January 28, 2014 10:59:05 AM
It is a celebration that has never really established itself. It wasn't even held last year on account of bad weather, something that had plagued the event for more than one of its six previous years. The recent celebrations weren't even held at the venue it intended to commemorate.
Despite all that, this year's Catfish in the Alley celebration is getting a pretty impressive endorsement.
"Garden and Gun," a widely-read regional magazine devoted to all things Southern, has designated Catfish in the Alley as its "Editors' Choice" in its most recent issue. In each issue the magazine picks the top tourist events in each Southern state. From that group, it picks what sounds most enticing to the editors.
If we were to all get on a bus and go to one of these events, it would be yours, one the magazine's editors told Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Nancy Carpenter.
That's heady stuff and suggests the future of the event is far more promising than its past.
We are inclined to agree that Catfish in the Alley is trending upward, largely because of three decisions.
The first was the move the event from February until the end of March. This year's event will be held Saturday, March 29. In previous year's, Catfish in the Alley was held in February as part of the city's Black History Month. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in reality, holding the outdoor event in February created a conflict with Mother Nature that Mother Nature always seemed to win.
Although our weather is never completely predictable, late March greatly improves the chances of cooperative weather, a critical factor for any outdoor event.
The move to March also links the event to another event that has proven to be extremely successful -- the annual Columbus Pilgrimage and Tennessee Williams Tribute. Holding Catfish in the Alley during the Pilgrimage should broaden the audience for both. For some, Pilgrimage was viewed as a "white" event while Catfish in the Alley was considered a "black" event.
In truth, both celebrations are race-neutral since both affirm a part of our shared history. We love the idea that both events will draw from our entire community, as well as visitors, regardless of race.
Finally, this year's event will return to Catfish Alley after previously being staged at the Hitch Lot.
Again, this makes perfect sense, especially in light of the recent additions to Catfish Alley, which include a monument dedicated to the memory of those who made Catfish Alley a thriving center of black commerce in the late 19th and early-to-middle 20th century and a mural depicting scenes of the Alley in its glory years.
Because of these decisions, we feel Catfish in the Alley is at last poised to live up to its potential as one of our very best events.
But don't take our word for it: Circle the date on your calendar and come see for yourself.
1. Lynn Spruill: A city Halloween policy? LOCAL COLUMNS
2. Voice of the people: Gerald and Alice Scallions LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
3. Thomas Sowell: Predatory journalism NATIONAL COLUMNS
4. Roses and thorns: 10/26/14 ROSES & THORNS
5. Birney Imes: Building bridges of hope LOCAL COLUMNS