Friday morning found potter Cathryn Borer at her kitchen counter surrounded by rolling pins, sponges and plenty of ready clay. When the clay is flattened, Borer spreads an antique doilie she found in an Ohio shop years ago over its surface and lightly imprints an interesting texture on the malleable medium. It adds a distinctive feature to some of her pottery pieces.
On this day, she’s making cheese plates in the shape of Mississippi. She’ll offer them to the public at Artisan’s Alley April 10 in downtown Columbus, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. It will be her first time to participate in the celebration known as Catfish in the Alley.
The community gathering presented over three days by Visit Columbus combines live music, food, artisans and local history tours. Sidelined by COVID-19 last year, the event makes a welcome return this spring. Thursday and Friday evenings will feature complimentary concerts on the lawn of the Tennessee Williams House Museum and Welcome Center at 300 Main St. Saturday will include multiple musical acts and Artisan’s Alley, with 16 select vendors. Food will be available for purchase at every event.
Cultural Heritage tours on the city’s double decker bus with local historians Rufus Ward or Gary Lancaster are available by reservation Friday 6-7 p.m. and Saturday 9-10 a.m. and 3:30-4:30 p.m. Tours are free, but seating is limited; reserve a spot by calling 662-328-0222.
The tours will feature information about Catfish Alley (Fourth Street South) and the impact of African-Americans and Native Americans in the development of the area.
“I’m beyond excited,” said Borer. “I’m fully vaccinated, and I’ve been hoping for a long time that things would start to come back. I think things are turning around.”
Visit Columbus Executive Director Nancy Carpenter said, “Of course, everyone’s health and safety is foremost in all our minds and we want to provide a healthy environment. Everything is outside, so we feel very comfortable. Tents will be spaced, and we feel like everyone can keep their social distance. We felt like this was one of the best ways to experience fun and entertainment while being safe.”
Like Borer, Clarice Turner is increasing her inventory for Artisan’s Alley. Turner creates glass enamel earrings, pendants, necklaces and bracelets of copper and silver using an assortment of torches. The former educator, who lives near Pontotoc, has often visited Columbus, but this will be her first craftsmen’s event here. She has previously shown, as Fireworks Creations, at Prairie Arts and the Cotton District Arts Festival. As a member of the Mississippi Craftsmen’s Guild and North Mississippi Gem and Mineral Society, she often conducts workshops and enjoys telling others about metals and gemstones.
“I’m looking forward to this,” she said. “It’s fun teaching others what I know. It’s one of the fun things in what I do.”
Turner and Borer join a list of artisans that includes carvers, a maker of vintage-style aprons, painters, quilters, a maker of goat milk soaps and products and others who will offer a variety of unique items. Some, like Borer, will demonstrate how they create their pieces.
“I’ll be throwing (clay) down there, talking while I work and telling about what I’m doing,” said the MUW alumna who will also offer cups, bud vases, ornaments and other pieces.
Catfish in the Alley April 8-10 is one of several planned events in Columbus that seem to signal confidence that there is indeed light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, as long as common sense preventative measures are followed. Multiple fishing tournaments and two soccer tournaments are on the calendar, joining Catfish in the Alley in bringing visitors to the city.
“We’re excited to present this boost of entertainment for the community because I know everyone feels like we do; they’re so ready for some sense of normalcy, and that’s what we intend to provide,” said Carpenter. “We’ve had so much interest. We’ll have food and nonstop entertainment. It’s really going to be a fun weekend.”
CATFISH IN THE ALLEY
April 8-10, downtown Columbus
Thursday, April 8
■ 5-8 p.m. – Just a Few Cats (free concert) on the lawn of the Tennessee Williams House Museum and Welcome Center, 300 Main St. Catfish plates for purchase.
Friday, April 9
■ 5-7:30 p.m. – Keith & Margie (free concert), Tennessee Williams Welcome Center lawn. Barbecue plates for purchase.
■ 6-7 p.m. – Double decker bus local history tour. Free, but reservation required, 662-328-0222. Departs from behind Tennessee Williams House.
Saturday, April 10
■ 9-10 a.m. – Double decker bus local history tour. Free; reservation required, 662-328-0222.
■ 10-3 p.m. – Artisan’s Alley, area craftspeople, Catfish Alley and College Street.
■ 10-11 a.m. – Music by Big Joe Shelton & the Black Prairie Blues Ambassadors, Catfish Alley
■ 11:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Terry “Harmonica” Bean
■ 12:45-1:45 p.m. – Grady Champion
■ 2-3:15 p.m. – Keith Johnson & the Big Muddy Band
■ 3:30-4:30 – Double decker bus local history tour. Free; reservations required, 662-328-0222.
■ For more information, contact Visit Columbus, 800-920-3533, VisitColumbusMS.org.