January 28, 2014 10:52:54 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
After a one-year hiatus, Catfish in the Alley will resume this spring with some very big publicity.
Garden & Gun, a magazine of culture in the American South that reaches more than a million readers, has singled out the annual Columbus event in its current edition.
Looking at cultural events across 16 states, the editors of the South Carolina-based magazine agreed there was one place they would most like to go this year -- Catfish Alley.
After an absence in 2013 due to inclement weather, Catfish in the Alley will return March 29 to where it started for its seventh installment. The event itself created enough intrigue for it to be listed as the lone "Editors' Choice" for goings-on in the South in the magazine's February/March edition.
Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Nancy Carpenter said it wasn't until she asked writer Steve Russell what "Editors' Choice" meant that she found out what distinction it carries for Catfish in the Alley, which honors a historic block once a center of African American commerce in Columbus.
"He said they decided if they could load everybody on the staff on a bus, where they would want to go is Columbus, Miss., to that event, which I thought was huge," Carpenter said. "I think the attention that has been brought to the event is really special."
Since it was established in 2007, Garden and Gun has developed an enthusiastic and affluent readership. According to data compiled by the magazine, roughly a quarter of its readers have an investible income of $1 million. They make an average of more than $330,000 a year and have an average net worth of $2,255,000. Those readers take an average of 12 trips a year.
The magazine's illustration above the event description depicts a catfish playing guitar and wearing a tie and fedora. The catfish has a front tooth in the shape of the state of Mississippi. Carpenter said she was so impressed with the rendering done by Tim Bower that she asked and received permission to use it as a logo which she hopes will become a well-known symbol for the event.
This year's Catfish in the Alley event will feature a catfish cook-off and live blues music headlined by Grady Champion, Terry "Harmonica" Bean, Mickey Rogers and the Soul Blues Band and Voices in Harmony, Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science's gospel choir.
Another first for the event this year is its concurrence with Pilgrimage, another premiere Columbus tourism event that includes a tour of Antebellum homes. Carpenter said she hoped the exposure received in Garden & Gun coupled with moving the event to later in the year, when the weather is generally more favorable, will mean high attendance and hotel stays.
"I think people want to see what made the city the way it is," she said. "If it was that African-Americans went down three streets to Tombigbee River and caught catfish and either sold them whole or fried them and sold them, I think that's very special. I think we're on the right track by aligning ourselves with people that travel a lot and people that can afford to travel. Once they get here, a lot of them stay longer than they had intended."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.