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Double Decker Arts Festival Shines Even in the Rain

Photo from Visit Oxford

The small college town of Oxford swelled in size this past weekend, as it hosted the 26th annual Double Decker Arts Festival April 28-29.

The event was presented by the University of Mississippi Museum, gifted by Ole Miss Athletics. The event opened with a large crowd Friday night for the music lineup, with another large crowd to follow on Saturday, despite scattered showers in the afternoon.

“Because the festival is free and there’s not one ‘entrance’ location, it’s nearly impossible to determine an accurate number of attendees,” said Executive Director of Visit Oxford Kinney Ferris. “Based on all of the data we’ve gathered so far, we estimate that over 80,000 people came to the Square during the two-day event.”

The staff is still processing data from merchandise sales, hotel data, as well as information from vendors and local merchants.

Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the Arts Festival was an enormous success due to the hard work of Visit Oxford’s “dream team,” as well as the Environmental Services team, OPD, OFD, Building and Grounds team and many volunteers.

Marcus King at Double Decker. Photo by Ryan Hunt

“We cannot thank our sponsors enough who make Double Decker possible,” Tannehill said. “And thank you, Oxford, for supporting the best festival in Mississippi.’

North Lamar Boulevard was shut down early Friday morning to install the Nicholas Air main stage that served as the music mainstay all weekend. Music started Friday night with Auburn-based band The Stews followed by Mississippi natives Chapel Hart to a lively crowd.

The headliner Friday night was Grammy-winning country artist Ashley McBryde who sang to an estimated 15,000 people.

Early Saturday morning, the entirety of the Square was shut down to vehicular traffic as over 150 art vendors loaded in to set up their booths.

As the festival officially opened at 10 a.m., people filed in from all over. More than 25 states were represented in data collected by festival organizers as people traveled from all around the country.

“You guys don’t know how much this festival means to me,” said Arkansas native art vendor, Beau Jones. “My fourth year doing it and I will continue to apply every year.”

Saturday’s music began at 11 a.m. with The Mississippian Jazz Ensemble, followed by Saharan guitarist Vieux Farka Touré. The Sensational Barnes Brothers took the stage followed by Memphis blues and soul band Southern Avenue.

Singer and songwriter Lissie took the stage to a large audience before Blackberry Smoke wowed the crowd with their country rock anthems. Guitar superstar and songwriter Marcus King closed the show with a 90-minute set that left the crowd wanting more.

 “I’ve been a part of Double Decker since it started in 1996 and this year was by far, the best year for retail sales for a Double Decker weekend,” said Square merchant and owner of University Sporting Goods Jeff Busby.  ‘The festival is such a great event and has a tremendous impact on the economy of Oxford.”

Despite the large crowds, Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen said the festival was another successful event thanks to the hard work of the team at Visit Oxford and all Oxford city employees.

“We saw large crowds throughout the weekend but no public safety issues,” he said. “It was one of the best atmospheres that I’ve worked in 18 years of past Double Decker festivals.”

Festival Director Lee Ann Stubbs said she was thrilled with the turnout.

“Last year’s festival was such a record-breaker, but this year’s was just as successful,” Stubbs said. “We had more sponsors than ever which is tremendous to see our community support this event, but we also had more art and food vendors than ever before.

“We hope to continue growing the festival in ways that enhance it and make it a better experience for everyone involved.”

Stubbs said she and her team have already started planning for next year’s festival which will take place April 26-27, 2024.

Staff report

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