For the better part of a decade, Tupelo leaders have been stepping up efforts to expand and broaden the entertainment options available in the city. Recent and upcoming events underscore what that can look like.
It used to be that the festival season, such as it was, didn’t start in Tupelo until May with the GumTree Festival. It’s much earlier now.
Already, there has been the Tupelo Craft Beer Festival, this past weekend the NOleput Festival – a Mardi Gras-style tip-of-the-hat to the 1990s Oleput Festival – debuted, and the city hosted Color Vibe 5k race, an unusual and enormously popular event. The Blue Suede Cruise is the first weekend in May, GumTree the second and the Elvis Festival comes in June. Fairpark will host another set of free outdoor concerts this summer as well.
Former Mayor Jack Reed Jr. first introduced the notion of Tupelo becoming a “cool city” when he was chairman of the Community Development Foundation, then carried that phrase over into his four years as mayor. Since taking office last July, Mayor Jason Shelton has used the same theme, if not the identical terminology.
While opinions may differ on what makes a city “cool,” the goal of both mayors has been to increase the kind of quality of life events and venues that enhance Tupelo’s attractiveness as a place for young, bright business people and professionals to live, work and play. More such Tupelo residents would mean a more vibrant community and a stronger, more diverse economy.
Tupelo always has been a great place to live, particularly for families with young children. The “cool city” factor helps broaden the appeal and step things up a notch at a time when competition among communities for the best and brightest is more intense than ever. The idea is to get more young people to settle in or return to Tupelo before they get permanently established and raise their families somewhere else.
But as this past weekend showed, there’s an immediate, tangible impact beyond the feel-good effects for people already living here or considering it. Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Neal McCoy estimated that the Color Vibe, NOleput, the circus at the BancorpSouth Arena and the Daily Journal Relays at Tupelo High School brought up to 6,500 guests to the city. They ate in restaurants, bought gas, stayed in hotels and otherwise contributed to the Tupelo economy.
More events that establish Tupelo as a cool place to live and work are good for the long-term ability of the city to attract and retain the kind of residents a growing, creative, thriving city needs. But in the short term, they also bring in major dollars. That’s a win-win for the city.