The first ever Friday Starkville Community Market, offering pop-up shopping vendors, live music and local food and beverage tastings, will kick off the Greater Starkville Development Partnership’s New South Weekends event series on Sept. 2, the day before Mississippi State University’s football game against the University of South Alabama.
Running through November, this year’s NSW series revolves around MSU’s six-game home football schedule and features signature Partnership events — Bulldog Brunch and Browse, Citywide Tailgate, Pumpkinpalooza and unWINE Downtown — and the MSU Student Association’s Bulldog Bash.
The Partnership’s Downtown Block Party previously served as the annual launch of NSW, but organizers decided to replace the event this year with a SCM offering at Fire Station Park to showcase the developing Russell Street corridor, said Jennifer Prather, the special events and market manager for the GSDP.
The night market will feature an atmosphere mixing Southeastern Conference game day traditions with an urban, outdoor party setting, she said.
“Our events are all family friendly, but we wanted to have a night where adults can come out and enjoy themselves,” Prather said. “It was dreamt out of a desire to host a very upscale and chic shopping and dining event that would promote Lampkin, Russell and University Drive. We are excited to feature independent vendors that represent a very unique part of Starkville’s creative culture. In turn, this will allow an opportunity to create new sales in addition to the traditional retail storefronts that will be open throughout the weekend.”
The night market is expected to remain a standalone feature of NSW, occurring just once in the fall, but Prather previously said SCM is always looking to expand its offerings and will continue to run as long as there is a demand from customers and a constant supply of produce and goods from vendors and artisans.
For the rest of the home football schedule, the Partnership’s NSW schedule mirrors past event series.
Although MSU has only six home football games this year, GSDP Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Gregory said the organization will make the best of the schedule by promoting Starkville through its tourism initiatives.
“Six home games instead of seven will definitely affect the economy’s bottom line, but I feel confident that our local businesses will make the most of the excellent opportunity they have to entertain 70,000-plus fans six weekends out of the fall,” she said. “It’s so neat to see the business community come together and promote their businesses, Starkville and our Bulldogs.”
Following each home game, the Partnership will host Bulldog Brunch and Browse, a program in which retailers open their storefronts on days they’d traditionally be closed.
A special March Madness edition was held this spring as MSU hosted a portion of the 2016 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
“(BBB) has given visitors an opportunity to explore our locally owned retailers downtown and around Starkville for the first time in some cases. Game weekends are busy, so fans sometimes are rushing around to prepare for their tailgate or arriving into town late. This program gives them the opportunity to shop on their way out of town when there’s less hustle and bustle,” Gregory said. “Not only does it translate into new sales, but it also gets people into the stores, which can generate return trips. Some retailers have likened a Sunday, particularly after an evening game, to a sales day during the Christmas holiday season. It’s like giving them six more days — nearly a week — of holiday shopping, which is extremely beneficial to our local economy.”
Other NSW events
On Sept. 9, the day before State’s game against the University of South Carolina, the Partnership will host the fall iteration of unWINE Downtown.
The event, which also runs in the spring and summer, allows participants to have a glass of wine while walking the downtown corridor and visiting participating businesses, which usually offer discounts on merchandise for shoppers. Gregory said the fall iteration of unWINE Downtown has grown to the most popular event of the year and averages about 200-300 tickets sold.
MSUSA’s Bulldog Bash, which recently received an event permit approval from the board of aldermen to be held in the Cotton District, is scheduled for Oct. 7, the day before MSU’s game Auburn University. The student group has yet to announce the music lineup for the event.
Pumpkinpalooza, a family oriented harvest festival set in the heart of downtown, will be held Oct. 28, the weekend of the Samford University game. The signature fall festival has received numerous accolades, including awards from Mississippi Magazine, and coverage from ESPN, the SEC Network and other national broadcast networks.
A Friday event is not scheduled before Nov. 5’s game against Texas A&M, but that Sunday will feature the Partnership’s annual Christmas Open House at participating retailers and the children’s event Cookies with Santa.
The annual Citywide Tailgate is set for Nov. 18, the day before State plays the University of Arkansas.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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