Oxford’s 23rd annual Double Decker Festival begins Friday and continues a tradition that began years ago when the festival stage was the bed of a pickup truck and the event had only a handful of local artists and vendors.
According to Visit Oxford, the tourist center largely responsible for coordinating the event, the entire Square will be quartered off from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday to accommodate the more than 60,000 visitors who are expected this year.
“Double Decker is a weekend people look forward to every year; it has a little something for everyone,” Visit Oxford’s Double Decker coordinator Lee Ann Stubbs said.
Stubbs expects this year’s crowd to be the largest yet and credits the exceptional weather as well as the weekend’s Ole Miss vs. LSU baseball series for the anticipated crowd size.
A festival record-high number of vendors from across the U.S. – 176, in all – will join 147 artists to cater to the 2018 crowd.
“We’ve been having board meetings all week in preparation for the weekend, as well as volunteer training with our volunteers for the event,” Stubbs said.
Visit Oxford is not the only organization preparing for this event – the Oxford Police Department and businesses on the Square are all busy planning for the weekend.
OPD Major Jeff McCutchen said his department started organizing for this year immediately following last year’s festivities.
“We met after to discuss what could be done better and what we did well,” McCutchen said. “Since the year started, we’ve been meeting once a month to plan. Besides general safety precautions, we really want to focus on towing this year. We only towed four cars last year, so we would like to eliminate that problem altogether.”
McCutchen said the department’s towing and safety policies can be found online, and he stressed the importance of visitors following OPD’s and Visit Oxford’s Twitter accounts, both of which will be regularly updated with pertinent information about the event.
As community activity increases, McCutchen advises visitors to stay aware of their surroundings and keep in mind that OPD and the local hospital will both have a presence at the festival.
“If any issues come up, OPD will have a Safe (Site) tent open to anyone. We’re here to serve, even if that means putting up roadblocks at 4 a.m. on Friday,” McCutchen said jokingly.
Businesses on the Square have also been busy preparing for Double Decker.
Proud Larry’s general manager Bruce Butler said the restaurant has been ordering more supplies and scheduling more staff for the weekend and is preparing the booth that the restaurant will operate on the Square during the event.
“We’ll have three options at our booth: jambalaya, a roast beef po-boy and gumbo,” Butler said. “This option is more convenient for visitors who don’t want to take time to wait and sit at our restaurant.”
Other local restaurants – including Taylor Grocery, Living Foods and Neon Pig, among others – will also have vendor booths available.
Students are also excited about Double Decker. Senior history major Connor King has attended the event in years past and said he plans to be there Saturday, as well.
“Friday is a difficult day for students to go because of class, so I plan to attend (on) Saturday morning and afternoon,” King said. “I enjoy the atmosphere. All the local artwork, food and music is cool.”