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Music, fashion show and food tasting highlight Downtown Block Party


David Miller



STARKVILLE -- Months of planning and increased advertising will culminate tonight in an eclectic celebration of Starkville's growth and charm.  


The second annual Downtown Block Party, the first installment of the 2011 New South Weekends events, will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Main Street between the intersections of Jackson Street and Washington Street.  


The free event features live music, a tailgating-wear fashion show featuring clothing for men, women and children, multi-cultural food tastings by various international student organizations at Mississippi State University and kids village with inflatable jumpers. International food vendors and dancers, which include groups from the Nepalese Student Association and Indian Student Association, will also be present. 


Of the four New South Weekend events, Downtown Block Party is the newest and most diverse. The event is sponsored by Starkville Main Street, with MSU Holmes Cultural Diversity Center and MSU Fashion Board serving as co-sponsors.  


When 7 p.m. hits, musicians will be rocking the stage in front of the Oktibbeha County Courthouse, while the fashion show starts in front of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership building. Meanwhile, kids will be enjoying face painting and Henna tattoos. Local retailers on Main Street will be open for business.  


"There's a little something for everyone," Starkville Main Street Manager Jennifer Gregory said. 


While Pumpkinpalooza and the Christmas Parade draw larger crowds, planning the Downtown Block Party is more challenging and rewarding, Gregory said.  


"It's definitely a challenge when you're planning an event in the community that features retailers, student organizations, spirit groups and restaurants," Gregory said. "You have to communicate differently and everyone has their own interests; we have to bring all that together. 


"Pumpkinpalooza is kind of like clockwork now," Gregory added. "We don't change anything with that because we've found great success in that concept. The Christmas parade and holiday bazaar are pretty routine, too. But this is one of the more rewarding events because it shows the town-and-gown relationship." 


Last year, a storm put a damper on the festivities, and only 1,500 people attended the event. Gregory anticipates close to 3,000 people turning out tonight.  


Gregory also expects the event to flow better than last year after choosing to separate the music stage and fashion show. 


"Everything was on one stage last year, and it just didn't work well," Gregory said. "This year, we'll have an elevated runway for the fashion show, with about 100 chairs set up in front of it. All the other elements will be going on around it. The logistics should be much better this year." 


Musical acts include gospel group Black Voices and Jeff & Jeff featuring Bill Cooke. 


Downtown Block Party serves as a weekend kickoff for Mississippi State's home football game against Louisiana Tech on Saturday. Pumpkinpalooza on Oct. 14, Bulldog Family Frenzy on Nov. 4, and Bulldog Bash on Nov. 11 will precede home football games.  


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