By STEVEN NALLEY
By Jennifer Gregory’s estimate, enough visitors will flow into Starkville this Super Bulldog Weekend to more than double the city’s population.
Saturday not only features Mississippi State University athletic events, a Sugarland concert and Super Bulldog Weekend’s many other attractions but also the Cotton District Arts Festival, which attracted an estimated 40,400 people last year on its own. Gregory, vice president for tourism development with the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, said she hopes to see businesses use creative means to turn visitors into customers.
“We believe that they can because they have in the past,” Gregory said. “Last year, we heard from a lot of downtown retailers that had a high volume of sales, and they were really able to capture a lot of the festival traffic.”
Businesses across Starkville are preparing to seize the opportunities to attract new customers and welcome returning ones as visitors swell Starkville’s streets for CDAF and Super Bulldog Weekend.
Robin Fant, vice president of Sweet Peppers Deli, said the two events also benefit restaurants, which are not only able to bring in customers at their normal locations all weekend but also at their vending booths at CDAF. Having CDAF and Super Bulldog Weekend coincide is good for vendor traffic at CDAF, Fant said, but given the choice, he would rather have them separate.
“As a restaurant in Starkville, we prefer it on different weekends,” Fant said. “With it being on different weekends, it gives people more options of things to do in Starkville more often.”
Gregory said some hotels and restaurants might share Fant’s preference; they can only handle so much capacity in a single weekend, but having CDAF and Super Bulldog Weekend on separate weekends allows them to fill to capacity on two weekends instead of just one. For this reason, she said the Starkville Convention and Visitors’ Bureau is working to promote everything Starkville will have to offer during the weekend at once, drawing visitors from Super Bulldog Weekend to CDAF and, ultimately, to the rest of the city, spreading the tourism revenue across town.
“We feel through Savor Our South, (CVB’s spring tourism promotion campaign), we’ve been able to raise awareness about other events, such as theatre and CDAF, through advertising so that those fans who might only participate in Super Bulldog Weekend can be made aware and fold those into their schedules,” Gregory said. “The Starkville Main Street Association has also chosen to be a gate sponsor for the second year in a row for the University Drive gate for CDAF. Through that sponsorship, we’ll have the opportunity to distribute hand fans printed with logos of Starkville Main Street member retailers. We hope this will encourage festival goers to take a look at downtown Starkville and other retailers around the community.”
Gregory also said a few April showers shouldn’t interfere with CDAF and Super Bulldog Weekend. MSU’s Game Day Forecast website calls for scattered showers beginning Friday night and possibly into the morning, but the rest of the day should be dry, if not necessarily sunny.
“If we do see any showers, rain amounts will be quite light,” the site says. “The afternoon should be mostly cloudy but dry, and we may briefly see the sun before sunset.”
Because CDAF brings in so many vendors from across the Southeast who make hotel reservations well in advance, Gregory said moving the event to line up with ideal weather is impractical.
“Additionally, the stage Sugarland will be performing on will have a cover,” Gregory said. “If the concert’s going to be canceled, then it’s going to be by Sugarland and not by Music Makers (Productions, which stages the concert,) and the probability of that happening is not very good.”