Double Decker draws strong crowds

By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – If your life wouldn’t be complete without a life-sized walnut snapping turtle, a “debris-style” sandwich or just seeing old friends, Double Decker Arts Festival was all that and more.
The compulsions for being at the Friday-and-Saturday event were as varied as the people involved – from hearing Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze to kids’ games, music, art and food.
“I’m here for the weather, the people and the opportunity to be in Oxford, Mississippi,” said George Johnston, who recently retired to the town. “After 40 years in exile, I feel like I’ve died and gone to Heaven.”
Pat Lowe of Oxford noted several improvements from earlier years such as Hotty Toddy Potties and the extension of booths further out that made the Square less crowded. She was especially enjoying running into friends more.
“Since they moved the stages back from the Square, you can hear conversations now,” she said.
Trent Scott of Cleveland came for Saturday’s art sales and Friday night’s concerts by Charlie Mars, Deer Tick, and Iron and Wine.
“I’m a huge Deer Tick fan,” he said. “I’d always heard there was great art here, too, so I was eager to see some of it.”
Demitri Hilliard, 16, of Oxford said Friday night’s concert was the high point of Double Decker for him, too.
“I don’t know names (of bands),” he said. “I just know I enjoyed it all.”
Terry Buffington of Oxford was excited about Saturday night’s music lineup. She posted on Facebook, “Mavis Staples will shout it down … so, I am dancing and getting ready to go to the square. It’s a ball, y’all!”
Jasmine Carter of Oxford was at Double Decker for “the people, the crowds,” and her friend Jonathan White of Memphis was seeking “the perfect Mother’s Day gift.”
Part-time Oxford resident Richard Rehfeldt of Madison said his most memorable Double Decker purchase was three years ago.
“I bought a painting of how an artist imagined (blues singer) Robert Johnson as an older man, down at the crossroads bargaining with the Devil again,” he said.
“It’s on my front porch, where we listen to blues and drink wine.”
The warm, breezy day brought out crowds that had the festival’s artists and downtown merchants often as happy as the visitors. Rodney Claxton’s booth was as full of customers as of his two-story birdhouses.
“We love Oxford and Double Decker,” said the Jonesboro, Ark., artist. “It’s one of our best shows.”
Bethany Tompkins of Birmingham, Ala., attracted customers with bright paintings as whimsical as starry-eyed giraffes and psychedelic roosters.
“I like art that, when I look at it, makes me smile,” the Jackson native said.
Betsy Lynch, an employee at University Sporting Goods, said many of the shoppers coming for the 150-plus art booths were also crowding the store’s sidewalk sale.
“I think people really like seeing us outside,” she said. “Besides, it’s a beautiful day to be in Oxford.”

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