Despite small turnout, NDDA positive about Art & Soul

Published 11:25 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2007

NATCHEZ — The city might have been a little light on Art and Soul this weekend, but organizers aren’t short on hope for next year.

Turnout for the third annual arts festival was smaller than the last two years, Natchez Downtown Development Association President Bill Furlow said.

“I think the reason it was down was we started the planning so late,” Furlow said.

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The NDDA board had decided to change Art and Soul to a spring event, he said. But the city and tourism officials asked them to keep it in the fall, on its usual weekend.

“We wanted to be team players and work with what the city said was really needed,” Furlow said. “Consequently, instead of starting planning nine months in advance, we started four months in advance.”

On top of the time crunch, the NDDA was working without a director at the time. Volunteers stepped up, Furlow said.

“To be quite honest, I think it was miraculous we pulled it off as well as we did,” he said. “We only did that because of real heroic efforts on the part of a half-dozen or so people.”

Since the event was free and open to the public, NDDA didn’t keep track of how many people attended. Tuesday, the organization was still tallying the money they brought in and what they had to spend, Furlow said.

Next year, they will start planning further in advance and have the benefit of a director, he said.

“I would hope next year we would have more artists, more vendors, more activities and bigger crowds,” he said.

The NDDA will start planning for next year’s Art and Soul next month, Director Carrie Lambert said.

“We want to bring in more food vendors, and we’d like to see it expanded next year,” Lambert said. “We are talking about having artists’ work being juried, and we will have prizes for the winners.”

More activities for children and pushing it back a few weeks into cooler weather are also options they’re looking at, she said.

From talking with people, the artists seemed to have done pretty well, Lambert said.

Merchants did a pretty steady business, too, she said.

Glenn Breaud, co-owner of Breaud’s Seafood and Steak on Main Street, said he did a bustling business over the weekend.

Friday and Saturday were both busy, and the party they hosted after the festival really brought in the crowds, he said.

“We stayed open until 4 in the morning Saturday,” Breaud said. “We were eating ribs on the sidewalk at 3 in the morning. We had a really good time. It was awesome.”

Business was even better than the Fourth of July holiday, he said.

A children’s shop down the street did pretty well, too, Growing Pains owner Tracy Henry said.

Business was a little better than on normal weekends, but it was the clientele that surprised her.

“(Saturday) was a very busy afternoon with lots of locals,” Henry said. “You don’t always see the locals on the weekend.”

The family atmosphere of the festival helped, she said.

“How often do they block off Main Street and kids get to run all over the place?” Henry said. “It was fun.”