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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Cotton District Arts Festival brings life to downtown Starkville

The Starkville Cotton District  usually at its busiest during traditional night-life hours, will instead host thousands of people this Saturday for the Cotton District Arts Festival. 

Part of the Super Bulldog Weekend package, the Cotton District Arts Festival will be held throughout the day with events, contests and live music taking place at various times. The goal of the festival is to showcase the Golden Triangle’s artistic talent to not only people within the community, but also hundreds of visiting Bulldog fans and alumni who are drawn to Starkville for Super Bulldog Weekend.

Johnson Cooke, who handles the promotional aspects for the arts festival, said recent studies have shown upwards of 20 thousand people attend this event throughout the day.

True to its namesake, Cooke said the core of the arts festival are the numerous visual artists who will line the streets in stalls to display and sell their works, which in the past has ranged anywhere from water-color paintings to elaborate glass and metal sculptures to just about anything else that can be smeared, sculpted or molded. 

In addition to artists selling their crafts, there is a juried art competition many local artists enter with the hope of winning cash prizes. 

Beyond that, however, there is also going to be a pet parade, a writer’s village, an international village and live music, Cooke said.

Cooke said the Writer’s Village is composed of local authors, and at the end of the day will host a poetry slam, which anyone is free to enter. The international village encompasses a variety of cultures, ranging from Celtic bagpipes to African dance. In the morning, the pet parade will march down the street where pets of all shapes and sizes can join in. 

All of this will be taking place in between three main stages, which will be located on the east, west, and south ends of the Cotton District. 

Brent Varner, who serves as a co-chair on the board in charge of booking and organizing entertainment, said the lineup of bands and musicians for this year is really good. 

“We want to show people from out of town the caliber of the talent in the Golden Triangle,” Varner said. 

The list of acts is extensive, Varner said, and many of the acts are local favorites. The East stage will host acts such as Old Memphis Kings, Tesheva, Flathead Ford, and the Cedric Burnside Project. The West stage will host Varner himself in the morning followed by Huge Ghosts and Jake Slinkard and Company, and will end the day with acts such as the Girl Skouts, Stagolee, and Kannawemz. 

For a complete list of the musicians, stage locations, and show times visit

Varner said the winners of the Singer Songwriter competition held at Dave’s Darkhorse Tavern in earlier weeks will each perform for 15 minutes at noon as well as receive their cash prizes from the competition. Varner said the first place award went to local heartthrob Johnny Hollis.

Hollis, who lives in Starkville and has been a musician for years, said he was ‘super pumped about it,’ and also a bit surprised.

“When I was watching the other songwriters play, there was definitely a group of winners in my mind and I did not see myself in it,” Hollis said. “I wouldn’t be a good judge, I really just wanted everyone to win.”

The song he won with is titled “She Ain’t Getting Older.” Hollis said the song is about someone reflecting on a love from the past and seeing them as the person they remember being in love with and less the person they are now. He also admitted it is the only song he has ever written that has bad grammar. 

“I am very much looking forward to playing this Saturday,” Hollis said. “And I am so happy for the other artists. The arts festival is special because it offers much needed validation to artists.”

John Turner, chairman of the Cotton Districts Arts Festival, said much of the success of the festival and the large number of out-of-town visitors that attend is due to a partnership with Mississippi State University to integrate the event into Super Bulldog Weekend.

“[Mississippi State] University has been a really great partner,” Turner said. “The help that they give us on one of their busiest weekends is tremendous and we really appreciate it.”

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Cotton District Arts Festival brings life to downtown Starkville