A Golden Triangle favorite for decades, the 32nd Annual Prairie Arts Festival will begin on Friday, Sept. 2 with the Howlin Wolf Memorial Blues Festival. The weekend will continue with the opening of the arts and crafts booths at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3 in downtown West Point.
The event has historically attracted crowds of 30,000 or more and festival organizers said they expect this year to be even bigger.
"We look forward to increased attendance," said Martha Allen, Director of Community Development and Main Street for the Growth Alliance and Prairie Arts Festival Co-Chair. "Mississippi State does not have a home football game and not everyone travels with the team so we hope lots of football fans join us."
Allen said that there are some changes in store for this year's festival.
"The committee feels strongly about voters making an informed decision so we invited the state politicians to join us this year," Allen said. "This allows them the opportunity meet and greet thousands of people while not taking away from the festival fun that all of us enjoy." Politician's will be meeting and greeting at a new area near the food tent and food court called Politician's Point.
According to Allen, other additions include a 27 foot air-conditioned trailer that allows 16 kids to play video games at once in the Children's Area and Greek, Thai and Mexican food booths.
In addition to the Howlin Wolf Blues Festival and the arts and crafts booths, attractions in the festival include local food concessions, four stages of live music, a classic car show being held at the Mossy Oak Outlet, a 5k run, a children's art show, and a juried fine arts competition.
Kathy Dyess, Prairie Arts Festival Fine Art Competition Director, said that artists from throughout the southeast are expected to participate.
"We are excited that many of our local artists are participating," Dyess said, "but we also attract artists from all over Mississippi, as well as Alabama and Tennessee."
Dyess said all types of art will be submitted.
"Obviously painting is usually well represented, as well as pottery," Dyess said. "Photography has become quite a popular art form in the last couple of years and we have gotten quite a few entries in that category this year."
The competition will be judged this year by Scott Baine of Starkville. Baine is head of the East Mississippi Community College Art Department.
He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design from Harding University in Arkansas, a master's degree in architecture from Mississippi State University and is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at MSU in instructional systems and workforce development.
Baine said he is looking forward to judging the competetion.
"It is an immense honor for me," Baine said. "The Prairie Arts Festival is such a cherished tradition here in the Golden Triangle."
Baine and his wife Amanda live in Pleasant Acres with their three children; Elijah, 7, Phoebe, 5 and Noa Grace, 3. They moved to Starkville from Florence, Italy, although both Baine and his wife were born and raised in Arkansas and Georgia, respectively.
The Fine Arts Competition consists of the following categories: painting, mixed media/graphics/drawing, photography, sculpture/pottery and handmade jewelry/wood/glass/fiber. The “Best in Show” winner will become a permanent part of the Prairie Arts Festival Collection. Last year's "Best in Show" was a painting by David Malone.
Entries and winners of the Fine Arts Competition will be displayed Saturday morning at the gazebo in the Sally Kate Winters Park. The awards ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m. and winners will receive awards totaling $5,000 in cash and purchase prizes.
"Things are really taking shape and it’s going to be a wonderful festival," Allen said. "I just pray for some cooler weather."