Updated: Apr 6, 2022
Oxford’s award-winning arts festival is back on track for its 25th year.
Written by Leslie Criss | Poster Designs From Visit Oxford
Despite the chicken and the egg conundrum regarding which came first, most Oxonians will tell you the bright red double-decker bus came a few years before its namesake festival.
Oxford, Mississippi, purchased its first bus from across the pond in 1994. Two years later, Robyn Tannehill, then-executive director of the Oxford Tourism Council, led a team in coming up with the idea for an arts festival built around its bus. The first Double Decker Arts Festival was held around the Square in Oxford in 1996.
“Back then, there was not a lot going on in Oxford in April,” said Lee Ann Stubbs, Double Decker coordinator at Visit Oxford. “Our now-mayor Robyn Tannehill said we needed a festival.”
That first festival started with a handful of arts vendors, and the stage for any live bands was the bed of a pickup.
“From there, the idea grew and things were added,” Stubbs said. “Now we have about 180 arts vendor booths, and April is now a pretty busy month for Oxford.”
This year’s Double Decker Arts Festival (which was forced to take a two-year break due to pandemic restrictions) will also be a celebration of it’s 25th year. As usual, attendees to the April 22-23 event can expect local food vendors, busy music stages and artists sharing and selling their work.
Since 2015, a local artist is selected as featured artist, and the festival poster features his or her work. Selected in 2019 for the 2020 Double Decker festival, Hannah McCormick will finally see her work on the 2022 poster as its featured artist. Read more about McCormick here.
Food vendors will have a multitude of offerings for festivalgoers’ palates, and all manner of music will please diverse tastes.
In years past, Friday nights during festival weekend had no headliner, but in an effort to get a larger Friday night turnout, Stubbs tapped former Ole Miss baseball pitcher and country singer Brett Young to take the stage as the headliner Friday night. Young has had nominations from Billboard, CMT and CMA Awards. Young will be preceded by The Wilkins Sisters, from Memphis, with their mix of gospel, blues and R&B; and 49 Winchester, a band from Virginia who sing alternative country soul.
Saturday, music will play from 11 a.m. until late into the night. Daytime acts include Happy Landing, a folk alternative band from Oxford; blues guitarist Buffalo Nichols; Nashville-based Maggie Rose; and singer-songwriter and guitarist Samantha Fish. At 5 p.m., Grammy Award-winning music icon Mavis Staples takes the stage. She is followed by New Orleans phenom Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue; rock band The Revivalists will close out the night.
Stubbs and her crew have worked around the clock to prepare for the festival. And as soon as this year’s festival ends, they’ll have a wrap-up meeting and then start planning for the 2023 festival.
“The festival’s return will have a positive impact on everyone,” Stubbs said. “The town is excited, and the artists are excited to get back out and show and sell their art.”