emerging creative people from throughout Mississippi and neighboring states.
Chairmaker Greg Harkins, for instance, has crafted high-quality rocking chairs not only for “plain folks” but Presidents, movie stars and at least one Pope, while painter Larry Wamble has created a following with his idealized prints of Oxford and other favorite cities.
Catherine Ann Davis’ stock in trade is Mississippi- and South-centric art applied to clothing and home accessories, while Joe Mac Hudspeth is one of the most recognized wildlife photographers in the region.
Foodies will savor the offerings from 20 Oxford-area restaurants, including traditional favorites such as B’s Barbecue and Proud Larry’s, along with new entries like R3Que and Oxford Grillhouse.
“We estimate about 50,000 people will come to Double Decker,” Featherston said. “And with great weather, that number can only grow.”