Cotton District Arts Festival showcases area's creativity, culture

April 19, 2013 9:55:27 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


2013 Cotton District Arts Festival artisan vendors Carl Carbonell and Kate Thomas say the annual festival not only provides them with a great way to showcase their talents to a large, supportive crowd but also allows the two Mississippi State University graduates a sort of homecoming back to the art scene in which they thrived while in college. 


Saturday's CDAF will feature merchants, musical entertainment, culinary competitions and other events that display the city's and area's unique arts and culture. The event, which begins at 9 a.m., is expected to bring in approximately 35,000 visitors, organizers say. 


For Thomas, a Jackson-based fine arts printer who utilizes functional, everyday items with her work, this year's trip marks her third trip back for the festival; For Carbonell, it's his second venture back to the CDAF. The pair, who became friends at MSU, first shared a booth during 2010's festival. 


"It really is like a mini-reunion for me. Most of my former teachers make it a point to come by and see us, a lot of people I know are back in town for the event and I get to see all the art students that I keep up with," she said. "I have loyal customers and fans in Starkville that have been faithful in supporting me. It's a big deal to come back, and I always try to bring something new and unique to the festival." 


Carbonell, who is making the trip from Nashville, Tenn., says the six-hour drive back to his old stomping grounds brings him back to the familiar comfort zone that helped nurture his creativity during college. 


"I guess you can say it about many college towns, but Starkville really is an exceptional place. The community is pretty much wound up all together," he said. "I know I can come back and find folks that are excited and interested in the same things I am." 


Festival Co-Chair and Artisans Chair Laurie Burton said this year's event features 125 artists from across the Southeast who will sell a variety of arts and crafts, from pottery to photography. Merchants will set up their booths throughout the Cotton District. 


"We're very proud of our vendors because their art is unique to them. It's always new every year, always fresh, but we also always have many of our longtime favorites who come back year after year," she said. "The whole festival shows off the essence of Starkville. This is a great town with wonderful people; we want our visitors to see what we have to offer and celebrate the arts." 


The juried arts exhibition, one of the main CDAF displays, will feature pieces from local and regional artists. This year's CDAF juror, Nan Cunningham, is an Alabama native and faculty member of Arrowmont School (Gatlinburg, Tenn.); Montgomery, Ala.'s Amory Learning Arts Center and Third Street Painter's Workshop; and the Alabama Art Education Center of Birmingham, Ala. She has also served on the Mississippi Art Colony and Montgomery, Ala. Arts Council board of directors and juried numerous competitions. 


Musical entertainment for the event includes the Cedar Creek Ramblers, Mortar Kit, Sephanie Jackson and Courtney Blackwell, Michael and Madison Hardy, HanaLena, Jasmine Murray, Stagolee, Brinley Addington, Wild Magnolias, The Melody Kings, Bill Cooke, The Old Memphis Kings, Chase Sansing, 30 fingers and Flathead Ford. 


Festival goers should bring an appetite to the event, as numerous food vendors will be present and competing in the Taste of Starkville culinary challenge. The event allows established and up-and-coming local chefs to flex their culinary skills and specialties. Chef Ty Thames says the event also allows local restaurant owners to show off their respective menus that locals and visitors might not usually experience. 


A writer's village will showcase area scribes' talents. Helping celebrate Starkville's 175th birthday, essays on the city's heritage written by Armstrong Middle School students will be available for the public to read. The village will also host a poetry slam, where authors can present their own original pieces in a competition, and the CDAF Funny Limerick Contest. 


Youth activities, including painting, sculpting and other arts and crafts, will be held at the CDAF Children's Village. 


Various cultures will be on display at the CDAF International Village. The area will host numerous events from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., culminating in a group dance celebrating line dance music.  


Two runs are scheduled to unofficially kick off the festival before 9 a.m. The Old Cotton Mill 5K run will begin an hour prior to the event, organizer Kristen Coghlan said. Signups will be accepted from 7-7:45 a.m. A 1-mile Family Fun Run will follow at 10 a.m. 


She said more than 230 participants have signed up for the 5K race, which will loop through MSU's campus. 


Residents along the Cotton District should note street closures will begin early Saturday morning. Vehicles remaining on University Drive from Nash Street toward the MSU entrance will be towed beginning at 3 a.m., Burton said. 




2013 Cotton District Arts Festival music lineup 


West Stage 


Cedar Creek Ramblers: 9-9:45 a.m. 


Mortar Kit: 10-10:45 a.m. 


Stephanie Jackson and Courtney Blackwell: 11-11:45 a.m. 


Michael and Madison Hardy: Noon to 12:45 p.m. 


HanaLena: 1-1:45 p.m. 


Jasmine Murray: 2-2:45 p.m. 


Stagolee: 3-3:45 p.m. 


Brinley Addington: 4-5 p.m. 


East Stage 


Stephanie Jackson: 9-9:45 a.m. 


Wild Magnolias: 10-10:45 a.m. 


The Melody Kings: 11-11:45 a.m. 


Bill Cooke: Noon to 12:45 p.m. 


The Old Memphis Kings: 1-1:45 p.m. 


Chase Sansing: 2-2:45 p.m. 


30 Fingers: 3-3:45 p.m. 


Flathead Ford: 4-5 p.m.

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch