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BY MARY GARRISON
Summer is winding down, heading toward the last hurrah of Labor Day weekend â€” and more importantly to West Point, the annual Prairie Arts Festival.
Preparations for this year's festival â€” which will celebrate its 36th year â€” are well under way. In just 27 days, an estimated 40,000 visitors from around the state will flood into the city, ready to take in some of Mississippi's finest music, arts and foods. An event of this magnitude requires months of intensive planning, however, and volunteers have been working since the spring to make certain the festival runs as smoothly as possible.
West Point Clay County Growth Alliance Director â€” and chief festival coordinator â€” Lisa Klutts said as of Friday, it was a matter of making checklists and placing vendors.
"There are a lot of things you just don't think about going into something like this," Klutts said. "I'm making lists for supplies and things we'll need to make certain to have the day of, like plenty of toilet paper for the port-o-johns. I'm touching base with the port-o-john company to make sure they're placed in the right spots, meeting with security â€” the police department, the sheriff's department and Champion security â€” for the festival. Making sure the map is correct. ... It's a lot of dotting Is and crossing Ts."
Klutts said vendor applications were still steadily coming in and would until the deadline one week before the festival. As of Friday, vendors had spoken for about 150 of the near 300 spots available at the festival. Dealing with vendors in and of itself requires a great deal of time, Klutts said.
"The vendors need a lot of one-on-one attention," she said. "That's where email helps, because I can answer their questions quickly. I can look at pictures of their work, too. Some things (vendors) I know will be acccepted right away, others have to go to a committee."
It's all about the little details, she said, from touching base with the city to make certain the park has been "broadcast" for pests to ordering ribbons for a festival favorite â€” the kids' art competition.
Kathy Dyess, secretary for the West Point Clay County Arts Council, said it was a portion of the festival that would be handled a little differently than in years past. Dyess said most of the components would remain the same; contest participants would still bring their entries Wednesday and Thursday prior to the festival to the library to be judged by an out-of-town judge. However, rather than waiting until Friday to hang the artwork, kids entries will be on display in the Pippin Room throughout, with the winners from each category â€” first, second and third in age brackets K-3, 4-6, 7-8 and 9-12, as well as an overall best in show â€” hanging in one particular section of the room.
"We're not actually having an announcement ceremony this year," Dyess said. " ... We're going to hang ribbons on them so everyone can see who won, and then later I'll get everyone together later for a photo."
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