Thousands visit city for annual event

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 27, 2004

Downtown Brookhaven streets were bustling Friday and Saturday asthousands of people came out to enjoy the 30th Annual Ole BrookFestival.

“It’s been an incredible weekend,” said Kenny Goza, chamber ofcommerce president and festival chairman, as he settled in forSaturday night’s concert featuring New Song.

Goza said around 200 vendors attended and the children’s playarea was very well-received.

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“It was one of the biggest Friday crowds we’ve ever had and theSaturday crowd was steady since this morning,” Goza said.

New this year was the Arts Alley. Sandra Martin said it waswell-attended, although a late start by organizers limitedparticipants in an arts contest.

“We hope next year that arts alley will be even bigger,” Martinsaid.

With a requirement for three entries per category, Martin saidprizes were able to be awarded in only one of nine artscategories.

“We’re hoping next year there’ll be more,” Martin said.

Betty Kemp, of Hazlehurst, won the $100 prize for an oil andacrylics painting on a 100-year- old roof slate.

“I thought it was real nice,” Kemp said about Arts Alley and thefestival, adding that she probably would return next year.

Southwest Mississippi Artisans, a young group formed to promoteartists in 12 area counties, had a booth for the festival. OleBrook was the first time the group had set up at an event.

“I think it’s going great,” said group president SandyPritchard, of Franklin County.

Member Peggy Smith, of Brookhaven, said there is a lot ofpotential for promoting the arts through events like Ole Brook. Shealso touted the festival’s link with the Mississippi School of theArts and the influence it could have on young people.

“We have a lot of artists in this area,” Smith said. “It’s goodfor them, and it makes Mississippi look good.”

Another festival attraction was the Fourth Annual Duck Derby.Hundreds of spectators crowded around the racing chute Saturdayevening as approximately 4,500 ducks raced toward the finish line.Cash prizes went to the people who adopted the first, second andthird place finishers and the “dilly dally” duck that came in lastplace.

Brenda Foster, of Brookhaven, won $5,000 for the first placeduck; Linda Hall, of Bogue Chitto, got $2,500 for the second placeduck; and Donna Manchester, of Brookhaven, won $1,000 for thirdplace. Lydia Gunn, of Shreveport, La., was the adopter of the lastplace duck and won $500.

JoAnna Sproles, director of King’s Daughters Foundation, whichhandled duck adoptions to raise money for hospital improvements,said the “dilly dally” duck was a good idea.

“I think it added to the excitement,” she said, adding thatderby interest continued until the last duck. “The point was tokeep people here a little longer.”

The number of adoptions was down some from last year’s 6,200adoptions.

“It’s in the range of what we’ve had in previous years,” Sprolessaid.

Sproles attributed last year’s adoptions to the possibility ofsomeone winning $1 million, which no one did. She said foundationofficials would consider bringing the $1 million prize back in thefuture.

Goza thanked festival sponsors and volunteers who handledvarious festival activities.

“We’ve had the best volunteer help with ever had,” Gozasaid.

After various periods at other locations, the festival has beenback downtown for several years. He said the future continues tolook good.

“I think it’s going to start growing every year,” Goza said.