By Alyssa Schnugg
Alternative rock indie band, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, will be this year’s headliner at the 25th Annual Double Decker Arts Festival.
Taking its name from the town’s authentic double-decker bus imported from England in 1994, the two-day festival has become a regional tourist attraction that brings in visitors from hundreds of miles away. Yet, it has also managed to retain the local festival vibe, and it’s still a place where people come each year to see familiar friendly faces, listen to great music, buy some one-of-a-kind art and sample Oxford’s well-known food offerings.
On Tuesday, Visit Oxford revealed the musical lineup for the festival during a press conference at the University Museum, as well as the official poster created by Oxford resident Hannah McCormick. It’s a colorful piece of artwork that features several iconic Oxford buildings sitting on top of a double-decker bus.
Standing on the ground looking at the bus is another Oxford icon – the late Ron Shapiro.
“We lost Ron earlier this year and it was felt by a lot of people in the community … and it seemed like a good time to include him in this year’s Double Decker poster,” McCormick said at the press conference.
McCormick’s work was selected from several submissions to be featured as the festival’s “official art,” which is printed on the festival T-shirts and posters. This year’s event will be held on April 24 and 25.
The festival’s 2020 Presenting Sponsor is the University Museum that was gifted to them by Ole Miss Athletics. It’s the fourth year Ole Miss Athletics has “purchased” the presenting sponsorship on behalf of the museum.
UM Athletic Director Keith Carter said the relationship between the university, athletics and the city of Oxford is important and being a partner with Double Decker helps to foster the important relationship between the university and Oxford.
“Double Decker is a huge part of our culture here and a huge part of what we do and we’re thankful for the relationship,” he said.
Carter also announced that the annual 2020 Rebel Road Trip will kick off on Saturday, Aug. 24 during the festival.
“We’ll gather at the stage around 12:30,” he said. “All our coaches will be there, I’ll be there, the chancellor will be there and then we will hit the road.”
Mayor Robyn Tannehill thanked Visit Oxford and its staff, including Director Kinney Ferris and Double Decker Coordinator Lee Ann Stubbs for their hard work in putting on the festival. Tannehill started the first Double Decker Arts Festival 25 years ago.
“It’s so fun to look back 25 years and see how Oxford has embraced this festival,” Tannehill said. “What we did well back then, and what we still do well now, is celebrating music, food and art. Those are at the core of what makes this community a great place to live, a great raise a family and a great place to go to school.”
The Ole Miss Student Activities Association is sponsoring the stage and the headline act this year.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, April 24 with the Thacker Mountain Radio hour that will be presented on the stage on North Lamar Boulevard. The show will begin with music by Sweet Crude, immediately followed by a special edition of the radio show, featuring Mississippi author Diane Williams. The New Respects will take the stage at 7:45 p.m. with Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors following at 9 p.m.
It’s the first time three bands have played on Friday evening portions since Double Decker became a two-day event several years ago.
To start off the main event Saturday morning, Oxford’s own Chadwick Band will perform at 10:15 a.m. The Sensational Barnes Brothers will perform at 11:30 a.m. Following them is singer-songwriter, Maggie Rose, at 1 p.m.
At 2:30 p.m. Chris Knight takes the stage, then at 4 p.m. The War and Treaty will perform.
As the sun will start to set over the festival, Toots & The Maytals take the stage at 5:30 p.m. At 7 p.m. St. Paul and the Broken Bones will play before Oxford again. They performed at the 2015 Double Decker Arts Festival.
Double Decker’s headliner Rainbow Kitten Surprise takes the stage at 8:45 p.m.
The band, featuring lead singer Sam Melo, Darrick “Bozzy” Keller, Ethan Goodpaster, Jess Haney, and Charlie Holt, hail from Boone, North Carolina as well as Robbinsville, North Carolina.
They are influenced by artists like Modest Mouse and Kings of Leon as much as Frank Ocean and Schoolboy Q. Independently, they have more than 75 million streams across digital platforms and notched over 45 sold-out shows on their first U.S. headline tour.
Read about all the bands here.
In addition to music, there will be more than 130 art vendors from around the region selling creative wares for the anticipated 60,000-plus festival attendees. Selected by Oxford’s Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, the vendors include drawings, glass, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking and sculptures.
Dozens of food vendors will also be set up around the Square offering favorites and new, specialty dishes that are only served at the festival.
But before food, music and art on Saturday, visitors can get a healthy start to their Double Decker day with the annual Spring Run 5K and 10K runs and the Kids Fun Run, presented by Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi and the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce.
Last year’s race had about 1,700 racers. Organizer and Chamber of Commerce Vice President Pam Swain said she expects this year’s number to climb past 1,800. The route for this year’s races is new, she said.
“It will be in the opposite direction than it has traditionally gone,” Swain said. “It will go away from the Square and it’ll take in Sisk and Williams, that beautiful part of town.”
For more information about Double Decker, visit https://doubledeckerfestival.com/.