By Cameron McCreight
The Double Decker Arts Festival has been canceled for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not having the festival two years in a row has been hard on the tourism scene in Oxford, and the vendors and partners who usually participate in Double Decker are feeling the effects.
“For a lot of vendors there, this is their livelihood,” Lauren Nalty, owner of Lauren Nalty Art, said. “They go from festival to festival, a lot of them. I hurt for them, including myself,” Nalty said.
Nalty has been participating in Double Decker since 2015. She says that waiting until 2022 for the return of Double Decker will be worth it.
“The decision to not host the Double Decker Arts Festival two years in a row was a tough blow to the local economy, but a necessary decision,” Nadia Thornton, sales and marketing manager of Visit Oxford Mississippi, said. “When one of your largest tourism draws is a huge crowd of people, a pandemic is the worst thing that can happen.”
Vendors who are not able to participate in festivals such as Double Decker have been struggling over the cancellation of these types of festivals.
“Festivals are something I love doing. I love being able to meet people and getting their response to my art in person and having that community connection,” Nalty said.
Even though some art events or festivals have been turned into virtual events, it is still been hard on artists as having that community is important. Double Decker usually features over 100 art 20+ local food vendors.
“I have found that it is sometimes hard to commit to buying a piece of art without seeing it personally. This year has been so crazy and hard for so many professions and artists have not been immune to the struggles that everyone is going through,” Maggie Clark, owner of Maggie Clark Artwork, said.
Clark was signed up to participate in the 2020 Double Decker festival right before the pandemic shut everything down.
“I was thrilled when it was not canceled but rescheduled to August. Sadly, as the date approached, it was apparent that there was no way the festival could happen with the pandemic running rampant,” Clark said.
The cancellation also caused the town to not be able to pull in as much tourism as it usually does. The usual crowd that Oxford brings in during this time is more than 60,000 people.
“Springtime is such a busy time for festivals,” Thornton said. “Other partners like restaurants and hotels usually count on Double Decker as one of those pivotal weekends that are revenue-generating and help get them through the slower times. When that revenue was wiped out, it had long-lasting ripple effects.”
Losing the income from the festival has definitely impacted the city, which can be seen in the tax revenue that was collected in 2020 as compared to past years.
“For the month of April 2020, the 2% tax collected for hotels was down 74% and the 2% food and beverage tax was down 53%,” said Thornton.
According to an article about the city’s budget from 2019, the city of Oxford gains some funds from the 2% tax from food and beverage. The revenue from this tax that year was $3 million. The Double Decker festival is set to receive $110,000 of this revenue.
Almost all arts and crafts festivals were either canceled or postponed. Luckily, there have been a few events other than Double Decker that the city of Oxford has been able to host that have brought in tourism and artists without putting the community in danger.
“We worked with community partners like the Chamber of Commerce and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council to brainstorm ways to safely host smaller events,” Thornton said.
Although big festivals are not being held at the moment, Visit Oxford has been able to host things such as Holly Jolly Holidays in December. The event was held outdoors and created some foot traffic in a time where it is usually very slow.
Events like these have still allowed for people to come visit Oxford and eat in the restaurants and stay in hotels.