Some people thought Jim Westbrook and Bill Ford reached too fa

CATEGORY: EDT Editorials


Some people thought Jim Westbrook and Bill Ford reached too far 25 years ago this weekend when they started the Gum Tree Arts Festival. The two enjoyed and appreciated art, and they didn’t listen to the doubters and naysayers. We’re all culturally richer because of their vision, confidence and work.

The silver anniversary Gum Tree Arts Festival weekend officially opened Friday night with the lively Gum Ball at the Tupelo Artist Guild Gallery. The ball, including a silent auction and dance, marked the debut of Tina Lutz as director of the festival (she also is director of the gallery). Ford and Westbrook decided to retire this year from directorial responsibilities, but they have been a helpful presence as Lutz orchestrated the weekend’s events.

It is possible, in fact, that some kind of formal relationship could be established between the Tupelo Artist Guild (known as TAG) and the festival. Such a new partnership could be helpful to both, add strength of numbers and resources to the festival, and broaden TAG’s community participation.

All those matters, however, will be decided by the Gum Tree Arts Festival Committee and TAG’s governing board.

The light shines on and activity swirls around almost 100 artists this weekend, plus the festival’s songwriting contest performances, writing and short story contest awards, music stage bands, and a Pied Piper Playhouse performance of “A Sleeping Beauty.” (A complete festival schedule and listing of events was published Friday on page 1C of the Daily Journal).

Many other special events, not officially affiliated with the arts festival, fill the weekend to overflowing.

Tupelo Community Theatre’s final two performances (2 p.m. and 8 p.m. today) of “My Fair Lady” are expected to attract large, near-capacity crowds. Theatre manager Lee Walsh Friday afternoon reported especially brisk ticket sales for the evening show, with more and better seats available for the matinee. Call 844-1935 to make will-call reservations after the taped message. Those who saw Thursday evening’s opening said it is one of the most impressive TCT musicals ever and it falls in the 40th anniversary year of the perpetually popular show. The TCT/Lyric Theatre is on the west side of court square, adjacent to all the arts festival events and activities.

The annual Gum Tree 10K Road Race begins at 8:30 this morning. The best runners are Olympic hopefuls or qualifiers. They will blaze the 10-kilometre course in about 30 minutes or less with the right running conditions. The less-heralded in a throng of about 2,000 will run slowly enough for thousands of spectators to recognize them and urge them on with cheers, water and applause. (Advice from veteran observers: Get to your viewing spot early with lawn chairs, refreshments and binoculars; last-minute parking along the course is hard to find, and the good views are usually filled).

Tupelo has other festivals in the course of the year. Some are bigger and splashier and loads of fun. Gum Tree weekend is the original item, unique in its ambience, and vibrant in its diversity.

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