April 20, 2013 7:54:15 PM
Carl Smith - firstname.lastname@example.org
Thousands gathered in the arts, food and culture of Starkville Saturday during the annual Cotton District Arts Festival.
University Drive was jam packed with locals and out-of-town attendees perusing through the best-of crafts and wares of the area.
CDAF organizers said they expected 35,000 or more attendees this year. The weather, unlike last year's cold snap, provided a sunny-yet-breezy climate for the event.
Festival Co-Chair and Artisans Chair Laurie Burton said this year's event would feature approximately 125 artisans from across the Southeast, many of whom have connections to Starkville and Mississippi State University.
Many yearly returning artisans graduated received art degrees from MSU, and say they return to Starkville each year to reunite with the artistic community that fostered and grew their creativity.
This year's event marked MSU grad Carl Carbonell's second trip back to the CDAF. Carbonell, a poster maker, teamed up with fellow MSU grad Tim Cook and peddled their MSU-related crafts near the entrance to MSU.
"Business has been amazing so far," Carbonell said about 1 p.m. "That's the great thing about Starkville - everyone has great school spirit.
Carbonell and fellow artist Kate Thomas, another MSU alum, said not only do they bring their best crafts to the festival, but they also enjoy reconnecting with the art community. Carbonell said he spent some of his time Friday meeting current faculty and touring the art department's new press.
"It's exciting for this town and the university's students to have access to equipment like that," he said. "The other great thing is there was an opening at (a university art department gallery). It's great to come back and see everyone. That's what makes coming back home so great."
The sounds of grilling and aroma of freshly cooked food was also hard to avoid Saturday. Chefs from across Starkville participated in the festival's annual Taste of Starkville, a competition which allowed the local culinary artists to display their own signature creations.
Juried art presentations were also on display Saturday as numerous best-of works were presented for thousands to see. The festival also featured local musical acts that entertained crowds from morning through the night.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch