May 2, 2011 4:43:00 AM
Jan Swoope - firstname.lastname@example.org
With goats, pigs, donkeys and chickens, Paula Sudduth has a virtual farmyard to oversee, especially around festival time. Luckily, these particular critters are low maintenance and live in an East Columbus warehouse when not on the road. But with only a week to go before the 16th annual Market Street Festival, they''re fluffing their "feathers" and polishing up "hooves," hoping to find a new home when they go on display Saturday in downtown Columbus. There, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they will greet thousands of visitors, alongside 211 other arts and crafts vendors and 30 food vendors who make this annual fete one of North Mississippi''s largest.
One very special member of the menagerie Paula and her husband, Larry, will have at their booth is a "Shrek" donkey to be raffled off to benefit Camp Rising Sun, the summer camp in Columbus for children who have been diagnosed with cancer.
Painted sky blue and bedecked with a smiling sun and flowers, the whimsical four-legged character will be a cheerful addition to some lucky household. It''s one way Paula, who is a member of the CRS board, tries to give back.
"I think Camp Rising Sun is one of the crown jewels of Columbus; these kids just really grab your heart," she said.
"Donkey" was painted by Donna Ellis of Columbus, who also painted a large flying pig that was raffled off last year to help the camp. Tickets for the drawing, to be held Saturday afternoon, are $2 each, or three for $5.
Fred Kinder is Camp Rising Sun''s treasurer.
"All funds benefit us, as it allows all campers to come to camp free of charge," he said, noting the importance of the Sudduth''s contribution and those of others who support CRS. "No camper has ever paid to come."
Paula added, "The air at camp is not like the air that''s flowing anywhere else; it''s truly a place where everybody loves everybody."
Paula comes by her festival lifestyle naturally. Growing up in Coffeeville, she helped her parents with their large import business as they attended shows and supplied decor that went into such restaurants as Applebees, Garfields and Cracker Barrel.
"I found out after college that this was a job that I was able to go off on weekends and still have free time to help take care of relatives," she said. The business demands a lot of hard work during spring and fall especially, but still allows more flexibility than a "9 to 5" job would.
After 21 years, she and Larry have fine-tuned the roster of shows they like to attend. They represent various craftspeople from around the country and Mexico at usually 16 events a year, from Georgia to Wisconsin. They also supply yard art to several nurseries.
Many of the items come unfinished to the Sudduths, who paint, varnish and finish the merchandise, sometimes with the help of their friend, Donna. In addition to fanciful animals, at Market Street they''ll also have a wide selection of wrought iron trellises, planters, benches, arbors, chandeliers, topiaries, window boxes and much more.
"I''ve been really impressed with the quality of vendors each year, especially this one," said Amber Brislin, executive director of Main Street Columbus, which spearheads the festival''s organization. "All vendor spaces have been filled; we''ve actually had to turn some people away. There will definitely be something for everyone."
A few highlights
Main Street Columbus and the armies of volunteers who make this Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event possible each year are always looking for ways to enhance the festival experience.
"During the Friday night Market Street After Dark concert by Moonwalker, the Michael Jackson show from Los Angeles, we''ll have a ''flash mob'' performing," said Brislin. "After a dance competition between local dance groups, Warehouse Dance Co., which is comprised of dancers of all ages, will perform throughout the crowd."
Young Guns, of Memphis, Tenn., will open Friday''s show on the Main Street stage at 7:30 p.m., followed by Moonwalker at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. The food court will be open.
Several changes in festival format this year include a move to the Riverwalk for Saturday night''s free live music, featuring Caleb Childs and the Old Memphis Kings at 6:30 p.m., Cherry Lee Mewis and Friends at 8 p.m. and Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks at 9:30 p.m.
"This will have a real ''Sounds of Summer'' and ''barbecue and blues'' feel to it," predicted Brislin, who added that barbecue, beverages and other food will be available for purchase. "Everybody''s encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets, but please leave personal coolers at home. This will also be a celebration after-party to show appreciation for our sponsors, staff and volunteers that worked so hard to make the 2011 festival a success."
Other additions include "Zumba in the Streets" with the Y at 10 a.m. Saturday at the corner of Third Street and Main Street, and added seating for dining at either end of the food court on Main Street. A new car and tractor display will be near the Welcome Center, while the car show will move to Fifth Street North next to the Hands On Market. Watch for the festival wrap with Friday''s Dispatch for schedules of activities and music.
This week, hundreds of festival volunteers and vendors will be busy with final preparations before rolling out the red carpet for festival-goers from around the region.
"This is a nice, well-attended festival," said Paula, putting the colorful donkey back under wraps until his Market Street debut. "Over the years, I''ve watched it really grow. There''s a festive air ... people are there to have fun."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.