“I was a little nervous about it being moved this year just because it’s been on the courthouse lawn for so long,” said Josh Atkins, an artist from Alabama. “Some people have been setting up in the same place for years and the customers knew where to find them. But I honestly like this setup better because the past couple of years rainy weather made the grass a muddy mess. No matter where it is though it’s still the GumTree and that’s always good.”
Even though she said she missed being under the shade of the trees, Emily Jefferson said moving the festival to the streets was a better look for it.
“The lawn does add a certain charm to the art exhibits, but it was a little cluttered and sloppy when it rained,” said Jefferson. “Now you don’t have to worry about messing up your shoes, or deciding not to come because of the mud. But we wouldn’t have had to worry about that this year anyway.”
In its 39th year, the Cellular South GumTree Festival was as popular as ever. Thousands of people attended the first day of the festival on Saturday to view and purchase art from 80 vendors. Because of the change from the lawn to the streets, festival director Tina Lutz said the art vendor numbers were limited to 80 rather than the usual 100.
Artists’ tents lined the streets, wrapping all the way around the courthouse. Both new and regular artists showcased their work at the festival.
Tim Pace, owner of Eco Art, showed off his recycled metal art. Whether it was the rusty shovel turned into a stork or the monkey wrench turned dinosaur, Pace’s unique art turned a lot of heads. The Finger, Tenn., resident was in his ninth year displaying his work at GumTree.
“We have a lot of customers in this area, so we try to bring new and unique stuff every year,” said Pace. “We want to keep things fresh.”
First-timer Alexander Brown made the trip from Bentonia to display his wood sculptures. Brown said he could tell a lot of passion and time went into pulling the festival together.
“This is only my third festival, but I think this is just amazing,” said Brown. “There are some talented artists here and some very big art fans. I will most definitely try to get back here.”
Making the trip to Tupelo was fruitful for both vendors.
“I’ve had a great day with sales,” said Pace. “I figured with the bad weather the past couple of weeks and the bad economy that people just wouldn’t be buying this year. But they’ve proved me wrong.”
Brown said he hasn’t showcased at enough festivals to know how good his sales should be, but said he had sold few items. Many of Brown’s items cost several hundred dollars.
“It’s been slow for me as for sales, but enjoyable nonetheless,” said Brown.
Some of the art buyers also felt a financial pinch. Michael Richardson and his wife Joanne of Tupelo usually buy one piece of art each year at the GumTree. The two art lovers from Memphis said they held on a little tighter to their wallets this year since Michael has been out of work for a couple of months.
“We never come here and leave without buying at least one piece but that will not be the case this year,” said Michael. “This year’s visit is strictly for enjoyment and window shopping. This is just not the right time for us to spend money on art. A lot the stuff here is expensive, but well worth it. But we just can’t afford to buy this year. Guess I’ll have to let her get two things next year.”
With several local bands playing and dancers and gymnasts entertaining the crowd, you didn’t have to have money to have a good time.
“I come to listen to music and look at art,” said Mantachie’s Sharon Watson. “That’s the beauty of a festival. You can be dead broke and still have a great time.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or email@example.com.