The first time I ever set foot in Oxford, Mississippi was after a spontaneous Megabus ride from New Orleans to Oxford for the Double Decker Arts Festival in 2014. This was long before graduate school was on my mind and I didn’t know (or really care) what Ole Miss was.
By April 2017, Steve and I were both Mississippi residents and we attended our first Double Decker Arts Festival together. Steve was running social media for Yoknapataco’s owner, Jake, that morning. I was sweating on the Square Books balcony dreaming of when I could get a slice of Fergndan’s pizza. We missed the music because we had gone out to the fest so early. This year, we were determined to get it right.
I’ll take this moment to say that a lot has changed in a year. I moved to a full-time position in my office, Steve started graduate school, we moved to a new apartment, we adopted a kitten, and Steve’s hair is long enough for a little pony tail. One thing has stayed the same: we still make tacos twice a week.
The Double Decker Arts Festival attracts locals and visitors alike to celebrate artists, food, and music. Various booths line the square while pedestrians shop for anything from bird feeders to mother’s day cards. As we walked through the Oxford square, we couldn’t help but notice how many more people we knew than the year before. It was a tangible reminder that this town is our community now.
The food vendors line the inner square surrounding the courthouse. These vendors range from locals like Neon Pig to chains like Dominos Pizza. There are some iconic festival foods like a giant cup of freshly squeezed lemonade or a giant corndog. My one criticism of this festival is that there needs to be a booth for po-boys or king cake burgers or something that you can’t normally get.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Taylor Grocery had a John Deer tractor making homemade ice cream at their booth. For those of you who aren’t locals, Taylor Grocery is a southern comfort food restaurant, not a grocery store.
We learned that The Graduate Hotel in Oxford is just one of a whole chain of hotels. The Graduate Hotels group designed a Mutt Cutts van that is a nod to the movie Dumb and Dumber. The van is touring college towns that have their own Graduate Hotels and made an appearance at Double Decker this weekend. Heartbreak Coffee’s iconic van was also in attendance and their owner, Gretchen, roasts her own coffee beans as well as serves a cold brew in a glass bottle.
When it came time to buy lunch, we weren’t really sure what booth we should visit. Steve had been dying to try Rebel Barn BBQ since we moved here. So, he purchased a couple of tamales from them and we sat on the steps of the courthouse while we ate.
Afterwards, we purchased Oxicles (Oxford + popsicles) and snacked on the perfect treat while we walked around a bit more. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the aisles of paintings and people to see.
Eventually we ended up resting at the top of a staircase watching people dance to the live music and walk among the crowds. Oh, and this little cutie was working it for the camera. There is an obscene amount of dogs at this festival. It might have something to do with the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society’s Best Dressed Pet Contest that happened in the morning.
The festival booths closed at 5:00pm and we headed to our favorite spot in town: Saint Leo. This restaurant makes us feel classy as if we’re in a European restaurant. We ordered the grilled bread and a margherita pizza (a $20ish dollar meal at a fancyish place, btw). Saint Leo was crowded, but so was the entire town. We watched the Ole Miss Rebels beat the LSU Tigers in baseball and then strolled to the music side of the square.
Each year, the Ole Miss Associated Student Body (ASB) hosts a free spring concert. This year, the spring concert was held at Double Decker and featured Cold War Kids. There were bands and musicians playing all day, but we were excited for the main event and their two songs we knew. We stood toward the back watching the lights while students and townspeople danced in the street.
The Double Decker Arts Festival seems to be getting bigger and maybe it’s because we are more comfortable with our town each year. We know the places to park for free, we have a favorite restaurant, and it feels like we actually know what we’re doing. Maybe it’s just that we are a tiny bit more put together this year as we navigate this chapter of life. They call it the Velvet Ditch because it’s hard to leave. I can already feel the truth of that phrase and I’m not trying to leave.