By CARL SMITH
Initial sales tax reports indicate Cotton District Arts Festival attendees spent more money on goods and food at this year’s event than last year previous despite a slight decline in attendance.
Preliminary figures released by Starkville Area Arts Council spokesperson Candy Crecink show the festival drew between 38,000-40,000 attendees Saturday, a number a little under the previous year’s 42,000 visitors. Despite the attendance gap, initial artisan and culinary vendor sales for this year’s festival are up 19.5 percent from last year.
Crecink said the festival drew more people from various locations than the past year’s event as well. 2012 CDAF attendees represented 45 states and almost 20 countries, an increase of five states and seven countries.
The festival’s continued success is due to organizers’ desire to deliver fresh, new ideas at each festival and the continued support of sponsors and volunteers, Crecink said.
“Twenty-six committees work a full year developing ideas for each festival and to promote all of the arts,” Crecink said. “Our vital tool is the word-of-mouth knowledge that this is the premier juried arts festival in the state.”
SAAC President Robin Fant said this year’s festival featured one of the longest physical layouts in its history, which allowed more room for visitors, vendors and entertainers. Cooler temperatures and a slight threat of rain did little to deter CDAF attendees, he said.
“Our crowds stayed all day,” he said. “The majority of our vendors probably sold the most (goods) they ever have at our festival. I’m proud of this year’s event. We stay true to the integrity of our mission; it’s true to the arts.”
Taste of Starkville co-chair Jay Reed said Starkville’s blossoming dining scene helped play a part to boost food sales. Local chefs who add their signature touches to locally produced ingredients allow Starkville to proudly own its growing culinary fame.
“Our local chefs are not amateurs; they’re becoming known throughout the state and nation,” Reed said.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said CDAF continues to provide a great venue to market Starkville’s culture and add additional sales tax revenue for the city’s use. The festival itself, he said, is a part of Starkville’s identity.
“People associate Starkville with arts and culture, and that’s in large part to the rise in prominence of the festival,” he said. “It provides a tremendous boost to our local economy as it brings in thousands of people to town who otherwise would not be here. Those people are staying in our hotels and shopping in our stores. It’s an absolutely fantastic event for our community.”