June 15, 2017 10:49:12 AM
Both Bulldog Bash organizers and downtown merchants are hopeful this year's location -- the intersection of Main and Jackson streets -- allows the Mississippi State University Student Association-sponsored event to grow larger and become a spotlight for the area.
Growth and safety issues in the Cotton District led to organizers moving the Sept. 15 event, said organizer Allie Nichols, to a location that will better accommodate a crowd of more than 30,000 people in town when Mississippi State University's football team plays Louisiana State University.
Utilizing the T-shaped intersection and area's infrastructure will allow for a larger stage, she said, which will provide for a better flow of people and a larger stage area.
"That extra space will make a huge difference in terms of safety and the quality of the event," Nichols said. "The quality of Bulldog Bash is our No. 1 priority, and moving downtown should allow us to do a lot of new stuff and make our production even bigger."
The spotlight Bulldog Bash will shine on downtown as a tourist destination is something Greater Starkville Development Partnership Interim Tourism Director Jennifer Prather hopes will spur future visits from out-of-town travelers.
Continued focus on the area could come as Nichols said future Bulldog Bash organizers look root the event downtown for years to come.
"It's no secret the Cotton District has its own vibe and historical significance, and the Russell Street area is growing fast with new developments. To keep downtown viable and vibrant, it's about bringing people to the area," Prather said.
The potential for increased exposure is not lost upon area merchants.
The Cotton District's restaurants and bars were the primary beneficiaries of previous years' large crowds, and business owners say they're already planning special ways and events to take advantage of potential shoppers.
Brian Kelley, who co-owns numerous Cotton District and downtown restaurants through Eat Local Starkville, said the event will provide "a big shot in the arm for those of us downtown."
His downtown businesses -- Restaurant Tyler and the Guest Room -- will likely provide food and drink accessible to passersby similar to how Eat Local Starkville's Bin 612 serves customers in the Cotton District during Bulldog Bash.
Traditional retail stores, including JCG Apparel, are also looking into ways to cash in with the event's large audience.
"A lot of people -- especially those in town for MSU sporting events -- come to our store because they want a piece of Starkville or Mississippi State to take home," said JCG Apparel manager Lorianna Livingston. "We're definitely very excited about the move, and I think it's a good move for the event in general."
Students are still working to finalize Bulldog Bash's budget this summer once 2 percent food and beverage tax receipts are allocated. Last year, approximately $145,000 of city-generated taxes went toward the event, while about $300,000 helped fund other MSU student groups and activities.
Last year's Bulldog Bash was held in its traditional Cotton District location after organizers first eyed hosting it on campus. The event's headliner, hip-hop artist Flo Rida, was a no-show for the event.
MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter confirmed the university's general counsel made a formal demand for damages based on Flo Rida skipping the event.
Litigation, Salter said, continues.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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