Double Decker: Picture-Perfect

If you have always wanted a bois d’arc bowl, a gourd that sounds like thunder or a hundred different ways to show your love for Oxford and Ole Miss, Double Decker was your place last Saturday.
The 19th annual Double Decker Arts Festival presented by C Spire was predictably elbow-to-elbow much of the day, drawing an estimated 50,000 locals and visitors for the day-long immersion into arts, food and music.
The festival began Friday with arts demonstrations and hours of live performances, including a special open-air “Thacker Mountain Radio” broadcast.
The namesake Double Decker bus drew a long but patient queue of folks for each of its tours of the city and the University of Mississippi campus. The Square Fair drew an equally enthusiastic crowd for children’s games hosted by the university’s Department of Hospitality Management.
More than 20 food vendors including well-known restaurants, start-up eateries and area charitable groups kept the crowd supplied with food and drink from barbecue and foot-long corndogs to “Mr. Phat’s Ruby Chinese Favorites” that reprised an Oxford restaurant of yesteryear.
For many, the heart of Double Decker is the 150 or so artists offering wares as diverse as pottery, painting, photography, jewelry, woodworking and a host of other media.
“It’s kind of a euphoric moment to be walking around and seeing so much art,” said Marcus Daniels of Oxford, who used to work security at the festival. “This is one of the biggest Double Deckers. I’m an artist myself, and I’m hoping to be here next year.”
Mary Beth Mobley said Double Decker was a chance to find common ground between her and her husband’s differing tastes in art.
“It’s a good place to come to a middle connection, because there’s so much on display,” Mary Beth Mobley said. “There’s a $1,200 painting by Lois Arrechea, but I don’t think that’s in our budget.”
Kathy Lorenzo found some favorite among the works of artist Nicole Gladden.
“Every painting tells a story,” Lorenzo said. “You look at first at one picture, and then you see other things and start getting drawn in. I really like it.”
Vendors seemed universally pleased with the crowd, although some were selling more successfully than others.
“People seem to relate to my art,” said Starkville fabric artist Catherine Anne Davis of Hi Y’all Studio. “I love everything about Mississippi, and my art is friendly. I think it evokes childhood memories for a lot of people.”
Keith Wiseman of Atlanta, an Oxford native, sells photos of long-ago scenes from the town such as Wiley’s Shoe Repair and the pre-renovation Powerhouse.
“The people who buy these are not just Oxford natives,” he said. “Some are newcomers who want to connect to the town’s past.”
Robbie Robertson of Liberty said sales of his handmade, salvaged-wood bowls were a bit disappointing.
“This is my first time here in several years,” he said. “It’s a good crowd, but I haven’t sold bowls the way I thought I would.”


Cindy Cail from West Blocton, Alabama, was ecstatic with buyers’ response to her 3-D sheet metal art that ranged from embellished state outlines to college mascots and livestock heads.
“This is our second time here,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. We weren’t here last year, and everybody’s like, ‘You’re back!’”


Downtown merchants loved the inundation of humanity as well.

“It’s going great,” said Virginia Rundle, manager of Cicada for Her. “More people than last year, and they’re definitely buying.”


Some people were more into the crowd and the music.
Tom Creasy of Charlotte, North Carolina, was making his first visit to Oxford after learning his son would be attending Ole Miss this fall.


“We love Oxford, and if I had an opportunity for a do-over, I’d be coming to Ole Miss instead of Chapel Hill,” he said. “It’s a chamber-of-commerce day, and it’s all fun to watch.”


“I just like to have fun and see everybody I haven’t seen in a long time,” said 12-year-old Daymeon Pegues of Oxford. “I like the food and the music – I like it all.”


Headliners included New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Brooklynite funk-soul-R&B artist Charles Bradley, along with Mississippi Gulf Coast-based Rosco Bandana and Memphis’ The Bo-Keys.


Framemaker Adrian Baron-Robbins, a musician himself, found this year’s lineup not to his taste.


“Double Decker used to be a place for good bands – major headliners, maybe a second band almost as good and some good local bands,” he said. “Today if you want to hear good local bands you’ve got to go to the clubs around the Square.”


VisitOxford Director Mary Allyn Hedges said Baron-Robbins’ complaint was the first she’d heard.


“Everybody has been so enthusiastic about our lineup since it was first announced,” she said. “We got compliments all the way through the festival.”


Bill and Lynn Sloan came to Double Decker to watch people – a few in particular.


“My favorite thing was playing with my grandchildren,” Bill Sloan said.
“They were having a ball in the children’s play area,” Lynn Sloan added. “The university’s hospitality department has a bunch of activities that they’ve put together for the kids.”


Oxford native Col. Bobby Towery (U.S. Army, retired) was delighted to see a cross-section of the community convening for the festival.


“It’s a variety of people,” he said. “It seems like a lot more diversity than you would have seen 20 years ago. It’s really changed.”


About Errol Castens

I'm a news reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal and the Oxford Citizen. Focusing on Oxford and Lafayette County, I've been a part of the L-O-U community since 1991.