By Jon Michael Walton and Joe Procopio
Drawing in nearly 80,000 people annually, the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association has served as the city’s tourism ambassadors for almost 30 years.
Tupelo Main Street’s mission is to enhance and sustain the downtown experience through a plethora of events and promotion of incoming businesses.
The nationally-accredited organization works year-round to coordinate some 15 different events that consist of opportunities for families to come together to enjoy fellowship, live music, food, and parades.
The busy event season started in the fall, which began with the annual Chilifest. The Chilifest was held Oct. 12, and included a chili tasting competition, live music from the band Bikini Frankenstein, nearly 20 competitors, and hundreds of attendees of all ages.
Other fall events included the Tupelo Ale Trail, held Sept. 28, which was a progressive craft beer tasting with local vendors from all over town.
“Essentially, the Tupelo Main Street Association has brought life back into downtown [after the recession]. It is our job to make sure that sustains itself,” communications and public relations director Reagan Pepper said. “We do that by throwing events, marketing our businesses, making sure that people get into downtown and enjoy their time so they can leave with a positive experience to tell people about.”
The remainder of events for the fall season include the annual Pigskins All-America City BBQ Cook Off (formerly known as Pigskins in the Park), which offers a communal tailgating experience and takes place Nov. 10. There also is a Downtown Open House Nov. 18 and Shop Small Saturday Nov. 24, which is an annual event encouraging everyone to ‘shop small’ in an effort to give back to the community.
Rolling into the winter season, the Reed’s Tupelo Christmas parade on Nov. 30 will be celebrating 70 years of Christmas parade tradition. The city’s annual Christmas Parade encompasses two miles, is televised to more 30,000 people, and has over a thousand attendees.
“After the Christmas parade, the Tupelo Main Street Association goes into off season until March, where plans for spring and summer events will be set into motion,” Pepper said.
Spring and summer events begin with Buds and Burgers, an event where local cooks can test their juicy burgers in a competition that awards several different significant prizes.
Next on the calendar is Wine Downtown, a progressive wine tasting spread out through Tupelo’s downtown establishments.
However, the most prominent event in Tupelo’s history is the annual Tupelo Elvis Festival which will be held June 5-9. The festival brings in more tourists than any other Tupelo event and is Tupelo Main Street Association’s top project, according to Pepper.
While Tupelo’s downtown is the main hub of activity, Tupelo Main Street also focuses highly on city development.
“The Fairpark area, City Hall, housing and the Amphitheater are all a part of Tupelo Main Street. Instead of just bringing people back into downtown, we’re creating new areas for people to come,” Pepper said.