Bowie Festival canceled for this year

Published 12:17 am Sunday, July 17, 2016

VIDALIA — The Jim Bowie Festival has been canceled for 2016, but organizers say it will return next year at a new time and with a revamped format.

The annual festival was scheduled for Sept. 23 and 24, but the Concordia Chamber — which hosts the event — had to look at new options after Ann Westmoreland, who helped organize it and who chaired the barbecue throwdown associated with it, was unable to continue in that capacity, Chamber Director Jamie Wiley said.

“It was a great disappointment for us, but it is a big job and takes a lot of time,” she said.

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Teams that have already entered the barbecue contest, which was the sanctioned state championship for the Kansas City Barbecue Society, are being contacted and will be refunded their entry fees, Wiley said.

But while the event for 2016 had to be canceled, the chamber is taking the time to revamp it and focus it more on the local community, Chamber President Josh Wilson said.

“In the last few years, we have drawn in more of an outside presence, and there has been some discussion that some of our community has not participated as they have in the past,” he said. “When I was younger, we had the festival around the town square, and it had a real nice hometown feel to it, and a lot of the people we surveyed missed that atmosphere, so we are trying to bring that hometown atmosphere back into it.

“As the Chamber, we love the Bowie Festival and the history that goes along with the Bowie Festival, and we want to get the schools involved, the local churches back involved, local businesses to have booths again — we don’t want all our vendors to come from out of town.”

Part of that revamp will include moving the festival to the spring.

“One of the challenges we had doing it in the fall was there is so much going on in the fall,” Wilson said. “Football destroys Friday night, and then on Saturdays you have the different people who travel to the different colleges, and you have peewee football — there is so much vying for people’s time in the fall.

“But if you move it to the spring, there’s less going on and people are anxious to get out for the first time after winter.”

The revamped festival will be done in partnership with the Vidalia Women’s Club, a partnership Wilson said would help bring more community members to the festival.

“If we get more people involved in the planning and the implementation of this, the better chances you are going to have to reach more people in the community,” he said.

Vidalia Women’s Club President Mary Montpelier said the club is hoping to make the festival more family oriented.

“We want to have more things for our children to do,” she said. “Changing it up some will make it a better event. We want it to be bigger and better — not that anything has been wrong with it — we just want to make some improvements.

“Our club is about giving back to our community, and we really want it to become that community event going back to what it was when I was young.”