This April, Oxford’s Double Decker Arts Festival returns for the 22nd year with a soul-heavy lineup, two new running courses and a first-time sponsorship from the University of Mississippi Museum.
Thacker Mountain Radio will kick off the festival with a live radio broadcast intertwined with hour sets from both Jimmy “Duck” Holmes and Muddy Magnolias Friday the 28th at 6 p.m. Holmes, who was just nominated for best acoustic blues album by The Blues Foundation, will open for Muddy Magnolias, an up-and-coming indie soul-rock band from Nashville, Tennessee.
“We’re really excited to kick the festival off with some great music,” said Kate Teague, producer of Thacker Mountain Radio. “’Jimmy ‘Duck’ is one of the last practitioners of the Bentonia-style blues— bringing Mississippi alive.”
With the curtain closing on Friday night and the sun rising Saturday morning comes the Double Decker Spring Run. This year’s run will feature completely revitalized and redesigned routes for both the 5k and the 10k, allowing them both to begin at 7:30 a.m.
“The field is pretty widespread,” Oxford native Sarah Hopkins said. “You get first-timers, you get professionals and you get people – like me – who are just trying not to finish last. The growth has been clear through the years, and I can’t wait to see the turnout in April.”
One-thousand five-hundred racers from 26 different states ran last year, but Pam Swain, senior vice president of the Oxford Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development, says this year will be even bigger. This is the first year with exact chip timing, which means racers will be able to have precise start and finish times, drawing more top athletes to the event.
“The race really is a great way to start the Saturday morning of the festival,” Visit Oxford director Mary Allyn Hedges said. “It’s a great beginning to a wonderful day of art and music.”
This year’s poster art, a watercolor double decker bus surrounded by an array of colors, was also revealed. Local artist Pam Locke won the poster design contest and will be featured in her own festival booth this year.
Highlights of Saturday’s music lineup include the Seratones, James McMurtry, Luther Dickinson and Dr. John and the Nite Trippers. Headlined by Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, the festival will conclude with an extended set from 8:45 p.m. to festival close at 10 p.m.
“There is a clear focus on groove,” student Kelsey Baich said. “Each of these artists sing with their emotions and are a great fit with the Oxford feel and everything Double Decker epitomizes.”
Coming from Denver, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats look to bring its explosion of deep, primal and ecstatic soul-baring music to Oxford’s center stage for the first time since Michael Franti brought the Square to the ground a year prior.
The whole weekend, organized by Visit Oxford, is slated to be the biggest showcase of Oxford’s capabilities yet. Thanks to a gift from Ole Miss Athletics, the University Museum will be the presenting sponsor of the entire festival. Ross Bjork, vice chancellor of intercollegiate athletics, said the museum was be the perfect fit for the much-deserved exposure that comes with the festival sponsorship.
“This festival is what makes Oxford great,” Bjork said. “It’s a platform to say, ‘This is an amazing place. Come look for yourself,’ and there is no other way to do that like hosting this festival.”